Llanelli’s changing places and faces
Sandy Water Park
Once bitten by the bug of Llanelli you will be forever smitten by a town embellished with so many hidden gems.
A colony of monks were the first to find Llanelli creating a monastery an a bank on its coastal flood plain still known as Machynys - or Monk’s Island.
The sleeping giant that is Llanelli erupted from its tranquillity to become the world’s mightiest tin producer and undeniably prosperous. From green hills and fields and flood plains and a simple small village, Llanelli grew to a 72-tower chimney stacked grimy industrial enclave spewing clouds of grime over a century. But blue skies have returned.
Through the melting pot of the industrial revolution starting with ship building coalmining then tinplate and steelmaking the town has now reverted to a green space fringed by the seas of Carmarthen Bay and is growing in popularity as a leisure destination.
Like a magician’s trick of tossing the tablecloth there has been a tremendous transformation in the last few decades. All the heavy industries that scarfed, scarred and buried the magnificent coast have been cast to history or tossed to inland modern industrial parks. There has been a tremendous regeneration programme with a wealth of new office and work space created, a proliferation of bars, restaurants, shops and promises of more hotels and a massive demand for exclusive and affordable homes.
Just minutes away from the town centre that has its own parks and sparkling water features is the award winning Millennium Coastal park where a walk or a cycle can make life truly worth living. Those who visit have their breath taken away by the glorious sea views across Carmarthen Bay to Gower and Caldey, incredible sunsets back-clothed by a town that has an historic treasure box of nuggets of history to tell.
Modernising town retains old charms
Just as the coast has changed Llanelli’s town has been regenerated handsomely to keep pace the modern era and generating a spiral of growth. The town is built on a plethora of communities that are the catalyst for the emerging invigorated Llanelli. It has a constantly modernising town centre with a new Odeon multiplex cinema and a state of the art theatre, Ffwrnes, that has a fast changing feast of entertainment and a range of restaurants catering for every taste around every corner. There are office spaces emerging about the regeneration laying the way for a wave of employment opportunities.
Mingling with all the top shops and retail outlets is a modern library, historic landmark property in Llanelly House all linked by canopied streets, footpaths and cycleways around upgraded properties. Glass pyramids in the roofing give a light airy feel to St Elli’s Shopping centre built right at the heart of the town and sitting alongside its 64-stall popular indoor market.
Pimms and Arias, Sospan Fach has it all
Around the world Llanelli is known for its legendary rugby team, Llanelli Scarlets. It screams great players down more than 100 years - Albert Jenkins to Phil Bennett and George North.
The Club has gone posh - not quite swapping Pimms for pints - with a new home Parc-y-Scarlets replacing the grand old renowned if cobwebby Stradey Park. The upgrade was necessary to match Scarlets swashbuckling European brand of rugby and stay at the forefront of the game. The new stadium is worth a visit to sense not only the great aura around about it, but also experience history in abundance with the history at the club that now calls it home.
Llanelli is also a town with so much more sporting traditions from bowls to biking and horse riding to wind surfing. It has a leisure centre that is packed with sporting opportunity with world class sporting facilities, accessible and super healthy outdoor pursuits and opportunities.
From 'Heathrow' to Mabinogion legend
WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre
Within Llanelli’s coastal parks there are many hidden gems to be explored by cycle, foot or car. At the eastern end of the Millennium Coastal Park is the WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre that is the Heathrow for more than 600 species of birds that fly in from around the globe. Professional bird watchers to family groups are enthralled by the vast variety of birds you can see from pink Caribbean Flamingos or chance upon, like Great Bustards. There are ducks and swans in profusion and variety of event days from glorious mud frolics to dawn chorus walks with a home cooked breakfast afterwards in the centre’s restaurant that is to die for.
Llanelli’s North Dock has a magnificent promenade with viewing platforms and foot and cycle paths linking it to parkland in all directions. There are specaious car parks too so this an ideal place to embark on park exploration. At its heart is the Discovery Centre, the heartbeat of the park with a visitors’ centre and Flanagan’s Restaurant that has a viewing balcony with the best views of Carmarthen Bay. There is an ice cream kiosk and indoor ice cream parlour there with more than 50 flavours of ices in a range of chocolate and sugar treat decorated cornets and wafers.
Travel to the end of the prom and climb over two of the biggest land bridges anywhere that exist in the park over main railway lines and stumble on Sandy Water Park over looked by Mabinogion Woods. In the woods are carved statues that tell the Maginogion story on a mound that was created out of the spoil of the demolished former Duport Steelworks.
Millennium Coastal Park
Wander west along the coastal path and you will be dizzy with the magnificent coastal views that have been described as among the breathtaking best around the UK coast. Stop of at Burry Port Woodlands and you will find fishing ponds and a towering spiral land sculpture built like a conch shell out of sand and soil that kids will scramble along in dizzy circles up its spiralling path. From the summit you can see west to Caldey, South to Lundy and east to Loughor Castle over Carmarthen Bay that fill twice daily on swirling tides. There are trails and picnic havens and a stunning secluded sandy beach. This is a little paradise waiting to be discovered.
Dr Who’s tardis landed at this castle
On a wooded hillside as you leave Llanelli travelling west is the stately mid-Victorian mansion of Stradey Castle where Dr Who’s tardis has landed. The castle is the family seat of the Mansel Lewis’s that has been loving restored and is favoured by film location seekers like Dr Who. The home has occasional open days that are well worth looking out for and special charity raising tea parties in a stunning location.
Mansion with a ghost and a lot of spirit
Parc Howard Mansion
There is a 24-acre park in the middle of urban Llanelli that you could drive by without seeing. You would be missing out on a treat. Parc Howard Mansion is a historic place with a well documented ghost and a small museum that often plays host to local artists for exhibitions of their work. It’s grounds are a delightful splash of varied and seasonal flower beds and there is a collection of specimen trees offering shade in the grounds that roll over a hill giving up bowling greens and children'’ playgrounds and Druid’s stones. Build by the Buckley brewing dynasty the house was taken over by the Stepney family who gifted the treasure to the council of the day in 1920 and it has been maintained by various authorities to this day. Easy to find on the road to Felinfoel it can be difficult to park but is only a brisk 10 minute walk from the town centre unless you want chance finding street parking nearby. The reward of the Parc Howard experience is worth the effort.
Let the youngsters run themselves ragged
Play King sits neatly at Dafen just off the M4 on the spur round into Llanelli where children up the the age of 12 can play themselves dizzy. It is a seven-day carnival of amusements with a soft play area, ball pools amusements and cafe where adults can chill as their young charges thrill.
Ramp it up - high jumping, grinding, tricks!
Ramps Skate Park
Ramps Skate Park is not what you would expect to find on the outskirts of town but it is attracting attention from skateboarders near and far for its convenience and aried ramps experience. It has a 70-seater cafe where all the exponents of the slip sliding art can exchange tips, share skills and the park shop stocks all the latest apparel.