Carmarthenshire is full of timeless landscapes, quirky character and breathtaking scenery. But as well as sweeping countryside vistas, epic coastlines and charming towns, there’s a thriving food & drink scene waiting to be explored.
If you’re passionate about delicious food and drink with a traceable provenance, Carmarthenshire should be at the top of your list.
Here’s how to enjoy 48 hours in this quiet corner of south-west Wales.
Check in to your accommodation. My recommendation would be to book yourself into the idyllic Glan-yr-afon cottage on Penstacan. This 70 acre estate is nestled in the spectacular foothills of the Cambrian Mountains.
You can read my full review of Glan-yr-afon cottage by clicking here.
Activity : National Botanical Garden of Wales
After checking into your accommodation, you should be getting used to the fresh Carmarthenshire air. Ease yourself into a leisurely weekend with a visit to the National Botanic Garden of Wales.
Here you can explore the world’s largest single-span glasshouse. Take a wander around the potager garden, bee gardens and vegetable plots.
Throughout the year, the gardens host a range of foodie events, whether you’re into growing, cooking or foraging.
You can also meet the flock of Welsh Blacks and Balwen sheep, as well as an array of birds (including a Golden Eagle) in the brilliant new British Bird of Prey Centre. Flight demonstrations run three times a day.
My favourite part of the visit to the gardens was learning about their research into wild flowers and bees. I learned that most of the ‘bee friendly’ wild flower seed mixes for sale don’t have any scientific evidence to back up these claims. This summer, researchers are hoping to identify the seeds and flowers which they’ll prove have the biggest benefit. It’s fascinating stuff!
Dinner: The Castle Hotel
After an afternoon at the National Botanic Garden, stop off for a relaxing evening meal at the Castle Hotel in Llandovery. It’s just over three miles away from Glan-yr-afon cottage, making it a convenient pit-stop for a home-cooked meal.
Run by the same team who once launched Wales’ first gastro pub, The Castle is a warm and friendly place to unwind. Think traditional bar, roaring log fires and plenty of comfy sofas.
The menu is full of hearty classics like roast lamb, fillet of Welsh beef, and fish and chips, but there are a few modern surprises, too. My tempura mushrooms were pleasingly crisp, but the star of the show was the confit Welsh lamb. I said I “wasn’t very hungry” – but demolished the lot!
A cute place to rest and recoup after a day of exploring.
Activity: Dinefwr Park and Castle
Right outside of Llandeilo’s town centre is Dinefwr Park and Castle. Here you can walk up to the old Dinefwr Castle ruins, and discover Newton House. This is a National Trust mansion in the grounds of the castle, with plenty of ‘hands on’ displays showing what life was like back in the early 1900s.
Here is my favourite photo of my two, very-much-not-together friends, looking like an engagement photoshoot. That’s the beautiful Newton House (and its deer) in the background.
For hundreds of years, the fallow deer here have grazed on the fallen leaves of veteran oaks; the ancient woodland pasture hasn’t been altered by man for centuries. The venison from the estate recently won the prestigious National Trust Fine Farm Produce award, and is on sale at the courtyard shop.
Lunch: GinHaus, Llandelio
After working up an appetite wandering around Dinefwr Park, head right to the centre of Llandeilo to find the Ginhaus Deli. Here you can shop for a variety of local, artisan produce (including Welsh cheeses, ham, pickles, breads and more).
There’s denying that most people will visit the Ginhaus for one thing only; to make a dent on their huge collection of over 240 gins. They have a great little selection from distilleries around Wales.
I can think of worse ways to while away an afternoon…
Explore: Llandeilo & Carmarthen
You might want to explore Llandeilo whilst you’re in town. We decided to go looking for the natural spring situated behind St Teilo’s church.
To find it, on the south side of the churchyard, in the wall along Church Street, look for an alcove.This is the outlet from St.Teilo’s well, situated near the eastern end of the church. The well supplied the townsfolk with their water for centuries, until it was covered over in the mid nineteenth century – rumour has it that it draws from a sacred spring, which was used as a baptistry from early times.
Alternatively, you can spend a couple of hours wandering around Carmarthen. Take a stroll around the old quarter on King Street, with its mix of independent shops and art galleries.
He had a lifelong dream to open a restaurant in his hometown. In 2016, following a crowdfunding campaign which successfully raised £20k, his dream came true.
The Warren serves simple, honest & wholesome food with an emphasis on supporting local & ethical suppliers. It’s a warm, inviting place to rest your legs after a long day of exploring, and the coffee (from the nearby Coaltown Roastery in Ammanford) is excellent.
If you get the chance, make sure you give some of their homemade beetroot ketchup a try, too.
You could also pop to Carmarthen Indoor Market for cheeses, Welsh cakes and Carmarthen Ham – a delicacy with PGI status that is said to have been stolen by the Romans, and reproduced as Parma Ham – who knew!?
Dinner: Wrights Food Emporium
In the evening, change into your stretchiest eating pants, and head out to Wrights Food Emporium in Llanarthne. This restaurant / bar / cafe / deli hybrid has made a name for itself by serving excellent food and wine with bags of laid-back charm.
The set up is small plates which can be mixed and matched or ordered as a starter before a main. The vibe is relaxed; the record player is available for guests to come and choose their own vinyl soundtrack. It’s impossible not to like it.
We settled in for the night and spent a good few hours at Wrights. We picked over winter salads, bread and olives, polenta chips, croquettes and slow-cooked beef shin – all washed down with a few glasses of delicious natural wine.
Before leaving, we hit the deli to stock up on picnic essentials for the following morning; salted, dried fava beans, a selection of Welsh cheeses, homemade sausage rolls and a bottle of my favourite, Skyborry cider.
After all of the feasting the day before, breakfast was a simple affair. We opted for a slice of toast, a cuppa, and an early morning soak in the hot tub at Glan-yr-afon cottage. No better way to start the day!
A Winter Picnic at Cwm Rhaedr
A winter picnic needs the perfect patch to enjoy it; so hop in the car to nearby beauty spot, Cwm Rhaeadr.
Cwm Rhaeadr (which means “valley of the waterfall” in Welsh) is a beautiful, remote woodland situated in the upper Tywi Valley just north of Llandovery. You can choose to take a two mile, way-marked walk to the waterfalls, or a shorter trail to two peaceful ponds.
Don’t worry that visiting in the winter months will be a bit bleak; this area is green all year round. The increased rainfall in winter also means that the falls – if you choose to visit them – are even more dramatic.
We missed the waterfalls on this occasion – in favour of having more time for the picnic!
We laid our feast out on the handy tables near the car park, beneath the Douglas Fir trees. This spot offers incredible views over the surrounding countryside. It’s the perfect backdrop to a refreshing glass of cider.
Even if you don’t end up spending an entire weekend in Carmarthenshire, a winter picnic in this beautiful part of the country is well worth the drive. After all, it’s only an hour away from Cardiff.
Just don’t forget to pack your camera!