Most people already know that Carmarthenshire is full of timeless landscapes, quirky character and breathtaking scenery. But alongside the sweeping countryside vistas, epic coastlines and charming towns, there is a thriving food and drink scene just waiting to be explored.
Thanks to Discover Carmarthenshire, I’ve learned that if you’re passionate about feasting on delicious food and drink with a traceable provenance, you should add this delicious corner of the country to the top of your to-do 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, a 70 acre estate nestled in the spectacular foothills of the Cambrian Mountains. We stayed here during our visit to Carmarthenshire and we absolutely loved it.
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 and getting used to the fresh Carmarthenshire air, ease yourself into the long, leisurely weekend with a visit to the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Here you can explore the world’s largest single-span glasshouse and wander around the potager garden, bee gardens and vegetable plots.
Throughout the year, the gardens host a range of foodie events; from funghi workshops to the famed apple weekend between 21-22 October. If you’re more into animal husbandry than fungi foraging, you can also meet the flock of Welsh Blacks and the newly acquired Balwen sheep, as well as an array of birds (including a Golden Eagle) in the brilliant new British Bird of Prey Centre; they run flight demonstrations three times a day.
My favourite part of our visit to the gardens was learning about the research they’re doing into wild flowers, and their benefits to bee populations. This summer, they’re hoping to be able to identify the seeds and flowers that are most beneficial to the bees, as most of the seed mixes for sale labelled ‘bee friendly’ don’t have any scientific evidence to back up the claims. 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 beef, and fish and chips, but there are a few modern surprises, too. My tempura mushrooms were pleasingly crisp (a challenge when it comes to mushrooms), but the star of the show was my confit lamb. Despite claiming to be “not very hungry” I 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; 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 they’re on an engagement photoshoot, with the beautiful Newton House (and its deer) in the background.
Top tip: Dinefwr’s own venison recently won the prestigious National Trust Fine Farm Produce award, and is on sale at the courtyard shop. The fallow deer can be traced to the year 1660 and graze on fallen leaves of veteran oaks on ancient woodland pasture that hasn’t been altered by man for centuries.
Lunch: GinHaus, Llandelio
After working up an appetite wandering around Dinefwr Park, head to the cool Ginhaus Deli for lunch, right in the centre of Llandeilo. Here you can shop for a wide variety of local artisan produce to take away (including Welsh cheeses, ham, pickles, breads and more).
There’s no point denying that most people will visit the Ginhaus for one thing and one thing only; to make a dent on their huge collection of over 240 gins from around the world. They also have a great little selection from 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. Cool, huh!?
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.
If you have time, pop in to The Warren for coffee and cake. This restaurant, bar, coffee shop and live music venue was born out of owner Deri Reed’s passion for great food. He had a lifelong dream to open a restaurant in his hometown. In 2016, following a crowdfunding campaign which sucessfully 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.
Alternatively, you can 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.
Wrights – a restaurant / bar / cafe / deli hybrid – has made a name for itself by serving excellent food and excellent 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. It’s impossible not to like it.
We settled in for the night and spent a good few hours picking over winter salads, bread and olives, polenta chips, croquettas 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, we thought it was probably best to make sure 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. There really is no better way to start the day!
A Winter Picnic at Cwm Rhaedr
A winter picnic from Wright’s needs the perfect spot to enjoy it in; 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 and picnic area 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 slightly 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, and the increased rainfall in winter means that the falls – if you choose to visit them – are even more dramatic.
We chose the shorter route so sadly missed the waterfalls on this occasion, in favour of having more time for the picnic!
We laid our picnic out on the handy tables near the car park, beneath the Douglas Fir trees. This spot offers incredible views over the surrounding countryside; the perfect backdrop to a refreshing glass of cider.
Even if you don’t end up spending an entire weekend in Carmarthenshire as we did, I can’t recommend a winter picnic in this beautiful part of the country enough… after all, it’s only an hour’s drive away from Cardiff city centre.
Just don’t forget to pack your camera 🙂