Carmarthensire is rightfully known as The Garden of Wales.
The gardens of Carmarthenshire attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and two of the biggest attractions are The National Botanical Garden of Wales and Aberglasney Gardens which are both only a 20 minute drive from the hotel.
The National Botanical Garden
The National Botanical Garden has an amazing collection of over 8000 different plant varieties, spread across 560 acres of beautiful countryside. They have developed a stunning range of themed gardens that appeal to a wide range of visitors, from those who just love the sight and smells of flowers to those who want to know about medicinal plants or the latest DNA research into plant evolution. They have the world’s largest single spanned glasshouse, designed by Lord Foster, that has the best display of Mediterranean climate zone plants in the Northern hemisphere. There is also a beautifully restored Double Walled Garden with a tropical house full of exotic orchids and palms and an atmospheric old chemist shop and Apothecaries’Garden.
The restoration of Aberglasney Gardens is a remarkable garden project situated in an idyllic hideaway. There are ancient formal gardens with pools, parapets and cloisters, a yew tunnel, gate house, walled gardens, a forest garden and an award-winning Ninifarium filled with exotic plants from around the world.
Other gardens in the area that are also well worth a visit are –
- Norwood Gardens Llanllwni
- Cae Hir, Cribyn, near Lampeter
- Colby Woodland Garden, Amroth
- Gelli Uchaf, Rhydcymerau, near Llansawel
- Farmyard Nurseries, Llandysul
- Picton Castle and Gardens near Haverfordwest –www.pictoncastle.co.uk/gardens
- Upton Castle and Gardens, Cosheston –www.uptoncastle.com
- Cilgwyn Lodge Gardens, Llangadog –www.cilgwynlodge.co.uk
Castles Worth Visiting
Carmarthenshire is steeped in myth and legend and home to some of the most authentic and atmospheric castles in Europe. The strategic importance of Carmartheshire and its history of being the site of many battles means that the county is littered with castles.
Some of the highlights include –
Carreg Cennen Castle is one of the most spectacularly situated castles in Wales with 60 mile panoramic views on a clear day. The exterior face of the castle presents an impression of strength and defiance though much of the interior was destroyed in 1462 after the War of the Roses. The castle has a long and eventful history –the original welsh stronghold was demolished in the late 13th century and replaced with imposing structure, the remains of which can be seen today. It is privately owned but maintained by CADW.
Dinefwr Castle is situated in the ground of Newton House, a National Trust property on the outskirts of Llandeilo. There is a lovely walk up through the park grounds to the castle where you are rewarded with fabulous views along the Towy valley. It is possible to arrange with staff at the park to drive up to the castle if you do not think you can make the climb.
A castle was originally built on this spot in the 800s but the remains that you see today date back from the 1100s. Towards the end of the 15th century the castle was held by Sir Rhys ap Thomas, who carried out extensive rebuilding. In 1531 his grandson was executed for treason and the castle was confiscated by the crown, though the family were later able to recover it. Around 1600 Newton House was built nearby and the castle keep modified as a summer house. The remains of the large windows can be seen at the top of the keep, but it burned down in the 18th century.
Carew Castle is set in a beautiful location overlooking a 23 acre mill pond and displays the development from a Norman fortification to an Elizabethan country house. The site incorporates an impressive 11th century Celtic cross, the only restored tidal mill in Wales, a medieval bridge and a picnic area, all linked by a delightful one-mile circular walk which enjoys uninterrupted views of the castle.
Other castles in the local area can be found at –
- Dryslwyn –www.castlewales.com/dryslwyn
- Cilgerran –www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-cilgerrancastle
- Kidwelly –www.greatcastlesofwales.co.uk/kidwelly
- Llansteffan –www.greatcastlesofwales.co.uk/llansteffan
- Laugharne –www.castlewales.com/laugharn.html
- Newcastle Emlyn –www.castlewales.com/newcas2
- Carmarthen –www.castlewales.com/carmarth
- Manorbier –www.manorbiercastle.co.uk
- Oxwich –www.castlewales.com/oxwich
Newton House and Dinefwr Park
Newton House stands in 800 acres of magnificent parkland on the edge of Llandeilo. The house is set up so that you can enjoy the splendour of Edwardian life plus life below stairs. Outside there are five way marked routes winding round the estate giving breathtaking views of the Towy Valley, especially from the ruins of Dinefwr Castle. There are the remains of a Roman Fort, a pedigree herd of White Park Cattle and 100 fallow deer to be seen too.
Dylan Thomas’ Boathouse at Laugharne
Set in a cliff overlooking the Taf Estuary, the Boathouse was where Dylan Thomas lived with his family from 1949-53. Today, a visit offers a fascinating insight in to his life at a time when he wrote ‘Under Milk Wood’–there is memorabilia, a bookshop, tearoom and his writing shed built on stilts on the cliffs.
Set in beautiful hills, at the head of the Talley Lakes, lies Talley Abbey. The remoteness, which contributed to the relative poverty of the community, now adds to the peace which surrounds the abbey.. Much of the monastic building has fallen and now only the abbey church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist, and part of the cloister remain.
Dolaucothi Gold Mines
The only known Roman gold mine in the UK is set within a beautiful upland estate where walks meander through sever different habitats. You can join a tour underground and have a go at panning for gold.
National Wool Museum
The museum is housed in the former Cambrian Mills and there is working textile machinery, traditional tools and craftspeople to guide you through the process. There is a commercial working mill on site, one of the last makers of flannel in Wales. The Textile Gallery displays the end result of the hard work that produced clothing, shawls and blankets for the workers of Wales and the rest of the world.
Red Kite Feeding Station
Visitors may sit in the specially built hide only feet away from diving birds and observe them competing naturally for the meat provided by the feeding centre at regular times throughout the year. Usually around 50+ birds may be seen gathering before the feed, soaring high into the sky until they start diving onto their food. In addition to Kites, Buzzards and Ravens may also join the fun.
This classic Georgian villa was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1989 and has been lovingly restored to its present state as a perfect example of a self-sufficient 18th century Welsh Country Estate. As well as the country house there is a service courtyard, walled gardens, lake, home farm complex and a collection of artefacts donated to the NT from toys, jewellery, corkscrews and treen.
Carmarthenshire County Museum is housed in a building that is a museum in its own right. The collections are set off by their almost unique setting –an old house which has been in continuous use since about 1290, surrounded by lawns, gardens and trees and bordered by a lake which was formerly part of the River Tywi. It was founded as a college and became the Bishop’s Palace for the diocese of St David’s before taking on a new lease of life as the County Museum about twenty years ago.
St Davids Cathedral and Bishops Palace
Built upon the site of St David’s 6th century monastery, St Davids Cathedral has been a site of pilgrimage and worship for many hundreds of years. As well as visiting the cathedral, The Tower Gatehouse contains an exhibition designed to introduce the pilgrim/visitor to the history and life of the Cathedral today including its daily worship. The Cathedral Treasury provides a safe home for treasures which tell the story of Christian worship and scholarship at St Davids that began 1,500 years ago and which continues to the present day. There is also a Refectory serving home-made food, made from local ingredients in one of the most beautiful spaces in Wales.
Caws Cenarth Organic Cheese Visitors Centre
See the farmhouse cheeses being made, visit the museum and taste the cheeses.
Gwili Steam Railway
This is the only steam standard gauge railway operating in South West Wales. Travelling through the beautiful Gwili valley the steam trains run to a delightful halt that has been built in traditional GWR style.
This former Cistercian Abbey is located in a wild, lonely and picturesque valley deep in the hills North of Tregaron, one of Wales’most significant ancient monuments. The abbey was originally founded in 1164 but now lies mostly in ruins so the only substantive structure remaining is the entrance archway. No less than 11 princes of the House of Dinefwr were buried here in the 11thand 12th centuries and a stone marker in the Chapter House commemorates this.
Vale of Rheidol Railway
The 11½ mile journey between Aberystwyth and Devils Bridge takes one hour in each direction as the steam train overcomes a height difference of over 600 feet, affording superb views of the Rheidol valley. At Devils Bridge the Mynach Falls, Jacob’s Ladder and Devil’s Punchbowl are all within walking distance.
St Fagans National History Museum
Situated outside Cardiff, just off the M4, this fascinating museum makes a wonderful break in a journey when travelling to or from Ty Mawr. There are over 40 amazing reconstructions of original historical buildings to explore including churches, a school, tailors shop, row of miners cottages, tannery, cock fighting pit, etc. St Fagans Castle is one of the finest Elizabethan manor houses in Wales and the formal landscaped gardens are also open to the public.