To the east, it shares borders with Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Powys. To the north is Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire is to the west and to the south is the Atlantic Ocean, making Carmarthenshire a combination of mountains, greenery and beaches. The Cambrian Mountains, which stretch across the east of Ceredigion extend into Carmarthenshire, as well the Fforest Fawr in the east, an upland which was included in the Brecon Beacons both offer leisurely walks through Welsh countryside and hilly terrains. Carmarthenshire is served by several rivers, including the River Towy, which flows into the Bristol Channel and the River Loughor, which is a major river of Swansea.
Despite its landscape seeming like a deserted natural space, the most recent census showed that the county is populated by around 178,000 people. 39% of these can speak, read and write Welsh, with the other 61% being able to do at least one of those, which is quite a high percentage for recent times. Carmarthenshire folk seem to stick well to their roots! Tourism isn’t a big part of county life with its local economy consisting mainly of agriculture and fishing. If you’re interested in fishing, then it’s the south that you want to head to, where the fishing and angling scene is strongest.
Of course, with south Carmarthenshire being bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, it’s here that you’ll find the beaches too. Llansteffan Beach and Castle is widely considered as a great beach for families, due to its perfect sandcastle-making conditions and short walks up to the castle, which provides great views and photo ops. For something a little more private, walk along the coast about half a mile and discover Scotts Bay, which is a secluded cove where you’re almost guaranteed not to be disturbed. Sounds like something you’d find in the Caribbean!
Talking of Carmarthenshire’s coastal aspects, it would be wrong not to mention the Millennium Coastal Park in Llanelli, which sees thousands of visitors every year. As its name might suggest, it was opened to mark the new millennium and was a huge project funded by the National Lottery, Carmarthenshire County Council, the Welsh Assembly and the EU. Over a thousand hectares of industrial wasteland were converted into this breath-taking coastal attraction, which is now a favourite relaxation crash-out for locals and visitors alike. As well as the beach, it’s also an area for cycling, walking and wildlife spotting, so a day here is a real must, if you’re ever in Llanelli.
As well as luxurious beaches, Carmarthenshire is steeped in natural features and culture. For relaxing walks, Pembrey Country Park and Brechfa Forest are ideal. Carmarthenshire is also home to the National Botanical Garden of Wales, which features the largest glasshouse in the world and which is a visitor centre and a focal point for botanical research. Museums are also plentiful in the county with Museum of Speed, a whole museum dedicated to land speed records and record attempts, the West Wales Museum of Childhood, which features toys through the ages (take your kids and show them how lucky they are now to have Wiis and Ben 10) and there’s the Dylan Thomas Boathouse, which is where the writer spent the last four years of his life. It’s also the site where he supposedly wrote several major works including part of his most famous play, Under Milk Wood and it sees around 15,000 visitors a year.
So that all sounds very calm and educational but what if it’s action and fun you want? Well, Carmarthenshire isn’t short of activity centres either. For adults and older kids (11+), Cenarth Adventure Centre offers paintballing, laser combat and archery for those who want to get messy or pretend they’re in Star Wars or Robin Hood. For thrill-seekers, K Quads is home to Carmarthenshire quad biking, 4x4 driving and karting- take your pick! Llandysul Paddlers Canoe Club is for those who want to take a splash (probably literally!) out into the sea and Shaggy Sheep Wales (the name gives nothing away at all), is a residential activity centre, which specialises in team-building and stag/hen weekends. Seriously, if you’re looking for somewhere to host either of those events, it’s the place to go - pub crawl features on its list of activities!
Pub crawls and nightclubs aren’t too common in Carmarthenshire, although there is a small population of students, so it’s not completely dead at night. Nightclubs include Waterside, Metro and Savannah with The Parrot Music Bar and Café hosting regular gigs and club nights. There are a number of pubs and inns, where you can enjoy a few drinks but Carmarthen isn’t an urban, commercial area, so there aren’t many big, well-known pubs or club chains. If you’re in the mood though, there are a few options, which is quite unusual for a small isolated town. It’s what you make of it and you can certainly make a good night out there!
Carmarthenshire is great for a relaxing break or day-trip and you’ll always find something to do or somewhere new to explore. You can choose between gaining knowledge about local culture or history or just taking a book down to a beach or tearing around off-road on a quad bike or jeep, so whatever your mood, Carmarthen has something for you.