24- 27 April 2015- Laugharne, Carmarthenshire
Me, Paddy Garcia, Kate Force One, Magic Dave and Burge
There’s something quite futile about attempting to write about Laugharne and its environs. Right from the off, there’s Dylan Thomas, right there…
But we did walk, so I will write.
Firstly, the view. Our chalet was perched on a hill overlooking the very complicated estuary, and we enjoyed watching the tide wash in and out over the many sandy channels and inlets- in misty fog when we arrived, and glorious sunshine the next day.
On Saturday, we took a small stroll (3 miles) around Laugharne itself, to take in the main Thomas sights. We began with possibly the most lengthy phase of milling we’ve ever suffered from, which involved several false starts, some crawling back into house on hands and knees (to avoid treading mud into carpet after boots on), detailed discussions of health issues (backs, bowels, knees again) before general despair at hopeless aging was overcome and we sailed forth.
The route followed the estuary past Thomas’s spartan writing shed (previously garage) and along to the Boathouse. Fascinatingly small inside and as far into the sea as a house can be without falling into it. Then we trailed through ‘Milk Wood’ and looped inland to St Martin’s Church, where the man himself is buried, Caitlin beside. Enjoyed the higgledy-piggledy churchyard with its formidable but collapsing walls.
Then it was back down into the village for a stroll around the mighty Norman/ Tudor castle with towering views out over the estuary. And a gazebo- the writing spot of Richard Hughes, author of the first ever radio play, who lived in the perfect pink Castle House next door, where the Thomases were regular visitors.
Paused at the town hall and prison (Kate Force One taken by surprise by animatronics). Remarkably, Laugharne is one of the only surviving medieval corporations left in Britain, complete with burgesses and open field system. Then it was off for a drink at Browns Hotel, after a brief stop at Corran Books opposite, whose proprietor informed us that the very fine Georgian houses of King Street (where both are located) feature no less than six former ballrooms between them. Which conjured up a wonderful image of a town overrun with wealthy seacaptains of yesteryear, home from the sea, and nothing to do but dance, dance, dance.
Sunday saw us on a drive to Pendine for a slice of different history. The seven miles of sands are breathtaking, more so because the dunes behind (and indeed the beach) have been MOD property since the war, and thus remain a wild natural haven (except for the blowing things up bits, and the big signs telling you never to pick up unidentified objects…). And in the 1920s the sands formed a better driving surface than most roads, so it was here that several landspeed records were broken. Until a tragic end for JG Parry-Thomas and his car Babs in 1927.
We headed straight up over the hill from the beach, briefly getting mixed up with a horde of families on a picnic outing to the next (weirdly pebbly) beach beyond, before leaving them behind to continue along the along the South Wales coastal path. Very hard work on the legs, lots of steep climbs and descents, but glorious blue skies, yellow gorse and fantastic views over Carmarthen Bay, with Worms Head to to the east, and Tenby and Caldey to the west. After a stop for a hearty lunch of sandwiches, savory eggs, pork pies, apples, biscuits, coffee and one yazoo (Magic Dave), we turned inland and headed up to Marros, before looping back down towards Pendine, through rolling green valleys that didn’t feel coastal at all.
Met a very friendly bunch of dogs and their minders who let us through their garden, got a bit lost, Burge had to retrace steps looking for lost hat (blog photos provided vital evidence of where hat last seen), and then we were back at the pebbly beach, just the final hard up and down back to Pendine. Quick drink in scorching sun outside the Beach Hotel before heading back to Laugharne.
Monday saw the party (-Burge) return home via the lovely Llansteffan (recommended by a local in Browns on our first night), looking out across the channel to Ferryside on the other side. In its 19th century heyday, holidaymakers arrived at Ferryside by train from Swansea, took a ferry to Llansteffan, and could cross the peninsula to call a boat over to Laugharne. Today travelling between the three involves lots of driving inland and out again, but it’s worth it- impressive castle and charming teabreak at Llansteffan. Then we crammed in one final Thomas stop at Cwmdonkin Drive in Swansea, before tea at PG’s folks and home.
Great weekend away, absolutely made by the stunning views over the estuary. The horizon is definitely good for you. Great wildlife- hundreds of noisy birds, lots of furry things, even a high-speed badger. And a very charming, interesting, characterful town. We imagined Dylan Thomas tramping the countryside, searching for inspiration, and drink, did the same ourselves, and enjoyed the experience muchly.