Gower Peninsular

The castle occupies a position on a wooded headland overlooking Oxwich Bay on the Gower Peninsular.

Although it may occupy the site of an earlier fortification, this is a castle in name only as it is a grand Tudor manor house built in courtyard style.

A product of the peaceful 16th century, Oxwich was built by Sir Rice Mansel to provide sumptuous accommodation. He gave it a mock military gateway complete with family coat of arms. Sir Rice’s work was confined to the southern block and was completed between the 1520s and 30s.

On Mansel’s death his son, Sir Edward Mansel succeeded to the property and between 1560-80 created the much grander style multi-storied range which contained an impressive hall and elegant long gallery – a fashionable Elizabethan feature.

The 6 storey south-east tower which still survives probably accommodated the family and servants.

After the Mansel’s moved out in the 1630s the castle fell into disrepair and the south range was used as a farmhouse.


A4118 Gower road Swansea – Port Eynon in Oxwich village

Further Information:

Telephone: 01792 390359

Admission charge

No dogs

In the care of Cadw: Telephone 029 20 500200

Other Placenames


Brecon – from the Welsh personal name Brychan, a 5th century ruler, and Welsh iog = territory of. The kingdom was later called Brycheiniog which was corrupted by English speakers to Brecknock.

Aberhonddu  from Welsh aber = mouth and the river name Honddu, from hawdd = pleasant or quiet and du = dark.

BUCKLEY – also a family name

From the Old English boc = beech and leah = wood clearing.


Builth – in the 10th century was Buelt and came from bu = cow and gellt = pasture.

The name was originally the cantref name and Wells was added to Builth in the 19th century referring to the chalybeate (containing iron) springs.

Llanfair-ym-Maullt (Lanveyr). From llan = church and Mair = Mary.

CILYCWM  From ci = narrowing river source; y = the; cwm = valley.

COITY  From Ty = house in the coed = wood.


Isca was the headquarters of Roman 2nd Augustan Legion.

From early Welsh Cair Legeion guar Usic – ‘the caer of the llion on the Usk’; caer = fort and legionum (Latin) = of the legions.

CALDEY ISLAND The monastery was founded in the 12th century.

From Old Scandinavian – kald = cold and ey = island.

CAREW Possibly from carw = stag.


Roman name Maridunum from mor = sea and din = fort. The Welsh caer = fort was added later after the meaning had been forgotten.

CARREG CENNEN From carreg = rock and Cennen/Cynnen (Personal name).

DINAS From dinas = fort or camp.

DINEFWR  Was the seat of the Lord Rhys in the 12th century.

From din = fort and fawr = big.

DRYSLWYN From dryslwyn = thornbush, thicket, brambles.

EWENNY   The Abbey was founded in the 12th century.

From Aventi (a Celtic goddess).

                    GOODWICK / WDIG From: Old Scandinavian gothr = good and vik = bay.

                    GOODIG / GWDIG Possibly from Old Scandinavian gothr = good

                    and vik = port (see Goodwick).


                   Probably from Old English hæfr = he-goat or buck and ford

                   – the ‘West’ was added about 1400 to distinguish it from Hereford.


                   From Villa Johannis then John’s tun (Old English) = John’s farm or settlement

                    KIDWELLY From a personal name Cadwal plus the suffix –i = the land of Cadwal.

                   The more popular explanation locally is the alternative cyd = united or together

                   and gwely = river bed – the joining of two rivers.

                   The Gwendraeth Fawr and the Gwendraeth Fach meet and flow into one.


Latin form derived from Celtic leuco, bright, shining, white.

The river name transferred to the settlement.

                    LANDEILO From llan = church of St. Teilo.

                    LLANELLI From llan = church of St. Elli.


                    From ma plain or low-lying land and the personal name Cynllaith,

                    which means ‘kind, gentle’ as an adjective and ‘slaughter,

                    destruction’ as a noun.


                            From early record Mansio Pyrri – maenor,

                            an ancient land division, and St. Pyr (a 6th century saint).

                    MARGAM The Abbey was founded 1147.

                    From the 7th century Prince Morgan of Gwent,

                      who also gave his name to Glamorgan (glan = shore and Morgan = name).

                      Morgan may derive from môr = sea and geni = to be born or the bright one.

               MARSHFIELD From Old English mersc = marsh and feld = open area.

               OGMORE Possibly from og = cave and môr = sea.

               OXWICH From Old English oxa = ox and wic = working farm.

               PEMBREY From pen = top and bre = hill.

               PENRHOS From pen = head or end and rhos = moorland.


                    Probably from Old English pic = pointed instrument (peak or summit)

                    and tun = farm or settlement.


                    From pont = bridge; ar = over and Dulais, (river) du = black and glais = stream.

               RHOSSILI From rhos = moor of Sulien.

               ROCH From Old French roche = rock.

               RUABON / RHIWABON From rhiw = hill and the personal name Mabon.

               SAINT CLEARS / SANCLER From sanctus (Latin) = saint and the personal name Clarus.

               SAINT DAVIDS / TYDDEWI Monastery founded by St. David who was born during the 5th century

               SAINT DOGMAELS The abbey dates from c. 1115.

                    From St. Dogmael a 5th – 6th century Welsh monk.

               SHREWSBURY / PENGWERN

                    Probably from the Old English burg = fort in the scrob = brushwood

                    and from the Welsh pen = the end of the gwern = swamp.

               SKOKHOLM ISLAND

                     Probably from Old Scandinavian stokkr = log or narrow river or straight sound.

               SKOMER ISLAND From Old Scandinavian skálm = short sword and ey = island.

               SPITTAL Belonged to St David’s

                    From Middle English spitel = house of the sick or deceased a corruption of hospital.


                    From Old Scandinavian stakkr = haystack and pollr = pool became the pool near Stack rock.

               SWANSEA / ABERTAWE

                    From Sweynesse Old Norse personal name Sveinn and saer = sea and ey = island,

                    Sveinn’s island. Abertawe = Aber = mouth of the Tawe (probably dark river).

               TENBY / DINBYCH-Y-PYSGOD From din = fort; bych (bach) = small; y = the and pysgod = fish.

               TYWYN  From tywyn = sand-dune or sandy shore.


Museum of Speed, Pendine

Explore the history of Pendine’s ‘Sands of Speed’ in a dramatic new building, overlooking the beach.

See the beautifully restored car ‘Babs’ in the summer and other record breaking and fast vehicles at other times.

Opening Dates

Easter Holidays

Spring Bank Holiday

 – 30th September throughout the week

End of Easter Holidays

 – Spring Bank Holiday

1st – 31st October

Friday – Monday

Closed 1st November until Easter Holiday

Opening Times

10.00 – 1.00, 1.30 – 5.00


The Carmarthen Branch

Llandeilo – Abergwili Line


The 13½-mile Carmarthen branch from Llandeilo was opened by the Llanelly Railway & Dock Co on 14 November1864 (for goods). The first passenger service started on 1 June 1865.

The line was always single throughout – with passing loops – and had block posts at Carmarthen Valley Junction, Golden Grove, Llanarthney, Nantgaredig and Abergwili Junction. Llandilo Bridge was also a block post, although two trains could not cross there. This provision was due to the station being located next to the cattle market held fortnightly on Mondays, as on these days, a special train arrived from Llandeilo at 1.50pm and departed to Llanelli at 4.30pm.

Nantgaredig Station pictured in May 1958

From its opening in 1864, the line was operated by the train staff system and by 1871, at which time the branch was in the hands of the LNWR, it was controlled by absolute block telegraph and this system was replaced by electric train staff in 1896 and electric token in 1938.

A bridge was built over the River Gwili west of Abergwili station. There were six viaducts and one 83 yard tunnel, the latter situated between Nantgaredig and Abergwili.

Between Carmarthen Valley Junction and Abergwili Junction there were six stations:

Llandilo Bridge

This was a block post but had no crossing loop.

Passengers and freight.

Closed on 9 September 1963.

Golden Grove

Crossing loop.

Passengers and freight.

Closed on 9 September 1963.


Passengers only until 13 October 1902 when freight traffic commenced. It became an unstaffed halt during the Second World War and staff were reinstated at the end of hostilities. It became unstaffed at certain times of the day from 4 June 1956.

Closed on 9 September 1963.


Crossing loop.

Passenger and freight. Became an unstaffed halt from 4 January 1954.

Closed completely on 1 June 1959.


Crossing loop.

Passenger and freight.

Closed on 9 September 1963.


Closed by Llanelly Railway Co. on 1 November 1870.


Passenger and freight.

Partially unstaffed from 4 June 1956.

Closed 9 September 1963.

The stations on the line and distances from Llandeilo Station were:



Llandeilo Bridge

 ¾ mile

Golden Grove

 3¼ miles


 5¾ miles


 7 miles


 9¾ miles


 13 miles


There were two platforms at Golden Grove, Llanarthney and Nantgaredig to allow trains to pass but the loop and second platform at Llanarthney was taken out of use in February 1938. The83 yard tunnel between Nantgaredig and Abergwili was the only significant engineering construction along the route. [The tunnel disappeared along with what remained of the Abergwili section of the line when the A40 Llandeilo to Carmarthen trunk road was upgraded in 1999/2001 between Whitemill and Abergwilli.]

The branch joined the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line at Abergwili Junction, which was ½ a mile beyond Abergwili station. At the time of opening, the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line was broad gauge (7′ 0¼”) so the standard gauge (4′ 8½”) Llanelly Railway added a third rail from Abergwili Junction. This mixed gauge line provided the 2-mile connection to Carmarthen station.

The building of the Carmarthen branch (and the line from Pontardulais to Swansea) was authorised by an Act of Parliament on 1 August 1861 (Llanelly Railway (New Lines) Act).

Both the lines were set up as financially independent of each other and the Llanelly Railway company itself. This led to difficulties because the whole network could not operate as one. The Swansea line went into receivership in 1867 and the Carmarthen line in 1871. A new act on 16 June 1871 severed their connection with the parent company and the Swansea & Carmarthen Railway Co now owned the lines. For the most part the shareholders were the same.

The London & North Western Railway had been pressing for this change and took the opportunity to take over the Carmarthen and Swansea lines in 1871. This completed their main plan, which was for access from the north to the south Wales ports.

The GWR’s broad gauge was changed throughout south Wales in 1872. After that the LNWR gained running powers from Abergwili junction into Carmarthen for passenger trains only, which facilitated through trains to the north. Later this included holiday traffic on summer Saturdays from Manchester and Liverpool although these did not stop at Nantgaredig or any other station on the line. There was even a train from Pembroke Dock to Llandudno that used the line at one time.

Although the line ran through a sparsely populated area it did offer an alternative to the main line through Llanelli. There was one occasion (in about 1910) when the seawall near Ferryside collapsed in a storm and mainline trains from Fishguard used the line.

In 1948 the railways were nationalised and the Carmarthen branch became part of the British Railways (London Midland Region). A typical journey at that time (which changed little) was





Llandeilo Bridge


Golden Grove













The line transferred to the Western region in the 1950s and the sight of pannier tank locomotives became common. However the line was never a great economic success. It was included in Dr. Richard Beeching’s report in 1963 and approved for closure by the government. When it closed on 9 September 1963 it was said that it was losing £21,000 a year. Llanarthney station had closed earlier on 1 June 1959.


Llangunnor – Parish

The Parish of Llangunnor is located close to the County town of Carmarthen. It extends almost to Llanddarog in the east and from Cwmffrwd in the south to Capel Dewi in the north. The river Twyi forms part of the parish boundary and the communities include the villages and hamlets of Llangunnor, Pensarn, Login, Pibwrlwyd, Tregynnwr and Nantycaws.

The Independents built Capel Philadelphia in 1809 and this was the first Chapel in the parish. It was renovated in 1841 and the present building dates from 1931.


A ‘Llan’ or church surrounded by an enclosure was established by Dewi Sant  (Saint David) at the place where he preached and today’s church is to be found on Llangunnor Hill. The church has several notables including David Charles (a non-conformist hymn writer) and Sir Lewis Morris (a solicitor and Town Clerk of Carmarthen who built ‘Ty Penbryn’ also known as Mount Pleasant). The house was demolished in the 1990s to make way for modern development. Notoriety is also represented in that the parents of Donald Maclean of the Burgess & Maclean Russian spy scandal of the 1950s are also buried here.

The origin of the name is not certain but it is believed to relate to a feature in the landscape. It may have derived from the old Welsh word ‘Halogyn’ (a stream or dirty pool). Long ago the place was also known as Logindwr.

Around 1868 a National School, along with a house for the schoolmaster was built here. Under the management of the vicar and open to Government inspection, both children and adults were accepted as pupils.


The name can be traced back to the old Welsh word ‘cawsen’ (a paved ford across a stream). Schools were held in various farmhouses in the area in the 17th and 18th centuries as there were no purpose-built education establishments. Eventually, in the 19th century, a schoolroom was built at Tir-y-Pound, for the furtherance of the education of local children.

In the 21st century the village is a commuter base for south west Wales, with many new housing developments in evidence.

Waste management came to the area with the development of a large civic amenity centre for product recovery, recycling and compost manufacturing.


The name means ‘the head of the causeway’. It is thought the Romans built a road through Pensarn when they marched their legions through Carmarthen on their way to Caernarvon in North Wales. Two sections of cobbled tracks are still visible. The one between Babell Chapel and Ty Penbryn is known as Roman Road but the other is less discernable and leads towards Abercyfor Isaf. The County town of Carmarthen, across the River Tywi from Pensarn, was an important Roman base in West Wales.

The Methodists had meeting places in Bola-haul, and at Pibwrlwyd. In 1870 they built Babell Methodist Chapel at Pensarn and later the same year enlarged it. The Chapel was rebuilt in 1905.

Today the village of Pensarn has almost disappeared under either road improvement schemes or commercial developments such as retail parks, supermarkets and other business outlets, but to mark the village’s existence the Community Council has placed a plaque under Pont Pensarn.

Originally called Cwrt Pibwr and situated on the bank of the River Pibwr this large residence was an important house in West Wales.

Over time various owners of the house attained civic and influential positions in local society and were able to influence events both locally and further afield. Through their position in society they were able to contribute to the non-conformist cause and develop the provision of education in Carmarthenshire.

Pibwrlwyd declined and eventually became a farmhouse but many of its original features remain.

Coleg Sir Gār are the present owners and within its grounds is one of the college campuses.

A farm known as Newcwmlast once occupied the site of present-day Tregynnwr. Legend has it that during the Civil War Oliver Cromwell and his troops camped there during their siege of Carmarthen in 1640.


A Brief History of the Welsh Language

Modern Welsh is a descendant of Celtic, one branch of the Indo-European family of languages, and thus ultimately derives from a common Proto-Indo-European language used by the nomadic tribes of Europe and Western Asia about 5,000 years ago. The Celts were at the height of their powers in the 4th century BC, occupying most of central and eastern Europe as well as Gaul (modern France); from Gaul they spread south-west into Spain and north-west into the British Isles, displacing or exterminating the native peoples. In time the Celtic language separated into two related forms, Continental Celtic in mainland Europe and Insular Celtic in the British Isles. For centuries Continental Celtic co-existed with Latin in the Roman Empire, but it ultimately fell victim to the Romance languages, such as French and Spanish, which were derived from Latin; its final demise came when the Germanic-speaking GothsOstrogoths and Visigoths from northern Europe succeeded the Romans as the masters of western Europe. Insular Celtic alone survived.

Insular Celtic itself falls into two branches: Brythonic (from Brython ‘Briton’) and Goidelic (from Goidel ‘Irishman’). This simple division situation is often made to appear more complicated than it really is as Brythonic is also called British by some scholars and Old Welsh by others. Similarly, Goidelic is called Gaelic (from Gael the modern form of Goidel) in some sources and in Ireland is now generally called Irish.

In the 5th century the Irish colonists invaded western Scotland and the Isle of Man, displacing the native, probably non-Indo-European, Pictish language with their own; this subsequently developed into Scottish Gaelic, which still thrives, and the now-extinct Manx language. To this day Irish and Scottish Gaelic, particularly in the written form, remain very close.

England and Wales were occupied by the Romans from AD 70 to AD 410 and the British tongue was therefore strongly influenced by Latin. It was displaced in England by a distantly related Indo-European language, Anglo-Saxon, from about AD 450, following Anglo-Saxon colonization from northern Europe, but still survives in Wales as Welsh. (Ironically it was an Anglo-Saxon word walas meaning ‘foreigners’ which gave the name both to that country and its language.) A British-speaking pocket also remained in the county of Cornwall in the far south-west of England until 1800. It was from Cornwall in the 6th and 7th centuries that refugees from Anglo-Saxon pressure sailed across the channel to what was to become Brittany, taking with them their language which still survives under the name of Breton. Thus it is that the only Celtic language now found on the continent of Europe is Insular rather than Continental Celtic.

(This brief history of Insular Celtic is of necessity somewhat simplified: the Celts were a mobile tribal people and it is known that there were Brythonic as well as Goidelic speakers in Ireland at an early date; likewise Goidelic raiders colonized areas of Wales during the centuries after AD 400 and that language was certainly used at times by some of the ruling classes there. Some scholars also recognise another division into ‘P-Celtic’ and ‘Q-Celtic’ based on probable pronunciation – thus cenn in Ireland, ben in Scotland and pen in Wales, each meaning “head, summit”, are in fact the same word.)

In England, Anglo-Saxon, initially influenced by Celtic and Latin, and, later, by the closely related Norse or Old Scandinavian spoken by Vikings, who arrived England in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries, grew into Old English. The inroads made by the Vikings into the coastal areas of Wales can, incidentally, be traced in place-names such as Swansea and Skomer. Following William the Conqueror’s invasion from Normandy in 1066, Old English in its turn incorporated many Norman-French words and became Middle English. In 1267, Norman French was still the language of Henry III’s court, but the majority of the English inhabitants of the Welsh Marches would have spoken Middle English.

Common Placenames

Welsh placenames can reveal much about a town, village, area or mountain.

Many placenames are based on local physical or geographic features, such as rivers, hills, bridges, woodlands and so on. Aber, for example, means ‘mouth of’, so Abersoch means ‘The mouth of the River Soch’.

Here are a few examples of Welsh you will encounter during your visit:

aber confluence, river mouth

afon river

bach, fach small

ban, fan peak, crest

blaen head, end, .source

bryn hill

bwlch pass

caer, gaer fort, stronghold

carreg stone, rock

castell castle

cefn ridge

clawdd hedge, ditch, dyke

coch, goch red

craig, graig rock

crib crest, summit, ridge

cwm valley, cirque

cymer meeting of rivers

dinas fort, city

du, ddu black

dyffryn valley

eglwys church

ffin boundary

glyn glen

gwaun, waen moor, mountain pasture

hendre winter dwelling, permanent home

heol road

llan church, enclosure

llwyn grove, bush

llyn lake

llys hall, court

maen stone

mawr, fawr great, big

merthyr martyr

moel, foel bare hill

mynydd, fynydd mountain

pant hollow, valley

pen head, top, end

pentre village, homestead

plas hall, mansion

pont, bont bridge

sarn causeway, old road

tre, tref hamlet, home, town

uchaf upper, higher, highest

ystrad valley floor

The Language and the People

The Welsh are on the whole a friendly nation but insular.

As a visitor you should have no problems as all but the die-hards speak English if addressed in that language. If you want to try out the language for yourself, lessons on pronunciation are essential as you are unlikely to be understood otherwise.

The Welsh language is spoken by fewer than a quarter of the population and the written word is understood by less. The language differs in the north and south of the country and is not the easiest to learn, or the most practical, but a minority of the population wish to impose it on the rest through a Welsh language policy that has come under much criticism.

The use of the language outside of Wales is virtually nil, the cost of printing everything from Road Signs to Water Bills in two languages is ludicrous beyond belief. It is a classic case of Political Correctness gone mad – but that is not unusual in Wales!

Whilst the necessity to preserve Welsh culture cannot be denied, the language could be kept alive for those that want it in other ways and the resultant money saved spent on far more deserving projects. The wealth of the country would be that much greater. The cost to the economy is hard to identify as official figures are rarely – if ever published. It has been said that if the true cost were made public there would be a public outcry.

bore da good morning

dydd da good day

prynhawn da good afternoon

noswaith dda good evening

nos da <style=”font-style:normal”>good night</style=”font-style:normal”>

sut mae? how are you?

hwyl cheers

diolch thanks

diolch yn fawr iawn thanks very much

croeso welcome

croeso i Gymru welcome to Wales

da good

da iawn very good

iechyd da! good health!


Around Carmarthenshire

St Clears

St Clears, situated at the tidal limit of the tributaries of the river Taf and 14 miles west from the county town of Carmarthen, is a small town in an agricultural area. There are some small shops and the ruins of a Norman Castle.

The Census of 2001 gave the population as about 2,800 with 69% speaking Welsh.

The community is supported by a variety of services which include a doctor’s surgery, chemists, butchers, bakers, restaurants, veterinary practices, hotel/B&B accommodation, primary/junior school, post office and banks.

Villages in the vicinity include Backe, Bancyfelin and Pwll Trap.

Other information

St Clears was, in recent times, a shipbuilding center and has earlier associations with the Rebecca Riots and a visit by Lord Nelson.

The Priory Church of St. Mary Magdalene (Christian – Methodist) is the church of St. Clears. It is an active church and fund-raising events ensure that the church and graveyard are well maintained.

St Mary’s is one of a group of four churches served by the same incumbent, the others being St. Teilo’s (Llanddowror); St. Michael’s (Llanfihangel Abercywyn) and St. Gynin’s (Llangynin). The present structure is not the original but is the oldest place of worship in the town and is thought to be one of the oldest churches in Wales. The founding of St Mary’s is likely to date to the late 11th or early 12th century. There is no evidence that a church or settlement existed on the present site of St Clears before the Norman invasion.

The Priory

St Clears Priory was never a large establishment, a Prior and two monks are the maximum recorded. Along with other priories it was dissolved in 1414. Its property, income and the right of appointing its vicar were granted in 1446 to All Souls College, Oxford. This right survived until 1920 when the Church in Wales became responsible for the appointment of the vicar. All Souls College continue to make a token annual grant to the St Clears church, originally for repair of the chancel.

The priory buildings adjoined the church on its south side and extended into the enclosure long known as “Parc Priordy” [Priory Field]. In the 17th century there were above ground remains and a recent geophysical survey has identified buried foundations.


Picture Gallery – 25

Carmarthen Station Looking East

Before 1938. Carmarthen once had a busy local railway industry. The so-called down-sizing by Dr. Beeching in the mid 20th century sounded the death knell for Carmarthen’s railway.

This photograph is interesting because it was taken before the County Hall was built on Goal Hill (far left of picture).

Carmarthen Goal was built on the site of Carmarthen Castle by Architect John Nash between 1789 and 1792 and was demolished in 1938 to make way for the new County Hall which was completed in 1948.

With the closure of the branch line from Carmarthen via Abergwili Junction to Llandeilo the line which once crossed the River Towy on the bridge (seen below) north of Carmarthen station which led to the branch line running along the north bank of the River Towy from Carmarthen to Llandeilo via Abergwilli Junction, Nantgaredig, and Dryslwyn. The bridge is no longer in existence. 

The Bridge which carried the Branch line over the River Towy

Another bridge, a white painted Bascule bridge {built 1933 by the Great Western Railway) spanned the river at Johnstown and carried the railway over the Towy. It was designed by Ralph Freeman, a top engineer, and constructed by the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company of Darlington.

There are five fixed spans and a roller lift span carried on 14 iron cylinders braced with lattice girders ornamented with cast-iron moulded capitals.

The lifting span is a balanced cantilever carried on steel plate bearing girders supported on two sets of cylinders. The span was operated by gearing carried on trestles on cantilevers on either side of the bridge

The bridge  was last used in the late 1950s by Major Terence Fisher-Hoch of The Plas, Llansteffan, when he sailed his yacht Pisces of Towy upstream to Carmarthen.

The bridge has been listed by Cadw and funds are being sought for its restoration. (Carmarthen Journal, January 8 2003)

Prior to the Beeching cuts there was a branch line running along the north bank of the River Towy from Carmarthen to Llandeilo via Abergwilli Junction, Nantgaredig, and Dryslwyn. When line was axed the only rail access to Carmarthen was along the coast from Swansea


Carmarthen Town

The Courthouse, Guildhall Square, Carmarthen

The castle remains are a focal point and facilities have been improved for visitors. Merlin is said to have lived nearby as did King Arthur of the legend. The area is steeped in history and myth and forms an ideal central location to explore the history and countryside of South West Wales. Carmarthen’s County Museum is located in the old Bishop’s Palace at Abergwili and is a few minute’s drive from the town centre. There is plenty of free parking and easy walks in the ground of the old Palace. The museum has undergone many improvements to bring it more into line with what visitors expect and it is well worth a visit. The County Museum also has other buildings, Parc Howard at Llanelli, The Museum of Speed at Pendine and an Industrial Museum at Kidwelly..

Carmarthen itself, although the County town, has suffered from a hotch-potch of development and poor planning over the years with the result that industrial development has taken place close to the town centre – blighting visitors’ first impressions.

A new by-pass and bridge over the River Towy has relieved traffic congestion to some degree, but parking facilities within the town is congested, especially at weekends and during the holiday period.

The Town’s Shopping areas

Shopping areas in the town have been upgraded in recent years and are for most purposes adequate but they by no means match those offered in similar sized towns elsewhere in the UK. The Greyfriars shopping mall with tiled wall panels supplied by Felingwm Pottery, which whilst welcome was built without overhead cover in this, one of the wettest parts of the UK. In September 2004, the frozen food store “Iceland” ceased trading in the precinct.

In 2005 a branch of Ethel Austin opened in the mall and joined Argos, TK Max, mobile phone shops and other well-known high street names. Ethel Austin did mot last long and by 2008 the store had closed its doors for the final time and was replaced by an “everything a pound” shop. In recent years other casualties in the Greyfriars Mall were a specialist card shop and a clothing shop.

In 2006 the Greyfriars shopping centre was completely re-painted and new signage installed to make it a more family orientated scheme. The centre attracted almost 4 million visitors in 2006.

Harveys moved from their store opposite Halfords and Laura Ashley opened in its place. Matalan opened a branch in new buildings near Focus and Comet and PC World and Currys opened stores on the old Towy Ford garage site. In 2006 Kwik-Save at Pensarn went downhill and stock levels were heavily reduced. At the time of writing (February 2007) there was little improvement and the shop is not really worth a visit and it finally closed. In 2008 the empty Kwik-Save store was renovated and was opened as part of the Aldi group. Lidl’s, meanwhile, always seems to have plenty of customers and great bargains are to be found – the downside is that the car park is small.

The Cambrian shopping mall, an earlier development, was also built without cover. The lack of provision of weather protection is another instance of poor planning by developers and Council planning department.

The controversial re-development of the Market area has caused much discussion but the benefits to shopper will be immense. It finally got the go-ahead in mid 2008 and when completed Carmarthen will offer greater choice and be more in line with what is available elsewhere.

There has been opposition to the scheme from the Chamber of Trade and other bodies who did not want the market site improved, but as the market has few traders on some days and the building is quite ugly things can only get better. A big benefit will be the addition of a Debenhams store and more shops – giving more choice for the consumer. Debenhams, who were sceptical at first, are now fully in favour of the development.

Carmarthen Market 2009

After much controversy and some opposition Carmarthen’s new market hall was opened on 8th April 2009 as part of the town’s multi-million pound shopping development. The market is the first part of a £75 million development to be opened to the public. The opening ceremony was performed by Wales and Scarlets rugby star Stephen Jones.

Although the Market Hall is open every day, not all stalls are open for business every day, so it remains to be seen if the new building attracts more visitors than the old one.

The Future of the Shopping Mall

The trend for shopping centres world-wide (including the UK) is that all new shopping centres will be open and with less covered walk ways. This seems to have been confirmed by a massive survey which has been carried out in the United States to try to discover what shoppers want. The results suggest that in 2008 only about 10 per cent of shopping centres that are opening there will be of an enclosed design.

As UK trends tend to follow America, albeit a few years behind, it appears that large open plan schemes with a fashion for ‘market stall’ type venues will be arriving here in the near future.

Demise of Music Zone in the Greyfriars precinct

In 2007 Music Zone (next door to Argos) was taken over by Fopp Music Store and Music Zone went into administration. Fopp Music Store was not open long, and that too closed. In August 2007 the empty premises was awaiting new tenants.

Carmarthen’s Adams children’s clothes shop

The group went into Administration in December 2008 and the Carmarthen branch closed.

Carmarthen’s MFI

This group have traded in the town for many years but ran into difficulties and was placed in Administration. Buyers could not be found and in October 2008 it was announced that the store would be closing. After a closing down sale the shutters came down in December 2008.

Carmarthen’s Officers’ Club men’s clothes shop

The whole group went into Administration in December 2008, but the Carmarthen branch is to stay open and remain trading.

Other shops which closed in 2008/9

Whittards of Chelsea; Denzil Evans (motor dealer) moved from Priory Street to Pensarn.

Carmarthen’s Tesco Extra

On 13th November 2006 Tesco opened a new superstore (said to be the largest in Wales at the time of its opening, but subsequently this proved not to be the case and better and a larger store is to be found at Fforestfach) and garage at the Five Fields site on the fringe of the town. There was opposition as some feared that trade will be taken from the smaller shops in the town. Shopping trends have changed and shoppers these days want to get their main shopping in one place and not have to carry numerous bags from one shop to the next, then back to the car. There always will be a place for small shops, but they have to specialise and sell what the larger stores do not. The new Tesco was visited on the opening day but was found to be smaller than the one at Fforestfach. The restaurant is very small and the bakery is as far from the entrance as it can be.

Carmarthen’s Wilkinsons store

In early 2007 the old Tesco building was renovated and national store group Wilkinsons was mentioned as a possible tenant. The car park previously used by Tesco was taken over by the Council and charges were imposed. On 29th June 2007 Wilkinsons opened its doors and started trading in Carmarthen.

Carmarthen’s Woolworth store

Having traded in the town for may years the group failed in the “credit crunch” of 2008. A closing-down sale was held in late December 2008 and its doors closed for the last time on New Year’s Eve.

Sony and Panasonic opened stores in 2008 in the Cambrian Precinct

Parking in the town

A point to be considered is the ever-rising cost and difficulty of parking in the town centre. To attract more shoppers to the smaller shops parking charges need to be reduced and more spaces allocated.

These developments are welcomed or Carmarthen as a main shopping town will only go downhill. There are places within easy driving distance where parking is a lot easier (Trostre, Fforestfach, Ammanford, Llanelli and Swansea for instance, although to be fair parking in central Swansea can be difficult) but the shopping experience is more relaxing and pleasurable.

Carmarthen’s Greyfriars shopping centre

The area is well served by out-of-town-centre superstores supplying food, DIY materials, electrical appliances, flat-pack furniture and motoring goods. Gardeners are catered for by a small branch of the national company, Wyevale. Prices are generally high and this garden centre lacks facilities seen elsewhere in the UK. The usual shops found in most towns and city centres are present to some degree but for more choice Swansea or Cardiff remain the best options. The lack of under-cover precincts is probably the biggest deterrent to shopping in Carmarthen when the weather is bad, and unfortunately this is often. Parking in the town centre is usually difficult, especially in the holiday season.

Footbridge gives better access from the Station

In 2006 a new footbridge over the Towy was completed, giving easier access to the station. Some parking spaces were provided at the station end of the footbridge, but who wants to pay high charges and then have to walk over a windy bridge in the rain to get to the town centre?

In 2009 a re-vamp of the station was underway

Out-of town stores at Pensarn are Morrisons (they took over the Safeway group), Halfords, Focus, Comet, Currys, PC World, Wyevale, MacDonalds and a Carmarthen Farmers outlet. A Crazy Macs warehouse-style outlet was opened at Pensarn but in the Carnarthen Journal of 21st March 2007 there was an advertisement for a closing down sale and it subsequently did close.

At Five Fields there is Tesco Extra (opened November 2006), while B&Q is close by – all have excellent free parking areas.

There are several everal used car dealers; Howards (a Peugeot main dealer); a Vauxhall main dealer, and branches of ATS, Kwick-Fit, National Tyre plus a garden machinery supplier and repair specialist in the town or close by.

At Johnstown there is an industrial development where you can find a branch of Llandeilo Builders Merchants, Howdens, a glazing firm and numerous other businesses to cater for most things.

An excellent website to visit is Carmarthen Town

Further Afield

The Cross Hands development a few miles east along the A48 has a branch of Leekes (a department store), Supermarkets, MacDonalds, Car dealers, Furniture shops, Double Glazing retailers and many other businesses make up this industrial development. Parking is easy – and free! One outlet especially worth visiting is the Farm Foods freezer store.

Haverfordwest is well worth a visit. It is an easy 45 minute drive along the A48 which has seen improvements recently. The shopping area has most of the usual High Street outlets, although on a smaller scale. There are few of the larger type DIY outlets in close proximity, along with an excellent Morrisons store. The riverside development is attractive and entices the visitor to browse. Parking can be a problem at times.

Llanelli, several miles to the south, offers good facilities and the close-by Trostre development has better facilities than Carmarthen, especially parking. The St Elli Precinct has a wide range of shops, including an ASDA and a good market – all undercover – and numerous other outlets as found in most High Streets in the rest of the UK. The downside is that parking in the town centre can be a problem – and costly. Just outside the town is the Trostre Shopping centre with Tesco, Comet., B&Q, BHS among the many retailers. In 2006 much new development is evident and parking is both easy and free.

St David’s, a few miles along the coast is a popular place for the visitor. The coastal scenery en route is spectacular. This is the smallest City in the UK and draws large crowds due to the Cathedral and other historic buildings, including the ruin of the Bishop’s Palace. The painted ceilings of the Cathedral are a sight to behold. The few shops cater mainly for tourists. On a fine day it is a place to roam and contemplate. Parking may be difficult.

Swansea is an easy drive of about 25 minutes along the A40 and the town has a good range of shops, covered precincts and a large undercover market. On the outskirts are several large Enterprise Parks where National outlets can be found. Parking on the Enterprise Parks is easy at all times, but within Swansea town, it can be both expensive and difficult most of the time. Just outside Swansea, at Fforestffach, the there’s a Tesco superstore, along with a branch of Dixons, and various other shops. No shopping area would be complete without a mobile phone shop, and yes, there is one of those too!

Cardiff is to the south east along the A40. As one would expect from a capital city the facilities are excellent and too numerous to mention. Drive time from Carmarthen is about an hour and a half. Trains or coaches are probably a better bet but the train can be slow. This city has shopping facilities equal to none. Parking in the city centre is again both expensive and difficult and from Carmarthen it is probably better to go by train or coach.

A few general observations

Along with the rest of Wales wages remain below other areas of the UK. It is not uncommon for individuals to have two or three jobs in order to supplement income. Property prices have been rising since 2001, but remain lower than comparable properties in the rest of the UK. Living expenses are the same.

The area generally is insular. The pace of life, while pleasant, can be frustrating at times. Change does not happen overnight, if at all.

One visible major improvement in 2003 was the addition of computers and free Internet facilities in Libraries throughout Carmarthenshire. These are well used and are always busy. Llanelli’s Library has been modernised and provides a welcoming atmosphere, but the main Library in Carmarthen remains [in 2006] one of the most unwelcoming ever visited by the writer. This is not due to the Library staff who are always extremely helpful, but the condition of the interior of the building itself. The addition of a lift and development of the basement to provide a museum is welcomed.

Internet and Broadband

Broadband arrived in Llanegwad in 2005 but speed is much restricted in many areas due to distance from an exchange. Between Felingwm Uchaf and Horeb the best speed that can be obtained is from a basic 512k to a maximum in good conditions of 1.4Mb. It’s a start I suppose.

The Council’s Welsh language policy has come in for much criticism due its ‘dogged’ approach in trying to force it on everybody – regardless as to whether they wish to learn it or not. Whilst it cannot be wrong to keep the language alive it is the method used which is the problem. The Welsh language will always be low in the in the ‘most spoken language league table’, along with Latin and Esperanto. Other problems are that the language is spoken differently in the north and south; English words have sometimes to be used because there is simply no Welsh equivalent. Many people can speak Welsh but they cannot write it.

This was brought home with a vengeance for a subscriber to this site when the Council was approached to assist with the translation of details for an English/Welsh competition. After printing the documents and passing them on to prospective entrants it was discovered some spellings in the Welsh version were incorrect! But there again that is Wales.

Cost of implementing the language policy are probably horrendous, figures are hard to come by. Emails sent to the local Council have remained unanswered, no surprise as they appear to cover up things for as long as they can. Council philosophy seems to be “keep quiet” and no one will know or find out. They are in for a big surprise!!!

Carmarthenshire County Council and its ‘Cabinet’ are constantly criticised over policy and lack of democracy. The criticism seems well justified judging by letters regularly published in the Carmarthen Journal and other newspapers. The words “Mickey Mouse” spring to mind when the Council’s name crops up.

It is a shame really as Carmarthen – both town and County – have a lot to offer its residents and visitors. Its public officials need to listen carefully to the people they represent rather than implement their own ideas – they are there to serve the people after all.

The Major Castles of Carmarthenshire

It is inevitable that a country often afflicted with warfare, then ruled by the Normans, and with a geography that favors the guerilla fighter, should be the site of many castles and so it is with Wales. Carmarthenshire has a number; the two most important are listed here.

The Normans had a castle here as early as 1094. The present castle sits high above the River Towy. It started life as a simple motte but was extended in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to provide even better fortifications and raise the accommodation to a level that, while it would be rejected by the most abject modern Welsh family, was nevertheless the height of luxury at the time.

Owen Glyndwr (Glendower) captured Carmarthen town in 1405 and sacked the castle. Edmund Tewdwr (Tudor), father of the man who was to become Henry VII, owned it at one time but died in prison – which, strangely enough, is what the castle became in the late eighteenth century. The castle is now a ruin, but still worth a visit.

Kidwelly Castle

Separation of Church and State was unknown in the early 12th century; Kidwelly Castle was built by Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, who was made Lord of the whole coastal plain of south west Wales by Henry I. He also established a Benedictine monastery there and a town grew up around it; the town is the one now known as Kidwelly.

One of the regular Welsh revolts against Norman rule occurred in 1136 and Gwenllian, wife of Gruffddd (Griffith) ap Rhys, the prince of Deheubarth, led a Welsh assault on Kidwelly Castle while her husband was seeking military aid from princes further north. The Welsh lost and Gwenllian was killed.

Kidwelly was not done with fighting, and it changed hands a number of times in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In 1403, it came under attack by Own Glyndwr’s supporter Henry Don; although the town fell to him, the castle held out. Kidwelly, though now much decayed, remains impressive and well worth visiting.