Ammanford grew up rapidly in the late 19th century due to its location on an anthracite coalfield. Nevertheless, the area preserves much beautiful scenery and rural landscape. The Reverend John Jenkins, later Archdruid of ‘ Wales, had a school here early this century, that produced many prominent men. The building is now the English Congregational Chapel. George Borrow stayed at Brynamman 5 miles east of Ammanford. The roads over the Black Mountains afford striking views.
Carmarthen can rightly claim to be one of the oldest towns in Wales. It probably began its life as a Celtic hillfort, but this was obliterated by the Romans who built a wooden fort here in AD 75. This was the most westerly of their large forts, but few traces remain though the discovery of an amphitheatre with a seating capacity of 5000 suggests that there must have been a fairly sizeable garrison. Later the Normans built a castle here. The ruins can still be seen, but much of the site is now occupied by County Hall. Of the Augustinian Priory little but the site remains. It was here that the oldest known manuscript in Welsh was written the Black Book of Carmarthen, now in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. Among other legends, it tells the story of Merlin, King Arthur’s wizard, who is said to have been born here. Carmarthen’s Welsh name is Caerfryddin, ‘the city of Merlin’. A carefully preserved stump of an oak tree bore the prophecy ‘When Merlin’s oak shall tumble down, Then shall fall Carmarthen town’, its remains now in the foyer of St Peter’s Civic Hall. On the River Tywi the ancient craft of coracle fishing is still practised. Cynwyl Elfed
Set in a lovely wooded valley where the Rivers Duad and Nant Coch (it means ‘red stream’) meet, the village is a sheer delight very neat and trim and artlessly pleasing to the eye. A number of Roman relies have been dug up in the vicinity including a golden figure of the goddess Diana.
Set in a lovely wooded valley where the Rivers Duad and Nant Coch (it means ‘red stream’) meet, the village is a sheer delight very neat and trim and artlessly pleasing to the eye. A number of Roman relics have been dug up in the vicinity including a golden figure of the goddess Diana. In a farmhouse called Y Gangell about a mile away, the Rev D H Elved Lewis was born. This grand old man lived to be 94 and became one of the most famous writers of Welsh hymns. A museum in the house honours his memory.
The Romans mined for gold here, in the 2577 acres of the Dolaucothi Estate, exploiting the Ogofau goldmines, originally worked by the Celts. Water for the mines was brought from the Cothi and Annell rivers by a seven mile-long aqueduct, channelled along the hillsides. The Romans had departed by the middle of the 2nd century AD but the mines were reworked as recently as 1939.
Kidwelly Castle was built in a good strategic position above the River Gwendraeth by a 12th-century Bishop of Salisbury and was subsequently much involved in the struggles of the Welsh rebels against the English crown. Additions were made to the castle in the 13th and 14th centuries -notably a three-storeyed gatehouse and an outer ward; the vast ovens also built at that time can still be seen in the extensive ruins.
Laugharne (pronounced ‘Larn’) was a town on the border known as the ‘Landsker’, which separated ‘Little England’ beyond Wales, with its strong Norman and Flemish influences, from ‘Welsh Wales’. The town is charming, With Georgian terraced streets, an old harbour and the castle, converted by Sir John Perrot, illegitimate son of Henry VIII, Richard Hughes, author of In Hazard and High Wind in Jamaica, lived here for 11 years. It was Hughes who first brought Dylan Thomas to the town, which eventually became his home from 1949′ until his untimely death in New York in 1953. Thomas lived in the Georgian boathouse on the steep banks of the River Taf, overlooking the estuary and he is buried in St Martin’s churchyard. The local area features in several of Thomas’s poems, and although the poet denied it, the locals believe that Under MilK Wood was based on Laugharne and Thomas’s most famous work is re-enacted there regularly.
Along the coast at Pendine Sands Malcolm Campbell broke the land speed record in 1927 in Bluebird.
Llandovery, its name meaning ‘the church amidst the waters’, stands where the Rivers Bran and Gwydderig run into the Tywi. The church of Mary’s on the Hill has fine tie-beam roof and barrel-vaulted chancel; it is built within the walls of the Roman fort that once stood here, and its fabric includes some Roman tiles. The town is the traditional market centre of the upper Tywi valley, and the Victorian and Georgian houses in the streets round the cobbled square are interspersed with a surprising number of old inns, for at one time no inns were allowed outside the town. George Borrow stayed in Llandovery on his travels.