This 25-mile walk explores the Cardiganshire (now Ceredigion) countryside Dylan Thomas knew, taking in dairy farmland, wooded valleys, coastal towns – and pubs.
“This trail celebrates places where my father drank, stayed and lived; places he visited and even places he thought about,” said Aeronwy Thomas when she officially opened the Dylan Thomas Trail in 2003.
Blue plaques indicate buildings with a Thomas association, but the route is not way-marked as such; you’ll need a map, a sense of adventure (some early sections can be brambly), and the guidebook by David N Thomas for a fascinating account of Thomas’s connections with the trail and other features en route.
Bring a sense of adventure
The trail is sensitive, beginning with serene green hills and valleys and climaxing in coastal excitement. It is thoughtful – the diverse countryside reflects the varied moods and lyrical magic of Thomas’s poetry. And it is lively, despite the sparse population; the few folk I met were pleased to talk. To me this evokes his writing – the deftly described characters and bubbling dialogue as much as the rich land and sea-scapes. I met a man with a workhorse who’d met Dylan Thomas as a lad. He showed me a field with a ‘rare and beautiful’ view of Aberaeron, and so it was.
The route follows farmland, footpaths, quiet lanes and coastal paths, from coastal Llanon, inland to Tal-sarn, down the Aeron valley to Aberaeron, and south for a New Quay finish.
“All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
“Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys,
“It was air…”
Llanon is a quiet coastal village where sea captains lived, and where Thomas visited with his friend Tommy Earp, the vet who took him on his rounds. Setting off from the Central Hotel, head south, crossing the A487 to take the steep road towards Pennant, then take the way-marked sign up the steps at the bend. Follow the way across fields and through woods. There is an old smugglers’ pub here, The Ship Inn, which the route passes crossing the bridge to Wernddu Farm and from there on to a quiet lane and left.
Milky farms and deep wooded valleys
The lane leads to Tal-sarn via Cilcennin along a hilly ridge top in red kite country. Just before reaching Tal-sarn, take the footpath right to pass haunted Plas Gelli where Dylan lived and sat under a giant redwood tree to drink milk and write poetry.
Tal-sarn was also home to a 19th-century group of poets and is an ancient village, its name, translated meaning ‘end of the road’, the Roman Road, Sarn Helen. If you’re feeling thirsty after the steep walk, you can quench your thirst in the Vale of Aeron Inn at Felin-fach.
The trail follows this valley, the shallow copper river still beguiling, despite clumps of Himalayan balsam, down arboreal lanes between green hills and passing the National Trust farm at Llanechaeron before reaching Aberaeron via Lover’s Bridge. This pretty Georgian harbour town with neat colourful houses is well known for good food and drink. From here join the coast path and head south to New Quay, described at the beginning of Under Milk Wood: “It is spring moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobble streets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood lumping invisible down to the sloeback, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea.”
The way is salt-spray coastal, crossing rivers that tumble to the beach as waterfalls and through gorsey tunnels to Llanina Point and past Dylan’s cliff-top family home. New Quay, busy in summer, is still a ‘hill of windows’, of terraced cottages and boats. The sea is still lively with dolphins and seals, and the pubs still full of gossip and beer.
HOW TO GET THERE
There is a train to Aberystwyth from Birmingham, then frequent buses to Llanon, Aberaeron, and Newquay. Llanon, Aberaeron and New Quay are on the A487.
FIND OUT MORE
The Dylan Thomas Trail Guidebook by David N Thomas is published by
Y Lolfa. It includes shorter trails around New Quay.
The Long Distance Walkers Association
The route is rich in pubs where Thomas drank, but check opening times first.
The Central Hotel
Stryd Fawr, Llanon SY23 5HH
Vale of Aeron
Felinfach SA48 8AE
Ciliau Aeron, Lampeter
OS Landranger maps 145, 146
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