Carmarthenshire encompasses the western end of the Brecon Beacons, the oak-lined riverbanks of the Tywi Valley and a coastline webbed with salt marsh.
It’s a county littered with castles and ancient market towns, which many tourists bypass on their way to the west coast. But with some of the best-stocked rivers and most fertile land in the UK, Carmarthenshire has plenty to make food lovers loiter: salmon and trout from the River Tywi, tender salt marsh lamb and fresh cockles, to name but a few.
Llandeilo, in the heart of the Tywi Valley, bustles with boutiques and independent eateries. Approach the town over the bridge on the A483 via steep rows of pastel terraces. On the way there you’ll pass Carreg Cennen, one of Wales’ most romantic ruins, which looms on a limestoneoutcrop near the town. Beneath it, a vaulted passageway leads you deep inside the rock.
The ice creams at Heavenly, on Rhosmaen Street, echo the town’s colourful architecture. Ice-cream maker Tracey and her team have created more than 350 flavours using milk from a nearby farm. Give them 48 hours and they’ll invent any flavour you like. Previously they’ve made leek ice cream to celebrate St David’s Day; for us they made caramalised sweet potato, maple syrup and pecan ripple, which went down a treat and has since been added to Heavenly’s recipe book.
The drive from Llandeilo to Carmarthen wriggles alongside the River Tywi, which is rich in salmon and sea trout – or ‘sewin’ as they’re known in Wales. The waters near Llandeilo are renowned for night fly-fishing, while further west a few fishermen are reviving the ancient method of coracle fishing. You can try their catch at restaurants throughout the county.
It’s worth popping to Carmarthen’s bustling market to pick up laverbread, a Welsh delicacy made from laver, edible seaweed that is eaten fried with bacon and cockles for breakfast. The cockles are collected in Carmarthen Bay, source of the county’s famously sweet salt marsh lamb.
Caws Cenarth cheese farm, 35 minutes north-west of Carmarthen, is well worth a visit. The farm has been making cheese since 1984; 26 years and countless awards later, the cheeses are still made by hand. You can look down through skylights and watch the entire process, before tasting a selection – highlights include Perl Wen, a gentle Welsh brie; Caerffili, smoked over oak chips; and Perl Las, a creamy blue cheese.
Round off your trip by picking up any bits you’ve missed at Cwmcerrig farm shop – including the famous Carmarthen ham, the recipe for which, according to legend, was brought back to Italy by the Romans and called Parma ham. Created by five farming brothers, the shop showcases the county’s finest produce, with a bakery, butchers and grill all under one roof.
HOW TO GET THERE
Take the M4 right to the end then pick up the A48 to Cross Hands, then the A476 to Ffairfach, before turning left to Llandeilo.
FIND OUT MORE
Caws Cenarth Cheese
Fferm Glyneithinog, Lancych SA37 0LH
Heavenly Ice cream
London House, Rhosmaen Street, Llandeilo SA19 6EN
Cwmcerrig Farm Shop
Gorlas, Llanelli SA14 7HU
Rhosmaen Street, Llandeilo SA19 6EN
This red townhouse has beautifully themed rooms, including Laugharne (based on the town where Dylan Thomas was born) and Egremont (inspired by a now ruined castle). The restaurant serves innovative takes on traditional dishes.