Chic shopping. These are not words that usually come to mind when you think of going on holiday to Wales. Beautiful scenery, yes. Fresh air, certainly. Lovely beaches, absolutely. But cutting-edge designer labels? That these can be found not just in Cardiff or Swansea but in the small town of Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire.
Llandeilo Bridge Perched on top of a hill overlooking the Vale of Towy, one of the most beautiful valleys in Wales, Llandeilo is a popular destination for visitors from far and wide, drawn by its many attractions and wonderful scenery. Approaching Llandeilo from the south you pass over the spectacular stone river bridge over the salmon runs of the Towy. Built in 1848, it is the perfect way to arrive in this ancient, but vibrant town.
Llandeilo is named after St Teilo, which is more apparent nowadays after an official decree stated the name should be spelt in its old form, Llandeilo (for centuries it was spelled Llandilo). Home to about 2,000 residents, the town is home to many historic places of interest.
It is generally believed that a town has existed on the site for some 1,300 years, with a written record since the beginning of the 13th century. In its early stages it was dependent on the fortunes and misfortunes of the House of Dinefwr, the chief seat of the kingdom of Deheubarth, one of the early kings of Wales.
There are many reasons to stop a while in Llandeilo – but here are just a few. Take a walk through Castle Woods to Dinefwr Castle, perched on a crag with tremendous views along the valley of the River Towy, hunt for bargains in the antiques market, eat local specialities like Welsh lamb or salmon in one of the many pubs and restaurants, wander among the river meadows with their varied wildlife, or just soak up the atmosphere of this charming little town.
The town’s narrow alleys conceal a wide variety of shops with interesting things to browse and buy. For a comprehensive guide to the shops and businesses of Llandeilo,
In 1996 Llandeilo hosted the National Eisteddfod, which was held on the meadow across the river at Ffairfach, and in 2008 hosted the World Sheepdog Trials. The town’s rugby team. Llandeilo RFC, was one of the founding clubs of the Welsh Rugby Union.
Llandeilo is also part of the Transition Towns movement, the first town in Wales to be registered as such. The Transition Towns movement represents a community response to climate change and peak oil. In Llandeilo, as in other Transition Towns, a group of people has come together to explore how the town and its surrounding area can adapt to a future of low oil consumption and low carbon emissions as painlessly as possible. The movement started in Totnes, in South Devon, and is growing rapidly. Other Transition Towns in Wales include Lampeter, Machynlleth, Rhayader and Presteigne.
Llandeilo is also the perfect base from which to explore the Brecon Beacons National Park and the Carmarthenshire Fans and Black Mountain.
Nestled in the eastern part of Carmarthenshire, Llandovery, or Llanymddyfri in Welsh, means ‘church among the waters’ and it is not hard to see why it was so named. Home to just 1,700 inhabitants, this thriving market town is surrounded by three rivers, the Towy, the Bran, and the Gwydderig.
For many visitors, Llandovery is the first town they encounter after crossing the Brecon Beacons National Park. Llandovery p
Agriculture still plays a major part of the daily life and the town still hosts a busy livestock market. But the town has become a major tourist attraction, many of them drawn by the Brecon Beacons and surrounding countryside. Popular activities include rambling, fishing, bird watching and canoeing, as well as more modern-day pursuits such as mountain biking, mountain boarding, and go-karting. Incredibly, in its heyday, the town supported 58 pubs. Nowadays it’s down to a little more realistic dozen.
The town has a diverse range of shops, including Ratcliffe’s in Stone street, a traditional old fashioned hardware store selling a wide range of items and Dinefwr Craft Centre in the old market hall which includes a shops specialising in handicrafts from Wales and around the world. The town has its own railway station, where there is a park and ride to Llanelli and Shrewsbury run by the Heart of Wales railway line.
Historically, Llandovery was once occupied a significant strategic part of the Romans’ plans for the conquest of Wales. Overlooking the town, from atop Llanafair Hill, once stood the Roman fort of Alabum, built around AD 50 to 60. You can still make out the remains today. In 1110 the Norman Llandovery Castle was built, although it was almost immediately captured by the Welsh and changed hands between them and the Normans until King Edward I’s reign in the 13th century.
In 1401 Henry IV stayed at the castle during the struggle for Welsh independence led by Owain Glyndwr. Nowadays it is remembered as the site of the brutal execution of the landowner Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan, a Welsh patriot who organised a deception of Henry IV’s English forces in their search for Glyndwr, allowing him to escape. As punishment, Llywelyn had his stomach cut out and cooked in front of him, before being hanged, drawn and quartered in the town square. To finish the job, the king had the quarters salted and dispatched to other Welsh towns for public display. Llywelyn’s actions are commemorated in a 16ft-high statue, made entirely of stainless steel, depicting an empty helmeted and cloaked figure, holding a spear and shield. In 1403 the castle was attacked during the Owain Glyndwr rebellion and left a partial ruin, which is how it remains today.
Llandovery is also the site of one of the first independent Welsh banks, The Black Ox, which was established by a wealthy drover, David Jones, in 1799. It was so called because its notes, used for trading with Smithfield Market in London, depicted the Welsh Black breed of cattle. The building is part of the King’s Head, the home of The Bank of the Black Ox.
In common with almost all Welsh towns, Llandovery has its own rugby union team, Llandovery RFC. The club currently play in the Principality Premiership, and were crowned WRU Cup Winners in 2007. They have many teams in their club set up and always welcome new members, if you’re feeling brave!
Other places of interest in the town include the charity-run Llandovery Theatre, a heritage centre, the town’s famous public school, Llandovery College and the Old Printing Shop that was once one of Wales’ most important printing centres.
Sites of interest near to Llandovery include Llyn y Fan Fach, with its legend of The Lady of the Lake and her magical cattle, The National Botanic Garden of Wales at Middleton, Esgair Fwyog Forest Park, Dolaucothi Gold and Carreg Cennen Castle.