If you’re looking for some outdoor escapism, the hugely varied county of Carmarthenshire – which is easily reachable by train – will not disappoint. And just like one famous poet, you might visit and never want to leave…

This is a paid partnership with our friends at Discover Carmarthenshire. This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

You could look at Carmarthenshire as a kind of microcosm for the whole of Wales. It has a coastline with sweeping beaches and sand dunes, verdant countryside with an egg-box-like topography, mountains, valleys, ancient market towns, rivers that range from the white-watered and boulder-filled to the meandering, and of course, there are castles in every corner.

Unsurprisingly then, this section of southwest Wales makes for fine walking country. Head west if it’s more of a countryside ramble that you’re after – a pub-to-pub route, perhaps – or go south if you’re in search of some sea air. Up north, the county touches upon the fringes of the Cambrian Mountains, while things get especially wild over on the eastern edge where the Carmarthen Fans, part of the Brecon Beacons National Park, form a landscape of high places.

Here are some recommended routes for exploring this walker-friendly county and the towns that make perfect launchpads.

Walks Around Laugharne

“Now, some people live in Laugharne because they were born in Laugharne and saw no good reason to move… and some, like myself, just came, one day, for the day, and never left.” Those are the words of poet Dylan Thomas. He lived in this little town on the Tâf Estuary in south Carmarthenshire for a number of years where the coastal scenes, the crumbling castle, and local gossip provided plenty of inspiration for his writing. To this day, his legacy draws people from far and wide to this corner of Wales.

On Dylan Thomas' Birthday Walk.

On Dylan Thomas’ Birthday Walk.

Some might choose to visit his Boat House where it’s possible to peer into his little green writing shed. There’s also his final resting place up in the graveyard of St Martin’s church. Perhaps a more fitting tribute to the Welsh writer would be to pay a visit to Brown’s Hotel, a place he often frequented – to the extent that he’d pass on the bar’s phone number as his own. Or there’s the option to follow in Thomas’ footsteps, quite literally, following the two-mile waymarked route he walked to celebrate his 30th birthday. He would later immortalise the wander in his lyrical 1945 work, A Poem in October.

The Wales Coast Path runs by Laugharne and briefly features as part of the Birthday Walk’s course. Follow the long-distance trail markers northeast from Laugharne to explore the woodland-flanked shores of the estuary or let it guide you westward in the direction of Pendine Sands, a 12-kilometre stretch of beach that was the staging pad for numerous land speed records in the first half of the early twentieth century.

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Walks around Llandovery

The market town of Llandovery forms an ideal base for exploring Carmarthenshire’s wilder side. In fact, it’s a stop along what’s arguably Wales’s toughest trail, the Cambrian Way, a route that follows the country’s mountainous spine stretching all the way from Cardiff to Conwy.

The cambrian way in Carmarthenshire

Along the Cambrian Way.

A few miles to the north of Llandovery, the Cambrian Way will eventually lead you to Rhandirmwyn, a hamlet nestled into a long valley that slices through the southern end of the Cambrian Mountains. There, on the valley floor, you’ll find meadows and woodland, a river fed on each side by waterfalls and two excellent pubs. Up above and out of the valley, however, a wild upland coated in bog, tussocks and weather-worn neolithic monuments awaits.

Llyn y Fan, Carmarthenshire

Llyn y Fan

South of Llandovery, the Cambrian Way leads to the foot of the great wall of the Carmarthen Fans, where a towering escarpment looms over two dark and deep lakes. This is hillwalking country; a short sharp climb from Llyn y Fan Fach leads to a broad plateau providing a platform to view right across the Brecon Beacons to Pen y Fan and beyond to the Black Mountains at the national park’s eastern edge.

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Walks around Llandeilo

With its colourful houses, riverside location and historic architecture, Llandeilo tends to be regarded as one of the prettiest towns in Wales. Like Llandovery, this also makes for a useful base to explore the Carmarthen Fans. But no trip to Llandeilo is complete without a walk around Castell Carreg Cennen.

Castell Carreg Cennen perched on a tall, limestone crag, Carmarthenshire

Castell Carreg Cennen perched on a tall, limestone crag.

The ruined towers and battlements of this castle, just a few kilometres to the south of the town, perch on a tall limestone crag that rises out of a deep wooded valley. Come in the early morning and get yourself to a decent viewing point on the hills, and you might catch the castle floating above a temperature inversion. There’s perhaps no better testimonial for the beauty of this spot than the fact that J.M.W. Turner came here himself to depict it – and returned more than once.

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Walks around Carmarthen

On the banks of the river Tywi sits Carmarthen, Wales’s oldest town and once its most populous. The town is linked with Arthurian legend and, in fact, the Welsh name for the Carmathen (Caerfyrddin), is commonly interpreted to mean ‘Merlin’s Fort’.

The regency folly, Paxton's Tower.

The regency folly, Paxton’s Tower.

It makes an excellent base for heading out to explore the rolling hills of west Carmarthenshire or for the walks on offer within the steep wooded valley of the river Gwili. An option on the eastern side of Carmarthen for a good walk would be the National Botanic Garden of Wales, where you can hunt out waterfalls within the 560-acre estate. You could also head up to nearby Paxton’s Tower, a regency folly on a hilltop that makes for a perfect spot to catch the sun setting over this verdant section of Carmarthenshire.

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The Heart of Wales Line

This 230km walking trail crosses right through Carmarthenshire on its way from Llanelli to Shropshire. Founded in 2019, its course follows the Heart of Wales railway line, giving those who don’t want to walk the entire path in one go the chance to access different sections via the many halts along it. Most walkers exploring the trail will choose to base themselves at one of the market towns with railway stops, including Llandeilo and Llandovery.

Cynghordy on the Heart of Wales Line.

Cynghordy on the Heart of Wales Line.

Transport for Wales trains along the Heart of Wales line also provide access to other walks in Carmarthenshire, including the family-friendly routes at Llanelli’s Millennium Coastal Park and other long-distance trails, including the Wales Coast Path, Cambrian Way and Beacons Way.

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