CARMARTHENSHIRE

Carmarthenshire is also known as the Garden of Wales because it is here that you can find not only natural scenery and fertile lands but the National Botanical Garden of Wales as well. The botanical garden holds the world's largest single-span greenhouse. The town of Laugharne is one of the area's best known attractions. Thought to have been the inspiration for the town of Llareggub in Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood, the town is devoted to the memory of the poet and playwright. The town of Carmarthan claims to be the oldest in Wales and was certainly inhabited during the Roman period. It is famous for its mythical connections to King Arthur and Merlin.

Laugharne CastleTo begin at the beginning”, Laugharne was settled by Flemish weavers in the 12th century. Laugharne has a distinctive local culture, with many traditions that have survived from the middle ages such as the local governing body, the Laugharne Corporation, members of which every year 'beat the bounds', that is walk around the boundaries of the town. Laugharne Castle [King Street, +44 1994 427906, www.cadw.wales.gov.uk, Adults £3.20], built by the De Brians in the 13th century, stands upon an earlier Norman castle, which in turn probably replaced an earlier Welsh structure. In the late 1500s, Sir John Perrot converted the castle into a Tudor mansion and it is largely the remains of this structure that we see today.

To return to the beginning, the town is often thought to have been the inspiration for Dylan Thomas' play Under Milk Wood. One of the drawcards of Laugharne is Dylan Thomas' Boathouse [Dylan's Walk, +44 1994 427420, www.dylanthomasboathouse.com, £3.75], where he lived from 1949 till his death in 1953.  His relationship with the town was a prickly one, a fact perhaps best evinced by his naming the town in Under Milk Wood 'Llareggub' or 'Bugger all' spelled backwards.

The literary connections continue: The Laugharne Weekend [www.thelaugharneweekend.com], a festival of literature, music, and art, which is held in April every year.

Carmarthen WikipediaCarmarthan [pop.14,600] claims to be the oldest town in Wales and is in fact descended from an important town called Moridunum that was part of Roman Britannia. An important site for the Normans too, the town aquired a castle and extensive town walls.

The Black Book of Carmarthan from the 1250s sounds very much the doom-laden tome but it was actually a book of poetry on religious subjects and on myths, legends, and heroes, and it just happened to have black binding. Some of these poems were about Arthur and Merlin or Myrddin. In Carmarthan there was an oak tree, the life of which was for many years linked with the continued existence of the town: a local legend ran “when Merlin's Oak comes tumbling down, down shall fall Carmarthan town”. When the tree finally showed signs of decay, it was dug up and removed to a museum for safe keeping.

 


Wales' National Botanical GardensWales' National Botanical Gardens [Llanarthne, +44 1558 668768, www.gardenofwales.org.uk, Adults £8.50] are situated near Llanarthney in Carmarthenshire. Built to mark the new millenium, the gardens are on a site that was once home to an ingenious 18th century water park, designed by William Paxton.

There are plants from Chile, Western Australia, South Africa, California, the Canary Islands, and the Mediterranean, all of which are housed inside the world's largest single span glasshouse, which measures 110m by 60m.

The centre is both for the enjoyment and education of visitors and for botanical research and conservation. There are themed walks, educational workshops, concerts, and art exhibitions.