We’d talked about visiting the Brecon Beacons after a drive through it’s beautiful scenery a few years back. 2020 – the year of the UK mini break – seemed to be the perfect opportunity. And after seeing a convincing blog post by Pip of the Wales Bucket List, we decided to stay in Llandeilo, on the western edge of the Brecon Beacons. So what is there to do in 24 hours in Llandeilo?
A COVID-19 Disclaimer: We visited Llandeilo just weeks after hospitality restrictions were lifted in Wales. This meant that some of the businesses around town were either not open or operating reduced hours. Those that were were adhering to COVID-19 precautions with regards to social distancing and hygiene practices. When visiting in these times, make sure you plan accordingly, particularly with regards to eating and drinking. You can find tips on planning a post-lockdown trip here.
After one of the hottest weeks on record in this oddest of UK summers, of course we chose to go away when Wales was on the brink of thunderstorms and flash floods. This is standard Fletcher behaviour. So we headed out to explore the town, sporting hats and raincoats. No-one goes on a UK mini break without these items. Even in August. Especially in August.
Our first port of call was a stroll to the bridge over the River Tywi to get that classic view looking back up at the row of colourful houses. Even with moody clouds above, heavy with summer rain, the bright and pastel colours can’t fail to raise a smile. Especially the pink house. Everyone wants to live in that pink house. We return later on, when the sun is shining and the sky is blue, and the effect is equally dramatic.
From the streets of Llandeilo, the only way is up. We take a path at the end of the bridge that winds its way via Castle Woods to Dinefwr Castle. I wasn’t keen on another uphill slog after our previous day’s adventure, but this is a much gentler incline, and totally worth it to be king (or queen) of the castle, swaying gently in the breeze on the ramparts and imagining 12th century battles and banquets. On the lower slopes is the 800 acre estate of Dinefwr Park with sweeping meadows, woodland, lakes, a 17th century manor house and even a deer park.
Rather than return via the woods, we left Dinefwr by it’s main entrance and headed back through the town. Llandeilo has built quite a reputation on it’s unique and quirky independent shops, with gourmet food, fancy cookware, florists, antiques, galleries, a furniture upcycling workshop and a chocolate emporium amongst the retail options. Window shopping was put on hold though whilst we considered our lunch options. Llandeilo may have been relatively quiet post-lockdown, but the sunshine had made an appearance and the tourists had flocked to the Ginhaus Deli, meaning an al fresco table was impossible to procure. We decided instead to head a 15 minute drive out of town to Carreg Cennon Castle. Or more importantly, its tea room.
Participating in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, a roast beef sandwich, traditional Welsh cawl, coffee and a soft drink meant plenty of change from a tenner. After visiting Dinefwr Castle in the morning we decided not to scale another hill to see another castle up close, but we were still able to admire it’s daunting presence, clinging precariously onto a steep cliff-face.
Appetite sated, and blue skies above, Mr Fletche suggested we head to the coast. We hadn’t seen the sea since last September’s trip to Naxos so we happily bundled into the car and headed for Burry Port. Just west of Llanelli, this small harbour town has a sprawling beach of golden sands, with just a few families and sunseekers who had set up socially distanced windbreakers and picnic blankets. A far cry from the crowded beaches of other UK seaside resorts in recent weeks. Burry Port’s claim to fame is that Amelia Earhart came ashore here after her record-breaking flight across the Atlantic in 1928. You won’t find scores of beachfront cafes, souvenir shops or amusement arcades, but it’s a lovely place to walk or sit and take in the sea air for an hour or so.
The sea air has reignited our appetite. In a town emerging from lockdown, and reliant on tourist trade, there were surprisingly few dining options available to us in Llandeilo. So it’s a good job that we’ve made dinner reservations at The Cawdor. This is probably the snazziest place to eat in town, and the red exterior is a welcoming beacon right in the centre. The Cawdor is also a 4-star boutique hotel, and I was glad to see that they were taking COVID precautions seriously, with track and trace forms, a temperature check on entry and all serving staff wearing masks.
The restaurant prides itself on using local and seasonal produce, and our food was impeccably presented. Again, we took advantage of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. This meant that two courses plus two drinks each came in at a very reasonable £30.
For fans of flowers, plants and other beautiful botanicals, pretty Aberglasny Gardens or The National Botanic Gardens of Wales will hit the spot.
Need another castle in your life? How about Dryslwyn Castle, and the nearby folly Paxton’s Tower?
Fancy a scenic train trip? Llandeilo is on of The Heart of Wales Railway Line, with picturesque scenery all the way from Swansea to Shrewsbury. Viaducts, castles, spa towns and idyllic villages are liberally sprinkled along the route.
Just over an hour’s drive and you can be in the heart of the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons National Park. You can find peaks, forest and waterfalls. It’s also home to the highest point in Southern UK, Pen-y-Fan. Which we walked up.
The Plough Rhosmaen: If you’re a fan of an afternoon tea, then make sure you pay a visit to The Plough, a 4* country hotel and restaurant overlooking the Towy Valley. We had a wonderful afternoon tea, with enough sweet goodies for us to pack up and feast on for the next two days.
Ginhaus Deli: I was gutted that we didn’t get the opportunity to sample a Ginhaus charcuterie board. Or a tipple from their collection of 240 gins. A popular choice, particularly on warmer days when the tables spill out onto the street.
The Hangout Cafe: Just outside of the main town, this instagrammable cafe is perfect for coffee, pastries or brunch
The Angel Inn: Our cottage hosts recommended this dog-friendly pub for good grub, but unfortunately it hasn’t yet reopened after lockdown
Usually we have a sixth sense when it comes to Airbnb, and we haven’t picked a dud yet. Unfortunately, our Llandeilo cottage was the closest we’ve come to packing up and coming home early. (Apart from a random trip to Clacton in a Travelodge, where we actually did pack up and come home early.)
The positives first. The cottage was in a great location in the centre of town. It was also relatively inexpensive, well equipped and came with a much appreciated parking permit. The design and furniture choices could do with updating but our main issue was with the ground floor bedroom. The carpet, rugs and bedclothes all felt damp and cold throughout our stay, to the point that I had to pop a blanket between my body and the sheet. Also, whatever cleaning fluid they had used was extremely potent. To the point that we felt like we were inhaling fumes. The previous reviews were largely positive so I can only think that this was an unusual occurrence.
Fancy an Airbnb stay? If you’re a first time booker, you can get money off your first trip here!
Llandeilo is a great base for a mini break in South Wales. It’s a charming small town, although we did find our evening dining options a little limited (thanks COVID-19). With the right accommodation, this pretty hilltop town could be the perfect choice.