Touring Through Parts of Southern Wales, United Kingdom
Continuing on my journey in Wales, my group stopped by Llanerch Vineyard. It’s a working vineyard with a boutique hotel, restaurant and a cooking school. We took a brief cooking class with the affable and gregarious Angela Gray. We had tea or coffee with their amazing, homemade bara birth (a dense, dried fruit quick bread soaked in tea) slathered in delicious, creamy Welsh butter and buttery shortbread cookies, while getting acquainted with Angela and the school.
We eventually cooked up a few Welsh dishes like lamb chops and a seafood course that had salmon and that are slightly modernized and healthier but still very delicious.
Along our drive west through South Wales, we stopped by a 3,000 year old burial chamber, Sampson’s Carrig. It’s a Neolithic burial chamber on the Pembroke coast, Wales and funny enough, it’s actually on the same plot of land where there’s a working sheep farm. We had to walk through the herd of sheep and the wet grounds to get to this particular spot.
Fishguard or in Welsh Abergwaun, meaning “Mouth of the River Gwaun,” is a charming, sleepy town filled with many small fishing boats and colorful houses near the powerful river. We saw a small group of swans and ducks trying to swim against the current so they won’t be swept off into the bay.
When we were in St. David’s, we did a short hike along the Wales Coast Path near Porthclais, Pembrokeshire. A mini-pilgrimage to honor their patron saint during St. David’s Day (March 1st). We sort of did the walk backwards by ending up at St Non’s medieval chapel, said to be St David’s birthplace, and arc round to Porth Clais, a harbor since Roman times where the saint was said to be baptized.
We ended up walking back to the 12th century cathedral of Britain’s smallest city, St. Davids. St. Davids Cathedral is a magnificent building and it’s very cool to listen to service performed in Welsh and in English.
Wales have a distinct pride of one of their famous writers, Dylan Thomas and have certain attractions of his old haunts. We first visited the Church of St Martin in Cwmyoy, to visit his grave and pay our respects. When we head to his boat house at Laugharne, it’s looked unassuming with the wetlands against the dull gray cloudy sky. But when you do make the trek up to his boathouse, one can imagine why he lived there with the views up from the craggy cliffs. The endless view of the water and the tranquility of the place.
We made a brief stop at a Welsh wool mill, Tregwynt Mill. This particular mill markets itself as a maker of woolen products ranging from adorable baby booties, hats, scarves, bags, to their coveted print, double woven wool throws.
We also visited a Welsh chocolate brand, Wickedly Welsh. They make good bonbons and have some influence of Welsh ingredients like their Penderyn truffle and an assortment of flavored chocolate bars. If you do feel indulgent, try their “chocolate shot” it’s literally melted, tempered milk chocolate that you can drink it like a shot or spoon small bites.
We stopped by Porthgain Harbour primarily for lunch at the colorful local pub, Stoop Inn but this village has a lot of history. It was a prosperous industrial harbor in the early 1900s.
The harbor exported slate from quarries a few miles south at Abereiddi, Trwynllwyd and Porthgain itself. Abereiddi and the quarries to the South were linked by a tramway. Water-powered mills at Porthgain sawed the quarried slate slabs before shipment.
In later years the slate trade was abandoned, although Porthgain survived by turning to brick making, and later to crushed road stone. Large brick hoppers dominate the harbor. In 1987 Porthgain was designated as a conservation area.
The harbor is still home to local fishermen.
Carreg Cennen Castle (in Welsh: Castell Carreg Cennen meaning castle (on the) rock (above the) Cennen) is a castle near the River Cennen, in the village of Trapp, four miles south of Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire, Wales. The castle is within the Brecon Beacons National Park, and its location has been described as spectacular, due to its position above a limestone precipice. It has been in a ruinous state since 1462 and is now in the care of Cadw, the Welsh Assembly historic environment service.
I have wandered around to the southeast corner of the inner ward steps lead to a vaulted passage and a natural cave beneath the castle, which leads deep into the hillside. A fresh water spring rises in the cave, which would have been a useful supplement during dry weather when the castle would have had difficulty harvesting rainwater to fill the rainwater cisterns. (I stopped myself from entering the cave since I had sneakers on rather than wellies.)
We then headed over to the small town of Llandeilo for an overnight stay. This town is situated at the crossing of the River Towy in Carmarthenshire. Llandeilo is named after one of the better-known Celtic saints of the 6th century, Saint Teilo. The Welsh word llan signified a monastery or a church. Saint Teilo, who was a contemporary of Saint David the patron Saint of Wales, established a small monastic settlement on the site of the present-day parish church.
If you want a taste of excellent Welsh made cheeses, make a visit to a family owned cheese making facility, Caws Cenarth Cheese in Glyneithinog. They exclusively make cheeses with cow’s milk and they currently make six different types of cheeses. If you have been paying attention the the various restaurant menus in Wales, you might have come across their famous two cheeses, Perl Las (a buttery blue cheese with not too much funk) and Perl Wen (a brie-like cheese).
Toward the end of our tour of South Wales, the last city we’ve went to is Swansea. This city is the hometown of famous actors like Catherine Zeta-Jones (and she has a large private second home in Mumbles, as we did stop by for a look). Swansea itself isn’t the most beautiful of cities and not much touristy things to do but when we headed out to the coast areas like Mumbles (where we stayed), it’s very scenic.
We had a fantastic lunch by the beach at Langland Brasserie on Langland Bay. (I’ll write about that lunch eventually.) The beach is gorgeous with the sun out despite it still being a little chilly. Many dogs and their owners were running and playing fetch out in the open beach. Surprisingly, a pair of surfers and a photographer were out there, too. (It’s too darn cold to be swimming or surfing out there, I think!)
Mumbles is home to high end boutiques and ice cream shops that would definitely give you retail therapy and a sweet break for the calories you’ve burned while shopping.
I had a fantastic time seeing and travel Wales. I would definitely visit other parts of this charming country. More posts on the food soon!
To view more photos of this visit, please CLICK HERE for the full photo set or view the gallery below: