I stayed in the ‘strangest town in Wales’ and it was a truly fascinating trip

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Reporter Jo Ridout

Reporter Jo Ridout in Laugharne (Image: Getty)

Sometimes, a break from the hustle and bustle of city life is just what you need to recharge. This was exactly what Joanne Ridout had in mind when she embarked on a road trip to Wales, expecting serene country lanes and a slower pace of life dictated by local tractors.

However, her destination was no ordinary Welsh town. She was headed to Laugharne, often referred to as Wales’ ‘oddest town’.

Having briefly visited this Carmarthenshire hotspot years ago, Joanne was eager to return and delve deeper into its charm.

Nestled along the River Taf estuary that winds its way to Carmarthen Bay, Laugharne’s stunning location is immediately striking. As Joanne parked in the main car park adjacent to the castle ruins, she was greeted with “a sweeping, mesmerising, panoramic view across the tidal water that includes Pendine sands, Pembrey and Gower Peninsula and Worm’s Head on the horizon.”

She continued: “I instantly felt relaxed, refreshed by the gentle coastal breeze wafting into the main square of the village and rather over-awed by the towering castle ruins that emerge from a rocky outcrop, standing guard over my Mini Cooper. It was a breathtaking beginning to my visit and made it obvious why the village is a constant magnet for creative people, including painters, sculptors, writers and musicians.”

Seaview

Dylan Thomas penned many of his literary masterpieces in the five-bedroom home called Seaview (Image: Joanne Ridout)

Laugharne, a location once home to renowned Welsh poet and author Dylan Thomas, who penned iconic works such as Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night and And Death Shall Have No Dominion, still echoes with his influence today. Taylor Swift is among the younger fans keeping his legacy alive.

Settling in Laugharne from 1949 until his passing in 1953, Thomas described it as a ‘timeless, mild, beguiling island of a town’ and ‘the strangest town in Wales’. A trip to Laugharne would be incomplete without exploring The Boathouse: Thomas’s famed residence, and The Writing Shed perched on the hillside, providing captivating river estuary and coastal views that likely served as Thomas’s muse.

Despite its literary heritage, one resident reminded, “there’s more to Laugharne than Dylan Thomas.”

Local woman Joanne concurred, stating: “They are so right; it seems to me the heart and soul of the town is its landscape and location, its people and property as well as its absorbing poetry roots. I was also informed by one of the original residents, known as ‘Laugharnies’, that it is not a village or a town, it is in fact a ‘township’ and this forms part of its unique history and charm.”

According to the website, Laugharne Township, the borough or township likely emerged shortly after the construction of the castle in 1116. The site further reveals that the earliest known charter granted to the township dates back to either 1290 or 1307, courtesy of Sir Guy de Brian, the Lord of Laugharne and its castle.

The Boathouse

The Boathouse where Dylan Thomas wrote many of his major pieces (Image: Getty)

While there are indications that the town’s origins predate this charter, Laugharne Corporation recognises this document as the start of its formal history.

The website elaborates that although technically dissolved in 1886, the corporation has persisted, operating under its original charter and managing lands it has owned for centuries.

Recounting her experience, Joanne remarked: “I spent an hour wandering along the riverside walk which is something worth doing on a sunny day and it’s a truly magical experience to be so close to the water and the wildlife, and possibly a few dog walkers too. But then I clambered up a rocky slope to start exploring the tiny lanes in the centre of the township, admiring the collection of cottages, period terraces, and some stunning Georgian houses that include Sea View where Dylan and wife Caitlin once lived.”

“The Boathouse, now owned by the local council, greets you with wonderfully friendly and knowledgeable staff combined with the sensational smell of home baking, as all the cakes for sale are created on site – the aroma is so comforting and easily persuaded me to have a scone and tea sat in the cosy cottage dining room as it was raining outside.”

Joanne said: “When the sun is out there’s a fabulous rear garden terrace where the breathtaking views across the water, or the sand banks when the tide is out, accompany your tea, coffee and cake treat. Dylan’s parlour is particularly memorable inside, set out as it would have been when he lived here, decorated in such a familiar and traditional way that makes you feel instantly welcomed, surely reminding most people of a certain age of visiting their nan’s 1930s home.”

Dylan Coastal Resort

Joanna stayed at the luxurious Dylan Coastal Resort (Image: Dylan Coastal Resort)

She added: “The first evening in Laugharne was spent enjoying a meal at Brown’s, a boutique hotel that includes a pub where Dylan is said to have enjoyed frequenting, usually sitting in the bay window, but is also Dexters, owned by Alex Luck, a steakhouse and grill based inside Brown’s offering yummy meals using the finest of local produce.”

Joanne continued: “Wandering up to Dylan Coastal Resort, where we were staying for the night, was slightly uphill, and even with a bursting but contented belly, it was actually a joyful experience, accompanied by a spectacular sunset and a myriad of birdsong as the musical backdrop. No sirens, no traffic noise, no pub chuck-out shouting – just peace.”

Perched above the lane leading to Dylan’s boathouse, this stunning resort boasts some of the most breathtaking views from luxury lodges in the country. Joanne had the pleasure of staying in a three-bed lodge equipped with a sunken hot tub on a deck and roof terrace, and she made full use of the facilities at the ‘club house’, known as Milk Wood House.

This hidden treasure offers pamper days for non-residents, featuring a wide range of spa treatments, alternative therapies, a nail bar, and access to the infinity pool, hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room, hot beds and gym.

Those residing or holding membership at the resort can book treatments and enjoy free access to the pool and its alluring features. The Milk Wood House restaurant is open to all, offering mesmerising sea views that captivate regardless of the weather.

Joanne savoured her lunch, dinner and breakfast at the restaurant, with the bacon and maple syrup breakfast pancakes being her favourite.

After conversing with local residents, Joanne shared: “The township felt the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the area lost some businesses but all mentioned, without prompting, how excited they were about a new butcher’s shop that had just opened.”

Laugharne is set to welcome a host of new businesses, including a pizza restaurant and a bakery housed in beautifully converted stone buildings. A bar and restaurant, tentatively named The Slaughter House, will join existing establishments such as Browns and Poons Street Food, expanding the culinary options for both residents and visitors.

The township is experiencing a resurgence as a social and leisure destination, with a palpable sense of anticipation in the air. Joanne commented: “I could feel it, it now joins the constant magical ambience that enchanted Dylan and surely most people who visit this unique place.”

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She further added: “There’s a bench in the Boathouse’s garden with a quotation from Dylan’s daughter, Aeronwy, that has an inscription that says, ‘the funny thing is, I find myself going back again and again’ and, notwithstanding an encounter with another slow, brown covered tractor, that’s a sentiment I concur with completely – I will be going back.”

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