Carmarthen is an attractive town set on the banks of the River Towy, with a pedestrianised shopping area and a large modern covered market. From the old Quay, narrow winding lanes lead up between old houses to the gatehouse of a ruined 14th-c Norman castle, now almost completely masked by the adjacent modern county hall. One of the oldest buildings in the town is 12th-c St Peter's Church (on Church Street). The many splendid houses beside the church and also the elegant buildings around the Guildhall Square, testify to the town's distinguished past.
The River Towy (Welsh: Afon Tywi), the second largest in Wales, flows on down to the south coast, leading out into the Bay of Carmarthen, which is lined with many fine beaches. These include the wide stretch of Pendine Sands, where in the 1920s it was the scene of several thrilling attempts at the land speed record.
One of the many fine beaches in the Bay of Carmarthen (by Lee Watts (CC0))
Carmarthen is one of the oldest towns in Wales, it was first settled by Celtic tribes and later by the Romans around 75 AD, who built a wooden fort on a small escarpment above the river. No trace now remains of the original occupation, except for a Roman amphitheatre that once seated 5,000 people, discovered near Priory Street. The Carmarthen Museum, located to north-east of the town, displays many of the fine Celtic and Roman relics uncovered in the area.
According to local folklore, Merlin (King Arthur's wizard), is said to have been born nearby, around 480 AD. At the end of Priory Street is the withered stump of an old oak tree, which Merlin is said to have cursed: "When Merlin's oak shall tumble down, Then shall fall Carmarthen town". The stump has now been secured by iron bands and set in concrete by the superstitious towns folk.
The River Towy is noted for its salmon and sea trout. The primitive art of salmon fishing, using nets strung from coracles, is still carried out here. Coracles are small round boats made with a wickerwork ash frame covered with tarred calico or hide, designed and used by ancient Britons thousands of years ago.
Tourist Information Centre:
|Old Castle House, Carmarthen Castle, Castle Hill, Carmarthen, SA31 1AD
Tel: 01267 231557
Provides a in-depth account of the history of Carmarthenshire. Exhibits include social history, archaeology, Egyptology, ceramics and paintings, plus traditional Welsh costume and furniture. A number of period rooms include a Victorian schoolroom, a local farm life exhibition and details of the WWII homefront.
Opening times: Mon to Sat, 10am - 4.30pm. Admission Free
Location: Abergwili, Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire SA31 2JG - Tel: 01267 228696