What to Do in West Wales
Published: Sunday 10th Aug 2014
Written by: Heather-Belle Russell
West Wales is a unique part of the country. Beautiful rural countryside runs down to a coastline that meets both the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea. Formed of Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Swansea Bay, Mumbles and Gower, this beautiful area has masses for you to do.
Of course, if you’re a nature lover then West Wales couldn’t be better for you. Along with miles and miles of wild countryside, there are several managed areas that are well worth a visit, one of which is RSPB Gwenffrwd-Dinas Nature Reserve. Oak and alder trees, plus numerous rivers and streams provide habitat for all sorts of flora and fauna, including the red kite, jay and wagtail. Only ten miles from Llandovery, it’s the perfect place for a day out for any bird lover.
Llanarthne, near Carmarthen, is home to the National Botanic Garden of Wales, 568 acres of over 8,000 different plant and animal varieties spread across a range of lakes, themed gardens, woodlands and meadows. It has the largest single span greenhouse in the world, and regularly holds tours and special events.
What do you do if you’re on holiday with someone who’s not quite so keen on the wonders of nature? It’s definitely worth going to Pembrey Country Park on the coast, close to Swansea. It’s the largest county park in West Wales, comprising 550 acres of idyllic woodlands and eight miles of golden sands at Cefn Sidan. Within those 550 acres is the longest toboggan run in Wales, a 130 metre long dry ski slope, a forest adventure playground, outdoor laser tag arena, Soccer Zorb pitch, crazy golf course and miniature steam railway, plus much more to keep all the family occupied.
Just a few miles north of Pembrey is Ffos Las, the only racecourse in West Wales. The track is a 12-furlong oval, and hosts flat and National Hunt races throughout the year. Why not have a flutter at Ffos?
You’ll find a different kind of horsepower at Pendine. The world famous beach was once described as ‘the finest natural speedway imaginable’ and was the venue for car and motorcycle races for years at the start of the twentieth century. Malcolm Campbell set a world speed record here three times, and 73 years later his grandson, Don Wales, set the UK electric landspeed record here, reaching 137mph in Bluebird Electric 2. The beach is now owned by the MOD so parts of the beach are closed a lot of the time, but racing has recently restarted. You can find out more about the history of Pendine at the Museum of Speed next to the beach.
West Wales is also where you’ll find the Dolaucothi Gold Mines, close to Lampeter. The only known Roman gold mine in Britain, this National Trust owned attraction takes you deep into the earth, giving you an insight into the life of a miner, before bringing you back into the open air and giving you a chance to pan for gold.
Another piece of Welsh history can be found at Gower Heritage Centre just west of Swansea. A waterwheel still turns today, and the centre is open throughout the year with a daily timetable of guided tours and demonstrations plus an annual programme of special events.
And it wouldn’t be a visit to Wales without seeing a castle or two. As West Wales is further away from the troublesome English border, castles in the region are mainly ruins, but no less fascinating for that. Visit Oxwich Castle, Laugharne Castle, and Cilgerran Castle for an insight into the history of Wales.