Wales is an unfairly overlooked travel destination, even for those who live there. An invitation to a beautiful new hotel in Llanelli spurred me on to discover more about this rich, historic, unexplored coast.
Llwyn Country House is a quiet boutique hotel in Llanelli, reopening in May 2018 after a restyle and an upgrade. Family Lab paid a visit to see what Llanelli was all about.
To some, of course, Llanelli needs no introduction. And when I say some, I generally mean sports fans. Llywyn Country House lives within reach of the Parc y Scarlets rugby ground and the Machynys Golf Club and Premier Spa.
But I was in a different kind of mood, looking for a retreat to nature and a window into Welsh culture that I’ve been exploring more of this year.
Llanelli lives just over 10 miles just beyond the Gower Peninsula, a firm favourite of mine for its windswept sandy beaches and semi-shady literary history through the Mumbles and Dylan Thomas. And, to be honest, I look for any excuse to go back.
We stopped off there again, on our return trip to Cardiff but before I get too ahead of myself, let me tell you more about this hotel in Llanelli, the one that tempted us along.
Related: 7 Unusual Things To Do in Cardiff
Llywn Country House sits in cosy gardens in Llywnhendy, rather than in a sprawling country estate or tucked into Llanelli itself. It seems awash with romance (it has a heart shaped lawn) and the room names themselves follow suit, named Calon (Welsh for heart); Cariad (love), Cwtch (cuddle), Cwsc (sleep) and Cusan (kiss).
Love hearts of linguistics.
The Welsh love spoon motif carries this on and the bright red double roll top bath in Cusan finishes it off.
“We want to extend a warm Welsh welcome to our guests and make them feel truly at home here,” says director Steve Poole. “This is a very special house full of lovely original features, and we’ve made the most of these while also creating a clean, fresh look that makes the most of the garden views.
A weekend here can be divided into two themes: city slick (kind of) and wild and rugged (definitely.)
For the wild and rugged, there are two key options close to the hotel.
The Llanelli Wetlands Centre provides a brilliant escapade for all ages and all weathers (though for maximum results, bring a small child and some sunshine.)
In winter, over 60 000 birds return to these wetlands for the winter, showing more character than most of us who hide away beneath feather duvets and merino wool slippers (too much, Ed).
The 500 acre reserve includes an education centre and café, of course.
But it also provides walking trails where you can easily not see a soul.
Yet if patience and solitude aren’t for you, the place practically guarantees sightings of Caribbean flamingos along with reed beds, an indoor soft play and outdoor adventure playground.
Frankly, there isn’t much more a wetlands centre could do!
Otherwise, you can do what Wales does best and head to the coast (did I mention Wales has a coastal path that runs the whole way around the country? No?!)
Near Llanelli, the best place is the Millennium Coastal Path where you can see across to Carmarthen Bay and the Gower Peninsular. A glassy café overlooks the path (should the weather turn for the worse) where you can watch the waters roll around or sunshine glimmer in, depending on your luck.
Nearby is a highly recommended restaurant, Sosban, although we weren’t able to test it out ourselves. Described as an innovative place to eat, partly because each dish tells a story and partly because it’s housed in a listed Victorian Pump House. This restaurant serves creative things like caramelised pineapple, coconut mouse and coriander.
For city slickers, Llanelli isn’t really that kind of city. Instead, it’s an interesting, brick lined look at a slice of history in Wales.
Although most of the city is now a standard British high street, two places in particular deserve a mention.
This noteworthy historical property is said to be one of the finest Georgian houses in Wales. If you need an excuse to see the polished staircases, mirrored floors and other grandeur, Llanelly House has a lovely café that serves good cake. The restaurant serves Sunday lunch and more.
The other worthy spot is the curious Parc Howard House. This does have stately gardens but inside the stately home is not as grand as once it was. Instead, it’s a museum dedicated to the history in this part of town: the largest public collection of Llanelli pottery, fine art and more.
For children, the park outside and wooden adventure playground are fantastic.
Have you been to Llanelli? Is it somewhere you’d like to visit?
Disclosure: I was a guest of Llwyn Country House, but as ever all views are my own.
Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!
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