Carmarthen & the WestThe oldest town in Wales
The oldest town in Wales has evolved around its sturdy Roman defences with a rich blend of modernity woven into its mystical and gladiatorial heritage.
Carmarthen is probably best known for its legendary connections to Merlin and its Roman Heritage but it is certainly not a town that is stuck in the past. It boasts two modern shopping centres with all of the best of the high street at St Catherine’s Walk and Merlin’s Walk.
Carmarthen is the oldest continually occupied town in Wales, proud of its Roman origins as well as its links with the Arthurian legends of Merlin. The wizard is said by some to have been born here, and on a visit to Carmarthenshire County Museum you can see the last piece of Merlin’s Oak. Don’t take it away though - legend has it that if it’s removed, the town will fall! The free museum is packed with plenty more treasures including mammoth bones, Roman gold and Egyptian artefacts.
Start your history trail at the Roman Amphitheatre near Priory Street, for a rare peep at the lost civilization that first settled here, before exploring the ruins of the 12th-century castle on Notts Square, which once protected this area above Carmarthen Bay. Take a walk along Picton Terrace to see its elegant Regency houses, just one sign of how this town has prospered down the centuries. Wander around the stalls championing local produce in the striking modern Carmarthen Indoor Market before a heading to Carmarthen Park, a glorious park close to the town centre. The park opened in 1900 and boasts the very first velodrome (cycle track) built in Wales. It is one of very few to survive in working condition. There is a skateboarding area, children’s play area and a tea room.
Before you leave don’t forget to visit Carmarthen Leisure Centre, the centre boasts an eight-lane 25 metre main pool, a small pool, squash and badminton courts, a health and fitness Club, dance studio and an indoor adventure play area.
Not to be missed
Head to Carmarthen Market for a more local feel to your shopping experience. The market offers the best of Carmarthen from its Welsh Language shops to local food including Carmarthen Ham, laver bread and cockles. Family Legend states that the Romans stole the recipe for Carmarthen ham during the invasion of Wales and invented Parma Ham! Follow the food trail to find out more!
Just a stone’s throw from Carmarthen Llansteffan with its 12th Century Norman castle perched on a hill offering stunning across the Tywi River towards Ferryside. The wide and long beach at Llansteffan is popular throughout the year the secluded golden sands of gorgeous Scotts Bay. Spend an enjoyable couple of hours walking a section of the All Wales coastal path, a wonderful 4.5km circular walk taking in such sites as St Anthony’s well.
The Old Police Station Lock Up
Don’t miss the old jailhouse dating back to the 1530’s, pop in its cells to discover the stories of prisoners and the reasons for their arrest they will make you laugh and cry. Castle House is the starting point for free Town Tours which take place during the summer months on most Wednesdays. For further information or Group Bookings call 01267 235199.
Merlin the Wizard
Many of the Welsh legends concerning Merlin revolve around the town of Carmarthen. The Welsh name for the town of Carmarthen is Caerfyrddin. The term 'Caer' translates to 'Fort' and 'Myrddin'- the English version of which is Merlin. From about the 9th century onwards, Merlin’s prophecies were contained in poems said to have been composed by the man himself. Many of these poems can be seen in Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin (The Black Book of Carmarthen), written in the min 13th century, stored at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.