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The M4 motorway becomes the A48 about 3 miles to east of the village of Cross Hands. Many travellers on the A48 are heading further west to Carmarthen and West Wales beyond. But Cross Hands and the cluster of communities which surround it, make a great stopping off point. Too often this part of Carmarthenshire is overlooked by visitors, but it is well worth spending a few hours here.

Cross Hands lies in the north of the Gwendraeth Valley. In reality the Gwendraeth is 2 valleys – the Fach which means small or the lesser, and the Fawr which means large or greater. Somewhat confusingly the Gwendraeth Fawr is actually the smaller and the river has its source in a series of springs to the north of Cross Hands.

Local filmmaker, Rebecca Hayes knows this part of Carmarthenshire well and we asked her what visitors will discover in this part of the county. This is what she told us.

Rebecca is a familiar face in this part of Wales. She was a broadcaster and presenter on BBC Wales and now runs a successful film production company from her base in Carmarthenshire.

Rebecca tells us that Cross Hands is reputed to get its name as the place where prisoners intended for jail in Swansea and Carmarthen were exchanged. The village grew around the former Cross Hands colliery, which opened in 1869. This tells us that we are in coal-mining territory, as the Gwendraeth lies at the western edge of the famous South Wales coalfield.

A Walk in the Park

It’s hard to imagine the areas industrial past when you visit Llyn Llech Owain Country Park. The Park lies just off the A48 near the village of Gorslas. Here, in 180 acres of natural beauty, you’ll discover a network of trails and facilities for walkers and cyclists. At the heart of the park is a beautiful lake - Llyn Llech Owain. The name in lake English means "the lake of Owain's slab". It is believed that Owain was Owain Llawgoch or "Owain of the Red hand", a Welsh mercenary who fought with the French in the 100 years war.

The lake and the surrounding peat bog are an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and is a rare habitat for plant life and wildlife. Other habitats within the park include a blend of coniferous and broad-leaved woodland and heathland. This diversity means the Park is home to a rich array of wildlife including the Jays, Kestrels, Buzzards, Lizards and Grass-snakes.

At another park in the area the history of coalmining is celebrated. Rebecca tells us that the giant miners lamp sculpture which marks the entrance to Mynydd Mawr Woodland Park in nearby Tumble makes a great photo-stop.

The Park has been developed over an area of former mines and offers visitors a series of walks through broadleaved woodland and grassland which is now home to local wildlife. Look out for kingfishers and woodpeckers and you may even catch a glimpse of the elusive otter. The Park provides footpaths, picnic facilities, information points and a track for mountain bikers and horse riders.

Take a Break

After a couple of hours in the parks, no doubt you’ll need some refreshment, and you may want to buy some local produce. At Maddocks Coffee House and Store in Upper Tumble you can do both. Here you can enjoy the appropriately named Coaltown Coffee, roasted in nearby Ammanford. We can recommend the Black Gold House No 3 blend, a tribute to miners who risked their lives in search of Black Gold aka coal. For tea lovers try Henleys Café, also in Tumble. This is a great pace for afternoon tea in a very welcoming setting.

The Coal House grill and restaurant in Cross Hands also hints at the local mining heritage. On offer is locally sources food and ales. Rebecca suggests the steamed Mussels but it’s hard to resist the signature steaks.

If you like your memories handcrafted, Rebecca suggests the Welsh Slate and Gifts Boutique which you’ll find on Carmarthen Road in Cross Hands. All the slate gifts are made from genuine Welsh slate sourced Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales. A bespoke slate photo-frame is just the thing to keep memories of your visit to Carmarthenshire.

A Taste of Wales

Carmarthenshire is agricultural country and the Watkins family have been farming this land since the 1950’s. In 2008 they opened Cwmcerrig Farm Shop and Grillin Gorslas. The now award-winning store is full of locally sourced food and drink. Their food and drink hampers are something special. From chutney to chocolate and wine to Welsh cakes, the hampers are packed full of Wales.

Picture Perfect

Perhaps the most impressive and distinctive building in Cross Hands is the local cinema. Built as the Cross Hands Public Hall in 1932, this Art Deco Building was once a cultural hub for the local miners. The miners paid for the upkeep of the building by contributing 1p from their weekly wages. After falling into disrepair, the building reopened in 1996. These days, once again, the building is an important centre for the village, and community volunteers help to keep it alive. On a rainy day, this atmospheric building is the perfect place to view the current film releases.

Local filmmaker, Rebecca Hayes knows this part of Carmarthenshire well and we asked her what visitors will discover in this part of the county. This is what she told us.

Rebecca is a familiar face in this part of Wales. She was a broadcaster and presenter on BBC Wales and now runs a successful film production company from her base in Carmarthenshire.

Rebecca tells us that Cross Hands is reputed to get its name as the place where prisoners intended for jail in Swansea and Carmarthen were exchanged. The village grew around the former Cross Hands colliery, which opened in 1869.

Rebecca’s Insider Tips
The Best Walk – The lakeside trail at Llyn Llech Owain Country Park.

The “Must Do” for Visitors – Take home a bespoke slate memento.

The Photo Stop – The Giant Miners Lamp at Mynydd Mawr Woodland Park

The Hidden Gem – Cross Hands Art Deco Cinema.

Her Personal Favourite – A hamper from Cwmcerrig Farm Shop.

The Refreshment Stop – Maddocks Coffee House and Store in Tumble.

Cross Hands

Things to do