Llanelli & the Millennium Coastal Park
Llanelli is where east Wales meets west Wales. Where industrial Wales connects with rural Wales. And where the valleys reach down to the sea. You could say this is where many parts of Wales come together – the crossroads of Wales. It’s no surprise then, that Llanelli people embody so many strong Welsh characteristics. A sense of belonging and community, a love of the arts, music and, of course, sport…especially rugby.
The town is profoundly Welsh and large numbers of locals still speak Cymraeg. In fact, there was a time during the mid-20th century that Llanelli was known as the largest town in the world where more than half the population spoke a Celtic language.
Llanelli is the largest town in Carmarthenshire and today around 46,000 people call Llanelli, and the collection of communities that surround it, home. It’s located on the Loughor Estuary, some 12 miles south-east of Carmarthen town. We asked TV personality, Mari Grug, who works in the town to tell us more about the town she has come to know well.
From Tinopolis to Tinopolis
Mari lives in St Clears, but as a presenter of nightly Welsh news programme Heno, she visits the town almost every day. The show is broadcast from the studios of Tinopolis in Llanelli town centre. This TV company takes its name from the nickname the town earned un the late 19th century.
Then around 90% of the world’s tinplate was made in southwest Wales and Llanelli was its epicentre. Whilst proud of its history, Mari is keen to point out how the town has moved away from heavy industry. She tells us that now, as tinplate and other traditional industries have declined, the town has turned to face the sea once again.
Llanelli on Sea
Today, it’s no longer coal, tin or copper which make their way to the coast, it’s visitors. People head to the Millennium Coastal Park and the nearby wide-open beaches for leisure, pleasure and wellness. Mari says that for cyclists and walkers, the Millennium Coastal Path is a great way to get to know the area. The path runs through the Millennial Coastal Park and forms part of the Wales Coast Path. It is a 13-mile pedestrian walkway and cycleway along the south coast of Carmarthenshire, and links Llanelli and Pembrey Country Park.
At the heart of the Millennium Coastal Park, at North Dock, is St. Elli's bay Bistro and Brasserie offers a great place to grab a coffee and a slice of cake and enjoy the amazing views over the Gower. The amazing promenade gives access to Llanelli beach and includes viewpoints and many features and sculptures along the way.
The Past is Present
There are other places in the town which also help tell Llanelli’s amazing story of industrial and social change. Llanelly House was once the domain of one of Llanelli’s most influential families – the Stepneys, and today it’s open to all. Following a major project which followed the BBC programme Restoration in 2003, the early 18th Century Georgian townhouse is a key venue in the town centre and houses a very popular bistro
Mari recommends following the towns blue plaque trail to learn more about its fascinating history. Amongst other things you’ll find out about the town’s links to suffragette leader, Emily Pankhurst, Methodist preacher, John Wesley and actress Hollywood actress, Rachel Roberts.
Another historic building is the Parc Howard Museum. Set in the park gardens, a Bath Stone Villa, hosts the museum. It was originally built by another of Llanelli’s influential families, the Buckley brewing family. Buckley’s Brewery is one of two breweries associated with Llanelli. The other is Felinfoel Brewery, famous because in 1935, it produced the first canned beer in the UK.
The museum is an important part of CofGar – the Carmarthenshire Museum Service whose mission is to keep the past alive and to tell the Carmarthenshire story. The Llanelli Story Gallery covers Llanelli’s contribution to that story. You’ll also find a beautiful collection of Llanelly pottery, which was created in the town from 1839 until 1922. Llanelly pottery has made a very important contribution to the history of Welsh ceramics and the striking Llanelly ‘cockerel plate’ is one of the most iconic images in Welsh fine art. Innovation has always been part of Llanelli’s DNA and in the museum, you can discover the Stepney Spare Wheel, the world’s first spare wheel, invented in the town. In fact, some countries including Malta and India still call their spare wheel as the “Stepney”.
Today, Llanelli’s creativity can be enjoyed at the growing number of galleries and craft shops. One example is the John Street Gallery run by husband-and-wife team Ivano & Denise Di Battista. The gallery houses a painting and printing studio. As well as colourful fine art on display, there is a wide range of limited-edition prints, gift cards and decorative and gift items.
Mari tells us that these days, In the town centre, independent shops share space with high street names. She is a fan of, Rowberry Shoes, in Stepney Precinct They source designer shoes from all over Europe. This local family business has been trading in the area since the 1960’s.
At the centre of the bustling town centre is the large covered market. This is a great place to shop for flowers, fish and fruit. It’s full of local produce and for a bite to eat Mari suggests the Welsh faggots and peas at the Welsh Diner. Or, if your taste is more cosmopolitan try the heathy street food at the Taste of Thailand. If you are looking the for Celtic jewellery, lovespoons, Welsh clothing and gifts, then head to The Welsh Shop in the market precinct. And Siop y Pentan, in Colwell Street, has been offering Welsh gifts books and cards since 1972.
Cattle and Co is a local Welsh food business with an American flavour. It’s located at the iconic grade II listed Pump House in the North Dock. If you are brave enough, try the monster Empire Burger. In the unlikely event that you are still hungry, we recommend the Lotus Biscoff Cheesecake. Another very popular eatery is Marzano’s in Colwell Street. This is the place for a great mix of tapas, cocktails and live entertainment. Marzano’s also have a great mobile beach cafe close to the Millennium Coastal Path. If you are in the area on the 3rd Saturday of the month, be sure to visit the Food and Drink Market in the town centre. You’ll discover that Llanelli’s illustrious brewing heritage is not just a thing of the past. Be ready to sample local ales from Felinfoel Brewery and Tinworks as well as a wide range of local fayre.
Drawing the Crowds
Rugby lovers from all over the world head to Parc y Scarlets, to sample the atmosphere and to hear Sospan Fach and Yma O Hyd sung with unmatched passion. Yma O Hyd (We’re still here) is a folk song written by Welsh folk singer Dafydd Iwan and is an appropriate anthem for a town that is constantly changing and reimagining its future.
Another place attracting big audiences is the Fwrness Theatre. Located at the eastern end of the town centre, it is testament to Llanelli’s love of the arts and culture. This energetic and successful theatre offers an eclectic mix of entertainment. Check out the latest events here https://www.theatrausirgar.co.uk/en/whats-on. During the day, this welcoming venue also offers an excellent coffee shop for visitors.
Surrounded by Beauty
Llanelli is surrounded by beauty and nature. Well worth a visit is the Llanelli Wetland Centre. It is a 450-acre mosaic of lakes, scrapes, pools, streams and lagoons set amongst the salt marshes and shore of the scenic Burry Inlet. The sights and sounds within the park change by the season. Among the wildlife you can see and hear this autumn will be Little Egrets, Kingfishers, Spoonbills, Spotted Redshanks and Curlew Sandpipers.
Mari lives in St Clears, but as a presenter of nightly Welsh news programme Heno, she visits the town almost every day. The show is broadcast from the studios of Tinopolis in Llanelli town centre.
Mari’s Insider Tips
The ‘Must Do’ for Visitors – Discover the coastline around Llanelli on the Millennium Coastal Path.
The Photo Stop – Sipping a cocktail,overlooking the coast, on the balcony of Bar and brasserie at Machynys Peninsula Golf and Country Club.
The Hidden Gem – John Street Art Gallery.
Her Personal Favourite – Any of the family-owned independent shops.
The Best Walk – Around the town using the Llanelli blue plaque trail as a guide.
The Refreshment Stop – Try a taste of Wales in Llanelli Market