The small town of St Clears is lies in the southwestern corner of Carmarthenshire around 8 miles from Carmarthen itself. It sits off the A40 arterial road just before the junction with the A477. This makes it an ideal spot to break a journey and spend a few hours. For walkers, St Clears is located on the Wales Coastal Path, and is popular stopping point between Llansteffan and Laugharne.
Visitors will find a range of independent shops, places to eat as well as local pubs.
To get to know St Clears better, we asked local shop owners Olive Bowen and Yvonne Griffiths Rogers to tell us a little more about their town.
Olive and Yvonne run a small independent shop in the town - Pethau Olyv. Here you’ll find beautiful clothes, handbags and jewellery, you can also try their coffee and cakes. Olive and Yvonne are former psychiatric nurses, turned entrepreneurs. They also love talking about St Clears. Pethau Olive means Olive’s Things, and the name of the shop reflects the Welsh character of this community close to the border with Pembrokeshire. You will often hear Welsh spoken in the local shops and pubs.
Olive and Yvonne were keen to point out that when you visit the town, you get two St Clears for the price of one. There is the main part of the town and there is Lower St Clears, where the River Cynin meets the River Taf, as it makes its way to Carmarthen Bay, around 7kms to the south. The Wales Coastal Path follows the river to Laugharne, the estuary town made famous by Dylan Thomas, the Welsh poet and writer. St Clears connections with the sea can be found at the town quay where panels tell the story of St Clears Port, the riverside and wharves that existed during the 19th century and were still active in the early part of the 20th century.
Also in Lower St Clears, you’ll find the beautiful church of St Mary Magdalen. This Grade II listed building was built in the 12th Century by the Norman, St Clare family. It was listed because the restored medieval church features some of the best examples of Norman carvings in the county. St Clears Castle is nearby and is a remarkable example of the 12th Century motte and bailey design. It even gets mention in the writings of Giraldus Cambrensis, the medieval traveller and historian.
Riots and Legends
St Clears is closely associated with the famous Rebecca Riots. This was an uprising of the people to protest against poverty and injustice. Tolls on roads and bridges were a focal point of the riots which took place in the rural parts of west Wales, from 1839 to 1843. During the riots, men disguised as women attacked the tollgates. They called themselves ‘Rebecca and her daughters’. In 1842 a tollgate on the Lime Road in St Clears was destroyed. This event is commemorated in a floodlit sculpture which stands in St Clears close to the original tollgate. The figures in the statue have been carved out of a 120-year-old cedar trunk. It’s a great location for a photograph to mark your visit to the town.
Close by, at the Gate Craft Centre, you will find lots of locally sourced crafts. You can pick up a headset which will guide you through the St Clears Town Heritage Trail. Olive and Yvonne tell us that this is a great way to learn more about the town. Following public roads and footpaths, the 1.5-mile trail links 12 historical sites and takes you past plenty of shops and places to eat if you need to rest your legs.
It’s easy to follow the trail because it is waymarked by the sign of a boar, chosen because it is an important symbol in Celtic folklore. Twrch Trwyth is linked to the tale of Culhwch and Olwen in the Mabinogion - the earliest prose stories of the literature of Britain, and to the legendary King Arthur. The Town Heritage Trail is an initiative by St Clears Town Council and shows how keen the people of the town are to welcome visitors and to tell the towns story.
Local Character and Characters.
Olive and Yvonne stressed to us, how welcoming the town is. They say that visitors find St Clears very friendly and relaxing. No matter what time of the year you chose to visit the welcome in the local shops and pubs is always warm. As Yvonne says “It’s like stepping back to a time when everybody knew one another. Talking of pubs, you’ll find three in the town – the Corvus, the Savoy and the Black Lion. And as Yvonne says, “We are spoilt for choice for food and drink in St Clears”.
These are where you are likely to find the towns characters, Olwen told us “There are loads!”, but spoke very fondly of Ted Gammage. Ted can be seen around the town on his electric scooter and according to Olwen “He’s replaced the local newspaper with his daily and evening bulletins. If you want to know what’s going on in St Clears – ask Ted.”
Visit one, get one free.
Olive and Yvonne run a small independent shop in the town - Pethau Olyv. Here you’ll find beautiful clothes, handbags and jewellery, you can also try their coffee and cakes. Olive and Yvonne are former psychiatric nurses, turned entrepreneurs. They also love talking about St Clears. Pethau Olive means Olive’s Things, and the name of the shop reflects the Welsh character of this community close to the border with Pembrokeshire.
Olive and Yvonne’s Insider Tips
The Best Walk – The riverside walk, to lower St Clears and then on to Laugharne.
The “Must Do” for Visitors – Take the town audio Heritage Trail.
The Photo Stop – The Rebecca Riots statue.
The Hidden Gem – Lower St Clears.
Their Personal Favourite – Try an award-winning pie from Deri Page Family Butchers.
The Refreshment Stop – Mol's Bistro