Hidden Gem – how to enjoy the best mountain, moorland and coastal walks in south Wales, without the crowds
Sandwiched between its illustrious neighbours of Pembrokeshire and the Gower, Carmarthenshire is often overlooked by visitors and locals alike, and yet beautiful Carmarthenshire benefits from breathtaking mountain scenery, golden sands, rivers, lakes, forests and moorland studded by evocative castle ruins and pretty towns, all connected by a network of 3000km well maintained footpaths and byways.
Carmarthenshire is a county of great contrasts, stretching from the sandy beaches of Carmarthen Bay in the south to the empty uplands of the Cambrian Mountains in the north; from the high mountains of Y Mynydd Du in the east to the gently rolling farmland, along the Pembrokeshire border, in the west.
The guide offers 30 walks and variants themed around the main areas and attractions of the county; the Teifi Valley, the Cambrian and Mynydd Du mountains, 'Dylan Thomas' country to the west of Carmarthen, the gardens and forests of central Carmarthenshire and the history and heritage of the county, especially focused around the harbours and coast near Llanelli.
The routes will suit most walkers, many of them are between 4 and 8 km (up to 5 miles), while some of the longer routes, up to a maximum of 17km (10 miles) may explore the mountains, taking most of a day to complete, although many of these longer routes have optional shortcuts in case of bad weather or time constraints.
Each route is carefully described, with fascinating insight into the main points of interest, for example:
Translated as the ‘red cairn’, Carn Goch is the largest Iron Age hill fort in Wales and even today it is very impressive; in prehistoric Wales it must have been a site to behold. It is also very much about location, being constructed 675ft (206m) above the Tywi Valley, on a hilltop whose presence dominates the surrounding countryside and offers unparalleled views. The ready supply of sandstone on the hill allowed the Iron Age builders to construct not just one, but two hill forts here, known appropriately and respectively as Y Gaer Fach (the small fort) and Y Gaer Fawr (the large fort). They occupy two separate summits on the same long ridge and the geographical descriptions, implicit in the names, really allow you to easily identify which is which.
You can walk in the area throughout the year, although good navigation skills are essential in winter and poor weather, particularly in the mountains.
You might ask what is so special about this region and the book?
The answer is that you have a perfect mixture of landscapes to suit most people – riverside walking next to the Afon Teifi, interesting hill walking for more energetic days and superb views south to the coast. Add to this an amazing collection of ruined castles, botanic gardens, forests and picturesque harbours, and it's easy to see why Carmarthenshire is a real hidden gem!
All in all, this is an informative guide to an interesting, beautiful and often neglected region of Wales.