A week in Wales – 24 to 31 August 2013
Saturday 24 August
We left home at around 10am, pausing only to fill up with petrol and check the tyre pressure at the local Shell garage, before heading off to join the M4, in a light drizzle.
The traffic on the motorway was relatively heavy – not unexpected, given the Bank Holiday weekend – and the somewhat grey and inclement weather continued until we reached the Hungerford area, on our westbound journey.
We continued down to junction 17, where we took the A350 heading south, until we reached the nearby Little Chef, our chosen dining destination for lunch where we arrived at around 11.45am.
The service and food was as good as it had been a few weeks ago when we had last eaten there. It was particularly encouraging to see the restaurant almost full at some points during our time there.
I opted for my usual Early Starter, while Sarah selected some kind of burger. We even pushed the boat out and had dessert afterwards. Rebekah, Emily and I all had pancakes – Emily’s with chocolate sauce and buttons. Sarah chose apple pie while Holly decided against a pudding, preferring a pack of Choc Dips instead.
After leaving the Little Chef, we rejoined the M4 and before long crossed over the Severn Bridge, entering Wales to blue skies and sunshine.
The clouds returned a little for the remainder of the journey but the day stayed dry.
We eventually left the motorway at the penultimate junction (48) and made our way down through Llanelli to our home for the week in Burry Port.
We were met outside Anchor Cottage by the caretaker, who kindly showed us around the house and pointed out some useful information including the all-important path to the beach.
Anchor Cottage is a spacious house with parking at the rear of the property. We were led inside to the modern kitchen which led through to the dining room. Across the hallway was the lounge and also a downstairs cloakroom.
Upstairs were four bedrooms and a bathroom and some time was taken by the girls to decide who would be sleeping in which room.
We had a little time to get the luggage inside and unpacked before our order from Sainsbury’s arrived, around 15 minutes earlier than arranged.
Once the food had been shoehorned into the kitchen cupboards, we had a walk out over the dunes to the spacious beach.
The girls enjoyed looking in some of the pools left by the outgoing tide and Rebekah found a few crabs. Emily had a slight problem when she waded into one of the pools and discovered it was much deeper than she realised. We had to return back to the house for a bath and change of clothes for her.
After tea, we went out again. This time we walked down to the nearby harbour and along to the lighthouse. It was interesting watching the speed of the incoming tide – one of the fastest in the country.
We returned ‘home’ for hot chocolate and biscuits before the girls retired for bed.
Sarah and I looked through the numerous guidebooks and noted a few possible places to visit during our stay in south Wales.
Sunday 25 August
In the morning we had a walk into Burry Port to look at the shops.
Burry Port is also the place where Amelia Earhart landed, after becoming the first woman to be flown across the Atlantic, on 18 June 1928.
I was hoping to buy a local map of the area, but none of the shops seemed to stock them. The people at the local bike shop were helpful and offered to show me their detailed map on the wall – not quite what I was hoping for!
We returned back to the house for coffee and stayed there for lunch – roast beef.
In the afternoon we drove the short distance to the neighbouring village of Pembrey and spent the afternoon on the huge beach there, at Pembrey Country Park. Sarah and Rebekah walked down to the sea – at least a mile away from where we were sitting on the beach.
Later Rebekah built four sandcastles while Holly and Emily made sand cakes.
Afterwards, we played in the sand dunes before heading home.
In the evening we stayed at the house. I walked out to see the sunset and also saw the local lifeboat being launched.
Monday 26 August
In the morning we popped into Llanelli to try and buy an Ordnance Survey map of the area, ahead of a planned visit to Kidwelly Castle.
Unfortunately, the shops were very much at the low-end of the retail experience and none were forthcoming in offering maps, with the exception of Asda, where I was able to obtain a generic map of Wales.
We drove on to Kidwelly where we found the castle excellent. There are several different parts of the castle to explore including towers, walking along part of the ramparts as well as various passages and paths.
We all enjoyed our time there and finished off with a picnic lunch in the grounds, until we were forced to retreat to the car, due to wasps!
After we left Kidwelly, we went on to Carmarthen.
Here the shopping is altogether different to that of Llanelli although it didn’t bode well from the outset. We parked in the car park of a large Wilkinson, which was still displaying the old logo (from pre 2008).
We set off into the town centre and found it to be somewhat run down and seemingly on a par with Llanelli. However, on turning into another street, we found several larger shops including a Marks and Spencer and a Debenhams – where we decided to stop for some light refreshments.
Carmarthen is an interesting town to visit and we could have easily spent longer there.
As it was, we headed back to Burry Port soon after 4.30pm and enjoyed food from Joseph’s fish and chip shop, in the town.
Tuesday 27 August
Today we decided to drive around part of the Gower peninsular.
Leaving our house, soon after 9.30, we set off and drove through almost to Swansea, before heading down the Gower on the main road.
Eventually, we drove down to one of the beaches on the southern coast, Oxwich Bay.
For the sum of four pounds, we were able to park up as long as we wanted to, to enjoy the beach.
After yesterday’s debacle with the wasps over lunch, we opted to have lunch in the car. This turned out to be a wise precaution as there seemed to be lots of wasps around once we did emerge.
Despite this, we had a good time playing on the beach and I was able to teach Rebekah and Holly how to skim stones into the sea.
Eventually, we packed up and headed towards the northern side of the Gower to make our way back to Burry Port, via a large Tesco in Llanelli to stock up and a park.
In the evening Sarah cooked mince and dumplings for dinner.
Later I walked down to the sea to take a few photos.
Wednesday 28 August
After breakfast we left the cottage and drove via Carmarthen to Tenby.
After driving around the town for some time, we eventually parked in the multi-storey car park and managed to find our way to the beach.
The town of Tenby is built on a steep slope and the northern and southern beaches are reached by a steep slope and steps.
We made our way down to the southern beach and the girls enjoyed playing in the sand and in the sea.
After around an hour, we made our way up to the town for some lunch. Rebekah and I took the beach stuff back to the car and then returned to meet the others.
We looked around the town for a while and bought a healthy lunch of sausage rolls and ring doughnuts from Greggs. Greggs sits in the heart of Tenby and the main square is also the location for a thriving street market, which was pulling in the crowds while we were there.
After we’d finished lunch we walked around exploring some of the shops before heading back to the car.
We left Tenby and followed signs down to Stackpole Quay.
The Stackpole area is owned by the National Trust who took over the former Stackpole estate after the house was dismantled in the 1960s.
Part of the estate is Barafundle Bay. This is reached via a 15 minute walk across the top of the cliffs and by a set of steps down to the bay.
Barafundle is a delightful beach with a wide, sandy bay contained by rocks on two sides and with sand dunes at the back of the beach. The sea is very blue and crystal clear and the sand is clean and a perfect consistency for sand castles. Rebekah and Holly enjoyed paddling in it and we found a cave in the rocks to explore.
We stayed there for about an hour and enjoyed every minute of it. Barafundle Bay is certainly somewhere that we intend to return to.
Regretfully we climbed the steps and made our way back to the car.
We left Stackpole and drove back to Burry Port stopping only at the Little Chef on the A40 for dinner, eventually arriving at around 9.15pm.
Thursday 29 August
In the morning, after breakfast, we drove up to Carreg Cennen Castle.
Carreg Cennen sits in a spectacular location on a hilltop and is reached by a short walk up to the summit of the hill.
Most of the castle is now ruined and there are only a few places where it’s possible to climb up to enjoy the view from the higher parts.
When we collected our tickets, we also took the opportunity to hire a torch which we used to explore one of the key features of the castle – a tunnel which takes people underground. We followed the tunnel down some steps and into solid rock for around 30 minutes, lit by the solitary torch. This was enough for Holly and Emily and we returned to the surface before we reached the end.
Once back in daylight, we walked back down the hill to the farm in whose ground the castle sits. We decided to have lunch in their tea room and I chose a jacket and beans while Sarah plumped for a Ploughman’s.
Rebekah enjoyed making friends with an old bulldog outside the restaurant.
After leaving Carreg Cennen, via the shop, we made our way to the National Trust property at Dinefwr Park.
This is an excellent house where you can look around and touch all the furniture and items. ‘Below stairs’ are rooms used formally by the staff of the house and all is set up to allow children to be able to polish shoes and iron collars etc.
We finished with the usual visit to the tea-room and shop.
Finally, the girls enjoyed playing in the park area before we drove back to the cottage.
In the evening we had a short walk around the harbour at Burry Port and managed to meet ‘Nina’, the horse that Emily could see from her bedroom window.
Friday 30 August
A quiet final day.
In the morning we looked around some of the shops in Burry Port, including the local bakers where we picked up a few items which we enjoyed overlooking the harbour.
We returned to the cottage for lunch.
In the afternoon we drove to Carmarthen and enjoyed looking around the shops. Unusually we all ended up buying things, which made a pleasant change.
We drove back to Burry Port and picked up some fish and chips from the local chip shop on the way.
Later, it was time to begin the sad task of packing the cases after an excellent week away.
Saturday 31 August
On our final morning, we had to be out of the house by 10am, so were up and breakfasted in good time.
After we’d cleared up and loaded the car, I went around the house to capture a few images for posterity, before gathering the family in the lounge for the traditional shot of us all together.
After leaving the house we said an emotional farewell to Emily’s horse, Nina, before taking a final walk into the town, where we visited the bakery and also purchased a couple of small paintings from the local photographic shop.
After a last walk down the pier, it was time to bid farewell to Burry Port and head for the M4 and Maidenhead.
We stopped off at Chippenham, on the way home, for a final visit to Little Chef, before completing the remaining journey home.
It was an excellent holiday. Great to be able to spend time with the family and to explore an area which was new to us. We’ll certainly look to return at some point.