Carmarthenshire: How To Eat & Drink Around South Wales' Foodie Secret
Discover a slow holiday packed with Wales' finest foods. I explore the new Larder Trails devised by Carmarthenshire.
Thu 15 Sept 2022
I’m weaving my way down roads that snake sideways like a serpent, round fields not yet dazzled dry with sunshine, ancient trees hang over the road, protecting it with their woody arms.
I’m unable to see what’s beyond the next bend, but so far this weekend it has been stunning vales, lush wooded hills and still estuaries, quietly home to literary history.
I’m in Carmarthenshire in south Wales, the rural farming county that has shrugged itself into the gap between the Brecon Beacons to the north west and the craggy cliffs of Pembrokeshire to the south west.
This is peak farming country, home to some of the most delicious food and drink Wales has to offer and that’s why I’m here in my campervan, Margo.
I’m the first to try out the new larder trails which take you by the hand and guide you to some of the finest farm shops, butchers, cafes, farms, vineyards, breweries and restaurants that this humble, lush landscape has to offer.
I arrived to Wales’ traditional welcome, a decent drizzle of rain, and found sanctuary at Cowpots Camping, a stunning organic farm turned campsite, where each pitch also comes with it’s own shed-housed shower and compost loo, room for picnics and (on a clear night) no light pollution to make the most of Carmarthenshire’s incredible dark skies.
My first stop was FForest Farm for breakfast, which has installed an organic dairy milk vending machine.
Glass bottle purchased, I filled up on thick, creamy milk from a shed on a country lane before the friendly farmer, complete in boiler suit and several dogs in tow, offered to show us his automatic milking machine, which meant each cow could be milked when she wanted.
Within minutes of being on the ‘Larder trail’ I was scuttering across a picturebook farmyard to find 21st century automation being put to good use, freeing up the farmer’s time to ensure his herd were better cared for.
I watched one of his cows being voluntarily milked then let out of a series of automatic gates (like passport control at Heathrow but with less queues) thanks to her unique collar. It was the most random, best introduction for the care and innovation found across Carmarthenshire when it comes to food and drink.
Make no mistake, eating here is serious business, it doesn’t come with a side of pretentiousness.
Simpler times aren’t hard to imagine in these dips, dales and valleys.
Tiny country towns, unassuming with their homes but fielding colourful shops and high streets unravaged by the 21st century, are packed with passion and producing incredible food. They buzz with locals and an apparent disinterest to the wider swirl of changing times.
Over in St Clear’s (our elevenses stop) I found the other end of the food chain, incredible sausages and pies were found at Deri Page Butchers, along with Welsh cakes, eggs and other essentials for a campervan feast we had planned, before I headed over to the famous town of Laugharne.
St Clear is also home to the largest Himalayan Salt Chamber in Wales and Welsh salted beef a specialty here.
The day’s ongoing Welsh drizzle added something to the timeless charm of Laugharne, home to one of Wales’ most famous sons, Dylan Thomas.
His ghost lingers like the cloud over this charming town’s food and drink establishments, and while he drank in Brown’s Hotel (a great option if you’re not campervanning), I opted for the homely deli-bistro, the Ferryman’s Delicatessen.
Here tales jostle for space amongst local posters on the wall, brightly coloured wooden furniture, and a packed deli in the backroom serving wedges of award winning local cheese from Caws Cenarth Dairy, craft beers lined up like sentries in brown bottles and local eggs.
A flatbread loaded with halloumi and pesto, drizzled with honey was the perfect bulwark against the midsummer rain, followed by endless unhurried cups of tea, sipped in conversation with the owners, having the kinds of unguarded chats you can only have when away from home.
Post lunch, we trotted down the lane to Dylan Thomas’ modest house and famous boathouse, soaking up his long legacy on this quiet part of the world. The town is said to have inspired Under Milk Wood and Thomas and his wife are buried in the churchyard.
Discovering the micro landscapes of Carmarthenshire is one of the delights of these larder trails, not skipping over the smaller locations like a stone on the water, and I head back to Cowpots Camping via thin lanes that feel like hidden webs strung quietly across the landscape.
Spending time wandering the even smaller country tracks that crisscross Cowpots Camping later, stopping to identify hedgerow plants (my new obsession) and slowly winding my way up the hill to the stem of the farm’s blossoming camping venture, was the perfect preamble for supper.
Cowpots is also home to a decent pizzeria, (outsiders can book too), serving up thin based, woodfired pizzas, white wine from nearby Hebron vineyard (really decent) and locally made ice cream for afters, in a rustic renovated barn.
When home is a campervan under the stars, there’s not much more you can ask for than simple pizza and ice cream, where the ingredients shine through.
Not to be outdone on day one, I pulled on my eating pants for another larder trail the next day, taking in the trio of alliterative towns of Llandeilo, Llandovery.
A mix of farming stores and fancy coffee shops can be found strung through pretty Llandelio, a charming town on the western edge of the Brecon Beacons.
It’s never too early for a cream tea on holiday and Diod serve up a beauty, plus locally roasted coffee and plenty of posh brunch options (and cocktails) for those in need of a minimalist, Instagram friendly coffee stop.
Further up the high street, craft beers and croissants were displayed beautifully at Pitchfork & Provisions, an artisan baker with pastries as gloriously bigger than both my hands put together.
Opposite them sits Heavenly Chocolate Emporium, a Victorian styled local chocolatier offering boxes of homemade chocs, which ended up being perfect for an after dinner treat in the campervan.
To work off the enormous amount of carbs I had happily inhaled over the last 36 hours, I headed to the National Botanical Garden of Wales, which unfurls across 400 acres of themed gardens such as the bee, Japanese or apothecary gardens and is home to the largest single span greenhouse in the world, which somehow manages to blend seamlessly into the landscape. It’s a land of order amongst nature’s chaos and well worth a stop.
On my way to the second campsite, I stopped at Wright’s Food Emporium in Llanarthney to pick up some local provisions for a campsite supper.
Imagine if your whole house (detached, Victorian, gorgeous) had been turned into a deli-cafe and you’ll be close to Wright’s.
Room after room of tables and shelves laden with beautifully displayed, locally made food, fresh veg, bread, Welsh gins plus an incredible wall of natural wine - it’s like stepping into the pages of a cookery book.
You’ll be hard pressed to come out of Wright’s not having spent your pension.
I came out clutching the most random selection of goodies, from Japanese style condiments to padron peppers. Each of these was placed carefully one onto the picnic table when we unpacked at Cwm Yy Coed, a hidden gem of an eco-friendly campsite, with large private pitches for the few campervan spots they had, between lines of pine trees and a field of friendly sheep.
A charming outdoor kitchen complete with gas ring, coffee pot and enamel cookware awaited us, so I set to work creating a Welsh picnic feast, greeting the goodies I’d stashed away over the last 36 hours like old friends.
We tucked into Welsh cheese and crackers, padron peppers sprinkled with Welsh Halen Môn Welsh sea salt, smoked fish and sourdough, warmed Welsh cakes and lashings of local beer from Two Tribes.
Sat there under the clear sky, not a sound to be heard other than those that nature makes, on a Sunday night, with nowhere else to be, picking at our picnic supper long after I was full, was one of my favourite moments of this summer.
Those bendy Welsh one lane roads and far off fields in Carmarthenshire are a place of total contentment and in slowing down to mooch amongst the county towns that normally you’d zoom past on the motorway, I found myself having the most memorable short break for years. Simple times can be sumptuous.
For more on Carmarthenshire's three larder trail, take a look at Discover Carmarthenshire for all of the details.
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