I stayed in 'the strangest town in Wales' and completely fell in love

Woman with beach view in background
-Credit: (Image: Media Wales)

A trip away from the noise and high speed life in the capital to experience a few days in a different corner of our beautiful country is always something I look forward to, although driving behind a tractor pulling a container caked in a suspicious brown substance at 10mph along a country road was not the start I was hoping for.

However, I was on the way to Wales' 'strangest town' so maybe it was a totally appropriate introduction to my first ever stay in Laugharne. A few years ago I visited the Carmarthenshire town, (or is it a village?), for a few hours and was instantly enchanted and vowed I would return.

Laugharne is nestled into the landscape that hugs the River Taf estuary as it meanders to the sea at Carmarthen Bay. The exceptional location is the first thing that hits you as you park in the main car park next to the castle ruins - a sweeping, mesmerising, panoramic view across the tidal water that includes Pendine sands, Pembrey and Gower Peninsula and Worm's Head on the horizon. For more property stories sent to your inbox twice a week sign up to the property newsletter here.

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Row of houses on street
Welcome to Laugharne -Credit:Jo Ridout, WalesOnline

I instantly felt relaxed, refreshed by the gentle coastal breeze wafting into the main square of the village and rather over-awed by the towering castle ruins that emerge from a rocky outcrop, standing guard over my Mini Cooper. It was a breathtaking beginning to my visit and made it obvious why the village is a constant magnet for creative people, including painters, sculptors, writers and musicians.

Arguably its most famous recent resident was Welsh poet and author Dylan Thomas, known for poems such as Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, and And Death Shall Have No Dominion, and the book and radio play, Under Milk Wood, and whose influence permeates through the generations with younger fans including Taylor Swift.

Historic Laugharne castle
Historic Laugharne castle -Credit:Jo Ridout, WalesOnline

Dylan lived in Laugharne from 1949 until his death in 1953 and his comments on the village are intriguing, calling it a 'timeless, mild, beguiling island of a town' and 'the strangest town in Wales'. But, as one local resident was quick to point out, 'there's more to Laugharne than Dylan Thomas' and they are so right; it seems to me the heart and soul of the town is its landscape and location, its people and property as well as its absorbing poetry roots.

I was also informed by one of the original residents, known as 'Laugharnies', that it is not a village or a town, it is in fact a 'township' and this forms part of its unique history and charm. According to website Laugharne Township, the borough or township was probably first founded soon after the castle was built in 1116.

The site states that the township received its first known charter in either 1290 or 1307 from Sir Guy de Brian. Sir Guy held the Lordship of Laugharne and its castle. Though there is evidence to indicate that the town was founded well before this, Laugharne Corporation traces its formal history back to this charter.

Town square in Laugharne
The main square of the 'township' -Credit:Jo Ridout, WalesOnline

The site goes on to say that the corporation was technically abolished in 1886 but has continued and is a unique organisation operating under its original charter and administering lands it has held for hundreds of years.

I spent an hour wandering along the riverside walk which is something worth doing on a sunny day and it's a truly magical experience to be so close to the water and the wildlife, and possibly a few dog walkers too. But then I clambered up a rocky slope to start exploring the tiny lanes in the centre of the township, admiring the collection of cottages, period terraces, and some stunning Georgian houses that include Sea View where Dylan and wife Caitlin once lived.

Sea View where Dylan and Caitlin used to live - one of a number
Sea View where Dylan and Caitlin used to live - one of a number -Credit:Jo Ridout, WalesOnline
Pretty row of terraced cottages in different colours
Plenty of pretty properties -Credit:Jo Ridout, WalesOnline

But a trip to the township would not be complete without a visit to Dylan's most famous home -The Boathouse - and his most famous place to write his famous works, The Writing Shed which is perched high on the hillside, nestled into a cute lane with the most mesmerising of river estuary and coastal views which was surely a daily inspiration to Thomas.

The Boathouse, now owned by the local council, greets you with wonderfully friendly and knowledgeable staff combined with the sensational smell of home baking, as all the cakes for sale are created on site - the aroma is so comforting and easily persuaded me to have a scone and tea sat in the cosy cottage dining room as it was raining outside.

When the sun is out there's a fabulous rear garden terrace where the breathtaking views across the water, or the sand banks when the tide is out, accompanies your tea, coffee and cake treat. Dylan's parlour is particularly memorable inside, set out as it would have been when he lived here, decorated in such a familiar and traditional way that makes you feel instantly welcomed, surely reminding most people of a certain age of visiting their nan's 1930s home.

The Boathouse, Laugharne
The Boathouse -Credit:Jo Ridout, WalesOnline
The Writing Shed at The Boathouse, Laugharne
The Writing Shed -Credit:Jo Ridout, WalesOnline

The first evening in Laugharne was spent enjoying a meal at Brown's, a boutique hotel that includes a pub where Dylan is said to have enjoyed frequenting, usually sitting in the bay window, but is also Dexters, owned by Alex Luck, a steakhouse and grill based inside Brown's offering yummy meals using the finest of local produce.

Wandering up to Dylan Coastal Resort, where we were staying for the night, was slightly uphill, and even with a bursting but contented belly, it was actually a joyful experience, accompanied by a spectacular sunset and a myriad of birdsong as the musical backdrop. No sirens, no traffic noise, no pub chuck-out shouting - just peace.

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Brown's boutique hotel and Dexter's at Browns restaurant
Brown's boutique hotel and Dexter's at Browns restaurant -Credit:Jo Ridout, WalesOnline
Town hall
The town hall -Credit:Jo Ridout, WalesOnline

Above the lane that leads to Dylan's boathouse is this incredible gem of a resort that can claim to surely have some of the best views from luxury lodges in the country. We stayed in a three-bed lodge with a sunken hot tub on a deck and roof terrace and tried out all the facilities at the 'club house' called Milk Wood House.

A hidden gem, this wonderful building offers pamper days to purchase for non-residents that offer the whole range of spa treatments including alternative therapies and a nail bar plus use of the infinity pool, hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room, hot beds and gym.

Dylan Coastal Resort
Dylan Coastal Resort -Credit:Ryan Wicks for Luxury Lodges at Dylan Coastal Resort
Sunset view over bay with hills
Incredible views throughout my stay -Credit:Jo Ridout, WalesOnline

Residents and members staying onsite at the resort can book and buy treatments and can use the pool and all of its enticing additions for free. Anyone can book to enjoy a meal at the Milk Wood House restaurant with a view over the sea to mesmerise you whatever the weather. We ate lunch, evening meal and breakfast at the restaurant and all were delicious, but it's the bacon and maple syrup breakfast pancakes that we are still talking about long after our trip.

Some of the local people I chatted to said that the township felt the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the area lost some businesses but all mentioned, without prompting, how excited that they were about a new butcher's shop that had just opened.

Building under construction with scaffolding
Coming soon - The Slaughter House restaurant plus a bakery -Credit:Jo Ridout, WalesOnline
Building under construction with scaffolding
Pizza restaurant on its way -Credit:Jo Ridout, WalesOnline

Other businesses on the verge of being born are a pizza restaurant and a conversion of stunning stone buildings into a bakery and a bar and restaurant provisionally called The Slaughter House, to join Browns, Poons Street Food and a number of pubs, expanding the culinary offering the township will soon offer residents as well as visitors.

It seems Laugharne is starting to rise again as a destination for socialising and enjoying a leisurely retreat, and there is a quiet excitement hanging in the air, I could feel it, that now joins the constant magical ambience that enchanted Dylan and surely most people who visit this unique place.

There's a bench in the Boathouse's garden with a quotation from Dylan’s daughter, Aeronwy, that has an inscription that says, 'the funny thing is, I find myself going back again and again' and, notwithstanding an encounter with another slow, brown covered tractor, that's a sentiment I concur with completely - I will be going back.

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