A rare visit over the autumn to a little-known rural retreat in west Wales.
But the Llwynywermod estate, comprising two holiday cottages and a Grade II-listed threshing barn, as well as the main farmhouse, is more than just your average farm-stay holiday accommodation.
It’s the restorative retreat built for our new, King Charles III [pictured above], and the Queen Consort, Camilla, during their regular visits to Wales.
What’s more, the twin holiday cottages, North Range and West Range, are available to the public to book when royal family members are not in residence.
Here’s a taster of the story:
His Royal Highness has been reported as saying it took “a long search lasting some 40 years” to find his bucolic Welsh retreat. The future king retreated to his Welsh home after the death of his father, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, in April 2021, giving him space needed to “contemplate the future of the Royal Family”.
The estate is located in rural Carmarthenshire, near to the folklore-rich village of Myddfai.
The village is associated with the Physicians of Myddfai, who are said to have practiced from the 12th century, having acquired their early homeopathic skills when local monasteries flourished as schools of herbal medicine.
Their work is celebrated by the Apothecary’s Garden, incorporating a replica Victorian pharmacy, at the nearby National Botanic Garden of Wales.
David Hardy, Head of Communications at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, says:
“His Royal Highness has a strong connection to the county, evidenced by his decision to make his home in Wales here.”
* This is the latest post in a weekly series, highlighting stories from my travel-writing archive. Subscribe to the RSS feed for more. This week’s piece is particularly timely as last Sunday marked the first anniversary of the opening. Want to read more? Try Wales Coast Path blog for Visit Wales.
The landscape opens up in widescreen, all crashing waves and wide-open skies.
I feel a frisson of vertigo as I peer over the sheer cliff drop but steady my gaze on the path ahead, the promise of wooded glades and secluded beaches luring me onwards. I fill my lungs with fresh air and close my eyes, emptying my mind and tuning into the rhythms of nature instead.
Better still, I’m the only walker on the trail today.
I’m walking a section of the new Wales Coast Path, the new 870-mile trail from the Welsh border near Chester to Chepstow in the southeast. It connects existing coast paths, such as Anglesey and Pembrokeshire, to form one continuous circuit – making it the very first coast path to outline an entire country.
Along the way it showcases the best of Welsh landscape and wildlife. Think near-deserted coastal trails, wave-lapped scenery and a natural habitat rich with flora and fauna.
I’ve chosen a walk along the Glamorgan Heritage Coast, a 14-mile section from Porthcawl to Aberthaw, as a microcosm of the entire path. It’s also the nearest section of the path to air hub, Cardiff.
For me, walking the Glamorgan coast was the perfect way to discover one of the lesser-known regions and uncover some warm Welsh hospitality. The Glamorgan coastal path skirts the Bristol Channel with views of ruined Ogmore Castle to the north and south to Exmoor.
“I love the contrasts of this walk. You look across to Devon, not a blank horizon of sea,” says Principal Ranger Paul Dunn. “You can almost touch it on a clear day.”
I had started walking just beyond Porthcawl, first tackling the sand dunes of Merthyr Mawr before progressing onto the salt marsh of the Ogmore estuary. Numerous flower species, including the rare Tuberous Thistle, line the trail and the twice-repeated refrain of a song thrush serenade my steady progress.
I stop for tea and a chance to read up on local geology at the Heritage Coast Information Centre at sheltered Southerndown Bay.
This sweep of South Wales may be sandwiched between the industrial hubs of Port Talbot and Barry, but it’s the last ice age that forged the landscape of rocky outcrops, built on layers of Carboniferous limestone.
It lends the coast an otherworldly feel captured by the TV series Doctor Who, which renamed Southerndown as Bad Wolf Bay for a season-ending climax staring David Tenant.
The path then climbs up from the beach through the former deer park of the Dunraven Estate, following a new public footpath to increase access. After ducking through a maritime-ash woodland, I take a detour at Nash Point, heading inland for lunch at the Plough and Harrow in the village of Monknash.
Back on the coast path, Nash Point Lighthouse was the last manned lighthouse in Wales. The twin lighthouse keepers’ cottages have now been converted into self-catering accommodation with the ultimate sunset vista.
I push on, low-slung afternoon sun softening the landscape, tracing a line along the coast past Tresilian Bay and Summerhouse Point to the trailhead just before Aberthaw.
St Donat’s Arts Centre, an old tithe barn just off the path in the village of Llantwit Major, is staging a performance of Welsh jazz that evening, but I’m heading back to Olivia House, a stylish but homely guesthouse in Porthcawl, for a long soak and a chance to rest weary feet.
After a day on the trail of fresh air, stunning views and escaping the crowds, I’ve got a tasting of walking Wales.
Just another 856 miles to go.
* This story was first published in BA High Life magazine in 2012. Read the original piece here.
Have you got a favourite section of the Wales Coast Path to walk?
I did a lot of walking in Wales last year, both for editorial projects and for multimedia work on behalf of Visit Wales.
This is one of those spin-off stories, a walk around the Carmarthenshire coast for the Independent.
It ties in with another piece for the Weekend FT about the opening of Browns Hotel.
Here’s an extract:
Waiting for me at Laugharne’s ruined castle on the main square, the Grist, is a smiling Bob Stevens [pictured above] of Salt House Farm.
Stevens has devised a two-mile, linear Dylan Thomas Birthday Walk around the estuary, overlapping with the coast path, with each of five new benches carved with a line from Thomas’s “Poem in October”. Complete the walk on your birthday and present your birth certificate or driving licence at a local pub, and you can claim a free birthday pint.
“The trail follows the walk Dylan documented in his poem,” explains Bob as we stand on a hilltop outside Laugharne, views across the salt marsh and ringed plover wading below. “I don’t like much of poetry but I really feel the essence of the man by walking this trail each year on my own birthday.”
Hopefully more walking, more Wales and more Dylan in the year ahead.