- Location: Laugharne
- Distance: 4.5 miles
- Description of this walk: Two loops around Laugharne following in the footsteps of Dylan Thomas.
- Map: O/S Explorer Map 177
- Download a map of this walk to print off and follow in Derek's footsteps. (PDF 1.2MB) Having trouble with the map? Download the latest version of Adobe Reader.
For this walk we've included GPS marker points with the directions, should you wish to follow them.
For this 4.5 mile circular walk, Derek met local guide and creator of 'Dylan's Birthday Walk' - Bob Stevens for a historic walk around the town, following in the footsteps of its most famous resident, Dylan Thomas.
Laugharne is full of history. It's a small town situated on the estuary of the River Taf, Carmarthenshire, and was made famous by the poet and playwright, Dylan Thomas who lived here from 1949-1953.
The town is thought to have been the inspiration for the fictional town of Llareggub in his play, Under Milk Wood.
The walk comprised of two, short loops forming a figure of eight with the town at the centre.
The first loop takes in the famous Dylan Thomas Boat House and the second, Dylan's Birthday walk, located at the southern end of the estuary below the castle.
Dylan's Birthday Walk is inspired by 'Poem in October' in which Dylan recounts the sights and sounds of the very same walk he took upon his 30th birthday. A series of information panels along the trail and surrounding views put you firmly in the poet's footsteps.
1. Start of the walk: Grist car park
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We met our guide, local farmer, Bob Stevens in the Grist car park in the shadow of Laugharne castle.
The Grist is an open area of reclaimed land, where the river Corran meets the sea and its name probably derives from a former corn or grist mill that once stood at the mouth of the river.
From the car park head towards the main road road, (A4066) and turn right, walking up a slight incline towards the castle entrance passing the pink castle house towards the clock tower, approximately 200 metres up the road.
Public toilets are located half way up the road on the right hand side but you'll need a 20p coin if you want to use the facilities.
2. Town Hall and Clock Tower
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This lovely old white washed building complete with clock tower has been the Laugharne Corporation HQ (a unique medieval institution established in 1297 by Sir Guy de Brian, a Marcher Lord) for centuries.
The Corporation is presided over by a Portreeve who generally serves for a couple of years before new elections are held. Each Portreeve gets to wear a traditional gold chain of cockle shells with their name and date of service, inscribed on the back.
Today the corporation (which pre-dates Parliament) deals with civil suits and land disputes and has many ancient customs including the Beating of the Bounds.
This particular tradition occurs every three years and comprises of a 25 mile romp across the Corporation's land.
At significant landmarks along the way a person (usually a young lady) is selected and asked to name the exact location. If they cannot answer correctly, they are hoisted upside down and spanked three times on the bottom!
3. Brown's Hotel
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Continue up through the town stopping at one of Dylan Thomas' favourite watering holes, Brown's Hotel which was under a thick layer of scaffolding when we visited and will ultimately be transformed into a 1950s style boutique hotel thanks to restoration grants.
Dylan Thomas could often be seen here, sat by the window, writing, drinking and chatting to the landlady whilst observing the town's characters as they went about their daily business.
Dylan's parents lived in the house opposite, Pelican House with its formidable black front door and big brass knocker and it was here that Dylan's body was laid to rest after his death in America, in 1953.
As you wander along the main street in Laugharne you'll begin to notice the varied styles of architecture and grandiose Georgian houses, uncharacteristic of other Welsh towns in the area.
This was due to the fact that the Georgians began to visit Laugharne and treat it a kind of spa resort once a train line with Carmarthen was established and as a result, the town prospered.
Although the once flourishing harbour has long silted up, people began to visit Laugharne as a tourist destination and have been coming back ever since.
Take care walking along the narrow pavements and particularly when crossing the roads as despite its size, the town is a busy little place with plenty of holiday traffic and large delivery lorries navigating the narrow main road, in and out of the town.
4. Tin Shed Museum
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Heading onto Clifton Street we stopped at the 1940s Tin Shed Museum which specialise in WW2 cameras and memorabilia and has supplied a number of TV productions and Hollywood epics such as Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers with vintage camera equipment.
5. St Martin's Church - Dylan Thomas' grave
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Leaving the Tin Shed Museum walk a short distance along the road to St Martin's Church, where Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin are buried.
Walk through the lych gate and up the track towards the church. Turn right and cross a footbridge leading into the cemetery.
Dylan's grave is a very simple white, wooden cross located in the middle of the cemetery, towards the top of the field.
After paying our respects, we walked through an old iron kissing gate at the back of the cemetery and took a left and then a right turn leading onto a quiet country lane.
6. Ant's Lane
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Head in a north westerly direction for around half a mile until you reach a farm, signposted - Delacourse Uchaf farmhouse and turn right into Ant's Lane.
Follow the road around the bend and turn right into Ant's Lane leading to Delacourse Isaf. The lane down is signposted and along the way, you'll pass an old wooden sign labelled as 'Delacorse'.
Heading down a rough over grown track, you'll quickly find yourself in the midst of a pretty wood with overhanging trees - a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Laugharne.
7. Delacourse Isaf
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After around half a mile you'll come to a clearing next to Delacourse Isaf, with its impressive house, outbuildings and well stocked garden.
The track here is signposted as the Wales Coastal Path and you'll catch your first glimpse of the coast in the shape of the tranquil Taf estuary.
Walk down the lane past the house and gardens, passing through a metal gate and into open countryside. At the end you'll cross over a wooden stile next to a lovely old tree.
Keep left and head south east, skirting the bottom of a steep hill. This is a nice spot to stop for lunch if you're carrying food.
These days thousands of pilgrims arrive in the town to pay homage to Dylan Thomas but in centuries past, religious pilgrims passed through here on their way towards St David's. Just down river from here were two popular ferry crossing points.
After a brief stint on some open ground, you'll head into woods along a track above the estuary, passing old derelict stone houses, left-over from the cockle fishing industry that once flourished here.
The track is wide and has been well used for centuries but has steep drops down to the water so just be aware of where you're treading.
After ten minutes or so you'll be back in civilisation, walking below Laugharne Park caravan fields and back onto a tarmac path towards the Dylan Thomas Boathouse.
8. Dylan Thomas' Boathouse
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Dylan and his wife Caitlin lived in the boathouse, nestled into a cliff overlooking the Tâf Estuary, with their children, Aeronwy, Llewelyn and Colm from 1949 to 1953.
The boathouse owned by Carmarthenshire County Council, is now a museum with authentic furnishings and memorabilia. Looking out over the estuary, you begin to understand why Dylan fell in love with this area, with its views over Blaen Cwm, Llansteffan and Fern Hill.
Nearby is the quaint little writing shed where Dylan spent much of his time.
Follow the path known as Dylan's Walk back towards the town turning right onto Cliff Road. Turn left into Victoria Street and walk down Market Lane, passing the Seaview hotel and restaurant on your right.
At the end, turn left at Tyr Goets and then right, following the path leading down to the castle and estuary.
Passing the castle, cross over the stream and through the car park where you began the walk, towards Dylan's Birthday Walk, passing a wooden statue of Dylan Thomas.
This area of the estuary was once a busy harbour, exporting goods around the world. Nowadays the Taf estuary is part of the Carmarthen Bay Special Area of Conservation and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
9. Laugharne Castle
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The castle was first established in 1116 by the invading Normans and later attacked and re-taken countless times by the Welsh. It was later enlarged and the towering walls you see today were added.
Oliver Cromwell laid siege to the castle here during the Civil War and the dents made in the castle walls by the Roundheads can still be seen today.
Walk around the base of the castle and back to the Grist. Cross over the footbridge and veer left in the car park, following signs for Dylan's Birthday Walk.
10. Dylan's Birthday Walk
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Follow the strand beside the tidal salt-marsh marked Dylan's Birthday Walk and turn right, up into the woods taking in the views and information boards as you go. There are a few steep sections along this route and the ground is uneven in places so take your time.
The trail through the woods 'Milk Wood' has been inspired by a poem Dylan Thomas wrote on his 30th birthday - 'A Poem in October'.
It describes the view as you walk along the path and you will be walking in Dylan's footsteps, seeing the very scenery that inspired this exceptional poem.
Bob Stevens created this walk with the hope of making Laugharne the world's first birthday town, where visitors will walk the trail on their birthday every year and read, Thomas' words "O may my heart's truth still be sung on this high hill in a year's turning".
Whether you're into poetry or not, don't miss out on this section of the walk as the views a little further up are stunning, looking out over the castle opposite with the estuary and salt marshes below you.
Bob actually owns land along this section of the walk and has done a great job clearing trees and shrubs along certain sections to reveal the views and you'll find various benches along the way to sit on and enjoy the scenery.
The salt marshes have intricate patterns carved through them by the sea and are edged by golden sands at low tide.
The mud flats are rich in wildlife with all kinds of visiting wading birds, fish and seals and the occasional peregrine falcon.
It's a fascinating landscape, and some of this land has been reclaimed from the sea using a series of drainage ditches or 'reens' built in the 1600s and similar to the system used on the Gwent Levels.
You can clearly see two distinct shades of green grass, one, salt encrusted and washed out - covered daily by the high tide and the other a luscious green colour, protected by a sea wall from the salt water, and home to grazing cattle.
11. The Last Verse
After 10 minutes or so, you'll arrive at a lovely wooden sign post carved with the words 'The Last Verse' and a bench with the words "summery on the hills shoulder" on it.
Follow the path left, down the hill to the last information panel. If it happens to be your birthday say out loud 'The Last Verse' and sit and contemplate a years turning, enjoying the stunning, panoramic views towards Ginst Point, Gower and North Devon.
Retrace your footsteps back up the hill to the wooden 'Last Verse' sign and turn left.
The path along here can get a bit muddy at times but there are no real hazards.
Down in the dip to your left, you might catch a glimpse of the sea wall and the odd boat or two that Bob and his son Sam have salvaged.
After a while you'll spot a waymarker signposted 'To Laugharne over Sir John's Hill' which guides you off to the right. Follow the wooden steps up the hillside towards the stile and make your way into the fields above.
Take care along this stretch as the wooden steps and track can be a bit slippery under foot.
12. Sir John's Hill
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You'll now be standing at the bottom left hand side of a large field.
Head in a northerly direction towards the hedge at the top of the field and you'll find a stone stile to climb over if the gate is closed.
Medieval field system
You'll notice some buildings over to your right which are part of the old farm.
For our walk, we veered off to the left, following the hedge line along to a farm gate with views over an old medieval field system which can still be seen in the fields over to the right leading up the hill (green strips of land in photo).
Alternatively just follow the track diagonally through the field in a north easterly direction to the far right hand side of the field where you'll pick up the path again.
13. End of the walk: Return to the Grist car park
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Climb over the stile and turn left when you reach the road.
The last section is roughly half a mile in length. Walk down the hill along a quiet, wooded lane and just before you reach the A4066 turn right down Back Lane.
Follow the lane back down to the estuary and Grist car park where you began the walk.
Follow in Derek's footsteps as he walks through stunning locations in Wales.
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