Carmarthenshire’s Best Rides
Late last Wednesday I loaded up the ŠKODA with so much stuff that my husband actually asked me if I was planning on returning. My daughter and I were going to Wales, specifically Carmarthenshire for a short holiday and as keen cyclists, avid readers and lovers of the outdoors we both had multiple footwear options, stacks of books and all manner of waterproof garments.
We also had three bikes and a scooter for a trip lasting three days. I sometimes wonder how simple and easy it must be for travellers without hobbies such as mine and daydream about breezing through airports with merely a backpack. But the faff of going places with everything you require to enjoy yourself is very much worthwhile so I tolerate it. And I tolerate the mountains of washing we generate on our return, though naturally, I complain about it.
After a long drive that took us past my usual turn off for Bike Park Wales and deeper into the country that I’m so fond off, we arrived in the tiny village of Ferryside. In pitch black with the rain lashing down we could have been anywhere, so little could I see. We quickly settled into our accommodation, Foreshore Tides, immediately feeling cosy as we curled up on the sofa with tea and toast thanks to owner Rik’s donation of bread and milk.
The following morning we woke to clear skies and a wonderful view of the sea from our balcony. I’m very fond of quiet, empty places and admired the vast expanse of openness in front of us. It being November, the beach had beautiful smooth, damp sand with barely a footprint troubling it whilst the sky’s cool, washed-out blue was soothing to the eye.
We were itching to ride and though Ferryside is ideally suited to road cycling (the Ferry Cabin Cafe is clearly popular with cyclists) I wanted to explore some family-friendly routes and take the little one on some of the best flat, traffic-free rides in Carmarthenshire. I also wanted to sample the finest road cycling in the area. Here’s what I found.
The best rides for families in Carmarthenshire
Millenium Coastal Path
Our first stop just had to be Pembrey Country Park, a destination in its own right – the beaches and adventure playground are first rate – but also the start/end of the Millenium Coastal Path.
The path is a 13-mile trail that follows the route of the Wales Coastal Path with views of the estuary and the Gower, and numerous stop-off points for playing, eating and exploring. We found it so relaxing, just pottering along in the sun with no agenda other than admiring the view and enjoying ourselves.
There are several particularly nice stretches – at one end you’ve the Wetlands Centre which is certainly worth a visit, but our favourite part were the wild, empty dunes before Pembrey Harbour and the little seaside town Burry Port. At Whitfords we enjoyed food that put smiles on both our faces – prawn cocktail for me, fish fingers for the little one – and were really well taken care of by the owner.
Amman Valley Trail
There are many good reasons to ride the Amman Valley Trail – it’s a flat, easy ride, plenty of it is traffic-free and as it’s only 8 miles long, it’s manageable for most. Extending from Pantyffynnon to Brynamman along the River Amman, this leisurely ride affords great views of the Black and Betws Mountains. There’s a tiny suspension bridge and plenty of wildlife to spot and the route passes Garnant where there is an adventure playground and a rough-and-ready kid’s bike circuit.
Ynys Dawela Nature Park is a lovely spot for a wander and a picnic though we opted for lunch at the seriously fantastic Roastery Canteen at Coaltown Coffee in Ammanford. I can’t vouch for the cakes as we didn’t have any but the wood-fired pizza, soup, sourdough and coffee were first rate.
Best road rides in Carmarthenshire
After ticking off these rides with my daughter on her bike seat, it was time to spread my wings a little further and head off into the mountains. There are numerous routes you can take from Llanelli, Carmarthen or Llandeilo but I just had to climb the biggest and best mountain in the area – Black Mountain.
The 200-year-old Black Mountain pass, which runs from Llangadog to Brynamman, was originally constructed to transport coal but has since appeared in numerous car programmes and commercials, such is its wild beauty. Despite being an A-road (in fact a few of the roads we took were national roads) there was little to no traffic and in fact, very few cyclists (actually, I’m struggling to recall seeing any!).
The climb is very enjoyable with a steady gradient and far-reaching views – just the kind that I like – and formed part of a very enjoyable loop that also took in the Betws mountain. Have a look at the video below for a rundown of our day or here is the route on Strava.
All in all, the trip was a fine one. We crammed a lot into our short time there, maybe stay a little longer next time but the trip was a good taste of what the area has to offer. If you’re thinking of riding in this part of Wales yourself, here are some details you might find useful with links to the places we enjoyed the most:
Accommodation: Foreshore Tides. We loved our little house by the seaside and 100% want to stay there again! The location is superb, it’s secluded in the quiet village of Ferryside anyway but Foreshore tides takes things one step further – you’re all on your own over the railway line, right next to the sea so it couldn’t get more peaceful.
Whitford’s, Bury Port. Homely place run by a nice Greek man with lots of lovely looking cakes. Accomodation available upstairs.
Prid o Fwyd, Ferryside. This place was totally unexpected. You walk around into what looks like an industrial estate and there at the back is a lovely restaurant with fine food and kind staff. The little one was well looked after with a children’s menu and crayons and we fresh, delicately cooked fish.
Old Moat House Inn, Kidwelly: Really great small plates – we shared smoked salmon, tofu katsu curry, some of the best chips I’ve ever tasted and finished up with Jam Roly Poly and custard. The craft beer selection is great too.