"Dylan Thomas, without the traffic" Top 5 Page for this destination Laugharne by DerWisconsinWanderer

Laugharne Travel Guide: 41 reviews and 101 photos

Discovery

Three of us went to Laugharne - one for the fourth time, my fiancee for the third time, and me for the first. The town lived up to the promotions I had heard for the last several years. It's a small town, used to be a fishing village, and not very touristy, unless you count the English and their many holiday cottages in the area. Laugharne is located on the Pendine Sands and the estuary of the Taf River, so the tides, although not highly variable, are spectacular in the flats laid bare at the ebb.

It is Dylan Thomas country, as he spent the last part of his life there and is buried there, along with his wife Caitlin. Thomas is somewhat of a local industry, with his residence (the Boathouse) and his writing shed available for view. In that, Laugharne competes with Swansea. with its Dylan Thomas Centre and claims to residence along Wind Street.

Under Milkwood was Thomas's idea as a play for the locals to do about themselves, with a list of local characters much richer than, for example, Our Town or Spoon River Anthology. Although written as a radio play, it is often done as a staged production.

Arrival and festival

We arrived on a Saturday evening, in time to see evidence of the first day of the Laugharne Festival. We were treated to the sight of locals and visitors in the drizzle wandering from pub to pub in various states of fancy dress (costumes) following a day of rugby, family fun fair, and fancy dress competition. Sorry we missed that. The festival went on for a week, with evening events including a childrens theater production and a production of Under Milkwood performed by local amateur talent. Previous festivals have featured the play performed by professionals out of Swansea, but the locals (some more local than others) did an excellent job across the board, with a First Voice whose vocal talent, artistry, and dramatic technique were truly the equal of any first-rank bass baritone speaker - Richard Burton, James Earl Jones, John Gielgud, etc.

The festival week also included a travelling troupe out of Swansea performing The Tempest inside the ruins of Laugharne Castle, as part of an annual schedule of performances in castles across Wales. We sat on lawn chairs or blankets, ate fish and chips, drank wine, and watched the play performed against the outer wall of the Castle as the sun sank behind them. (Good for the actors, not so good for audience sitting on house right.)

Saturday included a community hymn sing, which we missed due to checkout day.

The town

The town is not heavily touristed, and thus lacks any huge array of gift shops. World of Wales is a standout, featuring art and crafts of Welsh and British producers. They sell nothing made in China. A silver smith around the corner sells his own work, along with other silver from UK artists and producers. Another shop on the Grist sells more in the way of T shirts, tea towels, knick-knacks, souvenirs and stuff. Otherwise the central shopping district is comporised of a tea room, a restaurant, a pub, a F&C takeaway shop, the rugby club bar (no food), and the Spar store.

The castle is a treat, and the walk along the estuary below the castle is a great, romantic stroll. You can walk up to the church and visit Dylan and Caitlin's graves, and wander in the old and the newer graveyards. The Three Mariners Pub (equipped with a proper snug) and the Brown's Hotel (a favorite Thomas watering hole) are all worthy stops for a beer or real ale. Neil Morrissey (musician and voice of Bob the Builder) has purchased Brown's, Three Mariners, and Hurst House (west of town) and the places are in various stages of reportedly sporadic restoration.

It's a restful town, but houses are being bought up and rented out as holiday cottages for vacationers, mostly by absentee UK residents. South Wales deserves more attention from North America. Side trips to Pendine (beach community surrounded by acres of mobile home parks), St. Govan's Chapel, South Broad Haven Beach, and St. David's are easy and worthwhile (thanks to our local friends). While we missed Pembroke Castle, we will return again to see more.

No public internet access or cafe that we found, had to go into Carmarthen for that. Minor problem!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:friendly, cozy; narrow streets; a real community.
  • Cons:Need a car, and the hourly bell on the town hall could use tightening
  • In a nutshell:A restful and real town. Dylan Thomas was right.
  • Last visit to Laugharne: Jul 2006
  • Intro Updated Aug 23, 2006
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DerWisconsinWanderer

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