- Skomer One of the best places to see bluebells in Wales – plus of course the puffins and other sea birds.
- Castle Woods at Dinefwr near Llandeilo.
- Aberglasney a very special place with some beautiful gardens.
- Dinas Nature reserve for those who love birds especially.
- Colby which is only half an hour away.
- Springwoods at The National Botanic Gardens of Wales near Carmarthen
- Paxton’s Tower is one of the top ten Carmarthen Tourist Attractions and has free entry.
- This Carmarthen landmark is a Neo Gothic Folly built to commemorate Lord Nelson.
- It has some magnificent views across the Towy Valley.
- Local legend says that this ‘folly’ was built out of spite. Paxton spent thousands of pounds trying to get elected to Parliament in 1802 only to be defeated by 45 votes. He built the tower instead of the bridge across the river Tywi that had been his election promise.
- A more likely explanation, though, is that the tower was built in the spirit of the times, as a place to wine and dine his guests and take in the panoramic views from this spot.
- It is now owned by The National Trust
- If visiting, a wonderful pub on the doorstep is The Golden Grove Arms and Wrights Independent Food Emporium in Llanarthne.
- Visitors staying at Old Oak Barn can take a wander if passing on their way back from Llandeilo or Aberglasney
Joe Short Photographer
This year we have had some wonderful visitors who have enjoyed exploring not only this beautiful valley here at Old Oak Barn but also the local area. One family stands out because of the lovely photos he took while here. Joe Short Wedding Photographer from Bath is someone I think would come up with some extraordinary photos if you are planning your special day.
This photo was taken on the bottom track of our woods in early September when we had had an unusually wet spell and there were even a few puddles! The one below shows the Fairy House almost hidden among trees.
Joe has travelled the world for clients and I get the feeling he would go that extra mile to ensure you could plan together for some memorable and very unique pictures. He was very personable and always had a smile on his face. I think their 5 year old daughter adored our chickens – I don’t think I have met a child who was so focussed on them and it was a struggle to get her out of the run after collecting the eggs. She was completely fearless. We often check the sheep with visitors and if they want to get involved when we have to move them then of course all help is welcome!
Thank you to Joe Short Photographer for sending some photos for me to use in this short blog!
Severn Toll Scrapped 2018
Big news today – the Severn Toll is to be scrapped next year in 2018. It was never meant to last for more than 25 years after a deal was struck to build a second crossing in 1992. It has now been announced that promises are to be kept and charging will cease soon.
Read about it in today’s paper The Guardian
We think our visitors will approve! Old Oak Barn is always open all year round for business! I am not sure how scrapping the charge is meant to boost the Welsh economy by the quoted 100 million but we are not complaining. As from next year both the old and new Severn Bridges will be operated by Highways England when they return to public ownership.
The Old Severn Bridge was opened in September 1966 and I remember well the day my father took us for a day trip into Wales that month. It cost a total of £8 million then to build and took over three years to complete! The picture below shows people being allowed to walk over it that day. I am sure it was a talking point for many weeks.
Best places to see Bluebells in Wales
People often wonder where are the best places to see bluebells in Wales – well here at Old Oak Barn we have our own 40 acre Allt Cwmpalis which visitors can roam freely. It is a semi natural ancient woodland we have been managing for 30 years and provides a haven for birds, wildlife, flora and fauna. These are all typical scenes I took myself with my iphone in early May in our bluebell woods here at Old Oak Barn in 2016.
This particular shot below was taken in a small patch of clearfell which has been replanted with cherry, which if you look carefully you can see are growing well.
We are so fortunate to be able to see this beautiful sight every year and for those planning a visit in early May the photos below show other scenes taken in the woods in 2016. The swing which hangs off the old oak is much loved by children and adults!
But if while staying here you would like to visit other locations which have bluebells then we can suggest a visit to the following :-
Sometimes there are guided walks for those who love a Bluebell Walk which if you were staying at Old Oak Barn in the first week of May would be ideal. The link will take you to the day planned for Skomer on 8 May which is probably the best week in the whole year to visit the island. Currently we still have some availability early May! From 1 May for a 4 night break. There are lots of videos on youtube which can prepare you for the amazing scenery in May – Yvonne Stanley posted this one of the Skomer Bluebells for example.
Year of Legends 2017
Wales is having a Year of Legends 2017 next year when tourism will be thinking about promoting attractions and events to people across the world! Carmarthenshire is one of the most mythical landscapes in Britain. Its many legends give us all a sense of place and there are lots to choose from if you want to visit somewhere nearby where these stories occured.
Special events will focus on some of the great Welsh Legends for example Hedd Wyn and Hywel dda. The Year of Legends is about the old infused with the modern day. It’s about showcasing the real Wales in a way that is alive with fresh talent and ideas. It’s about being unmistakably Wales and Welsh and internationally outstanding. But the Year of Legends isn’t simply about telling a tale. It’s about immersing people in an epic story. It’s about creating legendary experiences for everyone. And finding the legend within us all!
The most local stories concern the Merched Beca or Rebecca Riots when men dressed as women in disguise and smashed up the toll gates one of which was in St Clears. In 1837 and 1838 the whole country suffered very poor harvests, worse in this part of Wales and awful rain forced farmers to buy corn at famine prices to feed themselves, their animals and their families, which further eroded what little capital they had. Grain harvests collapsed and in 1839 the first protests led by “Rebecca” destroyed the toll-gates at Yr Efail Wen in two attacks in Carmarthenshire. The next time the Rebeccas assembled was roughly three years later, when Tom Bullin was allowed to raise a tollgate by the Mermaid Tavern near St Clears. Its a great story and although true some embellishments have crept into the surviving legend.
What else is happening in Year of Legends 2017?
Maps, information and events to promote legendary walks across Wales such as the Wales Coast Path (first of its kind in the world), Glyndŵr’s Way, Offa’s Dyke Path. Legendary food experiences — will give visitors the chance to sample the best local produce, such as Welsh Mead. Storytelling sessions will be organised. Local legends will be celebrated and pop up events are being planned. Here at Old Oak Barn we are making plans to be involved as well!
Old Oak Barn is well situated for you to get involved in local and community events so watch this space for more information!
Some of the more famous legends include Twm Sion Cati,
The Lady of Llyn Fach is a wonderful example of a beautiful story – watch this short youtube video to learn a little more.
Merlin is one of the more local myths to us here at the cottage. He was it is said born and brought up in Carmarthen and some will remember the Old Oak which disappeared in 1982 and the surrounding myth.
Over the next few weeks we will be writing a few more blogs about Wales Legends and Myths.
Parc Y Bocs
Parc Y Bocs is a farm shop, a great new children’s play area and lots more too! The fresh veggies are renowned in the area for being tasty and are available all year round. Situated not far from Kidwelly and only about 15 minutes from Carmarthen they are well worth a visit if staying at Old Oak Barn. The cafe serves up simple food every day and you can also buy as takeaway too. There are some wonderful original gifts in the shop some of which are made locally! For many years Burns have been leaders locally in healthy pet food supplies also known as Burns Real Food for Dogs, Cats and Rabbits. The mixes were developed by John Burns himself in 1993 after as a vet he noticed how crucial food was to the recovery and of course the health and well being of pets. He developed simple foods which are intended to allow the body to function naturally. So all the pet foods are made from the highest quality ingredients and without any pharmacologically active supplements. I like the sound of that!
Parc Y Bocs play area is really well designed and is ideal for small children. They even have smaller sized picnic tables. Adjacent is the pond and further down the slope are some wonderful gardens where all sorts of things are grown. I was struck by how neat and tidy everything was and its clear a lot of pride is taken into running the gardens well. The chicken on the right here I bought in the shop – it now stands proud and tall in Old Oak Barn by the french windows! I couldn’t resist it! There are some beautiful chickens at Parc Y Bocs which run towards visitors who want to feed them – just like our chickens here! They too are in a fantastic run with all mod cons! Below you see the old grey fergie which gives lots of children hours of fun. We used to have one 40 years ago when we first moved to Wales and lived in the north of Carmarthenshire near Brechfa Forest! Do go and visit Parc Y Bocs when in the area – the service is always excellent and I think you will love it!
Garden of Wales
Only a short drive from Old Oak Barn, The National Botanic Gardens of Wales have some great events coming up this Autumn. The garden is both a visitor attraction and a centre for research and conservation. It has the world’s largest single-span glasshouse measuring 110m long by 60m wide designed by Lord Foster. Nearly all our visitors drop in for the afternoon or for longer. During this summer 2015 children have been treated to lots of extra activities. We think you too will enjoy a visit this Autumn. It is one of Carmarthenshire’s top attractions!
The programme for September at The Garden of Wales is as follows:-
Orchid Festival (the 5th and 6th);
World music ‘Month of Sundays’ (6th, 13th, 20th & 27th);
Chrysanthemum Weekend (12th and 13th);
Food Fair (September 19-20);
Over 50s Day – with Special VIP guest Esther Rantzen on the 25th;
MG car rally on the 27th;
Tuesday Tours of the Great Glasshouse (Sep 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29).
Please visit their website for lots more information on what to expect. It is open nearly every single day of the year from 10.am. Just closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day infact!
West Wales Museum of Childhood
If you want to take a stroll down Memory Lane or re-live your childhood then why not visit this lovely little museum near Newcastle Emlyn. There are many displays of dolls and teddies plus daleks, old cars and lorries and dolls houses of many ages. we think there is something for everyone, no matter what the weather . . . You can have food in the tea-room, or an ice cream, or just enjoy the fresh air and the views . . . , all set in 12 acres of beautiful Carmarthenshire countryside. Check out their website
The Museum is open all year round and celebrates 10 years in 2015 and in that time it has grown to become a popular tourist attraction and educational resource in West Wales.
ADMISSION CHARGES TO THE MUSEUM
Child £3.50 (no charge if under 5 years old)
Family ticket £14.00 (2 adults, up to 3 children)
There are more than 10,000 items on display in the five galleries of the museum, some of which may be viewed on the Museum’s official website. Exhibits include toys, dolls, model trains, model cars, teddy bears, toy soldiers, tin toys, costumes, pinball machines, games, a period schoolroom, and household items. There are many toys and collectible items related to movies and television shows, including Doctor Who, Batman, The Avengers and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
The museum is about 35 minutes away from Old Oak Barn.
The youtube video below will give you a good idea of what to expect!
We had a fantastic day out at Skomer last week and certainly for many visitors this is the highlight of their week in Wales.
The bluebells were amazing!
If you stay at Old Oak Barn it will mean an early start to catch the ferry at Martins Haven but that is all part of the adventure. The crossing to Skomer only takes about 10 – 15 minutes. The booking system has changed now and is much better in that as soon as you arrive you go to the award winning visitor centre Lockley Lodge and get your tickets for the boarding which will be from 10 O’clock onwards. There is a fee of approx £11 for the crossing and £10 for the landing so for £21 per adult it is not cheap but well worth it! SO if you catch the 12 noon ferry you can go for a walk to Deer’s Park for example and then just queue for the boat 10 minutes before departure.
We can provide maps and directions for visitors wanting to explore this beautiful little island. Approx 1.5 miles across and 2 miles wide it is fairly tiring but where else can you see porpoises, puffins, short eared owls, guillemots, razorbills and of course big Skomer rabbits all in the same place! Visit Skomer and we don’t think you will be disappointed at all!
See Skomer Puffins and stay at Puffin House in Broad Haven.
Visiting Skomer to see the puffins has to be one of the most wonderful day trips if staying in Pembrokeshire between the months of May and July. The little birds return in April from their winter base in the Southern Hemisphere and settle on the island of Skomer to breed. Each pair will usually lay one egg underground where it is safe from the herring gulls which torment not only the puffins but especially the manx shearwater who also breed on the little island. There are normally over 10,000 breeding pairs of Puffins on Skomer and Skokholm Islands, making them one of the most important Puffin colonies in Britain. They arrive in mid-April to nest in burrows, many of which have been dug by the island’s large rabbit population. The last Puffins leave the island by the second or third week in July. Puffins feed mainly on small fish and Sand Eels; often they can be seen with up to a dozen small eels in their beaks.
As everyone knows the storms this year have been some of the worst for a hundred years in this part of Wales. Luckily we are told that the damage on the island seems to be minimal although some guttering has been wrenched off the buildings. Of more concern though are the reports starting coming in from France of large numbers of seabirds washing up on beaches, including Puffins in the Bay of Biscay region. Amongst the Puffins were three juveniles that were fitted with geolocators last year on Skomer. Latest figures are suggesting that 25,000 birds have been effected and that over 14,500 Puffins may have died not all from Skomer but some certainly have suffered.
This photo was taken in February 2014 and shows the bodies of puffins washed up on a beach in Sainte-Marie-de-Re, western France, after heavy storms. This could not be coming at a worst time for our seabirds. It is at about this time of year that Razorbills and Guillemots return to the Pembrokeshire islands to claim their places on the sea cliffs and some of the birds were in breeding plumage. With a high chance of local birds being involved the long term studies of these important colonies are more urgent than ever. It is therefore devastating that NRW (National resources Wales) have we are told just withdrawn funding for one of Skomers most important and longest running monitoring programmes.
The Skomer wardens, Ed and Bee, are hoping to get back onto the island later this week in March once their boat is repaired and no doubt will post something on the Skomer blog when they return. Ed has recently posted some graphic details of the huge seabird wreck which is mainly centred in the Bay of Biscay but has also seen a few hundred dead birds in Pembrokeshire.
However despite the gloom we are sure the puffins will be back breeding soon on Skomer and if you do want to visit the island then its worth having a look at Puffin House seaside apartment in Broad Haven to see if they have availability for your stay – Availability Calendar or check out Old Oak Barn which also has an up to date availability calendar too.