The Towy Valley is one of the most beautiful in the whole of Wales; the River Towy itself is the longest flowing river entirely in Wales, at over 75 miles. In the distance of the picture above you can see Dryslwyn Castle a famous landmark in the Towy Valley. But there are several castles in the Towy Valley.
The river rises in the Cambrian Mountains of Mid Wales and with its tributaries flows into Llyn Brianne a lake created in the late 1960s to control the flow of the river to provide water extraction further down the valley. This lake ran very low this summer 2018 when there was a shortage of rainfall and the flooded buildings were exposed once again.
From the wilds of Mid Wales the Towy flows past the many pretty but small market towns in the county, of Llandovery, Llandeilo and Carmarthen and then past Llansteffan into Carmarthen Bay. As it enters the sea, The Towy is joined by the Rivers Gwendraeth and Taf. It is the Taf which comes out at Laugharne to which many of our visitors go and are astounded at the tranquil beauty of the estuary. The Towy Valley has an abundance of birdlife including dippers, grey wagtails and cormorants and is famous for salmon and sewin and more recently otters too. If you go to Paxtons Tower near Llanarthne you will get wonderful views of the valley.
In recent years Carmarthenshire and the Towy Valley in particular have become one of the most popular cycling destinations in the UK.
Visit this link here here if you are keen to find out about the many cycle trails which have been developed in the valley. Or click here to see our previous blog. If you would like to bring your bikes when staying at Old Oak Barn we have safe and secure storage available.
The youtube link below says it all!
Photos courtesy of Discover Carmarthenshire – thank you.
Did you know that the recently opened Carmarthen Velodrome is generally accessible for free between the hours of 9 and 6 during the week provided it is not hosting a tournament. If staying at Old Oak Barn and you have brought your bikes why not pop along for some practice! Provided you go anti clockwise and take note of the rules which are on display by the grandstand you will be very welcome. Managed by the Town Council, it was decided to continue with the tradition of not charging for its use as this had always been how it was operating – to encourage the people of Carmarthen to enjoy the Park and what it has to offer. Phone Laura on 07794 024952 who will answer any questions I am sure.
The Velodrome is one of the oldest in Europe and certainly the oldest in Wales. It is one of only a handful which has been built with concrete. But its big claim to fame is that its the only one with a rugby pitch in the middle of it! Around 12 games a year are played on the pitch and then of course the velodrome is shut for cyclists.
Click here to see a short clip from the Carmarthen Velodrome facebook page which will give an idea of what to expect.
So, we are lucky enough to have one of the oldest velodromes in Wales, if not the world, here in Carmarthenshire just 15 minutes from Old Oak Barn. Built in 1900, the velodrome at Carmarthen Park – home to the Towy Riders Cycle Club – has now been refurbished with all 232 concrete surface panels that make up the track replaced, along with a new safety zone built along the inside perimeter and a safety fence around the outside edge. As well as being used for training by local clubs and the community, it is hoped the velodrome will become a regional centre of excellence for hosting national and international cycling competitions. Great little Tea Room in the park too!
Its amazing to think that had the velodrome been in operation when the Welsh cyclist Geraint Thomas was learning to ride a bike he may well have cycled there because as we know his family is from Carmarthenshire. What a hero he is! Now an MBE he is one of the most popular British professional racing cyclists. He currently rides for the UCI WorldTeam Team Sky, Wales and Great Britain. Competing on both track and road, he has won three World Championships, two Olympic gold medals and one Tour de France. I was lucky enough to see him whizz through Carmarthen in September in the Tour of Britain. The two photos below I myself took in Pensarn – it was only when I looked closely at them later that day I realised who I had snapped.
© Copyright Charlotte – permission needed for last two photos to use please
Little Toadstool DesignsDo you have a teething baby? A visitor staying at Old Oak Barn recently has just started up her own business selling soothing teethers for little ones who like to chew. What a great idea! I imagine there is a demand for babies who like to chew on their mothers necklaces!
Anyone looking for a teether that you can wear so baby isn’t dropping it and you’re not forever wiping it, have a look on Kirsty’s facebook page. Just search for “Little Toadstool Designs.” She has created some fab designs and colours.
Also at @littletoadstooldesign
Old Oak Barn is a very child friendly holiday cottage and if you are thinking of staying in 2019 please check our availability calendar here.
Barafundle Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of Wales and has even made it in the worlds top 100 beaches. It is less than an hours drive from Old Oak Barn and many of our visitors spend a day on this fantastic beach.
It is extraordinary to think it was once the private beach of the Cawdor Family who lived on the Stackpole Estate. Today it is managed by the National Trust. It is only accessible on foot but the walk from Stackpole Quay is less than half a mile. Several steps have to be negotiated but it is not a hard walk overall. There are no amenities there which I think enhances the whole experience. Many holiday makers pop into the Boat House Tea Rooms at Stackpole Quay on the way home for tasty fresh food. The photos in this blog I took in late September when we last visited this popuar part of South Pembrokeshire and are all copyright but you can share if you ask me!
London Walking Tours
We get lots of visitors from abroad – mostly from Europe but often from Canada, America, New Zealand and parts of the Middle East. Some stay in London before or after their stay in Wales. If you are thinking of visiting the big city and want to organise a London Walking Tour then we can recommend giving Jonnie at Bowl of Chalk a shout as he is bound to meet your needs. He stayed with us here at Old Oak Barn recently although it wasn’t until after he had left that I realised what he actually did. I am sure if you want to learn some fascinating facts about the history of London then Jonnie is the person to get in touch with.
You only have to check out his reviews on Trip Advisor to see that he is very highly rated 14th out of 788 London Walking Tours in the whole of the city! Bowl of Chalk also features in the top 101 favourite things to do in London!
If you’d like to join one of the regular Weekend Walks it’s really, really important that you book ahead. You can find all the details of how to contact Jonnie on his website. Talking of which it is packed full of great photos and articles which demonstrate clearly the depth of Jonnie’s knowledge and expertise.
The Cultural Exposé wrote that “this is not your standard walking tour and working on a tipping policy (just pay what you can) Jonnie is not your standard tour operator ….. a friendly way to learn more about London.”
Jonnie AKA JJ Fielding has also written a book – he is clearly passionate about London – and very knowledgeable too.
Just a reminder that if you would like to stay at Old Oak Barn you can check out availability here.
Diablos Queen Street Carmarthen
This summer Diablos Queen Street opened in Carmarthen. Under the same ownership as the lovely Diablos on the Quay where many of our visitors dine while staying here at Old Oak Barn, we are sure you will be impressed by the thought that has gone into this new venture. Right in the centre of town parking is easy and in the evening free parking at County Hall is recommended as its only a minute away.
Alex Luck the owner is well known in Carmarthen for his high standards of cuisine and of customer care. I have been twice now to the new Diablos on Queen Street and both times was really impressed with the service. The new assistant manager is I know determined to make sure customers are always more than satisfied – she too is well known in Carmarthen. Together with the cheery bar staff the team already in place is bound to to be a success!
We chose food off the specials board which included vegetarian tacos with salad and sweet potato fries ….. mmmmm ….. great value too at less than £7.
We were thrilled to supply some of the old timbers used in the renovation in particular the bar area. Overhead and cleverly supporting the light fittings are some wonderful pieces of elm which were felled in Carmarthenshire many years ago and have been seasoning under cover here near St Clears for years! The two boards roughly 10 ft long and a foot wide make a great feature on entering Diablos. The electrician tells me they were perfect for the job!
Diablos can be reached on 01267232755
Live Music every Friday and Saturday!
Booking advisable at weekends. If you are staying with us and would like us to book you a table that can be arranged! You can check availability here!
Closed Mondays only.
October Half Term 2018
Now fully booked for both October half terms.
We have space from Wednesday 31 October for 4 nights for the total cost of £300. If you would like to come and stay for a few days this October Half Term 2018 then please get in touch.We have recently had a cancellation and so are pleaded to offer this short break to anyone wanting a holiday with children. The barn is very well equipped for families wanting to get away from a busy routine and relax in quiet accommodation in truly stunning countryside.
Old Oak Barn is very child friendly and we know we go the extra mile to make you feel welcome. Please check out our reviews if you would like to know a little more or browse the website for more details.
There is lots to do whatever the weather and we doubt you will be unable to find something to suit everyone. Old Oak Barn sleeps 4 but we often squeeze a fifth little one in on an extra bed or in the travel cot.
If you are around when the sheep have to be moved you may be asked to help! Its not compulsory!
The barn is heated by a biomass boiler which runs on dry logs from our own woodlands and we can promise you wont be cold. The interior is spacious and very comfortable and is ideal for short breaks or for longer.
Phone or email for immediate response – we always get back to enquiries promptly!
Xcel Bowl Carmarthen
15 minutes from Old Oak Barn is the popular Xcel Bowl Carmarthen centre where you can spend an entertaining time playing bowls in the recently refurbished space. The soft play area is perfect for little ones and I myself have spent many hours with my grandchildren and friends and happily recommend it for families. Children love the techy aspects of the 10 pin bowling set up where players for example can take photos to display temporarily on personal scoring screens above the alley. Food for sale in the cafe is freshly prepared and very tasty.
Earlier this year Xcel Bowl Carmarthen which is a registered charity as well as a social enterprise was awarded Gold in the Community Tourism Awards by The Carmarthenshire Tourism Association who recognised the brilliant facilities and great attention given to customer care plus of course the huge part the project plays in supporting its local community.
Xcel Bowl is part of the Xcel Project and The Xcel Project was founded by Towy Community Church. Open now for five years all the profits go towards supporting local people in need through Carmarthen Foodbank, Xcel Community Shop and Xcel Furniture. Over 40 people are employed within the project which is a fantastic achievement in such a short time.
Xcel Bowl Carmarthen is open 7 days a week from 10.00 in the morning until 10pm except for Sundays when it closes at 6pm.
If you would like to know a little more about the project please watch this short film which is very informative.
So …. we have learnt that the profits from Xcel Bowl go into supporting local residents within Carmarthenshire some of whom face crisis times in their lives – through the Foodbank, the Furniture Store and the Charity Shop all of which are on the same site. I hope you agree after you have been bowling what a great project we have on our doorstep!
If you would like to check availability of Old Oak Barn click here!
Tea Traders Carmarthen
Tea Traders Carmarthen is a speciality tea shop located in the very centre of our local market town. Recently the small independent company has won awards for its great customer service and for being one of the most exciting new tourism businesses in the county. Congratulations! While you are staying at Old Oak Barn we can recommend this lovely new establishment for an amazing choice of tea but also some great tasty fresh food. They also sell the finest loose leaf teas and beautiful gifts for the home some of which have been locally made by popular craftsmen.
I popped in the other day and was given a warm Welsh welcome by Nick and Paul. They opened Tea Traders towards the end of 2017 and already have proved a very popular addition to the town.
We sat outside in lovely sunshine and enjoyed a delicious snack. The lemon drizzle cake and the Ginger loaf were very fresh and beautifully made.
A customer has kindly made them some knitted cakes some of which are on display – I don’t think they are for sale though! But recently they have started stocking a small range of locally made crafts – all original from local craftspeople.
15 Guildhall Square,
Carmarthen, SA31 1PR
Tel: 01267 237101
Open every day except Sundays from 9.00. a.m.
Shoreline Cafe Saundersfoot
Renovated in the past couple of years you will find the cafe overlooking the beach with access from the street which leads to the tunnels. The balcony is only small but if you are lucky enough to get there before others you can sit with a wonderful view across the bay and imagine you are on the Med. If you park in Wisemans Bridge, as many do, and take the short walk across the beach if the tide is well out or through the tunnels if the tide is in, it will be one of the first cafes you come to. While reviews are a little mixed online we loved our coffee and tea cakes!
The picture below is of the harbour at the southern side of Saundersfoot – currently Phase 2 of the Harbour development is taking place in the small town which may well see a boost to tourism in the area generally ……. you can read about it …. here!
The plans are impressive and intend to :-
- Establish a base for maritime engineering
- Develop a Pan Wales Marine Tourism Centre in partnership with maritime organisations and Governing bodies, creating a single point of contact for all maritime leisure activities along the Welsh coastline.
- establish a RYA academy for sail and power
Support facilities and teaching base for sea rowing / sea kayaking / diving and paddle boarding
- develop food, retail and short stay accommodation in the town.
Carmarthen Food Assembly
While you are staying at Old Oak Barn why not start your holiday with a locally sourced organic veg box? If you are staying for a week this summer and would like to buy some organic veggies grown in the local area then please get in touch with me and I shall arrange to buy this for you through the Carmarthen Food Assembly.
These days many people care deeply where they can best source their food and although we have always recycled plastic waste here at Old Oak Barn it is still very satisfying to collect products which have limited packaging and zero plastic.
Currently there are 18 producers who live on average 16 Miles from Carmarthen selling 516 local products.
I cannot organise a big shop for you but I am quite happy to source their veg box which I would pick up from Carmarthen on Thursday evening ready for your stay which would begin on the Friday. I need to order this by the Monday before your arrival and can only offer this service to visitors staying for a week or longer at the moment.
An organic, fresh and delicious selection of seasonal Welsh produce. The boxed selection will feed a family of 2 or 4 for a week. All items are grown on Blaencamel Organic Farm which is carbon neutral and award winning! It is north of Carmarthen near Aberaeron and has long been established as a leader in the growing of organic fruit, vegetable and herbs too. Funnily enough we used to visit the farm back in 1975 when it was just getting going!
The contents will vary throughout the year depending on which crops are in season which ensures you get the freshest seasonal produce and eat a varied diet throughout your stay. Ordering this veg selection removes the sometimes tricky decision about what to order and you can create your meals around the veg you receive!
At the moment the selection typically includes new carrots, new potatoes, strawberries, a mixed salad pack, spinach, baking/roasting potatoes, green garlic, parsley and more!
7kg – 9kg for a family of 4 will cost approx £15.50
4kg – 5.5kg for 2 people will cost approx £11.50
The Assembly here in Carmarthen has been up and running for just over a year now and is surely a good way to think about how and where to buy your food. If I have extra in my organic vegetable plot I always offer visitors something fresh to try. There is usually a glut of tomatoes and cucumbers in the summer and sometimes lettuce and spinach leaves too. All these photos below were taken in my veg garden in June 2018. Everything growing well in the hot weather during May.
Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2018
We heard today we have been awarded for the fourth consecutive year the Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor. Hooray!
Thank you to everyone who chooses to come and stay here at Old Oak Barn and then leaves a review too! We are always very appreciative when visitors take the time and trouble to post a few words of their holiday.
Here are a few snippets of recent comments in the last few weeks.
“Our girls loved exploring the forest, and finding the fairy door, as well as talking to the chickens! Charlotte was very welcoming, and gave us great advice for …
“Had the most perfect two night stay in this beautiful barn conversation. Long peaceful walk in the surrounding woodlands. Comfy bed, big mugs for morning tea on the patio whilst wrapped in a blanket (thoughtfully provided) Evening spent in front of a chiminea fire watching ….
“Our March 2018 stay at Old Oak Barn was absolutely perfect in every way. Heavy snow thwarted our journey down from NW England but Charlotte kindly allowed us to postpone our 5-night holiday by a week, so we got there in the end …..
“Best place to stay. I have been to a lot of places but found this one the best of the best……
“Charlotte was a lovely hostess who showed us around the house and told us about the places to visit. It was like being in dream ….
“The Barn is lovely and warm with its underfloor heating and the stay was as comfortable as always. This feels like a second home and we settle in very quickly…….
I think if we are awarded for a fifth consecutive year there may be a special award! Lets wait and see what happens!!!
Green Heron Pembrokeshire
A very rare visitor to this country arrived here last Saturday 28th April. It seems to have set up camp in the grounds of our local MP. It is less than 30 minutes from Old Oak Barn!
I am off to see if I can see it shortly. Maybe our visitors at Old Oak Barn will want to see it too!
And this is a picture I took whilst there. That Thursday afternoon when I went along it was cloudy but the views of the bird were brilliant. I have no fancy camera as you can see but if you go onto twitter you will see hundreds of fantastic shots of this wonderful bird. When I went there were only about 8 people who had come from Yorkshire, Staffs, Shropshire, London, Pembs and one other person from near St Clears. It was well worth the visit.
Folly Farm Accommodation – If you are planning to visit Folly Farm this summer why not choose a holiday cottage within an easy drive from this great Welsh attraction! Visitors staying with us here at Old Oak Barn especially if they have children nearly always go to the Park – many take advantage of the “boomerang” voucher paying only half price entry fee if returning for a second visit within a week.
Opening Hours at Folly Farm
- 0 February – 04 November, 10am – 5pm, every day (during our local Easter, Whitsun and Summer school holidays we stay open until 5.30pm for even more fun!)
- 10 November – 23 December, 10am – 4pm, Saturdays and Sundays only
- We’re closed completely from 24 December 2018 until 05 January 2019
Take a look at the map below which will give you a great idea of the huge range of attractions and activities now open at Folly Farm.
2018 prices are valid until 15 February 2019. This year, there has been an increase in the online discount so you can now save 15% by buying our day entry tickets online. Annual pass prices again.
|Gate price||Online price||Annual pass|
|Child (3-15 years)||£13.50||£11.48||£40.00|
|Toddler (aged 2)||£6.50||£5.53||£15.00|
These photos were taken by visitors staying here. The giraffes are always popular but our favourite has to be the little penguins! You cannot fail but be entertained by them as they swoop in and out of the water.
We are nearly full this summer here at Old Oak Barn but we do have one week in July and one week in August still available – you can check out availability by clicking above on the Booking and Availability tab.
Chalara disease also known as Ash dieback was first reported officially in the immediate area surrounding Old Oak Barn in 2015. Today there is a very wide range of healthy trees in the woods. Sadly we, like many woodland owners, are now dealing with what will almost certainly turn out to be a significant tree disease of this century – Ash Dieback. Hymenoscyphus fraxineus is an Ascomycete fungus that causes ash dieback, a chronic fungal disease of ash trees in Europe characterised by leaf loss and crown dieback in infected trees. This winter we have begun taking out infected trees many of which we planted here in 1998. Initially they grew very well but in the last two or three years it has become obvious they are diseased. Infact there is hardly a single Ash tree in this part of the world that is not affected. The picture below shows some of the felled ash in March 2018.
You can read more about this threatening disease here!
What other trees grow in Cwmpalis Woods?
The woods here are predominantly hardwood. It was almost certainly clearfelled during the first world war 1914-1918 so there are very few trees which are over 100 years old. Subsequent plantings have been undertaken in 1998 and in 2005 covering approximately 5 to 6 acres in total. They have been very sensitively managed since we arrived here in 1988 and indeed one of the main factors in helping us decide to buy the farm was the presence of the lovely 40 acre Semi Natural Ancient Woodland. It is quite a landmark in the locality and is easily visible from the A40 as you begin to drop down into St Clears from the east. We are fortunate to have mainly south facing land. The woods of course are managed under strict National Assembly for Wales regulations with licenses running and sometimes work is undertaken under specific grant aided schemes.
The list includes:-
Small Leaf Lime
We encourage all our visitors to wander in the woods on the many woodland trails and weather permitting we offer a 4 by 4 trip in the truck also which is very popular. However this winter has been one of the wettest on record and the land is far too wet still to go far around the circuit.
This photo below shows Old Oak Barn in the foreground with the main woods clearly visible behind.