Carmarthen (Caerfyrddin in Welsh) is the county town of Carmarthenshire in West Wales. It lies on the River Towy and claims to be the oldest town in Wales.
The Ubiquitous Merlin
Some variants of the Arthurian legend claim that Merlin was born outside the town and that he lies imprisoned in a cave in nearby Bryn Myrddin (Merlin's Hill), which stands right by the A40 trunk road. The myth maintains that his groans can be heard issuing forth from the hill and will continue until he is called to help his fellow countrymen.
It is also claimed that, when Merlin's Oak fell, it would be the downfall of the town. For many years great effort was employed to brace the tree, situated in the town. Although it eventually died, it is hoped that catastrophe was averted by preserving some bits in the Carmarthenshire County Museum. Larger branches are in the Civic Hall in Nott Square and a statue of Merlin carved from another local tree stands in the town centre.
Interesting monuments include one to the memory of the gallant Sir Thomas Picton, who died in the Battle of Waterloo and another honours General William Nott and is made from cannon captured at the battle of Maharajapur.
St. Peter's Church, the largest parish church in Wales, also has the longest nave measuring 60 metres and its tower contains eight bells with the heaviest weighing just under a tonne.
The 12th century remains of Carmarthen Castle on its rocky eminence overlook the river. It was converted into a prison in the 18th and 19th centuries and is now the site of the county offices.
It is surprising that few traces survive of the medieval town; however, a small section of Civil War defences, thrown up by the Royalists, survives on the south-west of the town. They are known as "The Bulwarks," and consist of an earthwork bank and a well-preserved four-sided bastion.
Just to the east of Carmarthen by the side of the A40 stands the Bishop's Palace, now home to Carmarthen County Museum. There is a picnic area in amongst the mature woodland grounds as well as the remains of an oxbow lake, The Bishop's Pond, which attracts wildlife and gives a lovely display of yellow waterlilies in summer.
Formed 200 years ago when the River Towy flooded in a spectacular fashion, the appearance of this oxbow must have tested the faith of the Bishop, who had just added a wing to his palace and resituated the main entrance in order to enjoy a panoramic view over the river - which now moved some distance to follow its new course!
There is an indoor market, many galleries, excellent shops, a golf club and a leisure centre with swimming pool and many other facilities. The United Counties Agricultural Show Ground, on the outskirts of the town, hosts a wide range of events throughout the year.
8 miles outside Carmarthen is The National Botanic Gardens of Wales, spread across 560 acres and with over 8000 species of plants including many exotic species housed in the great glasshouse - a great day out for visitors.
Our favourite things to do in the Carmarthen area
Visit the stunning gardens at Aberglasney House and Gardens followed by refreshments in the cafe.
Take a trip on The Gwili Steam Railway.
Enjoy a meal at Y Polyn Restaurant.
Visit Cwmcerrig Farmshop and cafe.
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