Llansteffan ("the church enclosure of St Stephen") lies on the western side of the River Tywi estuary, seven miles below the county town of Carmarthen and opposite the village of Ferryside.
The village is dominated by its impressive castle which stands on a headland overlooking the sand-flats of the mouth of the River Tywi. The strategic importance of its location was recognised by the Norman invaders of Wales who established an enclosure within the ancient defences of an Iron Age fort. The castle controlled an important river crossing and it changed hands several times. The Camville family who held the castle from the late 12th to the early 14th century built the formidable masonry castle on the site of the early earth-and-timber stronghold.
The famous Welsh poet
Dylan Thomas had strong family connections with Llansteffan and he visited it regularly from the age of 4 right up until the day before he sailed for America (where he died, aged 39). His mother’s family came from several farming communities in the area.
A fake ceremony
A highlight in the town is the annual election of Llansteffan’s Mock Mayor. At the beginning of what is now known as Fiesta Week in August, the ‘mayor’ is taken in a carriage for some distance, the procession generally ending in the wood near the beach. Here, the mayor’s representative announces a list of improvements that the “newly elected mayor” will soon bring about in the ancient “maritime borough” at his own expense!
The Green and Scott’s Bay are the two main beach areas at Llansteffan. The Green, with its expanse of clean hard sand is ideal for picnics and games and is close to toilets and the main car park. There is a shop for supplies, coffees, cream teas and snacks plus seasonal ice-cream/fish and chip vans.
A walk around the headland of First Steps or Cegin Fach, then around 2nd Steps leads to Scott’s Bay, a pretty cove with plenty of firm, clean sand. When the tide comes in Scott’s Bay is ideal for swimming and bathing.
In a quiet spot along a wall on the path leading to Scott's Bay is St Anthony's Well. The water was believed to have healing properties, including the power to cure love-sickness. It is said that a Welsh hermit, Antwn, lived near the well and used the water to baptize converts to Christianity.