Dylan’s description of Swansea was a “lovely, ugly town”. Today there are lots of developments to enhance the loveliest part of this coastal city! Here are some places that your clients may like to visit in Swansea with links to Dylan Thomas.
5 Cwmdonkin Drive, is in the Uplands suburb of Swansea and about half an hours walk (or short drive) from the centre, but it’s worth it to learn about Dylan’s early life. This Victorian house is where he wrote over half of his poems and many short stories and a blue plaque marks ‘Dylan Thomas’ birthplace’. There are discounts available for groups of 10 or more and booking in advance is advised. Lunches, afternoon tea and dinner parties can be catered for and if requested, your clients can listen to actors reciting Dylan’s short stories, broadcasts and poems.
Cwmdonkin Park – Dylan played here as a child and inspired him throughout his life. There is a monument in the park, it is a rock from a local quarry with the closing lines of one his best loved poems ‘Fern Hill’ which recalls his magical holidays to his father’s birthplace in Carmarthenshire.
Kardomah Cafe on Portland Street is where Dylan Thomas and his friends, ‘The Kardomah Boys’ often met. Dylan described it as ‘My Home Sweet Homah’. Depending on the time, pop in for a coffee or lunch as the cafe is just as popular today with a new generation of loyal customers enjoying a coffee, roast dinners and home-made cakes...and lively discussion.
Dylan Thomas Centre is next and it was the city’s Guildhall, but opened as the Dylan Thomas Centre in 1995 by US President Jimmy Carter. It is a literature centre that houses a multi media exhibition called ‘Man and Myth’, a mock up of his writing shed in Laugharne, touring exhibitions and a programme of lectures. Guided tours of the exhibition at the Dylan Thomas Centre can be arranged for groups of all ages.
Dylan Thomas Book Shop, if you are inspired to read some of his work after retracing his steps, head to this bookstore. It has a comprehensive collection of his books, including some first editions.
Overnight in Swansea
Gwili Railway is near Carmarthen. Scenes from the film ‘The Edge of Love’ were filmed here, as the film makers wanted to recreate a living section of a Great Western Railway branch line in rural West Wales. It is the only steam standard gauge railway operating in south west Wales. The return journey takes approx. one hour starting at Bronwydd Arms Station, and the steam train follows the route, originally taken by the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line. Discounts are available to groups of 10 visitors of more. There is dedicated coach parking at Bronwydd Arms station and coach drivers are entitled to a free meal and drink, as well as a free ticket for the railway.
Continue to Laugharne, a quiet village with stone cottages, cobbled streets and a 12th century castle located on the estuary of the River Taff. It is here where Dylan and his family moved to in 1949 and he wrote the play ‘Under Milk Wood’, infact some believe that this is Llareggub the fictional village in the play (and yes you do know what it spells backwards!).
Dylan Thomas Boathouse is at the end of a narrow lane. Visitors can see the family’s living room, just as they left it and the ‘wireless’ (radio) is playing Dylan reading his work. There is a video upstairs detailing Dylan’s life and there are various paintings of Laugharne by local artists. Discount rates are available for groups of 5 or more.
His writing shed is en-route back to the village; look through the window to see where Dylan wrote ‘Under Milk Wood’ and the basic conditions he worked. The scrunched up paper by his desk gives the impression that he has just popped over to ‘Browns Hotel’ for a favourite tipple!
St Martins Church is nearby, it’s here where Dylan and his wife Caitlin are buried in the churchyard and the grave is marked by a simple white cross. In the church there is a replica of the memorial stone to Dylan in Poets Corner, Westminster Abbey in London.
At the last count Wales has 641 castles, so a visit to Wales should include at least one! Laugharne Castle dates from the 12th century and was built to look out for the sea. It was transformed in Tudor times into a gentleman’s mansion. The castle was once owned by the writer Richard Hughes a family friend and the Thomas’ used to stay with him and Dylan sometimes used the gazebo in the castle grounds when writing. 3 and 7 day Explorer Passes are available with special travel trade rates or for pre booked Group Bookings of 15 or more there is a 10% discount on admission prices.
No Dylan Thomas visit to Laugharne is complete without a visit to Browns Hotel. His cast iron table still sits in a window alcove with just a few pieces of memorabilia nearby. Many locals still remember him, so you’re sure to hear some first hand stories.
Approx. distance: 41 miles/ 65 km
Approx. driving time: 59 minutes
Overnight suggestion: Laugharne or Carmarthen
Two popular Dylan Thomas films include Edge of Love with Matthew Rhys playing Dylan and Under Milk Wood starring Richard Burton and today’s itinerary includes the film locations.
New Quay, also claims to be ‘Llareggub’ and it is easy to imagine with its narrow streets, harbour and Victorian terraces. In fact many of the plays characters are based on Newquay’s residents and visitors can still see some of the main points of interest during a walk of the town. Gomer House was the home of Captain Tom Polly, Dylan's inspiration for Captain Cat. London House was the home and shop of Dylans friend Norman Evans. He was thought to be the inspiration for 'Under Milk Wood's' 'Nogood Boyo'. Dolau Inn was the favourite pub of Caitlin and the actors Richard Burton drank here when visiting New Quay.
The Black Lion Hotel was Dylan's favourite and was owned by his friend Jack Pat (Patrick). The Dylan Restaurant in the basement here has a large collection of Dylan Thomas memorabilia. The Sea Horse used to be known as the 'Commercial'. Prior to that it was known as the Sailor's Home Arms - providing the name for 'Under Milk Wood's 'Sailor's Arms.
It’s a scenic coastal drive down to Fishguard – there’s a choice either the quicker A487 or take some of the narrower country lanes, great during the summer as the road sides are full of colourful wild flowers and great views of the sea too.
Lower Fishguard is the setting for the 1972 film Under Milk Wood starring Richard Burton. Not much has changed since then, so take a wander along the lanes and imagine Captain Tom Cat, Myfanwy Price and Rosie Probert passing by!
Approx. distance: 77 miles/ 123 km
Approx. driving time: 2 hours 11 minutes
Overnight suggestion: Fishguard