Eats & Explores: A Night in Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire

Accomodation: The Cawdor Hotel
Where: Rhosmaen St, Llandeilo SA19 6EN

The Cawdor came onto my radar a few years ago when my mum stayed there – she raved about a free upgrade to a four poster bed and the exceptional food. So when I spotted a special offer on their Facebook page just before Christmas, for £99 including dinner, bed and breakfast, valid for any night January to March, I figured it would be a good shout for her birthday. So last week we set off in the unseasonably sunny February sunshine, for Llandeilo, a gorgeous little Welsh town situated in Carmarthenshire.

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Blue skies at The Cawdor Hotel.

As you come up the hill into Llandeilo, the hotel is easy to spot on the left. The car park is situated up behind it, with a steep incline down to the main building through a pretty courtyard. Luckily there is a loading area outside allowing you to drop off your luggage/passengers with ease. Check in is from 3pm, but the incredibly friendly team have a storage area if you arrive early and will even take your things up to your room, which is super handy when there are no lifts.

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The courtyard at The Cawdor

As a proud Welshie I was pleased to discover pretty quickly a decidedly Welsh theme going on at The Cawdor (and actually in Llandeilo generally), kicking off with our room name, Tomenseba, which was classed a ‘Very Good’ room. We’d kindly been given an upgrade as they weren’t at full capacity (and I may have mentioned once or twice it was Mums birthday!), which was a really nice touch.

The room was really spacious, with a queen sized bed, desk, two chairs and a wardrobe (plus the usual TV and coffee making facilities). Oh and not forgetting there were robes! The bathroom was huge, with a large sink, bath, and something I’d never seen before – a twin headed shower system! Which despite my initial confusion, was actually really great in terms of both power and coverage. I also loved that even the toiletries were made in Wales, who needs Molton Brown, hey?!

Within the hotel there is a bar, lounge area, and restaurant. There’s also a very pretty outdoor courtyard, and a chapel if you want to have a little wander!

Our first stop for some lunch though was Cafe Cegin, with cegin being the Welsh word for kitchen, also situated in the hotel and open to non guests. Super casual with communal bar style tables and stools, there were Welsh flags hung throughout, and a variety of typical lunch staples on offer including sandwiches, toasties and burgers with the interesting addition of charcuterie and cheese boards available too.

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The counter at Cafe Cegin

We went for the roast chicken with rocket and pesto on brown to share. It was a splendid choice, with mum proclaiming it ‘possibly the best sandwich I’ve eaten’ – an incredibly bold claim because she eats a lot of sandwiches!! The bread was freshly baked (with loaves for sale on the counter), the chicken served warm, the rocket plentiful and we have a sneaking suspicion the pesto may have been homemade too because it was just THAT good.

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Best sandwich ever according to my Mum. Maybe she should start a blog too?!

It came with a nicely dressed side salad and a small pot of what we think was also homemade coleslaw. There were a selection of Pipers hand cooked available to purchase, we argued over flavours (I wanted salt and vinegar, mum cheese and onion) but eventually shared a bag of the chorizo which were very tasty too.

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Possibly the only non Welsh item at Cafe Cegin.

Having a peek at what others were having, the breakfast offerings looked interesting but the cheese and charcuterie board in particular looked tempting if we hadn’t had dinner plans later. Priced at only £11.95 with all meats and cheeses sourced from Trealy Farm in Monmouthshire, this Welsh produce ethos was reflected throughout the rest of the cafe menu (available here) and as we discovered later, the restaurant too.

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Warm roast chicken, in freshly baked bread NOM!


Llandeilo Itself

After lunch we decided to have a wander around Llandeilo and make the most of the beautiful sunshine. It’s only a small town (population 1,795 in the last census, 2011) so I wasn’t sure what there’d be to see, but we easily spent the afternoon exploring, with the hotel handily placed in a super central location so that it could be done on foot.

Our first stop were some of the independent shops, literally footsteps from the hotel! Mum bought me a beautiful cut glass vase from Coffor Bach for only a fiver, and there were a couple of other lovely pieces we spotted in this quirky antique/interior design store that we both had our eye on. There was also a great kitchen shop, some great crafty art style places, Welsh gift stores, a locally designed silverware design studio and some lovely clothing boutiques. But it wasn’t just the shops we enjoyed, the views across the park, the beautiful coloured houses and interesting alleyways were all lovely too.

Being food/drink oriented (like mother, like daughter) we were always going to have an afternoon stop, and while I was disappointed when what looked like arancini turned out to be scotch eggs at the Ginhaus Deli (a constant hazard), the vast array of edible treats on offer along with a huge selection of gin and other tipples meant that once inside it was a natural conclusion to stick around for a little while.

Again, we couldn’t actually eat anything knowing dinner wasn’t far off, but the menu was really interesting and everything looked delicious. If we hadn’t had dinner plans the following day too we’d have taken home quite a bit from the deli. The nuts we sampled were yummy and the olives looked very tempting!

We also poked our head in to Heavenly, a chocolate/cake shop come cafe. So much temptation! Brownies were only £2 a piece which I thought was incredibly reasonable, and from the sample I tasted would be worth every penny nom. I had wanted to go back to purchase goodies for Chris and the boys but as I wasn’t back to Bristol for a few days thought I’d be liable to scoff before my return – so I’ll just have to ‘drag’ them along with me sometime.

Now that we have a family National Trust pass again, a visit to Dinefwr could be the perfect excuse. Just outside Llandeilo, the NT has a nature reserve, historic house and 18th-century landscape park, enclosing a medieval deer park (plus quite a few cows) to visit.

Mum and I had been there previously (see pictures above), but if you didn’t want a mooch in the boutiques and cafe/bars this offers an interesting alternative with some great architecture and insight into local history. You can also visit Dinefwr Castle (bottom picture) which is a Cadw site, free of charge, offering spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Dinner @ The Cawdor

Sadly being a Thursday in February the restaurant wasn’t particularly busy when we dined, but while it may have been nice if there were more people there it didn’t seem like a big deal at the time and meant the service was impeccable. There was a great selection of wine to suit all budgets, and Mum went for a large glass of Sauvignon.

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Dinner Menu @ The Cawdor

To start we both went for the Carmarthen Bay mussels. The broth was fragrant with just the right amount of heat, and the portion size of the mussels could easily have been a main (particularly with the amount of bread we consumed – freshly baked and utterly scrumptious). I don’t actually think I realised they were local, but they were perfectly plump, cooked well and no gristle. Totally undignified but this was so delicious I used my dessert spoon to slurp up the last of broth as it was just too good to leave any behind! I was a bit iffy about ordering these as I’ve occasionally had dodgy ones out, but I’d have these again in a heartbeat.

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Carmarthen Bay Mussels

For main I went for the Carmarthen ham wrapped chicken breast, but I swapped the bubble and squeak cake for mash. The mash was mountainous, and the perfect consistency – I hate wet/sloppy mash but this was just the right combination of creamy but smooth and firm, allowing my chicken to sit neatly on top. The chicken was moist, the ham had a distinctive flavour and there was a ton of veg (green beans, peas and Chantenay carrots that were perfectly cooked – hate soggy carrots) which pleased mum as she will always have extra!

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Carmarthen ham wrapped chicken breast.

Mum went for the fillet of cod with risotto and sang it’s praises, she was particularly impressed with the asparagus. The only thing I had a slight doubt over was the sauce, as it said creamy on the menu and it seemed more gravyesque, but it was still yummy and they were happy to provide me with an extra jug when requested. Despite me fancying the white chocolate brownie, by the time we’d ploughed our way through this feast there was no way I could manage another morsel!

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Our dinner plates.

We also visited the restaurant the next day for our breakfast, which was included in the package. There was a table with continental style goodies which included all the usual suspects – a variety of juices, breads, cereals, yogurts and pastries (although I’ll admit I was a bit gutted that there weren’t any pains au chocolat included!) You were then able to choose your main dish cooked to order.

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The breakfast menu.

Mum went for a ham and tomato omelette, which she asked to be cooked ‘well done’ as she hates runny eggs. Her portion was huge and they definitely didn’t scrimp on the ham. I went for the Full Welsh Breakfast, although I swapped out the fried bread, black pudding and tomato for extra mushrooms and an extra sausage. Mum thinks at this point the chef may have decided to teach me a lesson, as my breakfast was so huge!!! Similar to my recent visit to Souk Kitchen in Bristol, I did miss the beans, but the sautéed potatoes were a definite hit.

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Our breakfast table.

You could tell the bacon and sausages were high quality (particularly the sausages, which tasted incredibly meaty) and locally sourced, you really couldn’t fault the amount of anything on the plate (though I may have preferred an extra egg instead of three rashers of bacon, but that’s just me).

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Full Welsh breakfast.

After filling our faces, we went back up to the room to pack, check out was a respectable 11am. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our stay – all the staff we spoke with upon check in and in the cafe and restaurant were super friendly, the food was brilliant, I loved the ‘Welshness’, the place was super clean, room was kitted out well.

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The Restaurant @ The Cawdor.

If I had to find any faults, the hotel is potentially unsuitable for those with serious mobility issues due to a lack of lifts/the descent from the car park, but the staff are clearly happy to assist where ever possible. Also, our room was quite hot despite us turning the heating off, but that probably had more to do with the fact we couldn’t figure out how to open the windows, doh!

For £99 dinner, bed and breakfast however I would definitely stay again. As mentioned, this was a promotional rate that I purchased before Christmas, however they do deals throughout the year, and my mum and step dad actually stayed the following Sunday night on the same basis for £98 – so a pound cheaper! I would definitely recommend.

The Surrounding Area

Should you venture to Llandeilo and want to make the most and explore the surrounding area, here are a few other suggestions:

Laugharne.

This was where Mum and I stopped on the Friday. It’s only a forty minute journey from Llandeilo, and there is free parking available opposite Arthurs, which is close to one of the main attractions – the castle. From here you can walk around and up to Dylan Thomas’ boat house, via his writing shed. There is a small fee to view the house (£10 for a family) but you can enjoy the tea room/patio with views over the estuary free of charge, which is what we did.

After our walk, we walked back into the main ‘town’ and found another fab deli, with wonderful friendly staff and home baked brownies at only £2 – this time I had one! If you’re in the area I’d definitely pop into The Ferryman.  A few doors down we found a wonderful handmade jewellery shop, Quicksilver Jewellery, where we stopped and had a good natter with the owner about his shop, his trade and the local area in general.

Y Polyn & Dryslwyn Castle.

Only a 17 minute drive from Llandeilo is one of my favourite restaurants, Y Polyn. We didn’t visit on this occasion, but this award winning establishment which boasts 2 AA Rosettes, describes itself as a small pub/restaurant and makes clear on its website – “you won’t find foams, gels and technical wizardry on the plate. What you will find is beautiful produce cooked simply and with respect”.

I’ve had some brilliant meals there over the years – including when my husband first met my parents, and that worked out well! The bread is to die for, and some of my favourite dishes have been the pappardelle, the cottage pie (which managed to convert even my pie loathing mother) and the brownies. They’ve just launched a new weekly lunch menu which you can view on their Facebook page, booking definitely recommended.

When we visit we often tie it in with a walk up to Dryslwyn Castle, where my husband and I took our first ever selfie! (Check out our fresh faces, Jan 2015!) It’s on a bit of a hill – but even Mum and I have made it up there, so it’s doable for most! It’s position means on a clear day you have wonderful views looking out across the Tywi valley. It’s only small but parking is free and it’s worth a stroll if just to take in the landscape.

Carmarthen. 

Only 25 minutes from Llandeilo is Carmarthen, which apparently (thanks Google/Wiki) has a strong claim to being the oldest town in Wales. There’s a busy town centre to visit with a shopping centre, but there’s also a castle, museum, and the Gwili Steam Railway isn’t too far from town.

Llansteffan.

If you’re blessed with the right weather, I used to love Llansteffan as a child. It’s ‘only’ a small village but has wonderful pristine sands and castle ruins to visit, you can find out more here. We did try and go back on a blustery August day when wedding venue hunting a few years ago, but the winds defeated us – so it’s definitely on my list next time I’m in the area and the sun is shining.

Wrapping it up (finally!)

Mum and I had a great night away, and I’d definitely like to visit the area to explore (and eat) more in the future! If you go please do let me know if you have any recommendations. There are lots of other places I’ve not yet made it to (Wright’s Emporium is on my list too) and I’d love to hear if you visit.

As always – thanks if you made it this far! Phew 🙂

Lizzie xxx

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Cheers from Ma and I!

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