Imagine some supernatural caves, mighty boulders, crumbly castles, sorcery courses and stone circles.
Fit for a king and with the option to leave no stone unturned, a new trail across South West Wales aims to bring to life the mystery that surrounds the story of Britain’s best and bravest knight, the legendary Arthur. Perfectly timed the new Arthur Trail launches just ahead of Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword release (12 May), so the question of whether Arthur was a real Excalibur-wielding man, make-believe, or a bit of both is more pertinent than ever. The new trail showcases the mighty Arthur with Arthurian legend related experiences across the counties of Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Swansea Bay and Neath Port Talbot.
Visitors inspired by Charlie Hunnam’s rugged sword wielding Arthur portrayal in the big-screen version of the tale can head off on a quest to see wizard and warrior related sights and sounds (listen for Merlin’s groans on Merlin Hill) using the new trail.
The trail aims to help visitors decide who they think Arthur really was while enjoying the stunning coast and hills of South West Wales. From the boulder he is said to have tossed 11 miles from Llanelli to Gower to his burial place in the Preseli Hills and the supernatural caves near Neath, the trail guides visitors through everything from a day out in one region, to a five night break spread over all four, hunting for clues to Arthur’s existence. For those who just want to indulge in the playful side of Arthur’s tale there are fun attractions – from owl experiences to wizard themed afternoon teas – throughout the four counties.
The trail has been designed so that visitors can cherry-pick sites that interest them most or take in the whole lot on a road trip over a mini-break or longer. There are accommodation suggestions as well as alternatives to Arthur attractions should you get distracted by beautiful scenery, picturesque villages and welcoming pubs and cafes on route.
Time to sit at your round table and plan your trip to Arthur Country. Here are a few highlights to whet your appetite.
Start at the very beginning in the town of Carmarthen, birthplace of Arthur’s wizard Merlin. Carmarthenshire is a great place to lose yourself in legends and even be a sorcerer’s apprentice! Sign up for a magic course inspired by Merlin himself where your teacher will join you in your holiday cottage or hotel for a night of magic. Or take The Creepy Carmarthen Tour for a blast of local history and magic, combining real events from the town’s past with magical experiments in mind-reading and extra sensory perception. Then spend a ‘night’ under the stars at the magical Faerie Thyme Hill campsite with its own mysterious stone circle and giant dream catchers.
Here the Arthur trail takes in wild headlands, medieval strongholds and hilltop stones. Arthur’s Quoit, on St David’s Head, was said to have been hurled from nearby Carn Llidi by the king and it marks the remains of a single-chambered Neolithic burial chamber that’s up to 6,000 years old. The capstone is about 20ft long and supported by one upright stone and the site can be reached only on foot. Bedd Arthur (or Arthur’s Grave), high on the Preseli ridge on the rocky outcrop of Cerrig Marchogion (the Rocks of the Knights) is also said to mark the spot where the mythical boar Twrch Trwyth slew several of Arthur’s knights and turned them into stone. Base yourself in St David’s and there’s the small Penrhiw Hotel, a short walk from St David’s Cathedral. St Non, mother of St David, patron saint of Wales, was the niece of King Arthur. For accommodation worthy of a king, try the luxurious Roch Castle Hotel, near Haverfordwest.
Port Talbot Neath
Not far from Neath is Craig y Ddinas and legend has it that Arthur and a thousand of his warriors are fast asleep in a hidden cave there! While Margam Country Park, the 850-acre estate, used extensively as a filming location for the Merlin TV series, is steeped in history and natural beauty. There’s a haunted castle here and a whole range of medieval events taking place throughout the year, from archery to knights displays as well as a cute 3 bedroom stone cottage to stay in, with its own secret door into the park.
Swansea Bay brings together castles, pubs and hotels all with an Arthurian link. Sitting in the hills of the Gower Peninsula, within handy walking distance of the King Arthur country pub with rooms in Reynoldston, Arthur’s Stone is said to be another pebble that bothered the royal warrior. The disgruntled monarch angrily hurled it all the way from Carmarthenshire to the top of Cefn Bryn, and it magically grew in size on the way! And for something a bit out of the ordinary and in the absence of Merlin to teach us survival skills, join Dryad Bushcraft for an introduction to bushcraft course where you’ll learn how to think like a survivor, set traps, forage wild food and shelter build all in the wilds of Gower!
Fit for a King Accommodation – How to book it!
Those embarking on a full tour can opt to spend 2 nights in Port Talbot Neath and 2nights Pembrokeshire or straddle a stay over Swansea Bay and Carmarthenshire. Two miles from Port Talbot down a country lane enjoy a quiet cottage base within the grounds of Margam Park at Ivy Cottage (2 nights from £535, sleeps up to 5 –www.holidaycottages.co.uk/wales/south-wales/ivy-cottage-at-margam-country-park), then head west to Pembrokeshire and stay in a luxury castle for two final nights (doubles from £200 a night with breakfast – www.rochcastle.com). This recommended luxury five day trip with two nights at each property would be priced from £467 per person based on two sharing.
Alternatively, live like a legend on Gower for two nights at The King Arthur Hotel (doubles from £80 a night with breakfast – www.kingarthurhotel.co.uk), then head inland to Llety Cynin (doubles from £86 a night with breakfast – www.lletycynin.co.uk), an eight-room converted coach house on a working dairy and sheep farm in St Clears, Carmarthenshire. This recommended luxury five day trip with two nights at each property would be priced from £332 per person based on two sharing.