First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Jane and I arrived in Carmarthenshire determined to puzzle out an original walk around Carreg Cennen Castle. But then we found that Carreg Cennen was infuriatingly positioned at the junction of three OS Explorer maps. And once we’d visited the café-shop and picked up the county council’s superb leaflet of walks based on the castle itself, we simply thanked our lucky stars and set out into the day, a gloriously sunny one under a full blue summer sky spread all across the southern hills of Wales.
Among green waves of lowland slopes, the jagged walls of Carreg Cennen Castle rose like a dark island. We walked down the path through the oakwood of Coed y Cennen in a bubble of birdsong, crossed the shallow brown river, and climbed southward up a stony track with a most magnificent view of the castle clinging to the very lip of its 300-ft crags. Out at the top into a wide, sedgy upland, with a prospect to the distant humps of the Preseli Hills forty miles off in the west.
A flock of sheep lay panting like woolly steam engines under a rowan tree. From the moorland road we turned back towards the castle, dipping into dells formed by the collapse of underground caverns. Whole trees grew in the depths, their canopies on a level with the rim of the hollows. Down there under a bank of orchids we found a shadowy cave mouth spewing forth a broad gush of water – the infant Loughor river, destined for greatness in its broad estuary twenty miles away. On we went through damp bogland, bright with pink beaks of lousewort and the trembling blue flowers of insect-digesting butterwort, a beautiful wetland full of frogs and spiders.
Back at Carreg Cennen we roamed over the castle, its towers and baileys. Steps led to a sinister twist of a passage, rough-floored and pitch black. By the light of Jane’s torch we followed its course below the castle, bending and slithering until we crouched at the very heart of the crag. Not a lamb’s cry or child’s shout penetrated the rock. The original purpose of this black chamber in Carreg Cennen is obscure. But one couldn’t help picturing a desperate man of the garrison crouching there, waiting with beating heart for a victorious enemy, screwing up his courage in the dark to kill or be killed.
Start & finish: Carreg Cennen Castle car park, Trapp, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, Wales SA19 6UA (OS ref SN 666193)
Getting there: Train (www.thetrainline.com; www.railcard.co.uk) to Ffairfach (3½ miles). Road: From Llandeilo, A483 (‘Ammanford’); left at crossroads in Ffairfach; right after bridge to Trapp; don’t cross bridge, but keep ahead to Carreg Cennen.
Walk (3½ miles, moderate, OS Explorers OL12, 178, 186; NB Excellent map leaflet at castle): From shop/café follow Carreg Cennen Circular/CCC fingerposts (red castle symbols) past castle, through wood, across Afon Cennen (675193). Follow CCC and Beacons Way/BW up stony path for 3/4 mile to road (673180). Right to cross cattle grid; in 200 yards, right across stile (671177; CCC); follow CCC and yellow arrows (YA) to pass source of Loughor River (668178). Continue (YA, CCC) to Llwyn-bedw; down field to cross Afon Cennen (666188); stile and steep path (YA) to road at Pantyffynont. Left; in 300 yards, right (665191; CCC) across field to car park.
NB – Online map, more walks: www.christophersomerville.co.uk
Lunch: Carreg Cennen café (01558-822291); Cennen Arms, Trapp (01558-822330)
Accommodation: Cawdor Hotel, Llandeilo (01558-823500; www.thecawdor.com) – friendly boutique hotel
More info: TICs at Llandeilo (01558-824226), Carmarthen (01267-231557);
National Parks Week: 26 July-1 August (www.nationalparks.gov.uk)