A guide to cycling in Carmarthenshire, the cycling hub of Wales

With 23 bike paths in Carmarthenshire, there’s arguably no better place to pedal in Wales. From castles and coastlines to where to eat and drink, here’s all you need to know about planning a trip here..

Paul Bloomfield
12 March 2020
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Cycling In Carmarthenshire Wales

There’s a cycling revolution underway in Carmarthenshire. The addition of 17 newly mapped routes boosts the gorgeous Welsh county’s total to 23, stretching over 1,400km – the equivalent of Land’s End to John O’Groats, or Paris to Budapest. And with legs starting at 13km, visiting castles, coastline, verdant valleys and dramatic uplands, plus a range of cycle-friendly places to stay and eat, there’s something to suit riders of all levels and interests. Here’s a handy guide to help you plan your biking break.

Click on the category that suits you best to find exciting cycling routes

Best for a challenge | Best for Cultural seekers | Best for coastal views | Where to stay | Where to eat | When to go 

Challenge yourself on the Big Wilderness Adventure

Best for a challenge 

Llansteffan Castle is just one of many fortresses you’ll see in Carmarthenshire (Shutterstock)

Fancy yourself as king or queen of the mountains? Combine three demanding loops for a long weekend of rewarding climbs, wild landscapes and staggering vistas.

Start with the 105km Big Wilderness Adventure, heading north from the lively market town of Llandovery along the Towy Valley and through wooded RSPB Gwenffrwd-Dinas Reserve to Carmarthenshire’s ‘Little Switzerland’, the undulating shores of Llyn Brianne Reservoir. Ascend into the Cambrian Mountains past reputedly the most remote chapel in Wales at Soar-y-Mynydd, then veer south into the Teifi Valley, returning east to Llandovery.

Next up is the 101km route aptly named Big Hills & Big Views. Begin with a boost at Coaltown Coffee Roasters in Ammanford, before pedalling north to Llandeilo, where you can grab deli treats at Ginhaus. You’ll need the fuel: after following the rollercoaster road past the atmospheric ruins of Talley Abbey and through Llandovery, it’s time to tackle Y Mynydd Ddu/Black Mountain – a long, winding haul that rewards with far-reaching views followed by an exhilarating downhill hayride.

Finally, test yourself against the same roads along which competitors in the 2019 Ovo Women’s Tour raced. The 102km loop from Llandeilo takes you along the Towy Valley before tackling the Black Mountain once more – you’ll be glad to rack up the calories at Bean on a Bike’s cake counter in Cross Hands afterwards. There are more undulations as you head northwest towards Brechfa Forest before your southward return through Talley to Llandeilo and some Heavenly chocolate or ice cream.

Enjoy views of Cefn Sidan beach (Discover Carmarthenshire )

Best for cultural seekers 

There’s no shortage of heritage and horticulture to tempt you off your steed in Carmarthenshire, with a host of medieval citadels, exquisite gardens, sandy beaches and even Roman gold mines to discover.

First, play join the forts on a ride along the 95km Tywi Valley Tour of Castles, beginning in Carmarthen and meandering northeast along the Towy Valley, pausing at Wright’s Food Emporium in Llanarthne for picnic supplies. The landmarks come thick and fast: spy Paxton’s Tower on the skyline, then the fractured walls of Dryslwyn Castle. Flora-fanciers divert to the National Botanic Gardens and Aberglasney, before the crag-top bulk of Dinefwr Castle looms outside Llandeilo. Continue through Llandovery and onto Brechfa before looping back to Carmarthen for well-deserved caffeine and cake at homely Y Sied Coffee Shop. 

Next, circle less-visited West Carmarthenshire on a 102km loop from Whitland, first heading north along undulating roads affording views towards the Preseli Hills, before veering southeast to Carmarthen. As you skirt the Towy estuary, the heritage highlights begin: Llansteffan Castle, overlooking its alluring beach, then – a little past St Clears – lovely waterfront Laugharne, the might of its castle outshone by its Dylan Thomas connections, distilled at his Boathouse museum. Returning to Whitland, discover the achievements of Hywel Dda, 10th-century King of Deheubarth, at his namesake centre.

A new selection of 12 circular routes fans out from the winsome market town of Llandovery, each with natural or historic wonders to admire: pedal to the Llanddeusant Red Kite Feeding Station to the south, perhaps, or Dolaucothi Roman Gold Mines to the northwest.

Best for coastal views 

Carmarthen Bay, cradled between the protecting arms of the Gower Peninsula and eastern Pembrokeshire, is a sheltered sweep of glorious coast speckled with gold – sandy beaches including two of the country’s longest, accessible on a pair of moderate mapped circuits.

The longer of two West Carmarthenshire Routes visits Llansteffan, its cockle-shell-strewn beach guarded by a 12th-century castle atop a wooded headland, and skirts the back of Pendine Sands. This smooth 11km stretch was popular with historic land-speed-record setters, and is flanked to the west by rocky cliffs beyond which curious cyclists can seek out Morfa Bychan, a peaceful patch of sand and pebbles wedged into a stretch of rugged coastline.

To the east of the Towy, the 62km Carmarthen Bay Coastal Route begins and ends at Pembrey Country Park, which meets the coast at Cefn Sidan, at 13km the longest beach in Wales – and one of the loveliest. There are historic marvels to admire en route, not least the mighty Norman stronghold of Kidwelly Castle and Wales’s finest Georgian building, Plas Llanelly, a short detour off the main circuit in Llanelli, where you’ll also find stylish St Elli’s Bay bistro. Head west from here along the Millennium Coastal Path for seven smooth, traffic-free kilometres to return to Pembrey and that dune-backed beach.

Where to stay: 5 great hotels in Carmarthenshire 

1. The Plough Rhosemaen, Llandeilo 

Stylish boutique hotel with great food and facilities including secure bike storage and wash-down areas, dry room, route maps, sauna and gym.
 Learn more 

2. Cambrian Escape, nr Llandovery

Collection of lovely rustic-chic self-catering cottages within sight of the Brecons Beacons, with secure bike storage and wash-down areas. 
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3. Stradey Park, Llanelli

Grand but bike-friendly four-star hotel with various eating options and a spa for easing ride-weary limbs.
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You can cycle in Carmarthenshire year-round

4. Abbey Cottages, Talley Abbey

Collection of cosy cottages sleeping four to nine, with lockable bike storage, handy for the Big Hills & Big Views route.
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5. Derwen Coach House, Llangadog

Attractive self-catering cottage at the edge of the Brecon Beacons between Llandovery and Llandeilo, with bike storage, repair and wash-down facilities.
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Where to eat: 5 tasty eateries in Carmarthenshire 

1. Coaltown Coffee Roasters, Ammanford

Near the foot of the Black Mountain, the Roastery Canteen serves spectacular brunches, the Espresso Bar delectable cakes, and both brew some of Wales’ finest coffee.
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2. Wright’s Food Emporium, Llanarthne

Exceptional breakfasts, inventive lunches, fabulous cakes, an extensive and unusual wine selection and tempting deli counter, plus stylish self-catering accommodation.
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3. Y Sied, Carmarthen

Healthy, hearty breakfasts, soups and salads, plus that all-important artisan coffee boost for cyclists. Cookery courses also offered.
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4. Bean on a Bike, Cross Hands

Popular road cyclists’ haunt in an extensive bike shop, with great coffee, tempting cakes and filling lunches.
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5. St Elli’s Bay, Llanelli

Recently revamped café-brasserie with fabulous views across Carmarthen Bay, great for breakfasts, ice creams and more substantial meals.
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When to go to Carmarthenshire 

Carmarthenshire stages a packed programme of races and sportives throughout the year, ranging from a dash across the sand at Pembrey Country Park in April to the challenging Double Devil and Merlin road races in May and October, while June brings the off-road Gritfest through the Cambrian Mountains and the 12-hour Cyclone24 event in Carmarthen’s historic velodrome.

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