4:00 PM January 8, 2022
Central London to South West Wales can and should take four and a half hours, but these days with roadworks, accidents and just too many of us driving, there’s no guaranteed to comply with the forecasts of a GPS. It is therefore sometimes better to start the vacation on the way, to interrupt the trip by offering yourself a special and cocooning place. So, just 10 minutes from the M4 (Junction 17) outside Chippenham, I came to Lucknam Park (lucknampark.co.uk) for a night.
The interior is rich with Venetian mirrors, candelabra and draped and framed circular French doors. The decor in my room was up to date with opulent fabric curtains and old black telephones to access the reception. And the breakfast was sublime overlooking the avenue with perfectly chosen ‘classical music from another room’ and trotting horses from the equestrian centre.
But head to my main destination of Laugharne in Carmarthenshire to stay at the Dylan Coastal Resort (luxurylodges.com/dylan-coastal-resort). He is only a year old and a creation that benefits both from his vantage point on the cliffs overlooking the vast expanse of the Taff Estuary, and from the pilgrimage and tribute of Dylan Thomas, the poet the most famous of Wales who lived here for much of his working life.
My lodge was brand new and fully equipped with everything I needed. Super comfy beds and stylish, tasteful decor, depicted in neutral grays in the main room which triples as a kitchen, dining room and living room. With the car parked outside, the design had a flow making everything very easy. I just had to show up to have a great vacation. The relaxing, zen-like simplicity has been done to a very high standard and carries a hotel flair with its dressing gowns and direct-dial telephone at reception.
Down the slope from Milk Wood House is the restaurant where I enjoyed fresh melon gazpacho with crispy Carmarthen ham and sautéed cauliflower steak. I sat in front of a spacious marble table and under remarkable lights that echoed the large copper angles of the reception and emitted a golden light that reflected endlessly at night. The decor included a harmonious yet eclectic mix of textures that gave a vibrant vibe.
Before bed, I was transported from my outdoor balcony by the inspiring atmosphere that Dylan Thomas found across the estuary. I let the orchestra of ducks and birds perform at dawn and dusk and until the moonlight. Pure and so meditative silence. So romantic under a full moon and what a link to Dylan Thomas’ writing cabin just below.
One morning I took advantage of the resort’s spa which is brilliantly designed with its long infinity pool overlooking the water beyond and fitted with an elegant golden mosaic recess housing buckets of cold water and ice scoops. contemporaries. All good for inflammation I was told and in line with the latest health trends. As for the treatments, I opted for a ‘head to toe option’ which felt like I had been there for twice as long as my allotted hour. Impressive in every way.
I walked under the complex to Thomas’s writing shed and boathouse, beside the estuary of the River Taff, too shallow for navigation, but wide and ever-changing in its strands of color of sand and water to appeal to his poetic imagination. The town of Laugharne is the supposed setting of his most famous work Under Milk Wood, rich in rhythm and character and best heard told by fellow Welshman Richard Burton in the 1954 version.
For a break I walked down the cliff into a cobbled street with the wood burning atmospherically in the early autumn light to eat one evening at Portreeves (portreevesrestaurantlaugharne.co.uk) – a warm and always popular concern among the inhabitants which is always a good sign. The celadon green and teal walls enveloping the oak floor and the many characterful artifacts and inviting fireplace provided the perfect setting for a delicious dinner.
I needed to savor Dylan Thomas’ legacy more, so I also ate at Dexters at Browns (browns.wales/food-drink/dextersatbrowns). Once just a pub, it was where Thomas was famous and there are original portraits and photographs of him everywhere. It’s now mainly a steak house, although I made do with a three-cheese and chive soufflé before a roast cod fillet with virgin sauce, salicornia and mashed potatoes. The food was very well presented and I loved my cheese on its circular slate.
For my day off, I took off west along the coast to Pembrokeshire and specifically to Tenby. It’s an unspoiled delight of a vacation town with a facade of four- and five-story houses punctuating the top like wonky teeth. It was a beautiful journey in a memorable way as I had been here as a child in the late 1960s for a classic bucket and spade vacation and how encouraging and refreshing it was so it always seemed the same with two sandy beaches on either side of the port and the castle.
To experience more of the town, I went to The Grist, the town’s main square, the Owl and the Pussy Cat, a tea house compelling my new treat: bara brith – a local fruitcake made from tea, raisins and currants. This charming, atmospheric restaurant was packed with talkative, gestural locals, seated beneath pictures of cats and owls and amid tea cakes and jars of jam for sale. The mythos has Laugharne as one of the story’s possible settings and it’s easy to see how with the estuary so evocative of romance and escapism.
Next door and later in the evening, sample Arthur’s, a restaurant offering lunch and dinner with the added option of indoor and outdoor seating. I sat outside from where I looked out at the dilapidated and crenellated castle which now houses a parliament of towers. I was well looked after and the portions were generous and good value. My time in Laugharne was the perfect break, having escaped before heading back to my second home for now.