This was the first new National Botanic Garden to be created in the 21st century anywhere in the world, and the first to be built in the United Kingdom for almost 200 years.
It is dedicated to the further understanding and enrichment of our environment through the study and conservation of threatened plants. At the same time it exists to provide opportunities for visitors to learn about and appreciate the natural world.
The centrepiece of the garden is the Great Glasshouse designed by Norman Foster and architects. This spectacular dome is the largest single-span glasshouse in the world and beneath it are to be found plants from all six "mediterranean climate zones" - California, Australia, the Canary Islands, Chile,South Africa and the Mediterranean.
Outside, the gardens cover 500 acres of parkland, lakes and water features, woodlands and wild flower meadows - all set in the rich, rolling countryside of Carmarthenshire.
There are special attractions and learning opportunities for children and young people; examples of garden architectiure from around the world; a small museum in Apothecaries Hall tells the story of the legendary physicians of Myddfai who were renowned for their knowlege and use of herbal plants.
And much much more than I can list here but including an excellent cafe and shop and an art centre. (separate Tips to follow(
It has been said that Gardens and Gardening are the two most popular hobbies in Britain. People seem to be either working hard in their own garden, shopping at Garden Centres, or visiting other gardens.
As old Manor houses were neglected and faded into obscurity so did their gardens.
The four centuries old garden at Aberglasney is a good example and it is thanks to the vision and hard work of the people who formed a Restoration Trust that it has been brought back to life.
The garden is of a size small enough to cover on a day's visit ( perhaps with a pause for lunch at the excellent on-site restaurant serving meals prepared from local produce - see my Carmarthen Restaurant Tips).
The old manor house is being restored and houses temporary art exhibitions. A video is shown there and - relates the history of the House and Garden, the circumstances under which they fell into decline and ruin, as well as the story of its restoration.
The former Gardener's and Coachman's Cottages have been restored and are let as self catering cottages - we stayed in the latter. See Accommodation Link on the Garden website and my own accommodation Tip.
In a sheltered and well protected corner of the Garden you will come across the Bee Garden. Here a couple of dozen hives are tended by specialist, trained bee keepers.
Visitors are not allowed in the garden but may view the bees and their keepers from an ideal observation point - a sort of "Hide" inside a small shed .
Not only do its windows look directly into the garden but to enhance your view small cameras directed onto the hive deliver a close up view of bees entering and leaving their hive onto a small screen in the shed.
The walls of the shed have an excellent, informative and illustrated display which tells you just about all there is to know about bees.
At certain times of the day you may even see the keepers going about their regular tasks in the garden.
Theatr Botanica - a "cinema in the round" was specially built to show films in 360°. You can sit down for twenty minutes or so and be immersed in a series of beautiful images and sound as you learn more about 'The Planet of Plants'.
Respite from the heat on hot, summer days, a warm place to spend some time on winter days!
Film times are displayed on the board outside the theatre - there are usually 4 showings a day.
If your time is limited and you want to plan what to see in the Garden it might be a good idea to ring for showing times before your visit (01558 667148/9) or enquire at the Ticket Office on arrival.
After one of the wettest summers on record we were not expecting too much from our mid-September visit to the Garden. But what a lovely surprise lay in store for us!
Although some plants had that end of summer look after the battering they had taken from endless weeks of heavy rain this turned out to be one of the loveliest of visits.
Special mention for the carpets of aurumn crocus, late flowering hydrangeas, viburnum and early autumn leaves.
The sunken garden is in the form of a courtyard tucked away almost on the perimeter of the main gardens.
It is surrounded by the old rustic buildings of the former estate that now serve as potting sheds and storage for tools and garden equipment - as well as the two holiday cottages which can be seen in pictures Nos. 3 & 4 .
Coachman's Cottage, the one in which we stayed in 2007, can be seen on the right of those photos (see also separate Accommodation Tip).
The garden is a tranquil place which few people seem to find on their walk about the garden. Its central, round pool and the shining globe in the middle make it a haven for a little solitude, reading or just thinking.
As well as its international work in the fields of research, conservation and development the National Botanic Garden of Wales also has a strong educational programme.
Local schools have access to an allotment of land which they tend and on which they grow vegetables and flowers.
They have had a hard time of it during this rainy growing season (summer 2008) but the enthusiasm of both the young students and their teachers could be seen and felt in the colourful display of their produce - and in their rain-sodden and rather bedraggled but wondrous Scarecrows.
Gardens for different purposes within a Garden - a kitchen garden, the Cloister garden, the formal garden a walled garden, the woodland walk - all different levels on this hill-side site. -
Keep a lookout for the connecting doors, and arches which often provide a delightful glimpse or a cameo of what lies beyond.
The UK release on 25 9/09 of Jon Amiel’s Film “Creation” which I look forward to seeing, is reviving awareness of another scientist - Monmouthshire born Alfred Russel Wallace. In a couple of previews I have seen of the film he is referred to as a largely or utterly forgotten pioneer in the field of evolution and the origin of species. But he is certainly not forgotten or neglected at the National Botanic Garden of Wales where a whole garden is dedicated to him and his work.
A man of much learning and many talents Wallace worked in the south Wales area both as an engineer and an architect before devoting himself to science and botanical research, concentrating on evolution and natural selection.
There was intermittent contact between Wallace and Darwin but the latter was shocked to receive from Wallace a copy of the findings he proposed to publish - which so closely mirrored Darwin’s own theories. Their two papers were presented to the London Linnaen Society in 1858 ; the following year Darwin published -On the Origins of Species.
Afterwards Wallace continued his own research, travelling extensively and concentrating on biodiversity and geography.
This ancient village lacks a VT destination listing of its own so creeps in here to assert its claim for a visit. There is plenty to see and do here!
The oldest part of the village is clustered around the 3-arch bridge that crosses the River Teifi. The present structure dates from 1785 but there was a bridge on this site in the C12th.
The mill on the banks of the river close to the bridge was recorded as long ago as 1180 but the present Mill dates from about the same time as the bridge. It remained in constant use until 1939. Post-war renovations and attempts to revive the mill were short lived. I remember visiting it in the 1960s when it was beginning to look very neglected.
Further renovations in the 80swere made but its success as a working mill was impeded by changes in the water flow of the river and low tides over the weir mean that it now operates infrequently.
A new use was found for the Mill when it became the National Coracle Centre. Salmon fishermen used these tiny crafts regularly back in the 1960's - they are now very popular for hobby boating.
Take a walk upstream to see the falls particularly after snow or heavy rain.
Below the Bridge see the Holy Fountain.
Stop for refreshments in one of the local cafes or pubs.
Buy your stamps and cards at the Post Office.
Enjoy your visit!
Llandeilo is a picturesque market town situated in the County of Carmarthenshire. The town is surrounded by glorious Countryside and if you're lucky while driving in this area you'll catch a glimpse of a Castle or two high up perched high up on the hills.
Llandeilo town has some great historic buildings, small independant shops and some lovely traditional local pubs on the high street.
You can't miss the attractive medieval tower of St Teilo's Church as you enter the town. The church building as seen today was completed in 1850. The churchyard and the site on which the church stands have a much longer history, and date back to the sixth Century.
Just two miles away from the centre of town you will find the Dinefwr Country Park where you'll find Newton House (National Trust property), Dinefwr Castle and acres of wonderful countryside, walking trail and deer herd.
This Castle has got to be one of the most fascinating of all the Welsh Castles. It sits high up on a huge limestone crag in the Cennan Valley rewarding those who reach the top with the most fantastic views of the beautiful Camarthenshire countryside.
There is a lovely visitor centre, Cafe and shop at the foot of the path leading to the Castle. A short uphill walk along the waymarked path will take you to the foot of the hill on which the Castle sits. There is no path leading to the Castle, just an uphill scramble - avoiding the sheep poo!! A little effort will reward you with outstanding views combined with a great Castle. One unique feature of Carreg Cennan can be found in the South-East corner - a cave for you to explore! Be sure to take a torch but beware the cave is steep, dark, damp and can be a bit slippery in places :-(
The visible stonework of this Welsh Castle is entirely of English creation. It's Welsh predecessor, probably built by the Lord Rhys in about 1197 has been entirely swallowed up. Since then the Castle has caused many battles between the Welsh and English, passing from one to the other over the centuries. By the mid fifteenth century the Castle was the property of the Duchy of Lancaster and governed, by Gruffydd ap Nicholas. After the defeat of the Lancastrians in 1461 at the battle of Mortimer's Cross and Gruffydd's sons had to surrender the Castle to Yorkist control and orders were given to dismantle the buildings. This was clearly not carried out very well, the Castle is now in the care of CADW (Welsh historic Monuments).
After a walk around Llandeilo we went to the National trust park were Dinefwr Castle is. You can park all day for £2 and if you have the time you could spend all day here just walking around the lovely country park and exploring the castle ruins and the magnificent country house that was built to replace the castle.
It is a good 30 minute walk from the carpark to the castle and it is up hill most of the way. The path takes you through some lovely blue bell woods before it opens out at the top of the hill to the castle which like nearby Carreg Cennen has some great views of the surrounding country side.
The castle is free to enter and although not massive it is still impressive with it's great circular keep and curtain walls parts of which date from the long struggles with the Anglo-Normans. The castle was the seat of Lord Rhys, Prince of South Wales.
Carreg Cennen castle is a fabulous castle that sits high on a craggy hill overlooking the Brecon Beacons national park and Black Mountain.
A short walk from the carpark will bring you to the old farmyard and buildings that house a tea room and shop where you pay the entrance fee, then a walk up the hill you have to go up a steep slope with no path to reach the castle.
Like the great castles built in North Wales by Edward I it consists of an inner and an outer ward.
The castles Inner ward and dominant gate house is it's earliest part.
Extra protection was given to the inner ward by a barbican consisting of a stepped ramp along the edge of the ditch, leading to a square tower in front of the gatehouse which had a drawbridge, portcullis and door.
A great feature of this castle is a cave, consisting of a long gallery at first it then runs into the hill by about 45 meters, you can explore it but you will need a torch and it can be quite slippy so good shoes and free hands are essential.
Dinefwr Country park is situated just a few miles from the market town of Llandeilo. Here you'll find many waymarked footpaths taking you through the acres of glorious countryside, past the fallow deer herd and if you're lucky you'll find some of the rare white cattle which roam the park.
Dinefwr Country park has some great historical buildings for you to explore too; Newton house and Dinefwr Castle to name but a few.
There are some great waymarked walks around the Park, details of which can be found at the Visitor Centre in the main car park.