THE town of Laugharne in Carmarthenshire — pronounced ‘Larne’, just like the Antrim town — is the setting for Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, and where the poet and playwright lived with his wife Caitlin Macnamara for the last four years of his life.
In fact, if you stay in one of the Dylan Coastal Resort’s luxury lodges you’ll look right down, through woodland, to Dylan’s house.
Nearby is the poet’s study —a small white boathouse looking out across the Taf estuary, and beyond to the low green hills of Carmarthen.
Today the study is beautifully preserved as a museum, the floor realistically littered with screwed-up paper – the most painstaking of wordsmiths, Dylan Thomas would produce over a hundred drafts of his poems.
A hundred metres up the cliff path is the writer’s house; while serious students of his work should head to the Dylan Thomas Museum in Swansea (his birthplace), the Laugharne house offers a glimpse of his domestic circumstances.
The cliff-side lodges at the Dylan Coastal Resort look down through the woods across the same view that the poet saw every day.
All the lodges come with huge panoramic windows that take up most of their sea view wall. The master bedroom has yet more floor-to-ceiling windows so that you can keep a watch on the Taf estuary for pretty much most of the day.
Particularly if you have one of the lodges with a hot tub out on the patio.
Submerged in the warm bubbling tubs, you can recite a spot of Dylan Thomas poetry while keeping the estuary covered.
In fact the staff are so obliging at the resort they’d probably get somebody to come up and recite the verses in a lilting Welsh accent:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light…
From your patio you’ll have an excellent 180 degree view of the ‘heron priested’ shoreline of the Taf that Dylan spoke of in his Poem in October
It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
And the mussel pooled and the heron
He really was very good.
In the evening, when silence creeps across the estuary, you’ll hear the cry of the curlew.
Can there be a more poignant, and indeed poetic, sound than this?
It’s enough to make you start jotting down some verses yourself.
As it happens, my bird spotting began as I sipped coffee on the first morning.
Just outside the lodge window, gorging itself on thistledown, was a bullfinch. Its beautiful red plumage was set of nicely by a jet black head and dainty grey waistcoat of plumules.
OK, it’s basically just a sparrow in drag, but impressive nonetheless. And I hadn’t seen one for years.
A real cliff-hanger
You can rent out a five-star Dylan Coastal lodge, or you can buy your own.
The company can even arrange to manage your rent out your lodge for you.
Lions rugby legend Alun Wyn Jones is a lodge owners.
But don’t worry: the resort is resplendent with bushes and trees.
Hide behind them if you don’t want to get involved in a barney about Conor Murray taking over the captaincy of the Lions.
In order to release your inner and thinner self, the resort’s Milk Wood House Spa offers a herbal steam room, treatment rooms, themed showers, a tepidarium and infinity pools overlooking the exquisite, estuarine seascape.
There’s also a fully-equipped fitness studio.
This isn’t really my sort of thing so I’ll probably leave that one with you.
I imagine you’d meet up with Alun if you go early enough.
The mezzanine Milk Wood Bar & Kitchen is definitely more my cup of tea, or in this instance, more my raspberry Bellini cocktail.
The menu runs from fast to fancy, that is, from pizzas to the likes of pan-fried hake in a cockle broth — and there’s a very fine cocktail menu.
Although an air of seclusion surrounds the lodges, it’s an easy walk (five minutes) into Laugharne.
Dylan described it as a strange town, an eccentric, English-speaking outpost in the heart of Welsh Wales. Its inhabitants are said to have formed much of the inspiration for the townsfolk of Llareggub — which looks very Welsh until you read it from back to front.
Sir Guido de Brian could well belong to the cast of characters that make up Under Milk Wood — Nogood Boyo, Mrs. Dai Bread, Captain Cat, Evans the Death, Organ Morgan and so on. But no, Sir Guido actually existed and built St Martin’s Church in the 14th century.
This is where the poet is buried, his grave marked by a white cross.
Just across the town square, and on the road to the Dylan resort is Brown’s Hotel, where the poet guzzled, gargled and gossiped — and gave out the bar’s phone number as his own.
I can see the attraction. It’s certainly the sort of place I’d like to relax in occasionally, three or four times a week.
The promenade along the seafront is utterly dominated by a wonderfully dilapidated 12th century Norman castle.
If you walk far enough, past the castle ramparts, skirt the salt marshes, you’ll come to the Pendine Sands — where land speed record attempts were all the rage in the 1920s.
A Welsh serendipity
An ongoing collusion between nature, the weather and the National Trust ensures that this part of South Wales remains unspoilt.
On the flawlessly beautiful shoreline, mountain ridges shelve down to grassy dunes and golden beaches.
Then as a masterstroke, an unpredictable climate means that those looking for a sunlit holiday of lying and frying give it a body-swerve.
It can be wet, right enough.
In my younger days, when I fancied myself as a bit of a jack-the-lad, I got to know a Welsh punk band Yr Anhrefn quite well.
I particularly liked their album Defaid (sheep produce), Skateboards and Wellies. They used to boast to me about being, “Young, gifted and damp.”
So, yes, the climate ensures that you can amble along the seven-mile hard, flat strand of Pendine Sands, set up your picnic stuff, and pretty much have a few acres of beach to yourself.
The National Trust, meanwhile, threw a protective arm across much of the Welsh south coast, preventing too many holiday-camp carbuncles and hacienda-style bungalows from erupting along its hilltops.
As a result, when the sun does deign to shine – and this phenomenon has been known – South Wales is transformed into retro holiday heaven.
Pretty seaside towns, bucket and spade beaches, jaunty fish-and-chip harbours — and you're never more than a few miles away from the next crumbling castle.
After an exhausting day having a good time, it’s home to the Dylan Resort.
Last one into the hot tub has to fetch the drinks.
NEED TO KNOW:
The Dylan Coastal Resort, Laugharne Park, Laugharne, Carmarthen SA33 4SG
Four nights in a two-bedroom lodge, sleeping four, starts at £1,150
Call 01994 426006 or click here to book