Llansteffan lies on the River Tywi, which merges with the River Taf to form a large estuary. There have been fortifications overlooking the river here since the Iron Age, when a hillfort did the job. Then the Normans arrived and in the early 12th century erected an earth-and-timber 'ringwork' within the confines of the hillfort. The transformation into a 'proper' castle came courtesy of the Camville family, who held sway here from the 12th to the 14th centuries, and it later fell into Tudor hands. The castle, now ruined, is run by Cadw and is free to visit.
There is a settlement on the opposite side of the river called Ferryside. There is no ferry from here now, but during the height of the mining industry the mines in the South Wales valleys used to close for two weeks in what was known as 'Miners Fortnight' and the miners used to flock to Ferryside by train and cross over to Llansteffan, filling up the lodgings in the village. There was much fun and games during the holiday period, including a 'Mock-Mayor-making ceremony', a tradition which continues to this day in August. There are some lovely old photos of mock mayors of yore on the Llansteffan website. Dylan Thomas was a frequent visitor to the village, where he used to get his hair cut by the legendary Octavius Owen, of Occy Owen's Emporium. On one occasion the poet was due to be best man at the village church, and he was sent away with a flea in his ear by Occy Owen, who accused him of being improperly dressed.
Map of the area.
|Llansteffan Castle. Photo by Nigel Davies, via Wikimedia Commons|