For generations of South and West Walian Welsh school children and chapel-goers the name Llansteffan will always conjure up golden memories of Sunday School Trips to the Seaside, and fun and games on the beach. Llansteffan (together with Porthcawl and Tenby) was one of the few special locations that chapel elders pencilled into their diaries every year when arranging the annual trip. Whether they came by bus, charabang, or train, a day at Llansteffan beach was the highlight of many a summer.
Today the train and charabang have been replaced by the ease the family motor car, and the day trip to what we called “the beach” has apparently been demoted to a trip to the “estuary”. Strangely, the Welsh Tourist Board refuse to allow the description of Llansteffan as a “beach” in their literature because it is technically an “estuary”. Well to the “elf’n’safety” PC world of Welsh and European beaurocracy, and with tongue in cheek, let us just add a word of sanity from the thousands of ordinary sensible people who flock here each summer – Llansteffan has always been a beach……it still is a beach……. and it will always remain a beach! In fact two beaches if the truth be told!!!
Scott’s Bay & The Main Beach on the Green
Whilst the less energetic amongst us are quite content with parking the car on the Green before heading down to the beach nearby, the more curious seekers of private pleasure and seclusion may walk around the headland of First Steps or Cegin Fach, then around 2nd Steps to Scotts Bay. Here one almost has a private beach to oneself, an idyllic cove with plenty of room and privacy for the more adventurous. Scott’s House (No!!… not the Captain Scott unfortunately, but a distant relative) a beautiful detached residence, sits atop a freshwater stream that empties onto the beach, and all around is a huge expanse of clean hard sand – perfect for lazy days of cricket and football. When the tide comes in Scott’s Bay is ideal for swimming and bathing with little or no current affecting the Bay. The Rocks below second steps (reached from the beach or by the headland path) are a popular mark for sea fishing for bass and flounder, and late in the summer, for spinning for mackeral.
For those of who who’ve opted to stay on the beach by the Green the attractions are obvious – a huge expanse of clean hard sand for picnics and fun and games whilst not being too far from your transport or the Public Conveniences on the Car Park. Also, the Green has three retail outlets – The Beach Shop which sells anything you need for a day on the beach plus coffees, cream teas, and snacks, and from the two Florries vans opposite, ice creams and drinks and some memorable portions of the best Fish’n’Chips in West Wales.!
As most of you realise, Llansteffan is a tidal estuary and as such will always pose a potential problem for swimmers who take no note of the tidal situation at the time. Generally, one should NEVER bathe until the tide has come well out of the riverbed. On Spring tides, when the tide turns at low water, a 5 to 6 knot current sweeps up the river towards Carmarthen and will take anything in the way, with it. Please do not allow your children or toddlers to play in the riverbed unaccompanied. Once the tide has progressed well into the flat sand, swimming is safe and fun. If in doubt never get out of your depth!! Again, children should be supervised at all times.
Over the years Llansteffan has ebbed and waned as a centre of the Welsh cockling industry. Cockles have always been collected here down the centuries, and many local people supplemented their meagre incomes by taking on this back breaking work. For the holiday makers a bag of cockles was part of the joy of a Sunday School outing. Even today many of the older generation still make a weekly pilgrimage to the village on a Sunday just to collect a bag for supper. The cockles themselves appear and reappear at whim. During the 70s and 80s they were very scarce, but over the last 15 years there has been a regular commercial fishery on the beach with all the attendant problems that have come in it’s wake. At the moment the cockle population is quite healthy but all cockle gathering, is prohibited until June 1st. If open after that date then the limit for non licenced pleasure pickers will be 8kg per day per person.
When the tide goes out in Llansteffan the waters retreat practically over the horizon into Carmarthen Bay to leave mile upon mile of pristine sand that you can walk upon for hours. Whilst wonderful to behold and a delight to wander across please be aware that when the tide turns again it will cover these sands faster than you can walk. So, make sure you know times of the tide for that particular date. If in doubt please see the large information sign near the Green Car Park telephone box where a current tide table is displayed for all to see.
Large Information Boards have been provided near the phone box and at the bottom of the Croft footpath. These give basic information as to the layout and geography of the village, the location of village retail outlets, pubs, restaurants etc, a short history of Llansteffan Castle, and also a brief guide to the type of wildlife you can expect to encounter on your visit here.
At the time of writing Parking in the Car Park is free of charge but there are strong indications that this might change in the very near future.
The issue of dogs on the beach has become a very contentious one over the last few years as owners desires to let their pets have a run on the sands at Llansteffan clash with the inhabitants and visitors’ desire to maintain a clean beach without any dog fouling, not to mention a safe beach where dogs present no problem to the hundreds of young and vulnerable children who play there. At the moment regulations state that NOBODY can take a dog (whether on a lead or not) onto the sands of the Green beach between May 1st and September 30th. On the Car Park, Green, or headland paths, as with any other public space, dogs must always be on a lead throughout the year. Please read the numerous signs referring to this problem with care. We have been told that the County Council will this year be levying heavy fines on any offenders. You have been warned!
A very unique view of Llansteffan beach.