With its expansive beaches, affordable property and Millennium Coastal Park, this quiet seaside town is known as ‘West Wales’ best-kept secret’. Words Lesley Gillilan.

Like many small towns on the South Wales coast, Burry Port has its roots in heavy industry. The harbour was built in the 1830s to ship coal from the Gwendraeth Valley. Tinplate, copper, silver and lead works grew up alongside. Until the 1960s, a 500-acre munitions works produced gunpowder and dynamite among the dunes of neighbouring Pembrey Burrows. And for decades, the vast Carmarthen Bay power station dominated the coastline. 

Now, all that’s gone – Pembrey Burrows is a country park, the demolished power station has been replaced by a lake, and the harbour is a yachty pleasure marina. Burry Port is still in the process of reinvention, but it has a lot of attractions – not least, its eight-mile beach. The local council describes the town as ‘West Wales’ best-kept secret’. 

Sense of freedom

Richard Nash and his partner Steve discovered it, almost by accident. They were living in Bristol, looking for a seaside house within a two-hour drive, and when they realised they couldn’t afford Dorset, they looked at cheaper places within the same radius. They found Burry Port by sticking a pin on a map. What they discovered was a quiet little place, on the north shore of the Loughor Estuary, well located on a mainline railway between two busier Carmarthenshire towns: Llanelli and Carmarthen. Richard liked its ‘wonderful sense of freedom – it reminded me of holidays as a child’. And he loved the idea of living so close to the sea. ‘But we didn’t want crowded beaches,’ he says. ‘I prefer my seaside raw, real and slightly desolate.’ 

First they bought a small weekend cottage. ‘We soon found that we enjoyed the winters, as much as the summers, and started spending more time here.’ Finally, they made an ‘impetuous decision’ to buy a larger property and moved to Burry Port for good. 

Three years later, they couldn’t be happier. ‘The town is unpretentious, relaxed, safe and incredibly friendly,’ says Richard. ‘The beaches and the scenery are stunning and even when it’s busy it’s easy to escape.’ He admits to needing the occasional city fix. ‘But every time we go away, we can’t wait to get back.’


The most sought-after properties are on the slopes of Pembrey Mountain (in reality a steep wooded hill where an assortment of elevated houses overlook the town, Burry inlet, the harbour and across Carmarthen Bay to the Gower). Another popular choice is Pembrey – the original harbour village, older than Burry Port, is edged by parkland and forest. In town, there are pockets of Victorian properties (a three-bedroom semi at £114,995) though a century of industrial development has left a predominance of 20th-century housing, mainly from the 1930s to the 1970s. You will also find holiday bungalows and new homes on the harbour. The most expensive properties rarely fetch over £500,000; smaller houses are around £75,000. 


The glorious Cefn Sidan Beach is ideal for sand-yachting, kite-sailing and bird-watching; Burry Port’s West Beach is the gateway to the Millennium Coastal Park – 22 miles of post-industrial landscapes transformed into wetlands, woodlands, nature reserves, play areas, fishing lakes, visitor centres and a National Cycle Path (you can cycle all the way to Swansea). Pembrey has the Ashburnham championship golf course and a motorsport circuit; Burry has its own opera company. There isn’t much in the way of good restaurants – other than chippies, pubs and, in the summer, the Lighthouse Café on the harbour – but Llanelli has the Sosban in a striking Grade II-listed building on the North Dock. To find out more see discovercarmarthenshire.com


Since the decline of its industries, Burry Port is largely dependent on leisure, tourism and, in a small way, shellfish processing – Parsons Pickles (potted cockles, mussels and laverbread) occupies an old tinplate works on the harbour. Many locals commute to jobs in Llanelli, Carmarthen or Swansea – all served by Pembrey and Burry Port Station on the West Wales line which runs between Pembroke Dock (to the west) and Cardiff (to the east). The 17-mile journey to Swansea takes around 45 minutes in the car, or half an hour by train. Change at Swansea for London Paddington (between three to four hours depending on connections). The nearest international airport is Cardiff (60 miles away). 


The town’s secondary school is Glan-y-Mor (meaning the Sea Shore), a co-educational comprehensive. Some local children commute to schools in Llanelli, including high-achieving Coedcae secondary. 


Despite its glorious surroundings and popular visitor attractions, some of Burry Port is not particularly pretty. Shops are a little limited, though Llanelli’s shopping centre is only five miles away. The county town of Carmarthen is a 14-mile drive away.


Amelia’s Cottage vrbo.com

Named after aviator, Amelia Earhart, this period cottage sits in a back street close to the shops and the harbour. Inside, it has three plush double bedrooms, a sunny kitchen/diner and a spacious sitting room with a fireplace – all decorated in Farrow & Ball colours and furnished with a stylish mix of vintage, modern and maritime. Perfect for families (and dogs), the cottage has a large, west-facing garden and off-street parking. From £300 per week. Three-night breaks from £180.


Burry Port: £182,902
Llanelli: £149,434
Carmarthenshire: £196,461
UK: £329,407

Average house prices: [April 2022]. Source: Zoopla


Walking the dog in Pembrey Country Park, with its acres of coastal pine forest, wildlife trails, bird hides and cycle tracks which run alongside the broad white sands of Cefn Sidan beach. The park also has a toboggan run, a dry ski slope and an adventure playground, but for Richard, it’s ‘somewhere to get away from the world – you can always find space for yourself.’ 

Elgan Jones & sons, the butcher is one of Burry Port’s local, independent shops. ‘It sells everything from cockles and home-cured bacon to Welsh lamb – and it’s all really good quality.’ 

The fish and chips at Joseph’s Fish Bar. ‘The fish is cooked to order, the portions are huge and the chips are fresh.’