Colourful houses, soft sunsets, white sand, rolling hills and perhaps, the sound of a local musician drifting in the air. If that sounds tempting, it might be time to consider retiring to West Wales.
Retiring to West Wales: things to know before you go
Retirement should be the next great adventure. The challenge is to combine adventure with the necessities of life. West Wales is unique in being able to offer every home comfort and a whole new world at once.
From the upmarket surf paradise of the Gower to the castle walls of Cardigan, West Wales delivers.
Carmarthenshire is home to Dylan Thomas’ boathouse in the pretty coastal town of Laugharne and the legendary home of Merlin himself.
Llandovery and Llandeilo are both stops on the antiquing trail and character packed additions to Carmarthen itself.
Ceredigion county is home to Cardigan and Aberystwyth. It buzzes with Welsh culture and has long been a refuge for those seeking to escape the rat race.
Further south, looking out at Ireland, is the Pembrokeshire coast. A place where even the light is something special.
From Newport Beach and the market town charms of St Davids to the sweet, seaside town of Tenby, Pembrokeshire has something for everyone.
The Gower is a place for those who need their touch of the wild to come with city comforts on hand. It was designated Britain’s first Area of Outstanding natural beauty in the 1950s and remains totally unmarked by overdevelopment.
The beaches are a surfer’s dream, and they make for a breathtaking dog walk, but close to all the conveniences of Swansea.
However, an ideal retirement destination is not just about natural attractions. There are quite a few practical things that we need to consider before moving somewhere new.
We have made up a list of the 9 most important things you need to know if you are planning to retire to West Wales.
1. Low cost of living
Affordability is one of Wales’ biggest attractions.
Even living in Cardiff, the Welsh capital isn’t that expensive. However, the cost of living figures for Carmarthen and Haverfordwest are even lower.
Eating out is between 10% and 17% cheaper, helping you enjoy the local food scene. Groceries are also slightly cheaper than in the capital, and most property prices are competitive.
Expect a slightly higher cost of living in the Gower, but prices still compare very favourably with other popular retirement destinations. The prices are similar to Cardiff, so nothing to lose your sleep over.
2. Mild weather
So, you’re thinking about moving to Wales. Some well-meaning friend has probably chimed in and mentioned a holiday they once spent in Wales, never leaving their raincoat.
It might interest you to know then, that some areas of West Wales like Fishguard and North Pembrokeshire get a similar amount of annual rainfall to Hampshire. Overall, West Wales gets a similar amount of rain to Cornwall and Devon.
Nobody could say it doesn’t rain sometimes. What you get in return for a modest amount of rain is a warm, mild climate that rewards gardeners and provides a long season of usable outdoor weather.
3. Stunning natural surroundings
West Wales is home to an outsized number of the world’s best beaches, from Barafundle to Newport.
The entire west coast of Pembrokeshire is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and in East Carmarthenshire, you will find yourself in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons.
Cardigan Bay regularly tops lists of places you must see before you die, and the Preseli Hills are the atmospheric original home of Stonehenge.
The beauty that this corner of the world has to offer is astounding. Even better, it is surprisingly accessible.
The Wales Coastal path runs all around the coast and is maintained for walkers, cyclists and, often, wheelchair users. You won’t need to climb a mountain to enjoy the landscape, but if you want to, you can.
4. Affordable housing
Retiring to West Wales is a great way to make your housing budget go further. Compared to alternatives like Cornwall, Devon and the south coast, prices are a breath of fresh air.
House prices in the Gower and in some coastal villages are significantly higher than elsewhere in West Wales. The cost of an unspoilt sea view is still very competitive. Presentable three-bedroom properties in the Gower start at around £220,000, but larger properties can easily climb towards £1,000,000 and over.
In Pembrokeshire, the average price of property is around £240,000 with detached properties coming in at £320,000.
Hotspots for property prices include Narberth and St Dogmaels as well as several other quaint coastal hideaways.
Popular towns like Fishguard and Pembroke give a good balance of amenities, competitive prices and picturesque views.
Carmarthenshire is a perfect escape to the country. The county boasts rolling hills, beaches, forests and mountains. Not to mention a range of cottages, smallholdings and characteristic colourful terraces.
Don’t overlook cosy seaside villages around Laugharne and Pendine, where you can often snap up cheaper properties than in Pembrokeshire.
Where this county really shines, though, is the villages. Llannon, Five Roads, Golden Grove and Trapp are just a few highlights. Winding country lanes, hedgerows bursting with hazel and rose hips and houses that become home the moment you walk in.
The average detached property in the county is sold for around £280,000 with semi-detached options coming in at a tempting average of £160,000.
Ceredigion offers beachside havens and rural idylls.
Detached properties sold for an average of £306,000 in 2021 with semi-detached properties at an average of £195,000. Coastal areas and Aberystwyth tend to be the most expensive.
Inland areas like Lampeter are more modestly priced. Property values in the area are rising, but there are still bargains to be found.
West Wales is not the place to move if you want your interactions with your neighbours to be limited to a polite nod.
Welsh people and their adopted neighbours are friendly and curious. If you’re used to living in a small community, you might already have some idea of what to expect. Attempts to speak Welsh are very welcome, but it’s not a necessity.
Community initiatives are common, and you’ll find everything from community theatres to ukulele classes.
That’s on top of the standard offerings like walking groups, choirs and bowls clubs.
There are also voluntary groups looking after parks, wildlife and beaches. Think of yourself as part of your new community from day one and get involved.
6. Plenty of activities
If there is any time left in between farmers’ markets, pottering around shops and walks on the beach, West Wales has plenty going on.
Aberystwyth, Carmarthen, Milford Haven and Ammanford have their own local theatres. These local gems fill the calendar with plays, live music and pantomimes for any Christmastime visitors.
There are hobby groups for everything from pottery to paragliding in West Wales.
The area has always been home to a large artistic community. That means plenty of opportunities to try your hand or just appreciate the work of others.
For literature lovers, don’t miss the Laugharne Weekend and the Llandeilo Literature festival.
West Wales has all the primary care services you can expect elsewhere in the UK. GP surgeries and small rehabilitation hospitals are nearby in most towns.
Singleton Hospital in Swansea has all standard acute services and a large A&E department. It is most convenient for those in the Gower or East Carmarthenshire.
In Carmarthen itself is Glangwili. It is smaller than Singleton but has an A&E and most acute services.
The Withybush hospital sits in Haverfordwest. It offers several inpatient wards and an adult A&E, although the children’s A&E service is under review.
The only service you might struggle to find under the NHS in West Wales is a dentist. Waiting lists can be lengthy. Emergency treatment is still covered under the NHS though, and there are private practices available.
New residents can expect a similar level of service to other parts of the UK. If you are moving from outside Wales, remember to get a paper copy of your records from your GP. Otherwise, it can take time for them to reach your new practice.
Transport links vary depending on where you live.
If you opt to live in the Gower, then you should be very well-connected. Regular bus routes and a mainline train are available from your area. The M4 artery runs through Swansea and trips to Cardiff, Bristol and London are simple.
Carmarthenshire is where the M4 ends, although the roads are well maintained all the way to Fishguard.
There are train links from Swansea to Llanelli regularly. Services to Carmarthen are also available.
A smaller scenic route heads north on the heart of Wales line that winds all the way up to Church Stretton and Shrewsbury.
Over in Ceredigion, your options outside Aberystwyth and Ceredigion itself might be more limited.
Local buses do exist, and road links are reliable except in rare extreme weather. It will take you more time to get to a city if you need one, though. A train to Cardiff or Birmingham can take around four hours.
Pembrokeshire has good transport links to the ports at Pembroke and Fishguard, which are useful for everyone.
Bus routes along the coast are some of the most scenic in Britain, and services are frequent in the summer. Buses in the winter and inland are less plentiful, but still present.
Your stomach won’t suffer in West Wales. Your waistband might.
Not only will you find a lovely selection of local pubs and restaurants, but there are also gems you might not expect.
Aberystwyth is known for its selection of artisan grocers and multicultural offerings.
Pembrokeshire hosts its own fish festival to celebrate the fresh catch.
For inland epicures, Lampeter and Cardigan have their own food festivals with local stars and cosmopolitan treats.
Don’t forget to make time to visit Narberth and Llandeilo with their burgeoning café culture, bakeries and farmers’ markets.
Final thoughts on retiring to West Wales
West Wales can offer country lane walks, bracing hilltops, sunny days on the beach and treats for the discerning shopper.
Whether you want cosy country living, coasts to take your worries away with the tide or comfort and community, West Wales is well stocked.
If you need baking hot weather or a large city, then West Wales might not be your style. On the other hand, if a warm welcome and a slice of the wild appeal, then it might be time to start packing.
You might find useful:
- The Best Places To Live In Wales
- Didn’t find what you were looking for or need further advice? Comment with your question below and we will do our best to help.
Helpful external links:
- Find out more about the Laugharne Weekend in West Wale
- Plan your gastro tour of the area with Taste Atlas of West Wales