Ice Cream Tour.
Here in South Wales there is a very strong tradition of ice cream making. More than a century ago the South Wales valleys welcomed an influx of Italian immigrants. Surprisingly, as many as 80% of the italian immigrants came from the town of Bardi in Northern Italy. When they arrived in the industrial valleys they opened up cafes to service the workers of the heavy industries.
Once again, after the Second World War, there was a further wave of Italian migration. This influx opened up more coffee shops and ice cream parlours. Only a small number of these cafes remain, but many of the names linger in our minds. Some are just memories of childhood experiences, but surprisingly, many names remain entrenched in the manufacturing of ice cream.
Names that were familiar to anyone growing up in South Wales in the 50’s and 60’s are Cresci, Sidoli, Minoli, Rengozzi, Cascarini, Carpanini and Conti. In some areas the Bracchi surname eventually became the adopted name for all the Italian cafe’s in the valleys.
More recently the tradition of ice cream making has passed on to new entrepreneurs. Some of the traditional families remain, but the latest wave of ice cream companies, are often inspired by an agricultural heritage. There is now a desire to utilise the local fresh supplies of milk, cream and added flavourings in combination with the traditional recipes.
No visit to the seaside is complete without an ice cream and at our nearest beach will not disappoint. Central to the promenade at Aberavon is Remo’s. This is both a cafe serving food and drink and also there is also an ice cream kiosk at the front of the cafe. There is a fine selection of over 40 flavours of ice cream.
For many decades, Joe’s ice cream parlour has been a fixture in Swansea. It is located just a few streets back from the promenade. This traditional Italian ice cream has appealed to generations of Swansea residents. The parlour is sparse and simple with sundaes, milkshakes, cones or wafers to be enjoyed.
There is another Joe’s cafe located further around Swansea Bay down in Mumbles. The die hard fans seem to prefer the St Helen’s Rd outlet. Joe’s ice cream can also often be bought in small local shops or petrol stations.
A great, large seafront cafe to enjoy a flavour of Italy – coffee, pasta, pizza, cakes and of course ice cream. This popular and large cafe is always busy. It is a convenient stop off point for a promenade walk and also has paid car parking nearby.
Regardless of the weather there is always a steady flow of customers. On a warm day enjoy the outdoor seating, a lovely location for people watching and savouring the ever changing views over Swansea Bay. If simply wanting an ice cream, then aim for the outdoor kiosk at the far end of the building. Then keep on walking!
If driving through Mumbles along the seafront, after Verdi’s you pass the pier on the left side. Then, drive through the rocky outcrop around to the next Bay. This small bay is known as Bracelet Bay. This has the advantage of a large car park and a small children’s playpark. This is a pebbled Bay with some occasional sand. It is lovely to simply sit on the rocks and relax. Children can enjoy exploring the small rock pools, occasionally paddling, but never swimming due to the rocks and dangerous riptides.
An ice cream simply completes the experience – call in at Forte’s , a small cafe that has decades of pedigree. They offer not just ice cream, their breakfasts are popular before or after a clifftop stroll along the Wales Coastal Path.
A relative newcomer to the world of ice cream manufacture is this Gelato parlour in Penclawdd. The gelato is produced on the Gower, using local ingredients, this modern establishment is very popular. Alongside the traditional flavours are many new and exciting flavours. There are also many tempting desserts.
This location at Penclawdd has a spectacular view over the Estuary to Llanelli and Burry Port. It is a great place to view the sunset after a day of exploring the Gower Peninsula.
Llandeilo is a very small town with many interesting, small, independent shops. A visit to the Heavenly cafe on the main street is a highly recommended break. This is a cafe where indulgence dominates, be it cakes, chocolate or the ice cream!
On the approach road into the market town of Brecon is Llanfaes Dairy. It is located in a prominent corner position. The bold blue accents of colour on the building make it easy to spot. Once again, this is traditional hand produced ice cream with an array of mouth watering flavours. All the ice cream is made one batch at a time on the premises. The wonderful array of flavours varies from the traditional favourites to many more modern mixes.
More recently an outlet has been opened down at the Theatre Brycheiniog near the Canal Basin.
Hay on Wye is recognised for its many book shops. An ice cream or sorbet makes a lovely treat between the book browsing.
At Sheperd’s unusually, the ice cream is made using sheep’s milk. The fresh lemon and mint lemonade or one of their many coffee selections make a great accompaniment to an ice cream treat. Food is also served in this is a popular little place. The cafe is positioned in the centre of the town. On a Thursday it is ideal for observing the market held across the street.
This is another recently established, new generation ice cream company. They have outlets in the seaside town of Porthcawl and also in the upmarket town of Cowbridge. Their heritage is in agriculture and they proudly use local milk and cream for the products. This award winning luxury ice cream is made using the traditional method.
Although Conti’s in Lampeter is only 40 miles away, the journey along the more rural roads takes approximately 80 minutes. There are so many other choices of places to visit far nearer the cottages. Therefore, then it is unlikely that guests would venture this far? That said, guests never cease to amaze us with visits to Aberystwyth, St David’s and beyond.
Personally, visits to Lampeter evoke memories of previous family trips. Llanerchaeron is a National Trust property on the outskirts of Aberaeron and a delight to visit. Lampeter is the location of the Jen Jones Quilt Centre – both places are worthy of a visit.
If you find yourself reaching Lampeter, a visit to Conti’s would complete your ice cream tour! Conti’s is a name that was once synonymous with 17 cafes across South Wales. Artillo Conti arrived here in Wales during the 1930’s after fleeing the difficult times in Italy. One of the few industries in Bardi was the export of wood. Unlike the gnarled trees that grow in South Wales, the wood from Bardi was straight and strong. These trees were ideal for creating pit props for the South Wales coal mines and so the Conti family arrived here whilst delivering the wood.
The last remaining Conti cafe is in the centre of Lampeter. It is now safely in the hands of the third generation of Conti’s. The ice cream manufacturing now falls to the fourth generation of the Conti family. Today the traditional recipe combines organic milk, cream, butter and raw cane sugar. During the last decade many flavours have been developed beyond the traditional ice cream. Sorbets have also been created, thus appealing to the expanding dairy free and vegan market.