36 Hours in the Cambrian Mountains
Discover the beautiful landscape of the Cambrian Mountains...
Discover the southernmost section of the Cambrian Mountains of Carmarthenshire by visiting small villages and linked by various roads and lush valleys. You’ll follow in the footsteps of the Romans, the Drovers and also visit the town chosen for the 2021 Urdd National Eisteddfod. Whichever direction you come from we can encourage you to make the most of your time.
Llandovery is a gateway town to the Cambrian Mountains. Travel north and you’ll pass the peaceful villages of Cynghordy, Rhandirmwyn and Cilycwm. The Heart of Wales Railway connects Llandovery with Cynghordy and you can even walk back to the historic town via the Heart of Wales Trail. Seek out the Cynghordy Viaduct too, an incredible feat of engineering, recently celebrated its 150th Anniversary. It’s an awesome structure. Nearby you can try your hand at a 4x4 driving experience at Llanerchindda Farm.
Take a stroll
From the village of Rhandirmwyn a short drive can be taken along a decent road up the Tywi Valley as far as the eye catching Llyn Brianne Dam. Completed in 1973, today it’s a great place to stop for a picnic and take in the various valleys and tributaries that supply this reservoir. The three counties of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Powys converge right in the middle of ‘lake’. (Plans are afoot to make the car park here a Dark Sky Discovery Site allowing you to discovery the amazing dark skies of the Cambrian Mountains by night).
Discover an outlaw’s hideaway
Returning back down the valley, you’ll find the RSPB Gwenffrwd-Dinas Nature Reserve. There’s ample parking and watch out for the information panel that tells the story of the 16th Century outlaw Twm Sion Cati, whose cave and hideaway can be found on the way-marked trail through the reserve. Walk the boardwalk and the path continues along the bank of the River Tywi. It can often be uneven and slippery in places. The cave itself is a hollow in the rock face and has been a visitor ‘attraction’ for over two hundred years. View the engraved names on the cave walls.
Continue from the cave back down to the trail then right back through the nature reserve where the bluebells are an amazing sight in early May.
Eat at the river edge inn, the royally connected pub or the historic drovers’ haunt.
The location of the Towy Bridge Inn looks out onto the steep-sided landscape of the Tywi Valley. The food is tasty here as it is in the Royal Oak Inn in Rhandirmwyn, a short journey back down the valley. A nearby 600-700 year old oak tree recently won Welsh Tree of the Year. Whilst also used once as a pig-sty it is also believed to have a hiding place for a king.
Many visit the village of Cilycwm. Here you’ll find the Neuadd Fawr Arms which also offers a great pint and bar meal. To burn off the calories, why not follow the waymarked trails of the remote woodland known as Cwm Rhaeadr. If you’ve got your bike you can pedal with pleasure here too, but make sure that you visit the dramatic waterfall before you leave.
There’s gold in them there hill(and mountains)
The National Trust’s Dolaucothi Gold mines has so many reasons for visiting. Join one of the underground tours which allow you to wear a hard hat and head torch and look really cool, before heading down into the even cooler underground passages. Returning to the surface you can pan for gold, explore old sheds and machinery and visit the café and shop. There’s a short Miners’ Way Trail to follow too. There are over 25 KM of paths to build up an appetite!
Award winning pub close by
No visit to the gold mines is complete without a visit to the Dolaucothi Arms. This extremely friendly local village pub has a large beer garden and food made from local produce. In 2019, it was voted the Countryfile Rural Pub of The Year. From the pub you can follow in the pub owner Claire’s footsteps and reach a local summit where you can really appreciate this incredible Cambrian Mountains landscape. A video of her walking the route had more than 25,000 vies on Twitter.
Head onto the Abbey Road
To complete your discovery of the southern wild west of the Cambrian Mountains of Carmarthenshire, head south from the land of the Romans to the tranquil shores of the Upper Talley Lake and the remains of Premonstratensian Abbey. Talley Abbey was founded by Lord Rhys, one of the most powerful and successful of Welsh Princes. Lord Rhys is buried in St David’s Cathedral.
Today a visit to the abbey offers more than just look back into the history books. The setting is so special and a short woodlands walk nearby allows you to climb high above the flat valley floor with some great panoramic views in all directions.
King of the Castle
Heading home, your first 36 hours in the Cambrian Mountains of Carmarthenshire is nearly done. But first an exploration of the town of Llandovery is a must. Once the home of over fifty pubs and inns today it stands proud as a gateway to the north and west to the Cambrian Mountains and east and south to the Brecon Beacons National Park. The remains of the late 13th century castle is an iconic masterpiece which is today the home of the Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan monument. This eye-catchingly shiny 16ft tall stainless steel statue stands proud on the castle ‘mound’ and looks north west to the magnificent Cambrian Mountains landscape, a landscape you will have discovered in just under 36 hours.
Time for a cuppa
After discovering railways, highwaymen, Roman gold, an abbey and a castle, even the energetic will require a sit down and a cuppa. The Penygawse Tea Room is a stone’s throw from Llandovery Castle or why not visit the West End Café(popular with bikers) or even pick up a bar menu in the Castle Hotel.