Builth Wells to Aberystwyth
An adventure through the stunning landscapes of mid-Wales
Follow the route - Builth Wells to Aberystwyth
> From Builth Wells take the A483, then turn left along unclassified roads at Garth to Llanwrtyd Wells.
Visiting Llanwrtyd Wells
The smallest town in Britain, Llanwrtyd Wells is on the River Irfon. Traces of its Victorian grandeur recall the town’s heyday, when travellers flocked here to sample its sulphur water – and traces of its odour remain along the river. The Abergwesyn Pass, which leads over the mountain from Llanwrtyd, has some of Wales’ finest scenery.
Places to stay near Llanwrtyd Wells
> Drive northwards into the hills along an unclassified road to Abergwesyn, 5 miles (8km).
The road that crosses the mountains from Abergwesyn to Tregaron is one of Britain’s most spectacular routes. It was originally a drovers’ route, along which cattle were taken to the markets of the Midlands and London in the 18th and 19th centuries. The views around the Devil’s Staircase, a steep and tortuous zigzag section of the road, are particularly impressive.
Places to stay near Abergwesyn
> Take the mountain road to Tregaron.
Tregaron is a small, Welsh-speaking community, famous as the birthplace of outlaw Twm Sion Catti, and of Henry Richard, the ‘Apostle of Peace’ who founded the Peace Union, forerunner of the League of Nations.
At the foot of steep hills, and at the southern end of a great expanse of bog, Tregaron is a popular pony trekking centre.
The often bleak and misty marshland, Cors Caron, was formerly a lake fed by the River Teifi, and is now a National Nature Reserve, with restricted public access. At the Kite Centre there is a small museum of local history, and information on the red kite.
Places to stay in Tregaron
> Follow the B4343 for 10 miles (16km) to Pontrhydygroes and the B4574 to Cwmystwyth, 4 miles (6km) further.
The village of Pontrhydygroes grew around the lead-mining industry and is now a quiet community set among wooded hills. The surrounding area was part of the Hafod estate in the 18th century, where Thomas Johnes began the task of afforesting the land. Further along, Cwmystwyth is another old mining settlement; the mines here were once worked by the Romans and the monks of Strata Florida Abbey.
> Head northwest along the B4574 for another 4 miles (6km) to Devil’s Bridge.
Visiting Devil’s Bridge
The River Mynach meets the River Rheidol here to create spectacular falls over 300 feet (91m) high. Three bridges were built across the chasm, one above the other, and Devil’s Bridge is the earliest one, probably the 12th-century work of the monks from nearby Strata Florida Abbey. The higher bridges date from 1753 and the early 20th century. Ninety-one steep steps, called Jacob’s Ladder, lead down to the river. The narrow-gauge Vale of Rheidol Railway climbs 680 feet (207m) in the 12 miles (19km) from Aberystwyth along a lovely scenic route to terminate at Devil’s Bridge Station.
> Take the A4120 northwards to Ponterwyd.
This small cluster of houses round a craggy gorge featured in the writings of 19th-century traveller George Borrow, whose book Wild Wales relates his stay at the village inn, now the George Borrow Hotel. A mile (1.6km) west of the village is The Silver Mountain Experience at Llywernog, which includes a 250 year old Victorian silver-lead mine and Mining Museum. There are fine views stretching to Cardigan Bay from Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre, further along the road.
> Head west along the A44 back to Aberystwyth.
Once known as the fashionable ‘Biarritz of Wales’, today this seaside town doubles as a lively and cosmopolitan university town. If you fancy a night out on the west coast, this is the town to hit. It’s also best for shopping, being the retail hub for many local villages scattered between the mountains and the sea. Known to locals as ‘Aber’, it’s located near to where the rivers Ystwyth and Rheidol join and is really quite isolated, with a largely Welsh-speaking population.