A Travellerspoint blog

Wild Wales - days 4, 5, and 6

.... following the footsteps of George Borrow


Day 4 .. our itinerary for the day --- Llanuwchllyn. Dinas-Mawddwy, Mallwyd, Machynlleth

Today we travelled up into the hills along a windy, one vehicle road with laybys for passing. George noted (in his book) that this area was “very rough, over hills and mountains, belonging to the great chain of Arran, which constituted upon the whole the wildest part of all Wales”. (Aran Fawddwy which rises to a height of 905 metres (2, 790 feet) is the second highest Welsh mountain)

His writing is quite expressive. A little further he writes: “Scenery of the wildest and most picturesque description was rife and plentiful to a degree: hills were here, hills were there; some tall and sharp, others huge and humpy; hills on every side. “What a valley” I exclaimed. But on passing through the opening I found myself in another, wilder and stranger, if possible.”

And this was our experience also … every turn in the road presented a more spectacular sight. It was beautiful.

Some of the photos were taken from inside the car as it was not possible to stop on the narrow roads. And, of course, the photos do not do justice to this natural beauty.





From my research these words mean "Remember Tryweryn" which I understand relates to a time 5 decades ago when a small Welsh village of Capel Celyn, in the Tryweryn valley, where people had lived, worked and died for generations, suddenly disappeared under 70 billion litres of water by the building of a dam. The sense of injustice it engendered is still smarting five decades on.

Snowdonia National Park ...

.... standing on the highest pass in North Wales, looking to the left

... and to the right .. What a view!

Every turn more spectacular.



This is farming area, sheep on every hill. The farmhouses are built from stone. This one is an example, but most of the ones we saw were about three time larger .. solid, and look to be very cosy. You can imagine tucked up inside on a cold winter's evening.


The White Lion where George stayed, as did we — in Machynlleth.

Day 5 .. our itinerary for the day --- Borth, Mt. Pumlumon, Nant-y-Moch reservoir, Ponterwyd

As Machynlleth is only 20 kilometers from the west coast, I requested that we deviate just this once from George’s route. I wanted to say I had stood on the west coast of Wales looking over the Irish Sea to Ireland. .So we visited a lovely small village called Borth .. and we were so pleased we did. Not the furtherst point west … but I was happy enough.

Along this route we travelled through the Cambrian Mountains, the highest point of which is Pumlumon (752m). This area provides the largest catchment of water in Wales and is the source of three major river systems - .. The Wye (where we spent our recent weekend with the family in the beautiful Wye valley at Kerne Bridge) - The Severn (the longest river in Britain), - ... and the Rheidol. We experienced all of them.

I was astounded by the size of this stone wall along the road just outside Ponterwyd. It was long. Imagine building that by hand - Yikes.

I never did find out what this was .. but I thought it was a lovely pic. ????

Access point to the The Ceredigion Coastal Path which goes for 65 miles (105 km) along the west coast. It would be wonderful to walk .. even some of it. — at Borth Ynyslas Beach.

AND … the inevitable links course right beside the beach.

WOW!! … and we even found a sole kite surfer enjoying the solitude.


Looking north

... and south

This reminds me very much of the west coast of Denmark, and the area around Nth Vorupør … the dunes, the grasses. Just beautiful.

The pebble beach

More beautiful mountains



Nant-y-moch Reservoir approx. 5 kilometers from Ponterwyd. It is quite large covering 66. 8km2



Our reason for visiting Ponterwyd ... the George Borrow Hotel. George stayed here ... as did we. They have official documentation of his visit on display in the bar.

We found it interesting that when sharing with the locals that we were following the footsteps of George Borrow we were either presented with a blank stare!!!! - "Who are you talking about? - .... or enthused acknowledgement and appreciation of what we were doing.

The view from our bedroom window.

And from the restaurant with the beautiful light of the setting sun.

The River Rheidol which flows below the garden ... with waterfalls. Lovely.

Devil's Bridge, Ponterwyn

One of the most memorable experiences of our trip was a visit to Devil’s Bridge which has been a tourist attraction for over 100 years. George Borrow visited here and wrote about it’s rugged beauty before the top bridge had even been built. The main attraction is the Three Bridges built one on top of the other as each bridge required improved support to carry the increased traffic.

The Nature Trail follows in the footsteps of the monks of the past and provides views of the spectacular 300 ft waterfalls from the Mynach River which flow into the deep Rheidol gorge. . It contains 675 steps, is very steep in places, but is a site of outstanding natural beauty.

I hope these few photos go a little way to showcasing the wonderful opportunity we had to experience this lovely area.

After our ‘walk’ we enjoyed a pint in The Hafod Hotel, in which George stayed on his visit to Devil’s Bridge. A great way to end a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. You can check out the walks here .. .https://devilsbridgefalls.co.uk/the-walks/ ????

Firstly, the legend ….
Once upon a time … around the 11th century the Devil visited Wales as he had never been there before and he had heard that the scenery was breathtaking. He soon came across an old lady who seemed upset.
“What’s the matter?” he asked out of curiosity. “Oh, I’m in such a terrible muddle and I don’t know what to do!. My cow has wandered across the river and I can’t get her back”.
“Ah!” said the Devil “What you need my dear, is a bridge, and I am just the man to build you one. Why don’t you go home, and in the morning there will be a bridge waiting for you. All I ask in return is to keep the first living thing to cross the bridge!”.
“Okay then” she said “It’s a bargain. I’ll see you in the morning. Nos da, Goodnight”/
That night she wondered about this stranger who would build her a bridge. “What a strange request!. Why should I cross the bridge to get my cow back if he gets to keep me in exchange? Mind you it is very tempting offer”.
The next day she got up and called for her faithful dog. Together they went down to the river. “Well well” .. she couldn’t believe her eyes. In front of her was the best bridge that she had ever seen! “I told you that I would build you a bridge” said the Devil appearing from nowhere. “Now it’s your turn to keep your side of the bargain”.
“I know, you get to keep the first living thing to cross the bridge” and she started to walk towards the bridge. But just when she got to the entrance, she stopped, took our a loaf of bread from her apron pocket and hurled it across the bridge. As quick as a flash and before the Devil could stop it, the dog chased after it. “Aaaaaaagh!!!!” screeched the Devil. “You stupid old woman, I don’t believe it! Your smelly, hairy farm dog has become the first living thing to cross my bridge. It’s no good to me” he screamed and then he vanished.
Well, the Devil was never seen in Wales again as he was so embarrassed at being outwitted by the old lady. High in the mountains near Aberystwyth, there is a village where a very old bridge crosses a deep gorge. Above it are too other bridges built at later dates. But the lowest one .. Well, they say that the Devil himself built it!

The three bridges … It’s thought that the first or lowest of the three bridges was actually built by the Monks of Strata Florida to help ease their efforts in travelling to the Abbey in Pontrhyfendigaid some 9 miles away.

Notice the first and second bridges are constructed with arches. These are designed this way as the arches provide additional strength to the structure. — at Devil's Bridge Waterfalls.

A view down the gorge

This is ‘Jacob’s ladder’ – 100 continuous steps!!! I held tight to the railing.

Chas at the bottom of the walk looking down on the surging water.

The walk is circular. This is the bridge at the bottom of the walk to allow visitors to ascend the other side

There are five levels of the waterfall. This is the lookout at the second highest level

The steps to the lookout … rugged, but lovely

Almost at the top. ... Spectacular. This lookout was very close to the waterfall.

This image shows the two upper levels of the waterfall.

An amazing amount of water falls through the gorge each day.

These are the steps to the ‘easy’ walk to the Punchbowl on the other side of the main bridge. We didn't have time to do that one also, but I would have liked to, as it would have given me a 'front-on' view of the bridges.

Day 6 .. our itinerary for the day, destination --- Llandovery.
Most of the day was travelling .. through Tregaron, to Llandovery.

You may remember the legend of Devil’s Bridge in my last post. Well, it is probably more likely that the first bridge was built by the monks at Strata Florida Abbey, only a relatively short distance from the bridge. We had to stop and take a look.

The abbey of Strata Florida – Latin for ‘Vale of Flowers’ – (or Abaty Ystrad Fflur in Welsh) has stood on lush pastures beside the banks of the river Teifi since 1164. Established by the Cistercian monks, it became one of the most famous churches - a place of pilgrimage and a foundation of Welsh culture. Today only a small part of what was an enormous complex can be seen. It was huge. The Strata Florida Trust has been established for ongoing research, and in fact an archaeological dig is currently underway. You can even join in the dig if you wish.

The abbey was very prosperous and self-sufficient. .. They had wool from sheep, lead iron ore from the abbey's mines, woodlands provided timber for building and fuel, they grew wheat, oats and barley, fish for food, and a plentiful supply of fresh water. — at Strata Florida Abbey.

The choir monks were well educated, literate, and in many cases came from noble families. They lived a life of strict daily timetable of eight daily services, study, prayer, writing. .. However, the more mundane and physical tasks were done by the lay brothers who were from peasant families, were illiterate, and lived separately from the choir monks

There are unmistakable echoes of greatness among the ruins. The carved west doorway into the abbey offers an epic view down the nave to where the high altar once stood.

The use for this amazing stone basin is still not known, but some think it may have been used for the ceremonial washing of monks’ feet by the abbot on the Thursday before Easter.

You can still see some of the incredible decorated tiles that would have covered the floors of the church

The location of the abbey is beautiful, but it also had a ready water supply, lush pastures, abundant timber, and mineral wealth. These industries provided the wealth for the decorative tiles, the stone carvings, and the work of the monks which established the cultural spirit of the area.

Strata Florida is the final resting place for generations of medieval Welsh princes. The names in bold type here are buried in the grounds of the abbey.

Some of the gravestones in the grassed area of the abbey

Looking towards the arched entrance


This a memorial plaque to the 'Poet to the People' .. Dafydd Ap Gwilym ... , Wales’s most famous medieval poet. It is reported that he is buried in an unmarked grave under the Yew tree in the grounds of St Mary's church, next to the abbey.

Looking across to the abbey, with the hills in the distance. from the grounds of St Mary's Church.

You may also find it interesting to watch this short video on the research being conducted by the Strata Florida Trust. I loved listening to the participants speaking in their beautifully lyrical Welsh language.

One of the locals with whom we had a long chat told us that in rural areas the primary school curriculum is taught in Welsh, however I'm not sure if this is the same in the more populated areas. .. All signage is shown in both Welsh and English.


Day 6 was our last day following in the footsteps of George Borrow.

We finished our journey by enjoying our meal on Friday evening in the hotel where George stayed on his visit .. the Castle Inn, Llandovery. .We thoroughly enjoyed our travels over the mountains, through narrow roads, small villages, lovely people, and amazing scenery.

My very rough calculations show that we traveled approx. 350 miles -- 563 kilometers.

I have to give credit to Chas as it was he who read George's book, and got the idea to plan an itinerary to follow his trail.
Each evening Chas read an extract of the book sharing George's stories of the places we would visit the following day. It was great fun anticipating each day.

Obviously there was much we didn't see. Maybe one day we will return to this lovely country.



Posted by patsaunder 17:10 Archived in Wales

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