The vast plateau of rolling moorland jewelled with small lakes were described by the 19th century traveller and writer George Borrow in his book ‘Wild Wales’ as ‘a lofty mountain in the far distance, a hill right before me, and on my left, a meadow overhung by the southern hill’. Largely unchanged, the mountains are equally beautiful in the green cloak of summer bracken, the purple haze of heather or burnished gold in the winter sunshine.
Pumlumon Fawr, at 752m (2,468 feet) is the highest peak in the Cambrian Mountains. Its Welsh name (based on ‘pump’ meaning ‘five’) reflects the fact that it has five subsidiary peaks: Pumlumon Arwystli, Pumlumon Llygad-bychan, Pumlumon Cwmbiga and Pumlumon Fach. To the south of Pumlumon is the Elenydd area, the largest and most remote part of the Cambrian Mountains, made up of a vast area of upland plateau that is broken up by steep valleys, typified by the Abergwesyn Pass, rated as one of the most beautiful mountain passes in all of Wales.
Mining for metals has been an important part of the economy of Ceredigion for nearly 4,000 years. Buildings from the Victorian era, when the industry peaked, are still visible, and the sheer scale of the workings is simply awesome.
The Cambrian Mountains are the main watershed of Wales where the Severn, Wye and Rheidol rivers rise.
The monks of Strata Florida farmed vast estates in the Cambrian Mountains, and the tracks used by them were later developed by the drovers to take livestock to major markets in England. At the end of the eighteenth century it is estimated that some thirty thousand cattle went over the mountain routes of Mid Wales each year. The routes chosen by the drovers would originally have been the quickest and easiest route over the mountains from the various collecting points, such as Ponterwyd, Devil’s Bridge, Tregaron, and Llanddewi Brefi.
Capel Soar y Mynydd is often called the most remote chapel in Wales. Between Tregaron and Llyn Brianne, it is a Welsh Calvinist Methodist Chapel which was built in 1822 to serve the hill farmers of the remote upper valleys. The chapel today is still a site of active worship and visitors continue to make their pilgrimage to this hauntingly beautiful site.
The Cambrian Mountains Initiative, inspired by HRH The Prince of Wales, seeks to help sustain traditional upland farms and communities by promoting craft and produce from the area, and by protecting the environment in which they are produced. HRH The Prince of Wales established his Welsh home, Llwynywermod in the Cambrian Mountains in 2008, and painted a watercolour of Cwm Berwyn, near Tregaron, which is now used as part of the Mynyddoedd y Cambrian Mountains brand.