The Cambrian Mountains are one of the few remote wilderness areas left in Southern Britain. The main settlements lie on the edges of a wild open moorland and although there are only few roads across the mountains they are acknowleged as some of the most scenic routes in Britain.
The Cambrian Mountains - a wilderness alive with wildlife
The vast plateau of rolling moorland ridges, 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, autumnal purple and gold of sedges and heather, or the crisp white of untouched winter snow.
The Cambrian Mountains may have few distinct peaks, but climb Pumlumon - to the highest of its five summits ('five' in Welsh is 'pump') - for unbroken views as far as Snowdonia and Llyn to the north, and the Brecon Beacons to the south. The remotest part of the mountains are probably the area called Elenydd - an area of internationally important blanket bog blanket and breeding site for the red kite, merlin and peregrine falcon.
The best place to see red kites close up is when they come in to feed at Bwlch Nant yr Arian, just inland of Aberystwyth.
Pumlumon and the silver mountains
Several large reservoirs nestle between the hills, storing water for the great cities of the English Midlands and south Wales. Water has been harnessed on other Cambrian Mountain rivers, including the Einion at Furnace and the Leri at Talybont.
Marvel at the great feats of engineering that created the series of dams of the Elan Valley, Llyn Brianne and Cwm Rheidol and the igenuity that enabled the Vale of Rheidol steam trains to navigate the valley to Devil's Bridge, where, local lore claims that the Devil himself had a hand in building the first bridge.
Mining for precious metals was an important part of the economy of the Cambrian Mountains from ancient times. Now eerily quiet, broken only by the song of skylarks or the cry of red kites, the dramatic remains of an industrial past can be seen across the landscape, most dramatically at Cwmystwyth, and rescued and restored chimneys and waterwheels at Cwmsymlog and Pontrhydygroes. Visit the Silver Mountain Experience at Llywernog to explore the history and folklore.
Abandoned works, isolated farmsteads and chapels are now providing fertile ground for film-makers.
Elenydd - the Cambrian Mountains haven of peace and tranquillity
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 markets in England. The monks also mined for minerals in the surrounding hills. Recent archaeological studies have have revealed the immense extent of the Abbey's precincts, including industrial remains.
Strata Florida abbey is a tranquil site, a perfect resting place for the princes and poets buried here.
Capel Soar y Mynydd, often called the most remote chapel in Wales, is a Welsh Calvinist Methodist Chapel which was built in 1822 to serve the hill farmers of the remote upper valleys.
Today Soar y Mynydd chapel is still a site of active worship and visitors continue to make their pilgrimage to this hauntingly beautiful site from all over the world. it is reached along a single track metalled mountain road from Tregaron or skirting the Brianne Reservoir from Rhandirmwyn or the ancient mountain tracks of the drovers roads from Llanddewi Brefi.
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 in 2008 at Llwynywermod, in the southern hills of the Cambrian Mountains. Inspired by the landscape and pursuing a favourite hobby he painted a watercolour of Cwm Berwyn, near Tregaron, which is now used as part of the Cambrian Mountains beef brand.