Out and About

Llandovery

Visiting in the 19th century, the author George Borrow called Landover "the pleasantest little town in which I have halted". This appealing little market town stands at the confluence of the Rivers Bran, Gwennol and Tywi, so its Welsh name, Llanymddyfri (meaning "the church amid the waters" is particularly apt.

The Romans came here and built a fort within whose ramparts a church was later built. The Church of St Mary on the Hill still has some Roman tiles in its walls; also of note here are the barrel-vaulted chancel and tie-beam roof.

The town has two famous sons: Rhys Pritchard, known as a preacher and as the author of the highly influential collection of religious verses The Welshman's Candle, was vicar here from about 1602; in the fo0lowing century, the renowned Methodist poet and hymn writer William Williams was born in Llandovery. Amongst his many hymns, the best known in English is Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.

The history of the town is told in the Llandovery Heritage Centre, where the legends surrounding the hero Twm Sion Cati - the Welsh Robin Hood - and the local Physicians of Myddfai are also explored. The legend concerning the physicians is that a lady appeared one day from a lake in the Black Mountain. A local farmer's son fell in love with her and she agreed to marry him on condition that he did not hit her three times without cause. Over the years the years he had given her three light taps for what he thought was poor behaviour and, sure enough, she returned to the lake. But before disappearing she passed on her herbal healing secrets to her three sons, who became the first of the famous Physicians of Myddfai, a line of healers who practised from the 12th to the 18th centuries.

The attractive Dolauhirion Bridge spanning the River Tywi was built in 1173 by WilliamEdwards, whilst the village's chapel is said to have been the first meeting place of Methodists in Wales. North of Llandovery, near Rhandir-mwyn, is all that remains of Twm Sion Catl's Cave, the hideout of the 16th century "Robin Hood of Wales". A poet whose youthful escapades earned him the title, Twn Sion later curtailed his activities and settled down after marrying the heiress of Ystradffin and even became a magistrate. He died in 1620.

Around Llandovery :

Llangadog

5½ miles SW of Llandovery on the A4069

This small town in the Vale of Towy once boasted a castle although all that remains today is a mound as the castle was destroyed by its owners in 1277 rather than let it fall into the hands of the English.

To the southwest of Llangadog lies Carn Coch, the largest hill fort in Wales, whose earthworks and stone ramparts cover some 15 acres.

Talley

8½ miles W of Llandovery on the B4302

This village, with its backdrop of rolling hills, takes its name from Tal-y-llychau, meaning "Head of the Lakes". Between two lakes lies Talley Abbey, founded in the late 1100s by Rhys ap Gryffyd. It is the only Welsh outpost of the austere Premonstratensian canons who, ejected by the Cistercians in the early 13th century, had appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and were granted their own religious rights in 1208. Of the few remains to have survived, part of an immense tower still overshadows the peaceful abbey lawns. The nearby 18th century Church of St Michael is something of an oddity as it was built with no aisle and its interior was entirely taken up with box pews.

Crugybar

7 miles NW of Llandovery on the B4302

Just to the northeast of thevillage, and nestling in the beautiful foothills of the Cambrian Mountains, stands Felin Newydd, a 200-year-old working watermill believed to have been constructed on the site of a grist mill used by Roman soldiers working on the nearby gold mines. It was restored in the 1980s, when fascinating graffiti on the mill walls linked the building with 19th century Welsh colonists of South America. The mill is now capable of grinding flour once more.

The land around the mill is quiet, unspoiled and ideal for discovering all manner of wild plant and animal life. Lucky visitors have been known to see red kite circling overhead although there are also more friendly ducks and chickens to amuse young children. A renovated byre has been converted into a cosy tearoom that also includes an interesting selection of local crafts for sale.

Pumpsaint

8 miles NW of Llandovery on the A482

Near this hamlet, whose name means Five Saints and is also spelt as Pumsaint, is the Dolaucothi Gold Mines (National Trust), which date back some 2000 years to a time when the open-cast gold workings were secured by the Roman army. Once a likely source of gold bullion for the Imperial mints of Lyons and Rome, the mines are still in a remarkable state of preservation despite being abandoned by the Romans in AD 140; they were reopened for a short time between 1888 and the late 1930s. Visitors to this site can see both the ancient and modern mine workings, including a number of audits - the horizontal tunnels dug into the hillside for drainage and access. There is also the opportunity to try gold panning, to see an exhibition of vintage mining machinery and to tour the surrounding woodland on a waymarked trail. The site also has a shop selling Welsh gold and a tearoom serving delicious home-cooked food.