Wild and remote landscapes, stargazing and magnificent walking and cycling trails. Spend one week in the Cambrian Mountains and discover why this under-the-radar part of Wales needs to be on your bucket list.
With so much to offer, the Cambrian Mountains should, in theory, be a tourist hotspot in Wales but is often overlooked by visitors to Wales.
It’s a unique part of Wales that is best known for its rugged landscapes and small and sparse communities.
One week in the Cambrian Mountains
Where are the Cambrian Mountains?
The area is a series of mountain ranges in central Wales that lies roughly between the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia.
Cambrian Mountains includes the areas of Carmarthenshire, Powys and Ceredigion.
It includes towns and communities of varying sizes including Llandovery, Tregaron, Lampeter, Rhayader, Llanidloes, Llanwrtyd Wells, Brechfa and Devil’s Bridge.
I think that the most intriguing characteristic of the area is that it clearly is the last wilderness region of Wales.
Cambrian Mountains Destinations
The environment, culture, heritage and Welsh language of this special area is proudly preserved and cared by the local communities, farmers and estate owners. This is primarily what makes the area so distinctive.
This peaceful and off-beat region is often skipped in favour of well-known tourism hubs such as Pembrokeshire, Snowdonia and the Beacons.
It’s a unique part of Wales that needs to be on your travel radar if you are looking for unspoilt landscapes and adventure activities.
Some of the places visited on this Cambrian Mountains itinerary include:
- Devil’s Bridge
- Llanwrtyd Wells
7 days in the Cambrian Mountains Wales
In order to fully appreciate the range of landscapes, activities and towns in the region, I recommend spending a week exploring the Cambrian Mountains.
This is a fairly ambitious itinerary for the more active traveller. You can, of course, pick and choose what locations to visit and what activities you want to do.
The itinerary spans 7 nights and an additional half-day if you want to slightly extend your time here.
This week-long guide gives you a selection of some of the best highlights and destinations in the region.
Get ready to explore the wildest and most remote part of Wales.
Start your seven-day journey the right way with Sunday Lunch at the Forest Arms in Brechfa.
You are going to need one of their delicious roast dinners to get you ready for a week of adventure.
Lunch at Forest Arms in Brechfa
This cosy pub is full of curiosities and history, including ‘Bob the Raven’. Bob is said to be a tamed raven who became somewhat of a local legend.
We always revere the most unpredictable of things in Wales. He is now immortalised in the bar as a taxidermy talking point.
Cae Hir Gardens
After a filling roast dinner, Drive north up through a wooded landscape reaching the poignant peace cairn on Mynydd Llanfihangel Rhos-y-corn. Here look north along the full length of the Cambrian Mountains.
Then, make your way to Cae Hir Gardens in Cribyn. This peaceful garden is a small corner of horticultural excellence with both Welsh and Dutch history.
Stop for coffee and delicious homemade cake and learn about how Cae Hir was created by the imagination and skill of Dutchman Wil Akkermans. His family history in Dutch horticulture stretches back over 200 years.
There are 6 acres of Welsh hillside to explore here, with a stream and water garden, rose garden, bonsai collection and local slate stonework. If you are a gardening enthusiast, you’ll be in your element here.
Canvas and Campfires Llanwnnen
Spend your first night in the Cambrian Mountains glamping at Canvas and Campfires in beautiful Llanwnnen.
This picturesque smallholding is home to luxury safari tents and a cosy refurbished 18th-century cowshed called Beudy Bach, [Little Cowshed].
The cowshed is a perfect couple’s getaway with a double room, fire, snug area and a wood-fired hot tub.
Bed linen, towels, logs and wi-fi are all included with your stay. I really recommend having a glass of vino in front of a roaring fire.
Groups might enjoy staying in one of Canvas and Campfires’ luxurious safari tents called Seren, Afon, Aderyn, Enfys and Dyffryn.
Each luxury tent sleeps up to 6, making it a perfect glamping holiday destination in Wales for families and groups of friends.
Jen Jones Quilts
Start your second day with a spot of boutique shopping at Jen Jones Quilts in Llanybydder.
They have a huge range of Welsh quilts and blankets to browse if you are looking for an authentic gift or souvenir from Wales.
Owner Jen Jones has a passion for quilts like no other. She has even set up the Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter.
This centre gives visitors a unique opportunity to see some of the world’s finest and historic quilts.
Lampeter town Centre
Head on over to Lampeter, the home of Welsh rugby for a spot of shopping and lunch.
Lampeter is where the people of Wales were introduced to rugby by the Rev. Professor Rowland Williams, who became Vice-Principal of St David’s College in 1850 and who’d played Rugby Football as a student at Kings College, Cambridge.
It’s a bit of a pilgrimage for rugby fans and the town’s relationship with the sport is recognised by the Welsh Rugby Union.
Lampeter the home of Welsh Rugby
Spend a few hours walking the Lampeter Town Trail and visiting the Lampeter Museum to really get a feel for the history of this small Welsh town.
There’s also a selection of independent shows to browse and local cafes and bakeries.
Make sure to swing by Conti’s Café for coffee or Murrough’s Welsh Brew Tea, it’s a really relaxed place to rest your weary feet and sip coffee with friends.
Hungry? Pick up a selection of fresh sandwiches, pastries and doughnuts from Y Becws bakery for a tasty lunch on the go.
Dolaucothi Gold Mines
Spend the afternoon exploring ancient gold mines dating back to the Roman era at Dolaucothi Gold Mines, Pumsaint.
Pop on a hard hat and traverse atmospheric mines with one of the knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guides.
It really is an impressive skill to bring dark and eerie caves to life. The guides managed to paint a picture of life underground and the hardships and challenges miners would have faced.
The National Trust have done an excellent job of maintaining the remoteness and authenticity of the site, rather than turning it into an overly gaudy tourist attraction.
Stay at Basel Cottage
This is a self-catering and dog-friendly rural retreat located in the glorious Cambrian Mountains countryside.
Unwind in their converted, self-catering cottage that is fully equipped with everything you need for a countryside break. Pop a few logs on the fire and relax in cosy surroundings.
Dinner at the Castle Hotel
Treat yourself to dinner at a charming Gastropub in Llandovery.
Feast upon seasonal dishes made with fresh local produce at the Castle Hotel.
The menu features hearty pub classics such as beer-battered fish and chips, chicken curry rump steaks and burgers.
West End Café Llandovery
Start your day with a proper Welsh fry up at West End Café in the market town of Llandovery. A firm favourite with locals and bikers.
This is a no-nonsense, traditional café serving gigantic breakfasts and steaming mugs of tea in the morning. There’s no deconstructed avocado on toast here, just mighty fine breakfasts for big appetites.
I highly recommend the all-day breakfast to set you up for the day.
Train to Llanwrtyd Wells
Heart of Wales Line
Catch the train from Llandovery to Llanwrtyd Wells and experience riding the Heart of Wales Line.
This scenic train line runs through the rural heartlands of Wales and connects smaller communities and rather rustic stations.
It’s particularly loved by day-trippers and walkers and you will see many of them on board, clutching walking poles and thermos flasks. Watch out for the spectacular viaduct crossing at Cynghordy!
The smallest town in Wales Llanwrtyd Wells
Take some time exploring this small but charming town. Explore the local walking routes and take time to visit the Heritage Centre.
Here, you can learn about the town’s various wacky events including man vs horse and the bog snorkelling championship.
If you aren’t Welsh & wondering what on earth is a ‘bog snorkelling championship?, it’s where people compete to swim lengths in a peat bog, without using conventional swimming strokes, in the shortest time possible.
I’m seriously not making this up, you honestly make your own fun here in Wales. If you are visiting in the summer, you can even enter yourself into the competition.
Heart of Wales Brewery
Sample some locally brewed real ale at the Heart of Wales Brewery, a microbrewery in the Neuadd Arms Hotel.
This small venture produces a range of ales including special brews throughout the year to celebrate the town’s quirk events.
Lunch at Caffi Sosban Llanwrtyd Wells
Have a late lunch at Caffi Sosban, a busy café with big portions. It’s so informal and relaxed here it’s almost like dining in your own living room.
I highly recommend you try their take on traditional cawl, its a splendid bowl of Welsh goodness for the soul. If the weather is forgiving, make sure to sit in the garden that overlooks the river.
Stay at Cambrian Escapes Cilycwm
Get the train back to Llandovery and make your way to Cambrian Escapes in Cilycwm. Their charming site consists of three self-catering cottages surrounded by rural Welsh countryside.
These unique cottages are fully equipped with kitchen facilities, luxurious bathrooms, log fire and quirky antiques.
We stayed in their New York Cottage, it’s a rustic, mezzanine cottage that with original features, including a free-standing bath, lovely log burner and a veranda with views.
Their gorgeous cottages are perfect couples holiday destination in Wales. They are also a great location for star gazing and exploring Llandovery and the Cambrian Mountains area.
Dinner at the Neuadd Arms Cilycwm
Take a walk or a short drive down to the Neuadd Arms in nearby Cilycwm for dinner. It’s the epitome of a village pub with a lively atmosphere, proper pub food and guest ales.
Sit next to a wood fire and chat with the friendly proprietors, who fill you in on all the local gossip, whilst keeping you nicely topped up.
Llyn Brianne Dam and Reservoir
Pick up a selection of picnic items from La Patisserie in Llandovery. Then make your way to Llyn Brianne Dam and Reservoir, near Rhandirmwyn, for a mini road trip through remarkable landscapes.
This is a man-made reservoir in the headwaters of the River Tywi that is a perfect picnic stop and a place to get some great landscape photos. At night it’s a stargazing hot spot in the Cambrian Mountains.
Head onwards to Soar-y-Mynydd Chapel, the most remote chapel in Wales.
It’s an understated, whitewashed church that was built in 1822 to serve a hugely scattered congregation of farmers.
Strolling around this spiritual area you might imagine that the chapel was long abandoned? In fact, guest preachers come from all over Wales to conduct services in Welsh.
Mountain drive to Tregaron
Continue your journey onwards towards Tregaron on a scenic mountain drive.
The roads in this part of Wales lead you through some sparsely populated areas, with few signs of life. This remote area has just a handful of farms and houses as well as Britain’s most remote phone box.
It’s a great place for a photo stop if you are a fan of travel photography as you can get dramatic shots of the red phone box contrasting against the wild landscapes.
Tregaron town centre
Spend a little time getting to know the small and quaint market town of Tregaron.
Browse the boutique shops and cafes such as Rhiannon Welsh Gold Centre and the Riverbank Cafe and Farm Shop.
There are also several nearby points of interest such as Strata Florida Abbey, a stargazing hot spot in the Cambrian Mountains.
Stay at Y Talbot
Y Talbot is an independently owned hotel, bar and restaurant located right on the town square of Tregaron. It’s a Grade II listed, 4-star rated hotel that is full of rustic charm and history.
In this 400-year-old building, you’ll find traditional features slate floors and inglenooks, [a posy way of saying fireplaces].
Make sure to reserve a table in their contemporary restaurant for some country cooking next to a roaring fireplace.
Awarded 2 AA Rosettes, the restaurant and has a reputation for excellent dishes using local produce. It’s also listed in the prestigious Michelin Guide.
Chef’s seasonal menus include delicious, traditional dishes made with Welsh produce, including Welsh lamb, Cardigan Bay shellfish and cheese from Teifi Valley.
Cors Caron National Nature Reserve
Whilst you might baulk at the idea of a bog tourism attraction, it’s actually a beautiful and unique eco-system.
The wild landscape is made accessible by a network of boardwalks and trails that lets you get up close to the fauna and wildlife.
It’s a popular area with walkers, runners and cyclists who are looking for a more remote and intriguing landscape. It’s the perfect place for an Autumn walk on the Celtic Trails.
Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre
Head to Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre in Ponterwyd, for lunch, walking and biking trails and red kite feeding.
Red Kites are a remarkable bird of prey with angled wings and a distinctive forked tail. Around 150 local red kites are fed daily here, they dramatically swoop in to pick up pieces of meat that are thrown for them.
You can watch the feeding from the large bird hide, make sure to bring your camera for some fantastic wildlife shots.
Bwlch Nant yr Arian has actually been a red kite feeding station since 1999. They introduced a programme to protect the small number of these birds in the area then.
Penrhiw Pottery in Ystumtuen
After an exciting morning, it’s time to get creative and master the potter’s wheel at Penrhiw Pottery.
Here, all pottery is expertly hand thrown and hand glazed by Dave and Anouska in their impressive studio in Ystumtuen.
There’s a number of classes and workshops available to get you throwing on the wheel with confidence. I certainly found what I lacked in skill, I made up for in enthusiasm.
Dave and Anouska are on hand to provide excellent guidance and support so that you can create a lovely, but a wonky pot of your very own.
If your attempt at ceramics isn’t quite up to scratch, there are several beautiful pieces for sale. The teapots, in particular, are a wonderful gift.
Sarah Bunton Chocolate
Continue your creative streak with a chocolate making class at Sarah Bunton Chocolate.
Sarah Bunton is an artisan chocolatier who creates the most delicious artisan Welsh chocolate. The store is located at Devils Bridge and is bursting with chocolate goodness.
You can either enquire about a bespoke chocolate making class or come and watch artisan chocolate being made.
View the chocolatiers creating their award-winning chocolates and fudge treats, through the purpose-built window.
There is a huge variety of filled chocolates and truffles and bars all from Sarah’s creative vision.
Several of the chocolate also contain extra Welsh specialities such as Merlyn Liqueur or Welsh honey. It’s the perfect place to indulge your chocolate passion or to pick up a unique Welsh gift to take home.
Stay at the Hafod Hotel
The Hafod Hotel is a Bar, Brasserie and Hotel in a lovely, scenic location. It is right next to the world-famous Devil’s Bridge waterfalls, near Aberystwyth.
Spoil yourself with a little luxury stay just 1 mile from the Dark Sky Discovery Site’ at the Arch in Cwmystwyth. It’s a perfect base for stargazing in the Cambrian Mountains.
Make sure to also book a table at their charming Bar and Brasserie, the dishes are rather delicious.
Typical menu offerings include local trout, Devil’s beast burger, pie of the day, steak, and Mexican Vegetable burrito.
Devil’s Bridge Falls
Get up early and be ready to explore Devil’s Bridge Falls as soon as they open.
The falls are the subject of local legend and fairy tales that say that the bridges were built by Lucifer himself. If you love folklore and ethereal places, it’s actually a great Halloween destination.
He is said to have constructed the bridge for a little old lady in exchange for her soul, or the soul of the first person to cross. She manages to trick him and so he leaves the area, forked tail between his legs.
Devil’s Bridge Falls nature walk
There is a definite storybook feel to this fairytale location falls and you can explore them via a gorgeous nature trail around Devil’s Bridge Falls.
The walk takes around 45 minutes is full of steep trails, steps and slippery surfaces, so proper hiking shoes must be worn.
Follow the trail to see the beautiful waterfalls and the iconic 3 bridges. There’s a small cost to enter the falls via a turnstile. It’s currently £3.75 for adults and £2.50 for children.
Underground lead-mining experience at Cwmystwyth
After an early start, it’s time for a scenic drive to Cwmystwyth for an underground lead-mining experience.
Adventure into the dark, underground caverns of mid-Wales’ ancient metal mines with Ioan of Mid Wales Mine Adventures.
This special tour gives you an insight into life as a miner, working underground in the Cambrian Mountains.
Be guided by an expert through the underground caverns where surviving equipment and artefacts are frozen in time, reminding us of the dark and dangerous work of silver mining.
This extraordinary activity in Wales involves wading through water-filled passages and adventuring through dark, ancient caverns. It’s definitely one of the most unique activities in Wales.
Mountain Biking in the Elan Valley
Spend a day biking through the awe-inspiring scenery of the Elan Valley with Mountain Bike Wales. Let Phil and Polly guide you through rugged landscapes and rocky trails.
Bike through rivers, over hills and along bridleways as you traverse some pretty epic landscapes.
Grab a GoPro and make sure to get some snaps and footage of your thrilling bike journey through some of the most isolated parts of Wales.
Trans Cambrian Way mountain biking
We didn’t see another soul on our ride which only added to the remote feel of our journey. MTB Wales offers a range of rides and tours to suit all abilities, even novice bikers.
If you are feeling particularly adventurous, they even offer multi-day journeys across Wales for the more seasoned rider. I definitely recommend the Trans Cambrian Way experience.
Stay at Penbont House Elan Valley
Penbont House is located in Rhayader in the heart of the picturesque Elan Valley Estate and is a quiet stay in the Welsh countryside.
This cute B&B is right by the Pen y Garreg Dam, so you can stroll down the dam to take some early morning shots.
It has been carefully refurbished and extended to provide 5 ensuite rooms, as well as a light and airy conservatory and tea rooms.
Enjoy delicious homemade cakes and food in relaxed surroundings.
Afternoon tea is also available and consists of freshly prepared sandwiches, cakes, scones and tea or coffee.
Dinner at Tŷ Morgan’s
Have a relaxed dinner at Tŷ Morgan’s Bar and Bistro in nearby Rhayader. A market town located on the River Wye.
Enjoy a tasty mean in an upmarket bistro that has a welcoming atmosphere and local beers on draft. Typical menu offerings include steaks, lamb burger, salmon and pies.
Star Gazing at Elan Valley International Dark Sky Park
If the conditions are right, there are some incredible stargazing opportunities as the Elan Valley. Here, you’ll find world-class stargazing and immersive dark sky events.
In 2015, the Elan Valley Estate achieved International Dark Sky Park status and attracts many astronomers and astrophotographers from all over the UK and beyond.
If you fancy a late-night looking at the stars, there are several sites you can visit including Claerwen car park, Craig Goch, Teifi Pools and Pont Ar Elan.
Pen y Garreg Dam Elan Valley
If you aren’t too tired from stargazing, rise early to get some shots of Pen y Garreg Dam. It’s part of the magnificent dams, reservoirs and 73-mile aqueduct of the Elan Valley.
They were built over a hundred years ago to supply water to Birmingham and still remain today.
Today, you can explore the Elan Valley estate to marvel at the natural beauty and impressive engineering. You can even go inside one of the dams if you visit on one of their popular Dam open days.
Venture inside the Pen y Garreg Dam and up to the central tower. You’ll enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the dam wall which makes for some incredible photos.
Head back over to Rhayader to see the charming town by day. This historic market town is thought to be the oldest town in mid-Wales.
The town has long been a hub for weary travellers and was used as a staging post for drovers and those travelling the London to Aberystwyth route.
Spend the morning checking out riverside walks, cycle routes, boutique shops and the biking pump track, Pump Track Wales.
The track can be used by suitably proficient BMXers, skaters and rollerbladers and includes a series of slopes, banked turns, hips and berms.
On your way to your next destination Clywedog Lake, stop for lunch at Cobblers tea room in Llanidloes.
Enjoy a filling lunch in highly Instagrammable, vintage surroundings. Feast on fresh sandwiches, soups, scones, cheesecake and flapjacks.
Spend some time exploring magnificent Clywedog Lake. It’s a large man-made and multi-purpose reservoir that offers sailing, fishing, bird watching and walking.
The lake is owned and operated by Severn Trent Water and is a massive 615 acres spanning 6 miles.
It’s also full of wildlife including buzzards, red kite, mallards, squirrels and owls. Keep your eyes peeled for the ospreys too.
Access to the water is through Clywedog Sailing Club, who provide a ‘Day Sailing pass’, for both sailing dinghies and canoes.
This pass includes the use of club facilities including changing rooms, toilets and kitchens.
Stay at Wigwam Hafren
For your last night, treat yourself to a hot tub retreat in the countryside. Wigwam Holidays Hafren is one of the most awesome places to stay in the Cambrian Mountains.
They have six luxurious ensuite Wigwam Cabins on their working farm in Staylittle. Each glamping pod has its own outdoor private dining area with lovely views across the countryside.
A perfect spot to unwind with a wine or two as the sun goes down over the mountain backdrop.
The snug cabins are fitted with a bathroom and some kitchen facilities and come with everything you need for a night of luxury glamping.
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Dinner at Y Star Inn
Have dinner at nearby Y Star Inn, a traditional 17th Century Drover’s Inn with a lovely selection of food, wines and local ales.
I highly recommend the locally caught Clywedog Trout, cooked in white wine and fennel. It was one of the best fish dishes I’ve had in a long while.
If fish isn’t quite your thing, they also have a selection of proper pub dishes including gammon, burgers, steak, curry and pies.
Vale of Rheidol steam train
One the last day of your journey you could either head home or finish your trip in style with a trip on the Vale of Rheidol steam train?
Drive to Aberystwyth to catch the afternoon train to Devils Bridge and enjoy a steam train experience through Welsh woodlands, fields and meadows.
Journey across the Rheidol Valley in a beautifully restored steam train and enjoy a retro rail adventure.
Steam train Wales
The track seems to follow the contours of the countryside and takes you through some remarkable scenery at a leisurely pace.
When you arrive at Devil’s Bridge there is a rather kooky café serving delicious bowls of cawl at the station. There, a warm Welsh welcome awaits as always in the aptly named Two Hoots Café!
It’s definitely worth stopping for lunch before getting the train back to Aberystwyth.
Why you need to visit the Cambrian Mountains
Hopefully, this ambitious itinerary should have given you a broad overview of the best highlights and attractions in the Cambrian Mountains.
It’s an off-beat area that is full of charm and deserves a lot more attention than it currently receives.
If you are looking for a unique destination in the UK, you should definitely give the Cambrian Mountains a chance. You will be surprised by what the ‘green desert of Wales’ has to offer.
What do you think of my guide to the Cambrian Mountains? Are you planning on visiting the Cambrian Mountains? Let us know in the comments below.
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