Ancient & spectacular lands: Mid Wales is splendid

Head to Mid Wales and you’ll be following in the footsteps of some of our first ancestors ever to leave their mark on the land. This is a place full of Iron and Bronze Age hillforts, with landmarks such as Pen Dinas – a hill with wonderful views over the Ceredigion coast – betraying ramparts and ditches built to defend its earliest inhabitants.

The world-renowned Brecon Beacons National Park, meanwhile, was the home of dozens of forts. Take a look at the remaining stone walls of Y Gaer, which became one of the largest Roman forts thanks to its strategic position in the valley of the River Usk.

Enchanting castles

The ruins of Carreg Cennen Castle overlooking the Carmarthenshire countryside

Carreg Cennen Castle, Carmarthenshire

Captivating castles dominate swathes of the landscape here, with a particularly eye-catching example at Carreg Cennen. Overlooking the river from the edge of a limestone cliff, it’s a structure which has survived any number of battles since the 12th century, initially changing hands between feuding relatives.

Welsh ruler Owain Glyndŵr attacked but failed to take it more than 600 years ago, and then the Lancastrians used it as a base during the War of the Roses, ending disastrously when the Yorkists ultimately set about dismantling it.

Ceredigion & Cardigan Bay

Aberaeron Harbour, Ceredigion

Aberaeron Harbour, Ceredigion

 by Barbara Fuller

As you might expect given their shoreline, Ceredigion and Cardigan Bay’s histories are entwined in shipping, shipbuilding and coastal industry. Aberaeron, where the harbour thrived during the 19th century, holds a colourful carnival in honour of its maritime past at the height of August, although it’s also partly a creative homage to its later resurgence as a home for workshops full of nimble-fingered craftspeople.

And the nearby village of Llanon, where you’d be well advised to stop for a saunter around the cottages, pubs, beach and countryside, is a place which once welcomed sea captains home, as well as providing the streets where St David is said to have grown up.

The Vale of Rheidol Railway

Vale of Rheidol train in the countryside

Vale of Rheidol Railway, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion by John R. Jones
Trains played an important part in keeping this area on the move. Ore and timber travelled on narrow gauge lines such as the Vale of Rheidol Railway after it was built at the start of the 20th century, although major conflicts did little to help the success of a line, which reached its peak shortly before the onset of World War I.

Devil's Bridge, Ceredigion

Devil's Bridge, Ceredigion

 by Caroline Ramsden

Now you can take a steam train ride, sit back and relax on one of the amazing old carriages, or stop off and admire the scenery at one of the stops on its route between Aberystwyth and Devil’s Bridge. The Bridge – an incredible set of waterfalls over a gorge, set within lush forestry – takes it name from the legend that it was built by the devil after he was outfoxed by a Welsh woman who saw through his dastardly ways. In any case, it’s a splendid place to stop off, set within wandering distance of the 200-hectare Hafod Estate and the hugely popular Silver Mountain Experience, where the abandoned working mines of the surrounding forests are brought to life in thrillingly spooky fashion.