The hit TV series Hinterland / Y Gwyll has made a star of its location – the moody landscapes and vast wide-open spaces of Ceredigion. Bordered by the Cambrian Mountains on one side and a gorgeous 60-mile (100km) coastline on the other, the county is the perfect backdrop for intrigue – but also lovely days out.
The series’ location manager – the person whose job it is to find all that spectacular scenery – is Paul ‘Bach’ Davies. ‘Who would have thought that a local boy like me would have the opportunity of working on such an amazing series?’ says Paul.
'In my teens I used to cycle miles through the lanes of Ceredigion, not really appreciating the landscape and its hidden magic.'
Finding locations is all about communication - it’s all word of mouth. Like Mathias [the show’s detective], you need to dig deep and find out what makes the area tick.
So if you want to discover the spirit of Hinterland – and find some secret jewels of the Welsh landscape – here are Paul’s picks:
This is an amazing river drive through a valley stuck in time on the border of Ceredigion and Powys. The single-track road hugs the river Llyfnant in a wooded ravine until it reaches a small settlement at Glaspwll. There’s a bee keeper here who sells his honey from his shack, which we used in the last series.
How to find it: off the A487, around 4 miles (6km) south of Machynlleth.
Cwm Ty Nant
Here’s another valley that is rarely seen by anyone, running up from Talybont before apparently vanishing into the Pumlumon Mountains. At the head of a stunning valley are the remains of the Bwlch Glas Lead Mines, which operated between the 1870s and 1920s. The ruins are still standing, and we used this as the location for a remote petrol station.
How to find it: at the A487 in Talybont, take the road behind the Black Lion Hotel. After 2 miles (3km) you’ll cross a stone bridge; turn immediate left and follow the river. After passing the lead mines, if you’re feeling brave, go through the gate and follow the untarmacked tracks into the desolate heart of Pumlumon. Take a map!
Ponterwyd mountain road
All I can say is, wow! This classic mountain road gives you an idea of the vast scale of the landscapes here, passing endless miles of moorland. You can see why we gave it the nickname of Savannah! Towards the end it passes three lovely lakes – although we used this as a location for finding a dead bus driver…
How to find it: from the bridge on the A44 at Ponterwyd, take the road to Pendam, then follow signs to Penrhyn-coch.
Set beautifully in another remote valley, Cwmsymlog (its name means ‘valley of wild strawberries’) is picturesquely scattered with the remains of silver and lead mines. We used the village chapel when filming our first series.
How to find it: it’s about 4 miles (6km) inland from the A487 at Bow Street, near Aberystwyth.
This remote upland village lies in the hills between the Bwlch Nant yr Arian visitor centre and Devil’s Bridge (which featured heavily in our first series). The silver and leads mines are long gone, as is the 1970s hippy commune that included Elizabeth Taylor’s son, Michael Wilding Jr. We went there for the amazing landscape and a lake, which we used as the location for the discovery of a body in a car.
How to find it: it’s signposted just west of Ponterwyd on the A44.
This cluster of lakes sits in fantastic open landscape on the western flanks of the Cambrian Mountains. Just north of them is the amazing Claerddu Bothy, where you can find shelter for a cuppa and peace and quiet. I’ve never filmed at the Bothy - even though it’s my favourite location – but we did use Teifi Pools for a lot of driving scenes.
How to find it: just west of Pontrhydfendigaid off the B4343.