Sandwiched between the tourist hotspots of Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons, are the remote and wild Cambrian Mountains. Truly, the last wilderness in Wales. Portia Jones takes us on a stargazey, foodie tour of this glorious Welsh landscape.
Since the 1950s, the term 'Cambrian Mountains' has been used to denote the unspoiled uplands of Elenydd, Pumlumon,Mynydd Mallaen and the southernmost tip, Brechfa Forest. Few visitors can be found in the solace of its rugged landscapes, sparse communities and rolling hills. But then again, beautiful things rarely ask for attention.
One of the unique features of the Cambrian Mountains is the creation of the Astro-tourism Trail, where visitors can experience celestial skies at several Dark Sky Discovery Sites. These sites are a network of places that provide clear views of the cosmos and are accessible to all visitors. The area benefits from almost zero light pollution, making it a top stargazing destination in the UK to witness celestial beauties such as Orion, The Plough and the North Star.
You don't have to be a pro-astronomer to marvel at the milky way. Attend a Dark Sky Wales group stargazing event and astronomy experts will guide you around the night sky. From constellations to the nebula, learn more about the mythology and science of astronomy in a safe rural setting.
Alongside extraordinary astral offerings, the Cambrian Mountains has a lot to offer visitors seeking solace in unspoiled landscapes. Not least great local produce, valley walks, and thrilling cycling trails. Soothe the soul marvelling at the wonder of the night sky, sate your appetite with some wonderful food and drink and take in some glorious sights with a trip to the Cambrian Mountains.
Summit elusive Pumlumon Fawr at sunset
At 2468ft, elusive Pumlumon Fawr is the highest point in the Cambrian Mountains and offers keen hill walkers a spot of remote trekking in Ceredigion and Powys.
Astro-fans will also appreciate the guided sunset hikes and immersive stargazing events held here throughout the year. If summiting late afternoon and early evening, have a post-hike dinner at the Hafod Hotel in Devil's Bridge. You can't go far wrong with their towering Devil's Beast Burger and a pint of local ale.
Summiting with a local guide or attending an organised event is recommended on Pumlumon Fawr. Plucky, 'have a go' hikers can easily become lost in the rugged and remote terrain as signage is pretty much non-existent.
Unlike the more popular hiking spots in Wales, there're no marked trails, toilets, tour groups, or exiting via the gift shop here. You're also unlikely to see another soul when trekking up the most secret mountain in Wales. It's rather a relief to hike away from queues, crowds and selfie seekers, chasing coveted summit selfies for Instagram.
Ambitious day hikers should aim to summit from the north side for sweeping, panoramic views of Cadair Idris, Snowdon and Aran Fawddwy. Once at the summit, brew up a cup of Morgan's Brew tea and soak up the rolling Welsh wilderness.
Feast on the finest Welsh food at Y Talbot
Head to the peaceful ‘Walkers are Welcome’ town of Tregaron for locally sourced food and cask ales in a lovingly converted, 16th century Welsh inn.
Y Talbot is an independently owned hotel in Tregaron town square that boasts a Michelin Guide listed restaurant, complete with 2 AA Rosettes. This charming, boutique hotel simply exudes 'cosy country inn', with its slate floors and inglenooks.
Make sure to reserve a table in their modern-meets-rustic restaurant for country cooking next to a flicking fireplace. Trained by Marco Pierre White, Head Chef Dafydd Watkin and his team have created contemporary dishes and pub classics using quality local ingredients.
Chef's seasonal menus are reasonably priced and include freshly prepared dishes that showcase local Welsh lamb, Cardigan Bay shellfish and cheese from the Teifi Valley.
There are also several post-dinner stargazing options near Tregaron. Head to nearby Dark Sky Discovery Site Coed Y Bont in Pontrhydfendigaid for peaceful cosmos gazing, in a community woodland location.
Ride around Rhayader and the Elan Valley
Market town Rhayader is the gateway to the glorious Elan Valley, home to the Victorian-era dams and peaceful reservoirs of the Elan and Claerwen Valleys.
This historic town has a turbulent timeline and was centre stage for the Rebecca Riots, a series of protests against the poor, economic conditions in rural areas of Wales between 1839 and 1843.
These days the town is also keen to position itself as the home of biking in the UK thanks to its mix of thrilling on and off-road cycling routes, that are suited to a range of biking abilities.
There's a variety of long-distance, off-road and circular routes in and around Rhayader, with several routes leading into town. Proficient BMXers can also make use of the town's pump track and race around its slopes, banked turns, hips and berms.
After a taxing cycle, refuel at the quirky Lost Arc Café in Rhayader. Make sure to order their homemade Welsh Rarebit that oozes with cheesy goodness with a hint of Welsh ale.
For after-hours activities, there are multiple stargazing sites near Rhayader including the Elan Valley, which has International Dark Sky Park status.
Sites including the Elan Valley Visitor Centre, Craig Goch Dam and Pont Ar Elan, offer incredible views of the Milky Way, meteor showers and the International Space Station when it passes over.
Discover local legends at Devil's Bridge
We love a good legend here in Wales and Devil's Bridge perfectly encapsulates our penchant for all things folklore.
This small community in Ceredigion is around 12 miles away from the coastal town of Aberystwyth. You can drive from Aberystwyth or catch the retro Vale of Rheidol steam train to Devil's Bridge.
As you exit the train, stop for lunch at the whimsical Two Hoots Cafe, located at Devil's Bridge Station. Order a piping hot bowl of their homemade cawl and a proper mug of Welsh tea.
Devil's Bridge is a relatively small area but here you'll find nature walks, the boutique Hafod Hotel, artisan chocolate and a rather vigorous waterfall trail.
The main attraction in the area is the beautiful Devils Bridge Falls. Here you can see the original bridge that was constructed by the Devil himself, according to local folklore.
The Devil's Bridge Fall Nature Trail is a circular trail that takes around 45 minutes, depending on your walking pace. It's a challenging trek though, with steep trails, steps and slippery surfaces, so proper walking shoes are essential.
Across from the falls, Sarah Bunton Award Winning Welsh Chocolatier offers weary hikers luxury Welsh chocolates to feast on. View the chocolatiers creating their artisan chocolates and fudge treats, through the purpose-built window.
At night, astrophotography enthusiasts should head to the nearby Arch car park and picnic area. Here, you can snap spectacular nightscapes of the historic masonry arch, the former gateway to the nearby Hafod Estate.