Located on the southern border of the Brecon Beacons National Park, Merthyr Tydfil is a thriving, friendly town with a modem shopping precinct and a covered market. The area was named after Tydfil, the daughter of Brychan, a 5th-C chieftain. It is believed that Tydfil was martyred near the town (Merthyr means a martyr in the Welsh language).
The town was once an important centre for iron and steel production, and during the early 19th-C its population was larger than Cardiff, Newport and Swansea combined! In 1804 an early steam locomotive, built by Cornish engineer Richard Trevethick, ran along the Taff valley, between Merthyr and Abercynon (a full 20 years before Stephenson's famous Rocket). A model of Trevithick's steam locomotive, can be seen in the grounds of the Cyfartha Castle Museum.
An interesting terrace of ironworker's cottages can be found in Chapel Row, beside the Glamorganshire Canal, built by Crawshay to house his foundry workers. One cottage (No 4) has been turned into a museum commemorating the prolific Welsh composer Dr Joseph Parry, who was born there in 1841. Many of his 400 or so hymn tunes and his splendid Te Deum are still used today. Another of Merthyr's famous sons was James Keir Hardie (1856-1915), founder of the Independent Labour Party and the town's MP from 1900 until his death.
The countryside around Merthyr is some of the loveliest in Wales. You will find plenty of beautiful nature trail walks along the Neuadd and Talybont roads and around the Taf Fechan Nature Reserve. Nearby beauty spots include the ruins of the late 13th-C Morlais Castle and the pretty 'Blue Pool' at Pont Sarn, near Pontsticill. The two spectacular stone-built viaducts of Cefn Coed and Pontsticill are certainly worth a visit. Also, immediately north of Merthyr lies the Brecon Beacons National Park, an Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), containing lakes, forests and mountains.
Merthyr is an ideal base for exploring the Brecon Beacons and surrounding countryside on foot, cycle or on horseback. It boasts two professional golf courses and the town park also has a demanding 18-hole pitch and putt course.
The former home of the Crawshays - wealthy iron masters of Merthyr during the 19th-C. The mock-medieval style mansion stands in its own parklands above the location where the Cyfarthfa Iron Works once stood. Part of the house contains an excellent museum and art gallery. A section in the museum traces Merthyr's role as the iron and steel capital of the world in the early 19th century. The museum also contains a fine collection of Welsh country furniture and a replica of a traditional Welsh kitchen. Porcelain, silver and glass are also on display.
Opening times: Apr~Sep: daily, 10-5.30, Oct~Mar: Tues-Fri 10-4, Sat & Sun 12-4 (closed Xmas & NY). Free Entry
Location: Cyfarthfa Park, CF47 8RE - Tel: 01685 723112 Website
Facilities: Parking, shop
Opened in 1980, the Brecon Mountain Railway is one of the most popular railways in South Wales. This scenic narrow-gauge, steam line, runs for 3.5 miles from Pant Station, past the Pontsticill Reservoir and on into the Brecon Beacons National Park, to the Taf Fechan reservoir.
Opening times: Pant station opens at 9.30am Charge for Train Fares
Location: Pant Station, Dowlais, CF48 2UP - Tel: 01685 722988 Website
Facilities at Pant: Parking, locomotive workshop , licensed restaurant, gift shop.
All that remain above ground of this late 13th-C castle (circa 1287) are grass-covered mounds, rock-cut ditches and fragments of stonework located on an exposed ridge above the Taff Gorge and Merthyr Tydfil. Below ground there is a basement with a central pillar and spectacular vaulted arches. The quarries gouged into the mountainside below Morlais Castle were the source of the limestone which, together with local iron ore, made Merthyr Tydfil a major iron and steel centre in the 19th-C.
Bridgend , Abertillery , Caerphilly , Cardiff , Merthyr Tydfil, Neath, Port Talbot, Ferndale, Pontypridd , Swansea , Pontypool , Abergavenny, Chepstow, Monmouth, Newport, Barry, Cowbridge, Llantwit Major, Penarth
Attractions & Heritage Parks:
Blaenavon | The Big Pit | Caerleon Roman Fort | Caerwent Roman Town | Cosmeston Medieval Village | Dolaucothi Gold Mines | Kidwelly Industrial Museum | Melin Tregwynt Mill | National Roman Legion Museum | Oakwood Park | Rhondda Heritage Park | St Fagans Museum | Old Station Tintern
Gardens & Historic Houses:
Aberglasney Gardens | Bedwellty House | Colby Garden | Dyffryn Gardens | Gnoll Estate | Llancaiach Fawr | Margam Country Park | National Botanic Garden | Scolton Manor | Parc Howard | Tredegar House
Nature, Wildlife & Scenic Sites:
Afan Forest | Craig-y-Nos | Cwmcarn Forest | Dare Valley | Gower Peninsula | Parc Bryn Bach | Pembrokeshire Coast National Park | Vale of Neath | Wye Valley
Castles, Monuments & Abbeys:
Caerphilly Castle | Caldicot Castle | Carreg Cennen Castle | Carew Castle | Castell Coch | Cilgerran Castle | Coity Castle | Dryslwyn Castle | Dinefwr Castle | Lamphey Bishop's Palace | Laugharne Castle | Llansteffan Castle | Llanthony Priory | Llawhaden Castle | Neath Abbey | Newcastle | Ogmore Castle | Old Beaupre Castle | Raglan Castle | Tintern Abbey | White Castle