Llandovery is an anglicized corruption of the Welsh Llanymddyfri meaning "church among the waters"; it is so named due to its position between the rivers Tywi, Bran and Gwydderig. It is ideally situated for exploring the delightful river valleys of the Tywi and Cothi, Brechfa forest, and the western part of the Brecon Beacons National Park with its stunning scenery. The area is rich in history, with Roman roads, myths and castles galore.
The Romans were influential around Llandovery. They built a fort at Llanfair Hill in AD 50 to the northeast of the modern town and their roads are still present in the area. One heads across Mynydd Bach Trecastell to the southeast of Llandovery bound for the fort of Brecon Gaer; another heads down the Towy valley for Carmarthen whilst a third makes for the goldmines at Dolaugothi near Pumpsaint
Only a small area of castle remains, next to which stands an amazing 5 metre stainless steel statue representing Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan, who was executed in the main square after daringly aiding the escape of Owain Glyndwr and his men by leading English troops in the wrong direction when they stormed the area in 1401.
During the heyday of the castle in 12th Century, the Physicians of Myddfai practised in the area, using mystical powers as well as herbal lotions and potions for healing.
The military presence of the castle allowed Llandovery to prosper although it suffered after England and Wales were united in 1536. The number of inns in the town bear testament to the fact that it continued to hold an important position on the London to Carmarthen road. Drovers also brought prosperity to the town, commemorated by the statue outside the heritage centre. One of the first independent Welsh banks, The Black Ox (Banc Yr Eidon Du), was established in Llandovery by a wealthy drover (it later became part of Lloyds bank).
Llandovery is still very much a farming town, with a sheep market every Wednesday and cattle market on the third Friday of each month. On the morning of the last Saturday of the month the Llandovery Farmers’ Market is held in the Market Square.
On the edge of the town car park is the Tourist Information and Heritage Centre, where displays give a chance to learn something of the fascinating history and mythology of the area. It’s open Easter-September only.
There are small shops and numerous pubs, some serving food. The Castle Hotel has a restaurant with an interesting menu featuring original veggie option; use of a charcoal Josper oven adds to the flavours. This hotel also hosts a Local History Exhibition.
The 3 Forests
To the north-west of the town, you can access Brechfa Forest with its fantastic cycle trails and walks.
The Crychan Forest Association promotes access to Crychan and Halfway Forests north of the Black Mountain with around 200 numbered way marker posts for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and carriage drivers. They have a very clear website with brilliantly detailed maps to download and print off or you can pick up a large leaflet/map at all the major forest car parks.
Much of the cycling is suitable for families, but there are all sorts of cycling and running challenges in the area such as the Devil’s Challenge Marathon. The Cwm Rhaeadr project has been developed to promote enjoyment of the outdoor life with a cycleway and mountain bike course as well as an access trail for all to include those with physical disabilities. There’s a difficult 7km trail for serious mountain bikers.
To the north of Llandovery, The National Nature Reserve at Allt Rhyd y Groes, the RSPB Reserve at Dinas and Wildlife Trust Reserve at Nant Melyn all lie within the Cwm Doethie – Mynydd Mallaen Special Area of Conservation. There's a rich mixture of habitats including woodland, grassland, heathland and bog. Many inland birds can be spotted in the area including such upland species as merlin, red grouse and ring ouzel. Rare mosses and liverworts, lichens, wild flowers and red squirrels are amongst the other attractions.
A charity, The Cambrian Mountain Society has been set up to promote a project to designate the area around Rhandirmwyn an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,
At the Gwnffrwd-Dinas RSPB reserve, you can take a walk through alder and oak woodland, past rushing rivers. Spot a red kite, and in the summer see river birds such as pied flycatchers, redstarts, common sandpipers, dippers and grey wagtails. The trail is in a steep sided valley so some parts are sloping and rugged, and can be slippery.
You can do a fabulous tour, heading north from Llandovery to Rhandirmwyn, then a bit further north to the bird reserve. Continue northwest along the Doethie Valley to the National Nature Reserve at Allt Rhyd y Groes and you could end your day at Llyn Brianne or fork off to the west up the Nant Melyn valley and you’ll come to the Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve there.
To avoid retracing your steps, you can cross the Upper Tywi at Rhandyrmwyn and take the alternative road back to Llandovery.
Or you can start by taking the A40 south to Llanwrda and then the A482 towards Lampeter. At a village called Pumsaint, you can find the Dolaucothi Gold Mines, begun in Roman times, and then follow the Cothi valley where there are various National Trust walks.
Lots of Places to Visit
Many visitors use Llandovery as a touring base for the western part of theBrecon Beacons National Park which lies immediately to the south and east of the town. Within easy driving distance are the Usk Reservoir or Red Kite centre at Llanddeusant on the north side of the Black Mountain.
The Brecon Mountain Railway is a great attraction for all the family as is the Brecon Jazz Festival, held annually in early August.
A short drive to the south in Myddfai village there is a visitor centre with interesting displays and gift shop with café. Herbal beauty products and teas are very popular.
The Best Things to Do in and around Llandovery
take a trip on the Heart of Wales Railway Line
visit one of the Nature Reserves and enjoy the rushing rivers
take a bike ride in the Cychan Forest
eat a scrumptious evening meal at the Castle Hotel
Looking for somewhere to stay in the Llandovery area?