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Discover Four Historical Figures from the Upper Swansea Valley

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Thomas Eifion Hopkins Williams

Thomas Eifion Hopkins Williams was born On the 14th of June, 1923, into a mining family in Lower Cwmtwrch.  He graduated in Civil engineering at University College, Swansea. He them started a career lecturing at both Swansea and Durham University.  In 1952 he completed his Doctorate and then specialised in transport systems.

Tom Williams visited America in 1955 and 1957 to lecture at the University of California, Berkeley and Northwestern University, Chicago.   His research led him to publish a paper “Expressways, Freeways and Parkways in the USA: Design and Construction Factors” 1956

His work greatly influenced the development of the British Motorway system.

“Williams was ahead of his time and promoted the use of economic modelling and forecasts of traffic growth to guide transport modelling.  He was also an early advocate of integrated transport and argued that environmental impacts and pollution should be included in the costs of new road building projects.  He believed in a balance between creating the new and preserving the old.”

He died in June 2001. He had a huge input into ease of driving in Britain.

Dame Adelina Patti

Portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter in Public Domain
https://commons.wikimedia.org

Dame Adelina Patti (1843-1919)  was a world-renowned opera singer. She made her home in Craig Y Nos Castle.   She was a child prodigy, trained by her opera singer parents. By eight she was performing in concerts in New York, where they moved in 1847.  She then spent years touring North and South America.  She “made her operatic debut at the age of sixteen as Lucia in Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at the New York Academy of Music where she won critical acclaim.” The opera was based on the fashionable best seller The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott.

She became a “Diva:”

“A succession of great divas dominated opera from the mid 19th century and no male singer could match their popularity. Jenny Lind, Adelina Patti and Nellie Melba were all sopranos, the highest-range female voice, which had the clarity and flexibility to cope with elaborate passages of flamboyant music.

Divas amassed huge fortunes and flaunted them. Once in Verdi’s La Traviata at Covent Garden, Patti dismantled her jewellery and had the diamonds, valued at around £200,000 sewn onto the bodice of her costume. Two policeman were borrowed from nearby Bow Street police station and mingled with the chorus on stage to keep an eye on them. The effect was literally dazzling.

During her years as mistress of Craig y Nos she extended the castle massively and even had a miniature copy of La Scala in Milan built, it is now a grade one, listed opera house.  She was renowned for her generosity and loved in the local community.

Up the hill from the castle lies a now disused railway station, part funded by Dame Adelina Patty in 1861, from there she would take her own railway carriage attached to any train, so she could travel in style to and from her castle at Craig y Nos.

She had many famous and royal visitors and entertained in style, it is even rumoured that Edward VII  visited her when he was the Prince of Wales.

Daniel Protheroe

Daniel Protheroe (5 November 1866 – 25 February 1934), was a composer and conductor, born at Cwmgiedd near Ystradgynlais, Brecknockshire. After success at the National Eisteddfod at a young age, he emigrated to the USA, where he was educated. He is best known for composing Calvinist Methodist hymns.

 Aged 19, he emigrated to the USA, settling in Scranton, Pennsylvania. There he took courses in music conducting, and was tutored by Parson Price, Dudley Buck and Hugo Karn. He graduated with a Bachelor of Musicdegree from Toronto College of Music, later becoming a Doctor of Music.

Protheroe remained in Scranton until 1892, and for eight years was the conductor of the Cymmrodorion Choral Society. He moved to Milwaukee, conducting several choirs, before moving again, this time to Chicago. He continued conducting for various choirs, and taught at the Sherwood Music School. While in Chicago he mentored Rhys Morgan (“The Welsh Tenor” 1892-1961) and Haldor Lillenas (1885–1959).

Protheroe would take frequent trips to Wales, and adjudicated at several National Eisteddfodau. He wrote several works, including Arwain Corau (1914) and Nodau Damweiniol a D’rawyd (1924), and in 1918 he edited the hymnal Cân a Mawl for the Calvanistic Methodists of North America.[2] He composed many or arranged hymnal works, especially for the male voice, including ‘Price’, ‘Bryn Calfaria’, ‘Cwmgiedd’ and ‘Nidaros’. He also composed two string quartets and a symphonic poem.

He died in Chicago in 1934, and in 1954 a memorial plaque was unveiled at his birthplace in Ystradgynlais.

David Thomas

David Thomas was born near Neath in Cadoxton. He went to school in Alltwen and  Neath, and worked on his father’s farm before going into the iron industry.

He was one of the “foremost ironmasters” in the U.K.  Employed at the Ynyscedwyn Ironworks in Ystradgynlais.  It was here that he started to use the Neilson process which would “advance the Industrial Revolution“.  Using the hot blast process to smelt iron ore and anthracite coal. This made it easy to produce anthracite iron. This type of iron had been patented by Edward Martin of Morriston, Wales in 1804. The Hot Blast process had been designed by Scottish engineer called Nielson. It involved heating the air that fed the furnace.  This allowed the use of the local hard coal known as anthracite.

Ynyscedwyn Iron Works Credit: Chris Allen [CC BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

In 1839 he moved to Pennsylvania.  The Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company in Lehigh County, wanted him to build a furnace for the production of anthracite iron. The area had plenty of both anthracite coal and iron ore. Thus sparking the Industrial Revolution in America.Crane Iron Works Cranesville Pensylvania, USA

 

“Thomas’s iron works was extremely successful, even though the iron industry in the rest of the Lehigh Valley had begun to decline. The company was incorporated in 1839 as the Lehigh Crane Iron Company, and in 1872 the name was changed to the CraneIron Company. By that time the community was no longer known as Catasauqua but as Craneville,  ; Thomas had named both his company and the town in which he founded it after his former employer ( and Patron) in Wales.”

 

 

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Vacation in Wales

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Croeso – Welcome: Vacation in Wales

For our overseas visitors, vacationing in Wales can be easy, take a direct flight to one of many airports in the UK, we can arrange a luxury private hire transfer from any airport, seaport or location.

For those traveling by rail or coach a taxi or bus can be taken to Ystradgynlais from Neath or Swansea.

Wales at Fall

An autumn view of the Brecon to Monmouth Canal at Llangynidr, Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales, United Kingdom
Credit: Nigel Forster www.creativephotographywales.com

 

Sgwd Pannwr, Ystradfellte, Brecon Beacons, Wales, UK

Matt Botwood – www.mattbotwood.com

Known as Autumn in the U.K. and Hydref here in Ystradgynlais, fall is stunning here with beautiful Woodland Colours to explore, Frosty Mornings by ancient castles, and of course the chance to warm up in a quaint and cosy pub by an open fire or roaring log  burner.

 

In Wales traditionally Halloween is Nos Galan Gaeaf, the eve of the first day of winter, traditionally the first day of the new year. So Halloween was New Years Eve and would be celebrated as such.  Fires would be lit ushering in the New Year, celebrating safe harvest and deterring any wandering spirits.  You can still join in many local gatherings and festivals in Wales. Enjoy the Dylan Thomas Festival, Swansea and check out the local Halloween celebrations.

 

A Welsh Winter Wonderland

Grant Hyatt – www.granthyatt.photography

Winter in Wales can be spectacular, visit the nearby town of Hay On Wye for their Winter Food Festival on the 25th of Novermber 2017, the fabulous clifftop ruined Carreg Cennen Castle below and of course both Cardiff and Swansea have seasonal funfairs and ice rinks with a festive theme, Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland and Waterfront Winterland in Swansea.

Photo Credit: Lewis Philips – www.lewisphillipsimages.com

Trace Your Celtic Connections

  1. Ask family members about what they remember names dates and possible places and any family documents available as well as photographs, trace this as far back as you can.
  2. According to the BBC keeping organised is important:

    “Sketching out a rough plan of what you know before you begin more in-depth research is a good move. Keeping notes on lines of investigation and individual ancestors is also useful. Place your immediate family at the start of your family tree and work from there: it’s best to start with yourself and your children/grandchildren and move backwards through your siblings, parents, grandparents and so on.

    Gathering more specific biological information and concrete evidence on ancestors strengthens your family tree, and vital information can be found in births, marriages and death records. Civil registration for these events was introduced in England and Wales in 1837: it became a legal requirement for every birth, marriage or death to be officially registered and a certificate issued as proof. Prior to this date, registers of baptisms, burials and marriages that were maintained by each parish can contain information that may be of use to your investigation.”

  3. Use Genealogy Websites to top up your knowledge.
  4. To find local archives where record might be help use this website to search for National Archives: National Archive
  5. Search Local Records:

    Parish records – including registers of baptisms, marriages and burials – may be used for research for dates and events prior to 1837 if your trail takes you back that far. From 1538 it was required that the incumbent of every parish kept a register of births, deaths and marriages within their parish. Most local parish registers are kept at local County Records Offices and are also available at the National Library of Wales”

  6. If you manage to get back earlier than the 1830’s tracing via family names may become difficult for many reasons. surnames were often anglicised when they were written down. Spellings were not consistent and there was a patronymic system in Wales following the male line only. According to the BBC:

    Patronymics describes the process of giving a child the father’s given, or forename, as a surname. This means that a family’s name changes in successive generations. The Welsh patronymic system describes family trees in terms of the male line only and records the family association in the ‘ap’ or ‘ab’ prefix (‘ap’ is a contraction of the Welsh word ‘mab’, which means son). For example, Rhys ap Dafydd translates as ‘Rhys, son of David’. Modern Welsh surnames such as Powell, Price and Prichard are the result of this contraction and a progressive tendency to Anglicise Welsh names: under the patronymic system they would have been ap Hywel, ap Rhys and ap Richard. This process of conversion to the system of fixed names in Wales began in the fifteenth century and continued through to the middle of the eighteenth century. The trend was stratified socially: the higher classes in society began the process, which then was passed on to the lower classes. Consequently, genealogists whose research has reached this period in Welsh history can sometimes find that their search grinds to a halt as family names disappear into the patronymic system of naming.”

    7. Relax and enjoy, make sure you intersperse research with exploration, to get a good idea of what wales has been like through the ages the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagan’,s a short drive from River Tawe Holiday Apartment, has original buildings from all eras. They have been taken down at their original locations all over Wales and rebuilt at the Museum exactly as they were found, the museum is free and you can visit many times without seeing it all.

 

The Real Wizarding World Magical Experience

Love the Wizarding World of Harry Potter but don’t fancy the crowds?  For a more authentic fantasy adventure here are just a small selection of what South Wales has to offer.

Castel Coch

A gothic romantic castle rebuilt in the Victorian era by the richest man in the world heir to a fortune from Coal Mining.  According to the CADW Website:

The ‘eccentric genius’ William Burges was given free rein by his paymaster, John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd marquess of Bute, to create a rural retreat to complement the opulence of his main residence, Cardiff Castle. He didn’t hold back. Dazzling ceilings, over-the-top furnishings and furniture were liberally applied.

The castle interior is dripping with Gold and faux gothic arches.  It feels like you are in a medieval fairytale.

 

Llyn y Fan Fach

Llyn y Fan is a lake in the Brecon Beacons or in fact two lakes.  Llyn y Fan Fawr and Llyn y Fan Fach lie on a mountain just north of Ystradgynlais, where River Tawe Holiday Apartment is situated.

It is  a short drive and a beautiful walk to visit these ancient and mysterious lakes which have been the subject of legends throughout the ages.

The Red book Of Hergest, an ancient manuscript written just after the year 1382 holds a tale that starts by the shores of Llyn y Fan Fach  about the Lady of The Lake and the same story is also recorded in the Mabinogion.

The story can be read here.

Carreg Cennen

Carreg Cennen Castle, Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

This spectacular castle stands high on a craggy cliftop and the site is known to have been used since prehistoric times though the castle as it stands today is what remains of a castle built by King Edward the 1st during his vast castle building spree in Wales

“Edward I’s fearsome Iron ring of colossal fortresses represents Europe’s most ambitious and concentrated medieval building project, designed to prevent the recurrence of two massively expensive military campaigns. After Edward’s first successful campaign in 1277, he was able to pin down his adversary Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (“The Last”)”

There is also a cave you can visit on site as well a tea room and many amazing views.

The Earl of Cawdor owned the castle until the 1960’s when his legal team made an error and included ownership of the castle with the deeds of Castell farm and the Morris family became owners and it is still owned by their family today.

 

Llanthony priory

 

Dan yr Ogof

The showcaves are the beginning of a 17-mile-long cave system. The Ogof Ffynnon Ddu system runs beneath the Cribarth and Penwyllt areas.  It is situated at the gateway to the Brecon Beacons National Park.  You can visit the amazing Cathedral Cave where you can walk under an underground waterfall.  The River Llynfell is a 6km underground river which comes above ground near the entrance to the showcave. The Morgan brothers, who discovered Dan yr Ogof in 1912, entered here. They only had candlelight to guide them, and used a small boat called a coracle to cross the underground lakes.  Included in the entry price are the showcaves, numerous giant plastic dinosaurs, a model of an  iron age fort, reconstructed stone circles, horses and animals to visit, historical displays and a café and play barn. It needs a whole day to get around it all. It is open from the first of April until the 5th of November.  It also opens specially for events at Easter, Halloween and Christmas.

 

Whether you are interested in myths and legends, the poetry of Dylan Thomas, the ancient landscape or it’s industrial scars there is something in this land to interest everyone.

 

 

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Explore Our Coast!

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Here at River Tawe Holiday Apartment you will find a rural escape with easy access to city life.  Situated in between Swansea and Brecon, This is an ideal base from which to explore.

Whether you fancy a fun-filled family day out at Aberavon or exploring the caves and ancient monuments of the Gower Peninsula, fine dining in the Mumbles or a cocktail at sunset by Swansea Marina, our coastline has a lot to offer.

The village of Ystradgynlais links directly through to central Swansea by both the A4067 and the Sustrans cycle path 43 part of the National Cycle Network.  This cycle path consists of mainly off-road cycle paths and some stretches of safe road and dedicated cycle lanes. Both the road and cycle path provide excellent access to Swansea Bay and the Gower.

 

Family Fun Days

For family days out, there are so many options:

  • You could choose Aberavon Seafront.   It has a new swimming pool, outdoor kids splash water play, crazy golf, huge and exciting play area and excellent cafes.
  • Why not head to Mumbles pier to play in the arcade or visit the lifeboat house and then find the secret beach at the end of the pier for rock pools and lovely sand.  Take a trip to Verdi’s cafe for pasta or pizza and an ice cream.  With quick service, a floor length glass frontage with views over the bay, and plenty of outdoor seating, it’s a favourite with families. –Verdi’s – Italian Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlour – great views quick service
  • Let the kids try rock climbing  and swimming at LC2: Swansea’s Leisure pool and sports centre.  Afterwards they can enjoy the five level indoor play centre, then go for  some delicious lunch by the marina at a waterside cafe or bar like The Swigg. You could follow this with a trip to one of Swansea’s many museums or art galleries. –The Swigg – Marina Side Bar and Cafe with excellent food and drinks.- National Waterfront Museum Dylan Thomas Centre

 

An Elegant Adventure

Start with an early lunch at Norton House served from 12-2.30,  £13.95 set menu for two courses.  Then why not head to the shops and boutiques and beauty parlours of The Mumbles for some retail therapy and pampering.

 

 

Fine Dining Restaurants

 

Munch of Mumbles

Fairyhill in Llanrhidian

Hanson at the Chelsea

Beach House at Oxwich

 

Coastal Pursuits

You can try sailing, surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing, sea caving, sea kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, walking, bird-watching, whale watching, archery and much much more.

 

Whatever you love doing River Tawe Holiday Apartment can accommodate you!

 

 

 

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River Tawe Holiday Apartment has been awarded a Visit Wales Five Star Rating

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We are extremely pleased to announce that River Tawe Holiday Apartment has received a grading or Five Stars or Excellent Quality.

During the star grading process we looked at the guidelines and realised that we were essentially not very far away from the requirements for a five star grading.

We needed a freezer, an amazing fish slice, fresh flowers and some external signage.  We worked on a new welcome pack and did some extra planting.  It was to our great satisfaction that we were awarded a five star rating.

And our improvements are not going to stop there, we have great plans for our outside space including a comfortable and modern seating area with  a fire pit and extending our outside cooking area.

Check out our facillities!

Come and enjoy a warm welcome at River Tawe Holiday Apartment.

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Cool down, come and stay to enjoy cool caves, refreshing lakes and a luxurious bath!

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While staying at River Tawe Holiday Apartment in our stone ex-school building, you can enjoy the cool interior or enjoy the sun in the outside seating area., then cool off in your luxurious bath.

 

 

 

Swim in refreshing lakes like Llyn y Fan Fach and Fawr, explore Cool Caves and have an ice cold drink in one of many nearby cafes. Escape the heat or enjoy the heat at River Tawe Holiday Apartment.

Three_Cliffs_Bay_Gower by Saffron Blaze on wikimedia commons

 

We are not far from the glorious beaches of the Gower peninsula.

 

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Luxury Accommodation between Swansea and Brecon

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The River Tawe Holiday Apartment:  Facilities

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BEDROOM MEZZANINE:  One spacious master bedroom with king size bed  and 1 queen sofa bed.  (Downstairs in main living area. Two queen sofa beds. Luxury Cotton linen provided.)

BATHROOM/WC:  Large luxurious contemporary bath and large separate shower. Heated towel rail.

UTILITY ROOM:  Washing machine, tumble dryer,  hand basin and drainer and space to dry wet clothes.

KITCHEN/DINING ROOM/LOUNGE: Dining table seating four comfortably.  32″ Flat screen TV with Sky. Free unlimited WiFi included.

Dishwasher, hairdryer, iron and ironing board, cooker hob and oven, microwave, fridge, freezer and radio.

OUTSIDE SEATING AREA: with barbeque and gazebo … strictly no smoking.

PARKING: Free onsite parking.

PETS: No

PLEASE NOTE:   Strictly no smoking across the entire site.   We welcome children and babies though the apartment may not be suitable for young toddlers due to the open mezzanine level.

Luxurious Accommodation for two, suitably flexible for a family of four.

 

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Black Mountain, Y Mynydd Du

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The Brecon Beacons contains two stunning areas, which can often be confused due to the similarity of their names. The westerly one is Black Mountain or  Y Mynydd Du, and it is on the Border between Carmarthenshire and Powys, above Upper Brynamman.  The Black Mountains are over towards Crickhowell and Talgarth, to the east of the Brecon Beacons, and they form a border separating Wales from Herefordshire.

 

While either area is well worth a visit, the Black Mountain is much closer to Ystradgynlais and with limestone outcrops and tremendous views, it is a place to explore the rugged hills and try to spot the rare alkali loving plants found in the area.

 

There are a couple of car parks along the A4069 one with spectacular views and picnic benches and sometimes a burger or ice cream van!  The other allows for exploration of old Limestone Quarry Known as Herberts Quarry, good for climbing and boldering.  There are several caves in this area so be cautious with younger children.

 

From  Ystradgynlais Follow the road to Cymllynfell at the junction with the A474 at the north of Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, and travels through Lower Brynamman and Brynamman. The route then crosses over the Black Mountain range of the Brecon Beacons and emerges near Felindre near Llangadog. It then crosses through Llangadog and continues northeast until the junction with the A40 at Llandovery. It reaches a height of 493 m (1,617 ft) above sea level.

Download and print the Black Mountain River Tawe factsheet PDF

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Waterfall Country

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Sgwd Eira Nigel Forster Copyright
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Less than 20 minutes away from the River Tawe Holiday Apartment are several places you can park to explore waterfall country.   Start at the Waterfall Centre in Pontneddfechan, where they will let you know about all the routes you can take, and the geology of the area, which causes such spectacular waterfalls. Dinas Rock also has a few walking routes of differing length and difficulty, including one really short one.  There are also harder routes where you can spend all day taking in many of the Falls.  The village has several pubs and a tearoom that is open at weekends with a Children’s play area that is always open behind it.

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Wales – Year of Legends

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In 2017 Wales is celebrating its epic past, present and future. We’re bringing the past to life like never before, with attractions, events and activities at legendary locations across Wales. We’re also creating new Welsh legends, immersing visitors in our epic story, and making new legendary experiences. This is our Year of Legends.

Wales is an ancient landscape, with history and myth wherever you look. It’s a land of majestic mountains and mighty skies, fringed with an impressive coastline. But it’s also an epic land of thinking and high adventure. Everywhere you go, there are innovative ideas, in ancient places.

It’s why forests are criss-crossed with mountain bike trails, and the Wales Coast Path runs the whole length of our coastline — the only path of its kind in the world.

Along the way, every cove and clifftop comes with legends of pirates and smugglers, wreckers and saints. We’ve got Roman harbours and Victorian piers, around 230 beaches, and 50 magical islands.

A fifth of the country is National Park. This epic landscape is scattered with standing stones and burial chambers, left there by our Prehistoric ancestors. Then there are our legendary castles: 641 of them, more per square mile than anywhere on Earth.

LLyn Y Fan Fach  © Crown copyright (2017) Visit Wales

 

 

Our capital, Cardiff, is an exciting, young European city, with culture and creativity coursing through its vibrant streets, bars, museums, theatres and concert halls. It also boasts an energetic nightlife, great food and shopping, and a world-class sports arena: the Principality Stadium.

In June 2017 Cardiff is hosting the world’s most watched annual sporting event, the UEFA Champions League Final. It’s just the latest in a series of global gatherings, like the Ryder Cup, NATO Summit and Rugby World Cup. Then there’s our a regular crop of home-grown events, like the Hay Festival, Green Man, Festival No.6 and the National Eisteddfod.

You’ll see and hear the Welsh language wherever you go, a living link with the legendary King Arthur and our ancient Celtic ancestors.

Above all, Wales is a great place to enjoy here and now. There’s great food and drink, unique places to stay, and a legendary welcome. This year we’re creating new legends. Want to come and find yours?

Welcome to our Epic Land.

 

 

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Llyn y Fan – Fawr and Fach

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Luke Evans in the Visit Wales Advert
[twitter_follow username=”https://twitter.com/VisitRiverTawe” count=”false” language=”en”]

Welsh Actor Luke Evans mentions “Llyn Y Fan’s Great Beauty” in Visit Wales’s amazing new advert promoting Wales.   Llyn y Fan is a lake in the Brecon Beacons or in fact two lakes.  Llyn y Fan Fawr and Llyn y Fan Fach lie on a mountain just north of Ystradgynlais, where River Tawe Holiday Apartment is situated.

 It is  a short drive and a beautiful walk to visit these ancient and mysterious lakes which have been the subject of legends throughout the ages.

 The Red book Of Hergest, an ancient manuscript written just after the year 1382 holds a tale that starts by the shores of Llyn y Fan Fach and the same story is also recorded in the Mabinogion.

The story can be read here.

 

Llyn y Fan Fach, Brecon Beacons, Wales, UK by Matt Botwood .Copr. Brecon Beacons

 

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