Tregaron developed as an important resting and meeting place for the drovers, as they gathered in Tregaron Square in the town centre, prior to walking their cattle and sheep over the Cambrian Mountains, just east of Tregaron, towards the rich fattening grounds and busy markets of England, to supply the latter's burgeoning urban populations with best "English mutton" and "English roast beef"!
Drovers gathered in Tregaron from the days of Elizabeth 1st until the demise of droving, with the coming of the railways, and their cattle wagons, around 1866. Unfortunately, the railway station and its passenger service, finally closed in the 1960s thanks to a certain Dr Beeching!!
Sheep farming and the thriving woollen industry of the area, had led in the past, not only to the initial development of the town, but also to the establishment of one of the first ever Welsh banks,"Banc y Ddafad Ddu", or the "Bank of the Black Sheep".
Tregaron Square is also where the town's most well-known, almost iconic,historic 13th century hostelry, the Talbot Hotel , is located. The age- old local answer to the visitor's oft-asked question,"Where is Tregaron?", has always been ,"Outside the Talbot!".
Many a cattle dealer has stayed here and raucously celebrated a good profit from the finest Welsh beef cattle!! Many a drover has fortified himself here, with the finest Welsh ale ,before tackling the arduous trek, with his cattle, across the bleak Cambrian Mountains in autumn or winter rain. Thank goodness for the ease and comfort of modern motorised transport!! There is little shelter in those hills, until one gets down into the Irfon Valley.
Looking out over Tregaron Square, and keeping a watchful eye on sometimes rowdy Saturday night revellers, is a statue of Tregaron's most notable son, the former MP for Merthyr Tydfil, Henry Richard, known as the Apostle of Peace. He had been Secretary of the Peace Society and was instrumental in forming the League of Nations after the carnage of the First World War. He was honoured by being made its first ever Secretary. Later on, the League of Nations developed into the highly important United Nations Organisation.
Also in the centre of the town is the old church dedicated to another man of peace, this time from centuries earlier; Saint Caron, after whom the town is named.
As has been said, lying just to the east of Tregaron, like a great bulwark, is the Cambrian Mountain massif, sometimes referred to in the past, as "the great desert of Wales". It is a large, wonderfully wild, picturesque region of rounded grass and heather-clad hills, averaging 1800 feet, interspersed with large reservoir lakes and conifer plantations.
The hills are fairly equal in height, only varying by about 200 to 300 feet, giving the area a plateau-like appearance. The region is home to hundreds of sturdy Welsh Mountain ponies and thousands of hardy Welsh sheep, still farmed by shepherds on horseback, as well as by modern motorised transport.
A trusty sure-footed Welsh mountain pony is more useful and safer than any motor vehicle on some of the steeper-sided hills.
Soar y Mynydd, the most remote chapel in Wales, still in use, is located in these hills, not far from the large, pictureseque lake of Llyn Brianne, which provides Carmarthenshire with a supply of the purest mountain water.
This attractive, peaceful area can be accessed from the south, via the market town of Llandovery on the A40 through Carmarthenshire, as well as from Lampeter and Tregaron on the western side. A narrow mountain road links Tregaron across the hills and through the Cwmberwyn Pass to the village of Abergwesyn, north of Llyn Brianne. Then on through Cwm Irfon, the Irfon Valley, to the market town, and former spa, of Llanwrtyd Wells, the smallest town in Wales.
This mountain road from Tregaron was the old Drovers Road to England. The drovers went on from Llanwrtyd Wells to Beulah, then Llanafan Fawr and on to Painscastle, near Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh border.
Painscastle had several hostelries catering for the thirsty drovers. They certainly eased their "pains" there!!
The Tregaron to Abergwesyn mountain road is well- worth driving, if only for the experience, although care must be taken. It offers wide open vistas of remote mountains and moorland, a world away from the bustling cities and hectic motorways of crowded England. It is probably the greatest wilderness in southern Britain.
If it was in England, it would be a National Park, but it was decided, a few decades ago, that there was a surfeit of National Parks in Wales, so they did not create one here. However, the scenic grandeur and bleak beauty of the Cambrian Mountains landscape, east of Tregaron, is certainly equal to English National Parks such as Exmoor.....and on a bigger scale!!
It was in a cave in these hills that the legendary 16th century Welsh bandit, Twm SionCati, regarded as the Welsh Robin Hood, hid out from the authorities. He must have saved a fortune in council tax!!!
North of Tregaron is another famous landscape feature, Cors Caron, or Tregaron Bog, the largest raised bog in Britain. It is a peat bog of international importance and a nature reserve since 1955. This rare habitat is home to some very rare flora and fauna. It can be easily reached on foot from Tregaron town.
This whole area is fantastic for wildlife, especially raptors such as buzzards, peregrine falcons, harriers and the iconic, attractive red kite.
Not so long ago, this Cambrian Mountain region was the kite's last habitat in the UK, but through careful nurture and protection, there are now red kites in many parts of the country. Tregaron has a "Kite Centre" housed in the old school near the central square. This provides visitors and locals with information about the Red Kite, or Barcud Coch, as this magnificent bird is known in Welsh.
One room of the Kite Centre has been left in the style of its former function as a school. There is also information there regarding the town's history.
Ffair Caron, Tregaron Fair, dates back to 1292. It was originally a horse fair held in March and later developed to sell other livestock and farm produce. It disappeared from the calendar for quite a time, but was reintroduced by local regeneration group, Curiad Caron, in 1996.
It is now a popular annual event held over the Spring Bank Holiday and run by "Prosiect Treftadaeth Tregaron", Tregaron Heritage Project. Tregaron is famous for one sport that is not common everywhere in the UK......harness racing or horse trotting. TregaronTrotting Club was first formed in 1980 as "Deri Llanio Harness Racing Committee".
The club has gone from strength to strength. In 2002, the first 3 day harness race meeting in the UK was held here with prize money in excess of £50,000. Tregaron's grass track at Dolrychain is universally regarded as the best grass trotting track in the UK. The committee and people of Tregaron are to be commended for their fine efforts. There is a Spring Meeting on the first Saturday after the May Day Bank Holiday and the Tregaron Festival, a four day meet, on the days preceding the August Bank Holiday.
Tregaron is a marvellous centre for visiting a wide area of West Wales, taking in both the mountains and the sea. It is not far from the wonderfully atmospheric ruins of Ystrad Fflur or Strata Florida Abbey, formerly one of the most important religious centres in the whole of Wales.
A few miles to the north of the town are the awesome waterfalls of Devil's Bridge, as the River Rheidol drops spectacularly for hundreds of feet into the ravine below. Be warned, however! The many steps and steep pathway down into the ravine are not for the unfit or faint-hearted !
The small university town of Lampeter is only 11 miles down the Teifi Valley, south of Tregaron. It has some excellent family-run shops, reminding one of a bygone age prior to the advent of cloned town centres. The interesting sea-side resort and university town of Aberystwyth, where you'll find the National Library of Wales, is only around 13.5 miles to the north-west of Tregaron, whilst the architecturally-attractive little harbour town of Aberaeron, with its sash windows, Georgian porticos and pastel-coloured houses, is just 15 miles to the west. They are well worth visiting during your stay.
As is the little pretty harbour town of New Quay, a few miles south of Aberaeron. There are very many excellent caravan sites, offering reasonably-priced holiday accommodation, throughout Ceredigion, but especially near New Quay and Aberaeron.
By the way, at the village of Llanrhystud, just south of Aberystwyth, on the main A 487 road, there is a large caravan site with its own excellent 18-hole golf course and sumptuous club house , ...........a marvellous combination for a golfing holiday near the sea!
Whilst the Tregaron area, and the River Teifi, fit the bill when it comes to a quiet river- fishing holiday , in pursuit of superb sewin or salmon, New Quay is the sea-fisherman's alternative. Keen sea anglers can either fish from the shore, or venture out into Cardigan Bay on a boat fishing trip from the harbour, to cast a line for bass, tope, dog- fish or voracious, tasty mackerel.......or whatever else will take the bait!!
About 35 miles south-west of Tregaron, is the lovely market town of Cardigan, and the little sea-side resort of Gwbert, where the River Teifi meets the sea. It is here, less than an hour's drive from Tregaron, that you will find the increasingly popular tourist attraction of Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park [www.cardiganisland.com and www.cardiganisland.net.]
This marvellous location provides a great day out for the whole family amongst wonderfully spectacular coastal scenery. The children can play in the adventure playground, feed the friendly farm animals, wallabies, emus, rhea and llama and walk along the beautiful coast-line to view the resident colony of Atlantic Grey Seals, and with a bit of luck, Cardigan Bay's famed bottlenose dolphins, from the safely-fenced cliff-tops!
After a lovely walk amongst some of the the finest coastal scenery in the whole of the UK , the family can dine in the beautifully spacious, modern visitor centre or browse through its gift and craft shop.
Alternatively, parents can relax blissfully on the large, sun-trap patio, enjoying the spectacular scenery, whilst the children play safely in the outdoor play area, under the watchful eye of mum and dad!
The Tregaron area, with its excellent choice of good quality holiday cottages, is a great base for a quiet rural holiday, enabling the visitor to unwind from urban stresses and explore a large varied area of Ceredigion, Meirionydd and Powys....being that both the mountains and the sea are so close at hand!
Why not give this wonderful, peaceful corner of Britain a try, when you next plan a week-end break or longer holiday?
You are bound to revisit this less crowded area of Wales once you discover its quiet rural charms. There will always be a warm welcome, or "croeso cynnes", as we say in Welsh, awaiting your return to Ceredigion!