Llanfyllin is named after the seventh century Irish saint Myllin, allegedly the first cleric tobaptise by total immersion. You can still visit his holy well overlooking the town at Fynnon Coed y Llanin. But don’t lean too far over if you want to avoid a complete dunking yourself.
The beautiful parish church, built in 1706 from local red brick, is also dedicated to Saint Myl- lin. And every June the town celebrates Saint Myllin’s Day with a free brunch on the town square, church and tower tours and a duck race.
So this is a place that knows its own history. It has, after all, been a town since 1293 when it was granted its charter by Llewelyn ap Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn. That makes Llanfyllin one of only two towns created by a native Welsh ruler – the other being Welshpool.
In 1993 local people created a huge tapestry to commemorate the seven centuries of thetown’s existence. You’ll find it hanging in the parish church. And as you approach, your foot- steps echoing in the classical interior, you may notice something else. This church has perfect acoustics.
Which is why for over 40 years Britain’s longest-running chamber music ensemble, the Al- legri String Quartet, has been coming to Llanfyllin to play.
At least that’s part of the reason. They also come “for warmth and intimacy and glorious sur- roundings”. Their music is the beating heart of the annual Llanfyllin Music Festival.
Opposite the church is the privately owned Council House dating from 1740, which contains 13 exquisite frescoes painted by one of the Napoleonic prisoners of war billeted in the town from 1812 to 1814.
One of these officers, Lt Pierre Augeraud, fell in love with the rector’s daughter Mary Williams– but her disapproving father had him sent back to France. In 1813 the rector died and at the end of the war the faithful Augeraud returned to Llanfyllin to marry his Welsh love.
It must be something in the mountain air. When people come to Llanfyllin they seem to get in touch with their true romantic selves.
If you’ve never hugged a tree, for example, this is the place to do it. The town’s best-loved land- mark is the “Lonely Tree” that stands high on the skyline above Llanfyllin Workhouse.
Legends says that if you want to stay in the area you need to trek up the hill and give the treea cuddle. That should stop it feeling lonely. And when you’ve finished your love-in, you canenjoy the stupendous panoramic view.
The workhouse itself, known by locals as Y Dolydd, was built in 1839 to house the poor ofMontgomeryshire. It’s one of the finest examples of a Victorian workhouse still standing.
The fact that standing at all is thanks to the volunteers of the Llanfyllin Workhouse Projectonce featured on BBC TV’s “Restoration”. They’re painstakingly turning it into an eco-friendly arts and crafts centre.
Every year they host the three-day Workhouse Festival with music, cabaret and food from around the world. The 2013 line-up featured bands called Shifty Chicken Shed, The Nuclear Weasels and Defy All Reason. So if you think Glastonbury’s getting a bit predictable, this could be the festival for you.
Walking is a great way to explore the stunning scenery and legend-haunted villages around Llanfyllin and Lake Vyrnwy.
The Ann Griffiths Walk, named after the famous Welsh hymn writer converted to the Christianfaith in the congregational chapel in Llanfyllin, winds for seven miles down the Vyrnwy Valley.
Pererindod Melangell is a challenging 15-mile “pilgrimage” route between the Vyrnwy andTanat valleys crossing huge tracts of open moorland. It passes through the tranquil village ofPennant Melangell with its Romanesque shrine to Saint Melangell. This young Irish girl is said to have saved a hare from the hounds of Prince Brochwel of Powys by the power of her virgin- ity.
A few miles north of Llanfyllin in the village of Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, a narrow road leads into the Berwyn Mountains. At the end of the road is one of the Seven Wonders of Wales– Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall.
It’s formed by the River Disgynfa plunging 240 feet down a Silurian cliff-face. That makes it a fair bit higher than Niagara Falls although, as the spoilsports of Wikipedia point out, it does so in three stages.
It may not count for record purposes but we think you’ll find this astonishing spectacle, lik- ened by one 19th century author to “the long tail of a grey courser at furious speed”, quite impressive enough to be getting on with.
But don’t be tempted to plough on. Take the time to explore this ancient little town.
You won’t regret it – and the peregrine falcons, pipistrelle bats and wild brown trout will all still be waiting for you when you get to Lake Vyrnwy.