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Welcome to an unassuming little town brimming with unexpected gems. At the foot of the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons National Park, it’s a gateway for walkers and mountain bikers. Those wild mountains might dominate the view, but when you look a little closer to home you’ll find that there’s more to Talgarth than meets the eye.

Visitors to this part of Wales often rush past Talgarth – its centre tucked away, hidden by a bypass – on their way to the ‘celebrity’ towns of Hay-on-Wye or Brecon. Big mistake. Pull into the main car park and walk a few hundred metres into Talgarth’s characterful town centre and you’ll discover a place filled with surprising diversions and attractions.


In no particular order, these include a working water-powered flourmill, a medieval tower, huge church, tiny museum, charming riverside walks, famous butcher and deli, red kites, a secret glade and waterfall… oh, and lots of flowers.


Community first

There’s a strong community spirit at work in Talgarth. Its mill is a communal effort, run by volunteers. Imaginatively reborn a decade or so ago and the star of a BBC TV ‘makeover’ programme at the time, its waterwheel grinds Melin Talgarth Flour used to produce artisan bread sold on site alongside a café serving tasty snacks and meals, including veggie and vegan choices.


For more foodie Talgarth treats there’s WJ George, a long-established family-run butchers that ‘champions artisan producers’. People come from far and wide to shop here for locally sourced beef, pork and lamb, handmade sausages and burgers, and home-cured bacon. Making the journey even more worthwhile is the next-door Deli Pot (run by the same family) stuffed with tempting produce like home-cooked ham, homemade quiches and pies, salamis, chorizos, cheeses, olives and pâtés.


More community spirit goes into another volunteer effort, the excellent information centre, very helpful and filled with local guidebooks. It occupies part of the Tower, a listed building that – along with a memorial clocktower to Queen Victoria’s 1887 Jubilee – dominates the town centre. The aforementioned Tower (now a private residence) is much older, dating from medieval times and put up as part of Talgarth’s defences in a turbulent era for Wales’s border country.


Also in the town centre – and yet another volunteer-run enterprise – is the Old Post Office, a tiny, jam-packed local museum, every shelf and counter space crowded with exhibits. Opposite the museum there’s another reminder of the Talgarth of old: the wall of the Bridge End Inn, adorned with period signage from the town’s enterprises: ‘D. Jones Outfitters for Men and Boys, Evans’ Garage, Jones Drapers and Furnishers, W.J. Ricketts Motor Engineer.’


Around town

Everywhere you go you’ll see flowers, in wildflower meadows and streets splashed with colour from flowerboxes and gardens. These are also the work of community groups whose activities have been rewarded by Wales in Bloom and Britain in Bloom accolades.


Talgarth’s under-the-radar status hides a distinguished history. In ancient times it was the capital of the kingdom of Brycheiniog, presided over by the 5th-century ruler, King Brychan. Follow The Bank, the steep, aptly named street from the main square, and you’ll come to St Gwendoline’s Church, named after one of Brychan’s many offspring. It’s truly historic, possibly dating from the early Celtic-Christian times of St David (Wales’s patron saint) in the 6th century.


The church stands in a beautiful spot, set against grassy hills and woodland. But what impresses the most is its size. A square tower stands tall above the church itself, a surprisingly large double-aisled medieval structure complete with a massive pipe organ easily big enough to fill the considerable interior space with sound.


Talgarth’s riverside walks are another delight. Simply follow your nose and you’ll discover a network of leafy paths either side of the town square that run alongside the pools and gentle falls of the River Enig. Further upstream it’s worth searching out the river’s finest waterfall at Pwll-yr-Wrach, a magical, thickly wooded nature reserve set in a steep-sided valley.


Out and about

Other sites worth visiting within walking distance of Talgarth’s centre are Bronllys Castle, a medieval stronghold that crowns a steep mound, and Park Wood, a mixed woodland of broadleaf and conifer trees latticed with numerous paths and tracks.


Talgarth is also a proper working town with a proper livestock market (held on Friday morning – the market is located a short distance north of the town centre). Opened in 1922, it has established a reputation locally and nationally for the excellent quality of its livestock.


And those red kites we mentioned earlier? This majestic, once endangered bird of prey has made a sensational comeback in these parts; no more so than in Talgarth itself, where a dozen or more of these fork-tailed birds can regularly be seen wheeling and soaring in the skies thanks, it’s said, to the existence of scraps from the local butcher’s yard.



  • A vision of the future. Hywel Harris was born in Talgarth in 1714. On his death in 1773 he was buried at St Gwendoline’s Church. Harris anticipated many of today’s social trends and experiments by founding a religious group that introduced innovative farming methods and believed in living a communal life.


  • Mind how you go. Nowadays Bronllys Castle is well cared for by Cadw-Welsh Historic Monuments. It wasn’t always the case. Some historic documents claim that a large chunk of masonry fell from the castle, killing the last male heir of the powerful Norman magnate Miles of Gloucester.


  • How’s this for a family tree? Perhaps there was something in the water from the River Enig, running down through Talgarth from the flanks of the Black Mountains, that explains Brychan’s fecundity: the 5th-century ruler of Brycheiniog is said to have had anything from 12 to 63 children. Let’s settle on 24, the most quoted number, one of whom was Gwendoline, the St Gwendoline of Talgarth’s ancient church.


  • A no-win situation. Pwll-yr-Wrach, the Witches’ Pool, is so-called because of a local legend that identified it as a pool used to decide whether a suspected witch was innocent or guilty. If they drowned they were deemed innocent (hurrah!). If guilty, they survived, only to suffer the horrible consequences. Medieval justice, eh?



There’s more than enough to keep you busy on a day out in Talgarth and its immediate surroundings, as you’ll see from the places below. You don’t have to visit them in any particular order, but we’ve listed them in a way that makes sense geographically. Don’t worry if you’re on a tight schedule and can’t spend a full day here – simply pick the places that interest you the most.


Talgarth Information and Resource Centre

It’s smack in the middle of town, part of the Tower, an ancient listed building. Call in for advice, maps and guidebooks.


The Old Post Office

This small museum, opposite the information centre, is crammed with old crockery, other domestic items and period black-and-white photographs of Talgarth.


Talgarth Mill

There has been a mill at Talgarth for over 700 years. That all came to an end in 1946 when it last milled grain in its original state. All was not lost, though. Thanks to Big Lottery funding and the enterprise of the local community, the mill reopening in 2011 and wowed a national TV audience during its appearance on BBC 1’s Village SOS programme.


The only working watermill in the Brecon Beacons National Park is now in full production once more. Visitors can see the waterwheel on a pretty riverside walk through the mill’s gardens, and also take guided tours within the mill itself. Melin Talgarth Flour is sold here, and there’s an airy café where you’ll enjoy more of those attractive riverside views while tucking into wholesome snacks and meals.


Riverside walks

They’re an especially rewarding feature of the town. You’ll be enchanted by the way these paths, little bridges and green lanes take you into a picturesque world of tree-shaded riverbanks and pools.


St Gwendoline’s Church

This ancient place of worship with a spacious, twin-aisled interior is a grand affair – surprisingly so, considering Talgarth’s modest size. Its Grade II Star-listed stature reflects a fascinating history. As it now stands it’s medieval in origin, though its roots stretch back to the dawn of Christianity in Wales in the 5th and 6th centuries. It is said to occupy the site where Gwendoline, one of the many saintly descendants of King Brychan of Brycheiniog, is buried. Much of the present church, including the tall, castellated tower, dates from the 15th century.


The church has a memorial to Hywel Harris (1714–1773), a remarkable man who led the Methodist Revival in Wales and founded a far-sighted religious settlement known as the ‘Connexion’ at nearby Trefecca.


Bronllys Castle

Follow the road north-west for half-a-mile or so from the town centre to visit this simple but striking 13th-century monument, a massive, chimney-like single round tower on top of an exceptionally steep earthen mound of earlier origin. Scale the mound then climb to the top of the battlements. The effort is worth it for far-reaching views of Talgarth and the Brecon Beacons.


Park Wood

About the same distance from the town centre as Bronllys Castle, but in the opposite direction, this peaceful woodland (cared for by the Woodland Trust) covers the crest of a low hill overlooking Talgarth. A network of paths and trails threads through a mixed woodland of broadleaf and conifer trees.


Pwll-yr-Wrach Nature Reserve

Take the narrow minor road south-east from the town centre for a mile or so reach this lovely spot, thick with oak and ash. A steep-sided valley carved by the River Enig leads to the ‘Pool of the Witch’ (Pwll-yr-Wrach), an atmospheric pool fed by a spectacular waterfall.

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