To the south lies Talybont Reservoir, famous for its wild brown trout and as the largest stillwater in the central Brecon Beacons. To the north is glacial Llangorse Lake, the biggest natural lake in South Wales.
So you’re never far from water in Talybont – or from spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. All this natural beauty inspired the 17th-century metaphysical poet Henry Vaughan to write some of his most memorable lines.
You’ll find fragments of his verse scattered all along the 4.5km circular Vaughan Walk that starts in the town and follows the towpath of the “Mon and Brec” canal and the winding course of the river Caerfanell before joining the Brinore Tramroad.
Between 1815 and 1865 the tramroad brought coal from Tredegar and lime from Trefil to the canal wharf at Talybont. The trams were horse-drawn uphill but, fortunately for Dobbin, used gravity to come back down.
You can walk the whole eight-mile route if you’re feeling adventurous or even tackle the 55-mile Taff Trail that connects Brecon with Cardiff Bay via Talybont. On the other hand you could just take it easy and hire a narrowboat from Cambrian Cruisers.
Sail west to Brecon or east on the secluded stretch leading down to Llangynidr. You’ll wake upto a new view every day. But the most satisfying bit might just be making the traffic stop foryou at the electric lift bridge in Talybont. Or possibly your well-earned pint at the canalside Star Inn, a CAMRA award-winner and “the friendliest pub ever” according to one review on TripAdvisor.
There might be an awful lot of water in Talybont but it isn’t just for strolling beside, floating on or casting a fly into. It also helps to keep the lights on.
In 2006, a group of eco-minded locals persuaded Welsh Water to reinstall a turbine at the bottom of Talybont Reservoir. The result is a community-owned hydro scheme that provides enough power for 60 houses and earns Talybont Energy £30,000 a year to invest in sustainable living projects.
So far they’ve installed photovoltaic panels on the village hall and started a zero-carbon car-sharing club with two vehicles that travel all over the UK. One’s an electric van and the other a Skoda Octavia that runs entirely on recycled vegetable oil. They call it “Mr Chips”.
All the best ways to explore nearby Llangorse Lake are eco-friendly too. For a start you can walk to it from the village of Bwlch, a 12-mile circular trek that goes under the name Bwlch with Attitude. (In case you’re wondering, there’s also Bwlch with Fortitude and Bwlch with Magnitude.)
You can also hire rowing and fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, pedalos and sailing dinghies. Watch out for the gigantic fish, mind. In 1846 a certain O. Owen was reputed to have caught a pike weighing 68 pounds, although this may have been a bit of a fisherman’s tale.
The Llangorse Multi Activity Centre is fuelled mostly by adrenaline – with the only indoor natural rock climbing in Wales, a 3km-long Sky Trek zip line course right up in the tree canopy and a high ropes course with 30 different challenges.
At Ellesmere Riding Centre, the horsepower of their Welsh Cobs will take you trekking or hacking into the hills and, for experienced equestrians only, their Black Mountains trail rides clock up 20 miles a day through flower-lined lanes and dark forests. It’s “heaven on a horse”, according to the Independent on Sunday.
Llangorse Lake has a remarkable 10th century crannog or artificial island, the only one in the world outside Scotland and Ireland. You can find out more in the Welsh Crannog Centre set in a thatched roundhouse on stilts by the shore.
From up there you may just be able to spot our very own Loch Ness monster – the infamous Afanc of Welsh folklore. It’s said that this demonic creature resembling a crocodile preys upon anyone foolish enough to fall into the lake.
There are still sightings of “Gorsey” to this day. Some spoilsports think he may be an unusually large pike. Others that he’s a folk memory of the days when there were beavers in the lake. Nevertheless, do take extra care if your pedalo enters choppy waters.