| Llanwrtyd Wells
in the Brecon Beacons
Tour and Tourist Information Guide
Llanwrtyd Wells, the smallest town in Britain, lies on the River Irfon, surrounded by the majestic Epynt and Cambrian Mountains, in the secret heart of Wales. The magnificent 1500 ft Eppynt hills are rich with wildlife. Famous for being Red Kite country, the area is also home to Curlews, Ravens, Peregrine Falcons, Buzzards and Goshawks.
During the C18th/ C19th, the Welsh Woollen industry and droving reached their peak. Drovers herded flocks across the mountains to the markets of England - you can still travel many of the old routes. The railway put the final nail in the drovers' coffin but has left us the picturesque Heart of Wales Railway Line, running between Shrewsbury and Swansea on the South Wales coast.
The last native Prince of Wales, Llewelyn ap Gruffydd was killed in 1282 in the nearby hamlet of Cilmeri, this site being marked by a roadside memorial. Celtic saints founded simple churches - St. David's, the old parish church dates from C11th. More recently local clergy composed several famous Welsh hymns, including the world famous Guide me, O thou great Jehovah - Cwm Rhondda.
Llanwrtyd was a Spa Town following the discovery of waters with healing properties in 1732. The Wells were called Ffynnon Ddrewllyd, because of the smell of hydrogen-sulphide gas. Spa 'fashion' reached its heyday in Victorian times and many of today's hotels and boarding houses date from then.
Llanwrtyd was a Spa Town: As is often the case with fairy tales, it all started with a frog.
One day in 1732, while strolling through the wilds of Wales, the sickly Vicar of Llanwrtyd stumbled upon a foul-smelling spring. He gazed into the bubbling muck and, to his surprise, a rudely healthy frog popped out. The priest swallowed a mouthful of swamp and was instantly cured of his scurvy. During its Victorian heyday, the hamlet of Llanwrtyd (pronounced Hlanurted) Wells transformed into a bustling spa resort where British gentry flocked to take the waters—chalybeate for anemia, sulphur for the complexion.
Today, villagers mostly revel in the accomplishment of living in the tiniest town (pop. 606) in Britain. But what the vowel-deprived frog hamlet lacks in size, it makes up for in crackpot competitions. Llanwrtyd Wells hosts every contest from the Man vs. Horse Marathon—a spring rite that pits Brit against Beast—to the World
Bog Snorkeling Championships, to the Mountain Bike Bog Leaping Point-to-Point, a summer offering that is promoted as the dirtiest weekend in athletics. There's also the Real Ale Ramble (a kind of athletic pub crawl), the Real Ale Wobble (off-road cyclists stop at checkpoints on the course for free brew), the Red Kite Bash (bike-dismantling limbo contest, bike polo, chainless downhill), and the decidedly squidgy World Mountain Bike Bog
The man responsible for all this self-conscious nuttiness is Gordon Green, An irascible 69-year-old with hair the color of old clothesline and a becalmed, moonstruck humor, Green is the former landlord of the Neuadd Arms, a Georgian hotel that seems to have been patterned after Fawlty Towers (or vice versa). "Bog
snorkeling became truly international the year a Spaniard entered," he says, neglecting to mention the Spaniard worked at the Neuadd Arms.