The Cynon Valley home to rich heritage, Aberdare town and Wales' only Whisky Distillery - Penderyn.
Cwmaman just to the southwest of Aberdare is a fascinating small valley deserving of a detour from the main valley. The former mining village in dramatic forest surroundings is where the Stereophonics and war poet Alun Lewis originated. Its annual environmental festival is centred on St Joseph's Church, the starting point of a wonderfully innovative woodland sculpture trail with works by renowned artists such as Robert Koenig. The community-owned Cwmaman Institute with a cinema and theatre is at the heart of the village whilst close-by the Queen Ti’s Tea Rooms is a fantastically quirky setting for some of Valleys’ tastiest snacks.
With its rows of terraced houses seemingly defying the steep western banks of the Cynon Valley,
Mountain Ash (Aberpennar) perhaps epitomises a first-time visitor’s vision of a Valleys town. It hosts the famous annual New Year’s Eve Nos Galan road races, which commemorate local running hero, Guto Nyth Bran, whose statue is in Oxford Street in the town. Started in 1958, the races now attract more than 800 runners and up to 10,000 people come to see them and enjoy the associated street entertainment. Each year, a famous sports personality, whose identity is kept secret until the night, takes part in the races. Prior to the race, they place a wreath on Guto Nyth Bran’s grave at the picturesque St Gwynno's Church in the deeply-wooded Llanwonno Forest overlooking the Cynon and Rhondda Fach valleys, perhaps most easily reached from the small Clydach valley via Ynysybwl just north of Pontypridd.
The Cynon joins the Taff at Abercynon, the terminus of the world's first steam railway journey at the former Glamorganshire Canal which once had 16 locks at Abercynon within the space of one mile.
Amidst the foothills of the Brecon Beacons, at the head of the Cynon Valley, Wales’ only distillery, and one of the smallest of the world, Penderyn produces award-winning whisky. A tasting session at its visitor centre will show you exactly why it is gaining a huge reputation world-wide.
Also close to Hirwaun is Tower Colliery whose recent story is an epic one as local miners’ leader Tyrone O'Sullivan achieved heroic status by successfully organising a workers' buy out in 1992. The pit closed again in 2008 but exciting plans are afoot to develop the site. Aberdare, the main town of the Cynon valley, was built on the iron industry and greatly expanded with the sinking of coal pits in the middle of the nineteenth century. Sitting just 1 mile from the centre of Aberdare is Dare Valley Country Park. Created on the site of coal mines, the park now provides 500 acres of beautiful countryside to explore with activities such as horse riding, bird watching and "combat zone". You can even base yourself here at the caravan site or newly refurbished hotel, as well as explore the areas heritage at the visitor centre.
- Dare Valley Country Park
Welcome to 500 acres of countryside, walks, trails and family fun all within a mile of Aberdare.
Things to see and do at Dare Valley Country Park: visit our interactive visitor centre, walk our network of countryside walks and trails, experience our birds, countryside and spectacular views or stay on our camping and caravan site or in our refurbished hotel.
- Penderyn Distillery
Penderyn Distillery is the only distillery in Wales and one of the smallest distilleries in the world. Penderyn takes its name from the old Welsh village in which it is located and nestles in the foothills of the ancient Brecon Beacons mountain range. The Brecon Beacons National Park is an area of outstanding natural beauty famed for its breathtaking scenery, open moorland, clear rivers and tumultuous waterfalls.