The town name comes from a Welsh Princess, Tydful, sadly martyred in the Fifth Century.
We felt like Twenty-First Century Princesses when the doors opened at the bed & breakfast.
We wound up in Merthyr Tydfil (Murtha Tidfill) because of bad circumstances: the hotel we were staying at in Cardiff was the worst either of us have ever seen. We soldiered on for two nights of three booked, but that was our limit. We were due in Brecon for one night at the quaint Flag and Castle Inn and tried to get in early, but they were booked. What to do?
As with many other events on this trip, what was a negative turned into an opportunity for a positive to occur. We kept referring to these as God-moments.
We could have found a different hotel in Cardiff, but other than wanting to see nearby St. Fagan’s, we had enough of being in the “big” city (350,000 population) and were ready to move onto smaller locales.
Being the map queens we are, we took a gander at ours to see what lie between the two places. A little town popped up: Merthyr Tydfil (30,000 population) sits at a southeastern edge of Brecon Beacons Park.
With some internet sleuthing, we found a bed & breakfast that looked promising and wasn’t too far from the train station.
We popped on the morning train to Caerphilly, had glorious coffees and cakes at Grazing Ground and saw our first “Polite Notice.” After Caerphilly Castle, we hopped on the return train to Cardiff to catch a different train north. We chatted with a nice gent about the routes and he advised we didn’t have to go the whole way to Cardiff Central, but could get off at a different station and save time.
It was on this train that the conductor kindly Googled the exact address of the B & B and suggested we get a taxi. Good thing because we’d have never found it walking even though it wasn’t far.
Merthyr Tydfil itself was as much a treat at the B&B.
After enjoying a leisurely lunch at Weatherspoon Freehouse, we walked to the Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Art Gallery and got to enjoy it—from the outside—arriving about ten minutes after closing. The Castle hails from the early eighteen hundreds and was built by William Crawshay, who was an iron baron.
My Welsh friends will have to confirm the translation I found online for Cyfarthfa: “a joining of hills.” Makes good sense given that the Castle sits atop a rise and overlooks the Taff River and a vista of rolling hills. Merthyr equals Martyr and Tydfil was killed in a battle between her father’s soldiers (King Brychan) and marauding Scottish Picts. The story is that she remained calm and prayed as those around her were slaughtered and her own death struck. Naming the town for her seems a good tribute to a woman who launched the neighborhood monastery.
Being on the verge of Brecon Beacons Park, it’s no surprise to find notable trails in the area. The twenty-mile Taff Trail starts at Cardiff’s attractive waterfront, goes through Merthyr, and terminates in the town of Brecon.
The Trevithick Trail traverses from Merthyr to Abercynon, another north-south trek.
Then there’s the Celtic Trail. It covers 377 miles from east Wales to west. Whew, that’d be a hike!
Our day’s non-trail walking completed, it was time to settle in at the B&B. What a treat! The Queen Bee & B was pure luxury, more than making up for the Cardiff faff. (Yes, “faff.” I’m using our new British word for a mistake.)
Our hostess was full of information about the local area. We were tempted but hadn’t the time to do the Brecon Mountain Railway. Because of Merthyr’s early history of making iron and running the world’s first steam locomotive, it is a likely place for them to collect cars from around the world and establish a five-mile up and back trek.
As far as we heard, we were the only Americans in this small town, but no one cared. There seemed to be a very easy acceptance of foreigners—from the friendly restaurant staff, to bus station chats with locals, to our B&B host and hostess.
Visiting Merthyr Tydfil was a fluke and turned into an experience we’d easily repeat.
Next, Leaving Wales (sigh) Bristol Cathedral – Stunning Architecture and Resounding Music