12:09pm Thursday 23rd November 2006 in Town guides
Ystradgynlais is a market town, beautifully situated in the Upper Tawe Valley whose history is interlinked not with agriculture, as its rural setting would suggest, but with the birth of the industrial age.
This was the home of some of the first Welsh ironmasters with evidence of smelting reaching back to the reign of Elizabeth I. However, the town is also the gateway to some of the most dramatic and unspoiled scenery in Wales.
Walk through the old Ynyscedwyn Estate and you may imagine the times when the prosperity of the town was forged with white heat. The Ynyscedwyn Ironworks, the old Wern Plemys Colliery where anthracite, or 'stone coal' as it was called, was mined and burned for the first time.
Now, where liftshafts once toiled, wildlife flourishes in the surrounding of a nature reserve.
Close by, to the north, one breathtaking vista surmounts another. This is a country of forests, dominated by the Black Mountain and cleft by deep ravines and thundering waterfalls.
At Henrhyd Falls, you can walk behind the cascading Nant Llech, the highest waterfall in the Brecon Beacons National Park - as it drops for 27 metres.
The caves in the area are without equal. Dan-yr-Ogof Showcaves, the largest complex of its kind in northern Europe is also nearby.
One cavern is 46 metres long and 21 metres high. The site also houses the Dinosaur Park, Iron Age Hill Fort and the Shire Horse Centre.
"The Sleeping Giant" is a part of the Black Mountain range located to the west of Ystradgynlais. This natural phenomenon proudly surveys the countryside, and acts as a landmark to this special land.
Ystradgynlais is flanked by mountains - The Drum, Cribarth, Farteg and Mynydd Du - and bisected by the Tawe river on its way to the sea at Swansea.
Man has lived in this area since at least Mesolithic times (7000-5000 BC) and has left many traces. Standing Stones such as Maen Llia and Maen Madog, bones and other artefacts attest to human occupation. An ancient stone circle, Cerrig Duon, with its attendant standing stone, Maen Mawr, alongside the Tawe River, are pointed to by a row or alignment of stones known as the Saith Maen or Seven Stones which lies atop the Cribarth.
The early history of the area is explained in the fascinating Dan yr Ogof Caves, just past Abercraf at the head of the valley.
With its proximity to Swansea, Ystradgynlais offers city amenities with the lifestyle advantages of a market town. In addition to shopping and entertainment and all commercial services, high quality leisure amenities abound including golf, sailing and country pursuits.
Ystradgynlais is located only 20 minutes from the centre of Swansea and 15 minutes from the M4 motorway.