At 300 metres above sea-level, Ferndale in the Rhondda Fach is the highest town in Rhondda Cynon Taf. Sitting on a ledge above the valley floor, surrounded by woods and dominated by rocky escarpments, it is distinctly isolated from the other settlements in the Rhondda.
The main A4233 links Ferndale with Porth and Aberdare, giving easy access to both the A470 to Cardiff and the Heads of the Valleys Road, whilst the B4277 leads over the summit of Penrhys to the Rhondda Fawr towns of Treorchy and Tonypandy. Frequent buses link all the villages of the Rhondda Fach with Ferndale, and there are express buses to Cardiff and a rail-feeder bus to the Rhondda line at Ystrad.
The busy high street has a lively array of traditional shops, often in pairs: two butchers, two greengrocers, two supermarkets and two cafés. There are also various specialist shops, including a ladies outfitter, a pet shop, and an ironmongers – a treasure cave for the DIY enthusiast.
A short distance from the high street, a Blue Plaque marks the birthplace of actor Sir Stanley Baker, also commemorated by a memorial in Greenwood Park at the bottom of the valley. A stroll through the Park affords views of the surrounding mountains, and leads to an evocative memorial commemorating the terrible pit disasters of 1867 and 1869. But no visit to Ferndale could be complete without a visit to Darran Park.
Hidden away in the woods above the town, the park is laid out around Llyn-y-forwyn, the Maiden's Lake, which fills a fissure in the mountain floor. Shaded paths in the Park offer views of the savage cliffs above the lake and also out over the valley, whilst for the energetic walker, paths lead up to the mountain ridge and stunning views from the Brecon Beacons to Exmoor.
Motorists are also able to access the wild summits either via the A4233 Maerdy Mountain Road to Aberdare, or by the unclassified road which climbs the valley's north-eastern escarpment through Blaenllechau to Llanwonno.