"...pastel-coloured buildings with pleasant views of the wooded hillsides above... "
Guto Nyth Brân, Mountain Ash
Like other valley communities, Mountain Ash owes its existence to the coal boom of the nineteenth century, becoming a sizeable town within a very short period of time.
The shops are centred on Oxford Street, which runs parallel to the Cynon at the foot of a steep slope densely chequered with mid-nineteenth century terraced houses. Well stocked with traditional butchers, bakers and greengrocers as well as banks, travel agents and chemists, recent renovation has made the street an attractive blend of pastel-coloured buildings with pleasant views of the wooded hillsides above the town.
Halfway along the street is a statue of the legendary runner Guto Nyth Brân, who is buried in the churchyard of Llanwonno just over the mountain. He is also commemorated on New Year's Eve by the Nos Galan Races which are held in the streets of Mountain Ash after runners have completed the three miles from Guto's grave by the light of flaring torches. Indoor recreation in Mountain Ash is centred around the international standard Indoor Bowling Centre.
Across the river from the bustle of Oxford Street is an area of parkland and great scenic beauty. In a small garden in front of St Margaret's Church is a mosaic pavement and memorial to the coal mines of the area, A short walk through the woods will bring you to the park, which is home to Mountain Ash Rugby Club, one of the oldest in Wales, known locally as the Old Firm; whilst higher up are the exquisitely preserved cottages of Cwmpennar, a tiny settlement hidden away from industry and town where time has stood still.