"...a bustling, traditional market town, a place of curiosities and characters..."
Nestling at the foot of steep, wooded slopes where the River Rhondda joins the River Taff, Pontypridd is a bustling, traditional market town, a place of curiosities and characters which also happens to be home to the 16,000 students of the University of Glamorgan.
During the19th Century, Pontypridd was a boom town of coal mining and heavy industry with Brown Lenox chains, Trefforest tinplate and Nantgarw china.
The town also has strong traditions of sport and culture. Pontypridd Rugby Club is famous the world over, and record points scorer Neil Jenkins has been lovingingly reproduced in the World of Groggs Pottery and Shop, along with celebrities past and present. Excellent indoor and outdoor facilities exist at the Hawthorn Leisure complex. Opera stars Stuart Burrows and Sir Geraint Evans and pop star Tom Jones were all born in the surrounding villages, whilst the Welsh National anthem Hen Wlad fy Nhadau (Land of my Fathers) was composed here in 1856 by Evan James and his son James James - there is a fine memorial to them in Ynysangharad War Memorial Park by sculptor Goscombe John.
"...one of the biggest open-air market in Wales fills the streets..."
The performing arts are well served by the Muni Arts Centre, and concerts also take place in the Hawthorn Leisure Centre, and of course at the University of Glamorgan which is a lively centre of entertainment for the young.
And like all market towns, Pontypridd really comes alive every Wednesday and Saturday when one of the open-air market fills the streets with rugs and carpets, shoes and shirts, crockery and curtains, leather goods and fancy goods and knick-knacks – bargains galore! Meanwhile, in the indoor market, tables groan with fresh produce, from cabbages and cauliflowers to apples, local cheeses, butter from the churn, and bara lawr, a Welsh speciality formed from healthy edible seaweed.
Nearby, the main shopping area is centred on Taff Street, where banks and office suppliers rub shoulders with butchers and bakers, travel agents and jewellers, and many well-known British high-street names including Marks and Spencer, WH Smith and Boots.
And when the bustle of the town centre gets too much, cafes, pubs and hotels beckon, and just across the river, Ynysangharad War Memorial Park, with tree-lined walks, gardens and majestic views of the surrounding mountains. The woods and wild highlands are only minutes away by car so that shopping can be combined easily with sightseeing or walking, cycling on the Taff Trail or a visit to the nearby Rhondda Heritage Park Mining Museum.
The story of Pontypridd is told at the Pontypridd Museum which stands on the banks of the Taff next to the town's famous Old Bridge. Pierced by six holes to direct the thrust of the high, single-span stone arch, the bridge was built by William Edwards in 1756, when it was the longest stone span bridge in Europe, so famous that Josiah Wedgwood used it as a design for a dinner service commissioned by Catherine the Great of Russia.
Above all, Pontypridd is a compact, friendly place, and you can always be assured of a welcome whether you go shopping in the market or chose to imbibe the atmosphere of the town in any one of the traditional pubs or modern cafés.