Devil’s Bridge, near Aberystwyth

The Devil’s Bridge is located on what was the main road between the east-west road from England via Rhayader to Aberystwyth and was thus well known to many travellers. Nearby, Thomas Johnes developed his famous Hafod estate which, with the Devil’s Bridge and its waterfalls, attracted many visitors. Both Johnes and his successors improved the accommodation for tourists at the Devil’s Bridge.

This page includes descriptions of the bridge and waterfalls. There is a separate page for descriptions of the Inns at Devil’s Bridge but some references to the Inn/Hotel have been included below because the publication probably also contains a description of the bridge and falls.

The Devil’s Bridge was sometimes referred to as ‘a lion’ meaning one of the attractions of the area.

Summary of early references to Hafod and Devil’s Bridge

This page includes sections on:

  • The name of the bridge
  • Earliest known reference to the Bridge
  • Brief chronological history of the Bridge
  • A selection of descriptions of and references to the Bridge
  • Other Devil’s Bridges

THE NAME OF THE BRIDGE

The bridge was originally known as Pont ar Fynach (Monk’s bridge). It appears that it became known as Devil’s Bridge from the early 18th century, but no explanation for this name is known. There is a famous Devil’s Bridge in Switzerland and there are other bridges in Britain called the Devil’s Bridge (Pont Aberglaslyn in north Wales and one in the Lake District).

Meyick says that the story of the old woman and the cow was first recorded by a traveller from Birmingham in 1803, but the name Devil’s Bridge is older than that. The Minutes of the Turnpike Trust of the 1770s use both names.

Meyrick, Samuel, History of Cardiganshire, (1810; 2nd ed, 1909) p. 143
The Birmingham visitor is presumably William Hutton.
Hutton, William, Remarks upon North Wales: being the Result of Sixteen Tours Through that part of the Principality (Birmingham, 1803; another edition, 1815)

Griffiths, John, (‘Pentrefwr), ‘The Legend of Pont ar Vynach: Folklore collected chiefly in the Counties of Cardigan, Pembroke and Glamorgan’, NLW 2491B (ANWYL 71) (dated to about 1900)

Macve, Jennie, (1996), The Picturesque Response to Devil’s Bridge, Picturesque Society Journal, no 15, Summer 1996 (and also in Welsh Historic Gardens Trust Newsletter, no 8, 1995, 3-12).
There is a very comprehensive set of references to Hafod compiled by Jennie Macve in Ceredigion Archives, Aberystwyth.

Earliest known reference to the English name ‘The Devil’s Bridge’:
Devil’s Bridge                                                      1734                Crosswood MSS
Devil’s Bridge                                                      1738                Mildmay’s visit
Pont ar Vunach, ‘vulgo’ The Devils Bridge          1760                map E.Bowen
Devil’s Bridge                                                      1769                Grimston
Devil’s Bridge and Pont ar Fynach                     1770s               Turnpike records
Pont y Gwr Drwg                                                1820                Hugh Hughes
Pont y Diawl (sic)                                               1841                NLW MS 926-C p.19

Brief chronological history of the Bridge

1738   First recorded (but unpublished) visit to the falls by a tourist (Mildmay)
1769    Second recorded (but unpublished) visit to the falls by a tourist (Grimston)
1777    Wyndham visited the bridge with Grimm but had little to say about it
1781    First known published view of the bridge by Grimm, in Wyndham’s second edition
1788    Hafod house completed
1790    Rhos-tyddin land purchased by Thomas Johnes
1792-3 Public cottage built [?] by Thomas Johnes for visitors
1796    Hotel ‘lately built’
1803    Hotel to be enlarged by the addition of two wings
1814    Road re-routed to the front of the inn. Bridge raised and flattened and railing added
1814    Foundations of a new Hotel laid
1815    New Hotel opened ?
1831 (pre) Hotel here has been thoroughly repaired
1837    The inn was closed and improved by the Duke of Newcastle and Officially reopened  on the 24th October, 1839.
1860s The Hafod Hotel Company rebuilt the hotel

DESCRIPTIONS OF AND REFERENCES TO DEVIL’S BRIDGE

[these are some of many hundred descriptions of the bridge and its environs.]

14.8.1738

[went to Llanidloes from Aberystwyth] … in our road to it we went the whole day between Mountains and Rocks, quite incredible ones to describe, being of a surprising higth all round you as thick as they can stand one behind another, some of ‘em quite barren and others were covered with a sort of dwarf oak, and many other shrubs, and most of ‘em had a great quantity of sheep, horses and cows, feeding on ‘em which for a great many miles was all you could see there not being the least house near you; but this is a cross out of the way road, that is gone sometimes by Horse People but a carriage I believe hardly ever went it before …

6 [sic] miles from Llanydloes you go over a bridge called ye Devil’s Bridge and indeed it is so terrible a looking place it may well be called by that name and is a horrible a sight to look at as can be imagined, tho’ it has beauties in being so wild and Romantick, and answers very well the description of something one has read of or seen described in a Picture: you come to it from two very high Cragged Stone Rocks, (or mountains), at the bottom of which runs a river that is the drain of a great many round and as it runs down a steep slope the fall of water by the bridge is a vast torrent, and makes a most monstrous roaring noise, and this great fall always continues the same, and has done so, time out of mind, but it has by the force of its falling wore away the rock very much in several places and in some of it, like steps, which makes a fine cascade ; to look round you here, is a dreadful sight, the higth from the Bridge you look down is above a hundred fathom to the surface of the water ; all round you you are encompassed with vast high Cragged Black Mountains which have the water in many places rolling down ‘em, and at the bottom of all is this Black Roaring torrent; the bridge is made partly out of the rocks and has one large arch, and within these 20 years, they have built a wall on each side as High as ones head, there having been many accidents there before for want of one, as its most likely there should; nobody could go over it on horseback, but were forced to get off and lead the Horses over, and then the noise of the water was so great (tho’ its at so vast a distance below you), that several were lost by lepping over in their fright; in short it’s a very horrible looking place, and fit for Satan to be possessor of it.

Diary, probably by Sir William Mildmay (1705-1771). Essex Record Office, D/Dmy, 15M50/1325 [unpublished], pp. 31-33
[This is a very early tour, with little reference to the landscape except between Llanidloes and the Devil’s Bridge.]

1762
Letter J[ohn] Paynter, Hafod, to [Thomas] Johnes, 1762, March 3
If my present Lord Bishop should chance to [visit the area] I may perhaps flatter myself with hopes of seeing his lordship and his retinue at Hafod, because I can accommodate him and them with warm beds, nearer by much than any other house they can go to, the distance is computed at five miles. I fancy his lordship will not be displeased at the surprising singularity of this little spot. For my part, I was in raptures when I first saw it. It appeared to me, for all the world, like an enchanted place, (I believe it is so, for it has enchanted all the money out of my purse; and when I get more, it will enchant that likewise.) It has, however, not its equal in this Island for retirement, and contemplation; and so far it has answered my purpose. – If my Lord Bishop is fond of fossils, and other curious productions of that kind ; He will be entertained; and the more so – at seeing my little Hotel, surrounded, as you know it is, with woods, rocks, caves, cataracts, and Rivers; which are neither frightful nor inconvenient. They are indeed quite otherwise ; they serve to excite an admiration of God’s miraculous works, whilst they furnish me with Warmth, with pastoral food, with materials for building (my luxury), and with nectar to quench my thirst. – Mines and minerals (of lead and copper) I can also shew. Those of silver no doubt to be found here; but nature has concealed her choicest treasures in dark recesses; and locked them up, as it were in her strong holds ; for other Bacons and Middletons; at least for ingenious men, more skilful and more enterprising than the present inhabitants of these hilly regions.
If you can pick out anything from this crude epistle ; which may induce my Lord Bishop to visit our mountains; or that may give him any agreeable Information concerning the little church; it will be gratification enough for me to boast of; who am with the utmost respect,
Dear Sir, your faithful tenant and most humble servant, Paynter
Powis Castle Correspondence (1) 3534, pp. 5-7
[Selectively and somewhat erroneously published in Inglis Jones, Elizabeth, Peacocks in Paradise, p. 18]
[Thus, Paynter was encouraging people to visit the natural attractions at Hafod (and the Devil’s Bridge?) in the 1760s. John Paynter leased Hafod from John Johnes (Thomas Johnes’ father) from 1759 for life [he died in about 1775]
Payntner was ‘… Lord Powis’s manager at Esgair y Mwyn … High Sheriff, Steward of the local Court Leet ‘
Inglis Jones, Elizabeth, Peacocks in Paradise, pp. 17-18
‘Paynter … the disreputable and rapacious mining engineer … The ruffian died five years before Thomas Johnes inherited the estate …’
Moore-Colyer, Richard J., A Land of Pure Delight, (Gomer, 1992), p. 2

21.9.1769 (unpublished)
From Aberystwyth across the country to the Devil’s Bridge, which is built on a most romantic spot, across two rocks, which, at the distance of 100 feet, flows a rill of water, which, falling under from a precipice, forms a noble cataract; the mountains near this place are covered with shrubs and are well worth observation. We dined at a house called Spatty [Ysbyty Cynfyn], on bread and cheese, and afterwards, with the assistance of a guide, crossed the most dreary mountains that Wales has to boast of to Machynlleth. On the right hand we left the mountain called Plynlymmon….

Bills at Devil’s Bridge £0/1/9 (£0.09) [dinner]

Guide from Devil’s Bridge to Machynlleth £0/6/0 (£0.30)

Grimston, James Bucknall, Sir, (Third Viscount Grimston, 1749-1809) A Tour in Wales, 1769. Report on the manuscripts of the Earl of Gorhambury, Historic Monuments Commission Report, (HMSO, 1906), pp. 242-283

1770
J Paynter wrote
This county will in a particular manner receive a benefit from good roads. The universal flocking of all ranks of People to the sea (as if they were in dread of canine madness) will bring many persons of distinction amongst us, who will have it that this remote county of ours is a Desert. They will be surprised to find it a Paradise. And when we open to them a communication, they will perceive such a charming verdure upon these hills (at a season when they in England are burnt up) and such limpid streams, such natural fountains & such pure air, as is no where else to be found. – These Novelties, with an unlimited and most beautiful prospect of the main Ocean, will give Aberystwyth a preference to South-hampton, to Weymouth & to Brighthelmstone: The salt water being purer on this Coast, and the shore much more commodious for Bathing than any of these places.
(Letter, January 13th 1770 from J. Paynter, Hafod, to Robert Lance Secretary to the Society for promoting Manufacturers and for Employing the Poor in the Counties of Pembroke and Cardigan) NLW Noyadd 1678

1771 (published)
N Spencer, (Robert Sanders) doesn’t mention Devil’s Bridge, despite being at Strata Florida and Aberystwyth.
The Complete English Traveller; or, a New Survey and Description of England and Wales (1771)

1774 (soon after) (unpublished)
Little said about the bridge
Anon, Notes of a tour in an interleaved copy of Wyndhams’s Tour, (1774), NLW MS6747 B, p. 106. No date but perhaps not long after 1774 (no inn at Devil’s Bridge) H.P. Wyndham didn’t visit Devil’s Bridge during his first tour of Wales.

1776 (unpublished)
Devil’s Bridge was visited but little was said about it:
Devil’s Dyke [Devil’s Bridge] which is ??????? and really is, a great curiosity. …
Anon, Tour in the Summer 1776, through Wales, NLW MS2862A, p. 38, (f. 21v)

1777 (published 1781)
Wyndham published both his tours and included an engraving of Grimm’s view of the Devil’s Bridge.
{brief description of the bridge} The bridge itself is so closely environed with their shades, that neither one arch, nor the other, can be seen by the traveller, without his first  making a difficult descent, and many people pass over it without the least suspicion of either the chasm or the bridge. {This is followed by a very brief description of the waterfalls, suggesting that he didn’t see them.}
Wyndham, H.P., A Gentleman’s Tour through Monmouthshire and Wales, made in the months of June and July, 1774 and in the months of June, July and August, 1777, (1781, illustrated), pp. 95-97

According to T D Clarke, 1791 (published 1793) Wyndham visited the bridge but didn’t seen the falls.
Clarke, Edward Daniel, (1769-1822). A Tour through the South of England, Wales and Part of Ireland, made during the Summer of 1791, (1793) p. 264

1783
Thomas Johnes (who was born in Cardiganshire) inherited Hafod.

1784 (unpublished, but a description published in 1796)
Cumberland visited Devil’s Bridge
… our stay here[Aberystwyth] was prolonged to a week by the indisposition of the horses and by that means, we got some account of the fine country about the Devil’s Bridge, Hafod etc., to which places as soon as we could mount we set off with a curiosity highly excited by the stories we had heard of these mountains, from the bathers at Aberystwyth. It was Saturday evening when we arrived at these wonderful scenes, expecting to find some sort of accommodation at the miserable inn at Spytty, called Hetty’s Cavern, but the landlady soon undeceived us by showing that she had no other lodging for herself, her husband and daughter, than a loft open to the kitchen, which indeed consisted of the whole house; she however, took in our horses and recommended us to go to farmer Hughes, a neighbour, who received us with much cordiality, giving us cheerfully, though late, the best beds he had, but unfortunately for us, though well warmed, they were quite damp, so that prudence dictated us to keep on our clothes. …. [He went on to describe how he got lost visiting the falls]
Cumberland, A Tour in North and South Wales in the Year 1784, NLW Lloyd-Johnes MSS Deposit Dec. 1976, NLW MSS (microfilm 215), f. 61; Lloyd-Johnes, H.J., A Tour in North and South Wales in the year 1784, National Library of Wales Journal, XIX, (1976), pp. 336-338

1786  
Johnes commissioned Thomas Baldwin of Bath to rebuild Hafod.

1786
Thomas Jones, (Pencerrig), (1742-1803) produced a series of drawings of Hafod, The Rheidol and the Devil’s Bridge in 1786, (The Hafod Sketch book, NLW DV519)

1787 (unpublished)
Catherine Hutton and her parents visited Devil’s Bridge in 1787.
A mile beyond Yspytty we came to the Devil’s Bridge, which is thrown from rock to rock over a deep chasm and foaming torrent. The story of its erection is as follows: – A woman had lost her cow, and at length saw it grazing on the opposite side of the chasm. In this situation, whether she applied to the devil for assistance, or whether he appeared and voluntarily offered his services I am not certain, but he offered to build the bridge on condition of his taking the first living thing that passed over it. The condition was accepted; the bridge arose, but the woman found that she had dealt with the devil without being a gained by the bargain. She found, what she might probably have found before if she had sought for it, that if the cow came to her the cow was the sacrifice and if she went to the cow it was worse. From this dilemma, she happily extracted herself by throwing a crust of bread across the river, and sending her dog for it over the bridge, thus proving that a woman, at least a Welsh woman, can cheat the devil.

The world is so much improved since the days of the black architect that man has become the better workman, and has built a new bridge exactly over the old one. My father and I stood on the under bridge, with the arch of the upper over our heads, looking down a chasm of about a hundred feet to the river, and no parapet wall to secure us. We afterwards stepped from rock to rock to the river’s brink above the bridge, and then went below the bridge till we saw all the falls except the last. The river breaks into beautiful cataracts intermixed with rock and wood.
From the Devil’s Bridge a good turnpike road led us to Aberystwith …
(Catherine Hutton’s letters to her brother Thomas at Birmingham, dated Aberystwyth, July, 1787, Hutton Beale, Catherine, Reminiscences of a gentlewoman of the last century; letters of Catherine Hutton (Birmingham : 1891). p. 48

1787 (published 1803)
Proceeding a mile further, we came to one of the wonders of Wales, the Devil’s Bridge (Pont Mynach) much resembling Pont y Glyn, in the road between Corwen and Cernioge, but upon a larger scale. I had the pleasure of seeing it in great perfection, being immediately after heavy rains.
The reader, who has not travelled over it, may figure to his idea, a rock nearly even with the turnpike road, cleft transverse to the depth of ninety-nine feet close to the bridge on one side, and one hundred and fourteen on the other, consequently the water falls fifteen feet. The sides of the rock are four or five yards asunder. Between these two sides runs, or rather falls, a rapid river ten. or twelve feet deep, which, probably, by its violence, through a long succession of ages, has worn the aperture. About four yards below the summit of this cleft rock is a bridge of one arch, which covers the span, said to have been erected by the monks in 1087. A bridge placed so much below the road must have been inconvenient to the passengers; however, during that dull period of 666 years it could not be inconvenient to many.
As time, peace, population, and property increased, the evil was more felt; another bridge therefore was erected exactly over this in 1753. I descended the bank and entered upon the under bridge, standing upon one bridge and under the other, about six feet asunder. The imprisoned river, having rapidly passed this narrow defile, expands, breaks with violence over the rocks, and falls in a variety of grand and beautiful cataracts. One of fifteen feet, another of eighteen, a third of sixty, a fourth of twenty, and a fifth said to be a hundred.
The derivation of the name may, perhaps, excite a smile: I shall give it from the tradition of the country, which, I believe, is credited by the lower class, for their faith is very capacious.
“An old woman, in search of her strayed cow, saw her on the opposite side of the cleft rock, and while lamenting that she could not come at her, the devil appeared, consoled her case, and told her he would accommodate her with a bridge over the chasm, if she would suffer him to take the first who went over it. As she must be ruined in one case, and could but be ruined in the other, she complied. A bridge instantly instantly arose. She debated a moment: her cow was dear—herself dearer; but the bargain could not be broken. She pulled a piece of bread out of her pocket, and threw it on the other side. Her dog, ignorant of the contract, darted over the bridge to seize it. He now became the forfeited prize. But as Satan kept no dogs but what had three heads, her’s was of no use. He looked askew at being bit by an old woman, and who was more able to bite him hung his tail and walked off”. He behaved, however, with great honor, for he kept his word, which is more than we often do.
Perhaps it acquired the name of Devil’s Bridge from being what the modern beau would call “a devilish inconvenient one.”
Hutton, William, Remarks upon North Wales: being the Result of Sixteen Tours Through that part of the Principality (Birmingham, 1803), pp. 5-8; another edition, 1815

1787
John ‘Warwick’ Smith painted the Devil’s Bridge
Long, B.S., (1927), John (Warwick) Smith, (Walker’s Quarterly), p. 7
Anon, (1928), John Warwick Smith, Catalogue of a Retrospective Exhibition of Views in Wales, 1786-1806, Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours, 8-23.6.1928, no. 3
[Smith might have returned in 1795 to paint one or two pictures but seems likely that Long got the date of one of them wrong (he recorded dates of 14.6.1795 and 14.7.1795, but the June date doesn’t fit into the itinerary.]

1789 (published)
E.D. Clarke wrote that Gilpin copied another’s description of the Devil’s Bridge which was laughable quoting as his source the second edition of Gilpin’s ‘Observation relative to Picturesque Beauty, p. 80, line 18’ but from an unidentified source?]
[Clarke went on to quote and summarises Gilpin’s account of the bridge]
Clarke, Edward Daniel, (1769-1822). A Tour through the South of England, Wales and Part of Ireland, made during the Summer of 1791, (1793) p. 264

1791 (published 1793)
The Devil’s Bridge
It is my earnest wish to paint the beauties of this astonishing scene in a style somewhat adequate to its singular and wonderful appearance; but alas! the attempt, futile and inefficacious, serves only to convince me of my extreme temerity. …
It has been a source of much surprise to me, to observe the little notice that travellers have taken of this place. Most of them have made a point of visiting the bridge, but few, indeed hardly any, have paid attention to the cataract. To what can this be owing? To a want of proper information, or a desire of avoiding the small share of fatigue which the view of it requires. One would hardly attribute it to the latter, and indeed the former seems the most probable, as without knowing beforehand the wonders of the spot, they might be easily neglected. It cannot be from a mistaken notion, that there is nothing singular in this fall of the River Monach, for I am confident in asserting, both from what I have seen myself, and from what I have gathered from others, that it has not a parallel in any part of Great Britain or Ireland. It is, however, no glaring spectacle, no forced exhibition displayed to the garish eye of a turnpike traveller’, it lies embosomed in the deep recess of a secret valley, and roars unseen, unheard, amidst the gloom of the surrounding precipices.
Since my return from this expedition, I procured Mr Wyndham’s account of his tour through Monmouthshire and Wales. I have before taken notice of the difficulty I had in obtaining it. I had heard of Mr Wyndham’s accuracy in the descriptive, and longed to know what would be his sentiments of this singular scene; but how was I surprised and disappointed to find that a writer so admired, even Mr Wyndham himself, had neglected to portray the cataract of the Monach. Like others, he had been at the bridge, but apparently insensible of any curiosity in its vicinity, confines himself solely to that object. Chagrined at this inadvertency in a writer, whose footsteps I had so often followed, I explored the pages of an author, (Mr Gilpin) not altogether so respectable. His account of this place is truly laughable, but as he himself says, he copied it from some journal that fell into his hands, and did not visit the bridge himself, we cannot wonder that it is ridiculous. He says (for I must beg leave to entertain my reader a few moments with this journal, in its picturesque accoutrements) he does not clearly understand the nature of the scenery here, from the account given in his journal. [note: Vide ” Observations relative to picturesque beauty,” p. 80, line 18. (presumably the second edition)] That the plan of it is a rocky chasm, over which is thrown an arch. Between these cheeks, says he, and just beneath the bridge (only about two hundred and fifty feet below it) the river Funnach (a name never given to the river Monach before, since his Satanic Majesty built his arch over it) falls abruptly down the space of several yards, and afterwards meeting with other steeps, makes its way, after a few of these (trifling interruptions, into the Rhydol (Rhyddol) a little below. (For little, read six hundred and fifty feet!) He then proceeds to suppose, that the bridge is an interesting object, and understands, that it consists of two arches, one thrown over the other; that the under one was built by the Devil, and that the common people thought when he built it, he had some mischief in his head!!! Here ends a description of the Devil’s Bridge curtailed and picturesquefyed from a foundling journal, that accidentally dropped into the hands of a Salisbury prebend, who, though an original in sketching landscapes, has no objection to tint over the outlines of others, when it saves him the trouble of forming any of his own. [possibly because it is hidden]
Those who reside near the spot, accustomed to the horrors of the place, by a daily task of visiting the bridge with strangers, gladly pass over the rest of the job, and unless particularly ordered to point out the cascade, feel happy in having escaped the fatigue of it.
[quotes Gray’s poem]
.. the peculiar wildness and gigantic features of the scenery which surrounds the fall of the Monarch [Mynach], no description whatever can do it justice.
print: ‘The Devil’s Bridge near the Great Fall of the Monach’ from an original pencil drawing by Henry Spence (Frontispiece)
Clarke, Edward Daniel, (1769-1822). A Tour through the South of England, Wales and Part of Ireland, made during the Summer of 1791, (1793) p. 261-272

1792
JMW Turner sketched the bridges
According to Jennie Macve (Friends of Hafod Newsletter, no 9, (1993), pp. 3-7), he came via Bristol, along the Wye, Rhayader, the Elan Valley for which there are two views of Craig y Foel on the Elan, one signed and dated 24.6.1792 and the Devil’s Bridge (three sketches one of which is labelled Devil’s Bridge). Turner produced two watercolours, ‘Second Fall of the Monach, Devil’s Bridge, Cardiganshire’, exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1794, and View near Devil’s Bridge, with the River Ryddol, Cardiganshire, exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1795. The present location of both of these is unknown. Sketches of the bridge by Turner are in his sketch books in the Tate Gallery, London.

1793
Visit to Devil’s Bridge ‘the wonder of South Wales’ and describes it at length, but makes no mention of Hafod.
Anon [Slaney, Plowden], A Short Journal of a Tour, NLW MS9854C

1794
‘ … we had the pleasure of seeing Pont-ar-firnach, otherwise called the Devil’s bridge. It is the largest cataract in Wales, and well worth the traveller’s attention. About one hundred yards from the bridge, there is a house of accommodation for company, though I cannot say much in favour of it; however, it is pleasantly situated, and overlooks the deep and woody glen, into which, from a prodigious height, the waters of the cataract fall, with a deafening noise. With infinite labour and fatigue, I got down to the bottom of this glen, or chasm. I did not undertake the perilous expedition alone; but neither my companion or myself were gratified or recompensed for our trouble, because the cataract is so obscured by bushes and underwood, that, at the foot of it, it is not at all discernible.
Hucks, Joseph, (1772-1800), A Pedestrian Tour through north Wales in a series of letters [1794] (London, 1795); Reprint of Huck’s tour including Coleridge’s letters, edited by Alun R Jones and William Tydeman, UWP, 1979, p. 55

1796
[Aikin visited the Devil’s bridge, but made no mention of Hafod or the inn.]
This day (July 31) we made an excursion to the Devil’s Bridge, called also Pont-y-Monach and Pont-y-Fynach, a place of 12 miles off [from Aberystwyth] and which contain some very striking scenery.
… The valley of the Rhydiol contracts into a deep glen, the rocky banks of which are clothed with plantations, and at the bottom runs a rapid torrent. This leads soon to the spot that we were in search of, which is full of horrid sublimity. It is formed by a deep dark chasm, or cleft between two rocks, which just receives light enough to discover at the bottom through the tangled thickets an impetuous torrent, which is soon lost under a lofty bridge. By descending an hundred feet we had a clearer view of this romantic scene ; just above our heads was a double bridge which has been thrown over the gulph: the inferior bridge was built by a monastery, and hence called Pont-y-Monach: this growing to decay, and being thought insecure, another arch was thrown directly above, and resting on the ancient one, and which now supports a good road across the precipice. The water below has scooped out several deep chasms in the rock, through which it flows, before it dives under the bridge. A large beech has flung its boughs horizontally over the torrent, as if to hide it from the spectator, and the whole banks of this wild spot are rough with fern, moss, and native thickets, except on one side, where a perpendicular naked state-rock lets in the light to the inmost recesses. Having sufficiently admired this tremendous scene, we walked along the cliffs overhanging the deep glen which receives the mingled waters of the Rhydiol and Funach, whose luxuriant woods almost concealed the numerous rapids and falls occasioned by the ruggedness of its rocky bottom: midway down the glen we saw several [kites] skirting, with an easy flight, the sides of the thickets in search of prey, or floating with almost motionless wings along the windings of the vale. After a troublesome and rather hazardous descent, forcing our way through the trees, and across two or three headlong little streams, we arrived at a rocky bank a few feet above the river, Commanding a fine view of the’ junction of the Rhydiol and Funach, that seem to vie with each other in the turbulence of their waters, and the frequency of their cascades: immediately above the union of the two torrents rises a perpendicular rock, on the crags of which we saw several kites perched; the summit of the rock is crowned with wood equal in luxuriance to that which clothes the lofty sides of the glen. As we returned, up the rock, we saw several nests of the Formica Herculanra, the largest species of ants that are natives of Britain; these nests are composed of small ends of twigs, forming a heap a yard or more across, and from one to two feet high: the infects themselves exceed in size three of the common black kind, and are possessed of uncommon strength; their favourite situation is a wood in a light and rocky soil. In the afternoon we returned along the banks of the Rhydiol, at the foot of the hills which we crossed in the morning, passing through a tract of rich and well cultivated land, enclosed by wooded hills and enlivened by the windings of the river; of this beautiful valley Aberystwith is the termination, where we arrived as the evening began to close.
Aikin, Arthur, (1773-1854), Journal of a Tour through North Wales and a part of Shropshire with observations of Mineralogy and other branches of natural History, (London, 1797), pp. 49-53

7.8.1796
The whole scenery about the Devil’s Bridge is very fine and infinitely, in my opinion, superior to Hafod. There is a decent little inn on the spot with two very good bedrooms.
Colt Hoare, Richard, Sir, in Thompson, M.W., The Journeys of Sir Richard Colt Hoare through England and Wales, 1793-1810, (1983), pp. 63-64

1796 (date of publication)
Cumberland, George, An Attempt to Describe Hafod, and the neighbouring Scenes about the … Devil’s Bridge, in the County of Cardigan (1796)

1797 (published 1798)
17th August, 1797
[Description of Hafod] admonished however, by the approach of the evening, we turned our faces towards the Devil’s bridge and wound up a steep ascent to gain the road which led thither. For a considerable distance the country formed a striking contrast to that which we had just quited. It was barren, dull, and interesting, with nothing to vary the scene, but a few strangling sheep, which browsed the scanty herbage of the hills. We continued gradually ascending for me three miles, when we reached an elevation that recompensed us in a moment for the severe toil of an hour. Immediately below us lay the truly astonishing and tremendous scenery of the neighbourhood of Devil’s bridge. A profound chasm, stretching nearly east and west for upwards of a mile, the almost perpendicular sides of which are completely covered with trees of different kinds; the elegant foliage of the mountain ash, the mournful shade of the pensile birch, and the broad arms of the majestic oak. Through the bottom of this abyss the river Mynach pours its roaring tide, hidden from the eye by a the deep shade of surrounding woods, but bursting upon the beer in at the awful “sound off many waters;” in the thunder of numerous cataracts, leaping from ledge to ledge, and lashing the hollows of excavated rocks, which reverberate and multiply the raw. immediately above for this rich but awful scene, rise the neighbouring hills of Cardiganshire, bleak, barren, and dark, assuming the most fantastic shapes, and thrown about in the wildest confusion. The horizon is bounded by in the lofty summits of the more important mountains of Montgomeryshire and Merionethshire, amongst which the broad huge head of Plinlimmon exalts its self to the skies.  {Hafod Arms} Having ordered a refreshment for our friendly conductor, and surprised him by a small gratuity (for he exhibited another instance of Welch disinterested kindness) C and I proceeded to explore the horrors of the Devil’s bridge by ourselves, the guide (who is the master of the house) being absent from home. Our first observations were made from the bridge. This consists of a single arch, nine and twenty feet in span, thrown over the original one (which still remains) in the year 1753. [note: the old arch was built by the monks of Strata Florida Abbey (a religious house 10 miles from hence, the picturesque ruins of which still remain) about the conclusion of the 11th century. It is called in Welsh Pont-ar-Mynach [Pont ar Mynach], the bridge of the Mynach; and Pont ar Diawl, the bridge of the Devil; vulgar superstition asserting it Satan to be the constructor off it].
The chasm that yawns under these arches is so over hung by wood, that the eye with difficulty catches even a partial view of the gloomy abyss below. This circumstance, however, heightens the impression of terror, which such a scene is calculated to inspire. Fancy, free and fond of painting for herself, portrays with her magic pencil to the mind, wonders that exceed reality; horrors which have no “local habitation,” and exist only in a vivid and ever shifting pictures of the imagination. In order to obtain a nearer and less interrupted view of this tremendous fissure, and the torrent that rushes through it, we proceeded over the bridge; and turning quickly round to the right hand, descended an abrupt and perilous path that conducted us to the base off the rocks on the eastern side of the arch. Language is but ill calculated to convey an accurate idea of the scene which is here presented to the eye. The awful height of the fissure, which the bridge bestrides 120 ft above the observer, rendered doubly gloomy by its narrowness, and the wood which overhangs it; the stunning noise of the torrent thundering at its feet, and struggling through black, opposing rocks, which its ceaseless impetuosity has worn into shapes strange and grotesque; fill the mind with a mingled but sublime emotion of astonishment, terror, and delight. having a gratified at curiosity here, we clambered up the perpendicular path, and going in a left hand direction from the bridge, about 200 yards, issued a winding descent that leads to a rocky projection, which commands a view of the noble cataracts to the westward of the arch. Here the Mynach bursting at once upon the eye in at all its terrific majesty, he’s seen throwing itself down a ragged rocks at least 210 ft, in four separate tremendous falls. The first is a leap of nearly 20 ft; after which it is received by her fathomless basin, where for a moment it seems to rest its turbid waters, in order to recruit its strength and pour with greater violence down a second fall of 60 ft. its third attempt decreases again to 20 ft, and here it falls amongst broken rocks, which in vain present themselves as barriers to its passage. This opposition gives it tenfold rage, and rushing over a projecting ledge with wonderful velocity, it tumbles headlong down a descent of 110 ft, and then hurries through a stony channel to unite its waters with the Rhiddol [Rheidol], which rushes from the opposite to a mountains with nearly similar grandeur and impetuosity.
{A bad night’s accommodation}
On our return it to the inn we again have visited the scenery of the Devil’s bridge, which had received additional grandeur from the deluges of the night. The view of the Falls was less distinct, and consequently more sublime, than on the preceding day; in mist floated over the abyss, arising from the foaming troubled waters below, which prevented us from seeing a the cataracts in detail, and gave to the eye one unbroken whole of dreadful majesty. Upon this cloud of vapour, the sun, occasionally bursting out, through its light; and the rays, being refracted from the spherical drops which composed it, produced the effect of vivid rainbow and added inexpressible beauty to the scene.
The attentive and obliging host has just provided us with our excellent breakfast; and when we have dispatched it, we shall cross the mountains to Machynlleth, where I propose to finish my present epistle.
Warner, Rev Richard, A Walk through Wales in Aug, 1797 (Bath, 1798), pp. 71-83
Warner, Richard, Rev., A Walk through Wales in Aug, 1797, 4th edition, 1801

1798 (published 1800)
The Cambrian Tourist or Cursory Sketches of the Welsh Territories …

1798
Sael, A Collection of Welsh Tours

1799, Thursday 4th July
Extensive description of Devil’s Bridge
The bold masses of rock which form the fissure from either side are wonderfully romantic, being finely obscured in places with moss and shrubs – in short, nature is here seen in her most beautiful Garb, and has been wonderfully sportive and gratifying to those who delight in her works.
Dr Robertson, A journal of a tour of Wales…, NLW MS11790A

1799 (published 1802)
THE Hafod-Arms has been built as a house of public entertainment by Mr. Johnes. It stands on the brink of a romantic dell, not far from the celebrated fall of the Mynach, which has engaged the attention of all travellers, since it has become fashionable to investigate the beauties of our native country, and near its junction with the Rhyddol.
In front of the principal room a huge chasm penetrates into the bosom of the opposite mountain, and displays the rough surfaces of mossy rocks, whose summits are clothed with wood. A winding road borders the edge of it, and soon loses itself among the mountains.
A small cascade rushes out of the chasm, and foams over the rocky bottom with a hissing noise, which just reaches the ear. On the left, the craggy point of a prodigious eminence pierce! the clouds,—below it, a slender streamlet, like aslip of white ribbon, gracefully falls into the valley; while a bird’s eye view of fields in tillage, and a cottage in the midst, completes a scene, at once grand, rural, and majestic.
The gay month of May was ushered in with a most gloomy louring morning,—the scowling wind roared through the hollow valleys,—the dark clouds obscured the hills, now robing in their dismal mantle the swelling sides of these tremendous mountains, now receding from their summits, and admitting a gleam of sunshine. One while descending in rattling showers, at another time, unfurling their wide extended borders, and enveloping the whole scene before us, in awful shade.
The weather becoming more favourable we set out to explore the scenery of the Devil’s Bridge, and I can only regret the inadequacy of my pen to describe what I saw or felt on that occasion.
The bridge consists of a single arch, over a chasm between two lofty mountains, which are covered with wood from their summit to the brink of the Mynach, which rushes with great impetuosity between them; and of a second arch, which is made to spring from the first, and embracing a wider span, passes directly over it.
The architecture is rude and simple, but the accompaniments are grand beyond description.
Passing the bridge, and turning short on the left, both the arches are in view, and the horrid gulph into which the Mynack precipitates itself, and from whence it falls into the chasm below.
Taking a second path, which leads by a zigzag course to a projecting point of the hill, we came in view of three cascades. On the left, the great fall of the Mynach, which drops at once more than a hundred feet perpendicularly, besides several smaller falls, above and below, among the rocks. Opposite, a fine slender cascade pouring its translucent waters from a ledge of rocks into a corner of this romantic valley, which is lined on all sides with wood. On the right, the bold and impetuous fall of the Rhyddol.
The surrounding rocks, from among whose crevices innumerable oaks and beech trees shoot forth their waving branches, are covered with moss; and their summit rises to the height of more than four hundred feet.
This accounts for the deceptio visus in viewing the fall of the Rhyddol, from the Hafod-Arm, which is infinitely delightful as well as surprising.
Returning about half way up the hill, turned to the left, and declined through the wood, passing two narrow cascades, which fall from the north-eastern side, and arrived at the bed of the Rhyddol, which is formed with immense blue stones, worn smooth by the attrition of the water.
Enclosed in this profound solitude, every thing around me hushed into the stillest silence, excepting the roarings of the cascade, I had time to contemplate the awful projections of the rocks, and the luxuriance of the trees which grow from their interstices.
Creeping along a rude path which has been lately made close to the river, I came to the cataract itself; but how altered! how wonderfully changed!—from the insignisicancy of a fall of water of a few feet, issuing from the narrow crevice of a rock, into a little bason among the stones below, it is now a mighty torrent, rushing with a thundering noise, out of a tremendous chasm, and, after a fall of several yards, in which it appears folded back in a vast sheet of foam, burying itself in a profound abyss, whose dark surface is scarcely agitated by the force and weight of this great body of water.
Never can I forget the sensation which I felt in contemplating this solemn and impressive scene. My soul, filled with rapturous admiration, looked “through nature, up to nature’s God.” His wonderous works, here gloriously displayed in scenery so noble and majestic, spake to my inmost mind! and while I beheld the transparent stream, with gratitude to Him who bade these waters flow, the fun darted its brilliant rays from the edge of a black cloud, on the spot where I stood, and the water sparkled with a lustre not to be described.
I was rivetted to the place, and experienced that thrilling horror, that reverential awe, that holy dread, which an assemblage of the grandest scenery of nature can alone inspire; nor did I leave this sacred temple of solitude until I had humbly adored the Creator and Preserver of all around me,—the great, the mighty Lord! and Father of the universe!!!
“These are thy glorious works, parent of good!
Almighty! thine this universal frame,
Thus wond’rous fair; thyself how wond’rous then!
Unspeakable! who sitt’st above these heavens,
To us invisible; or dimly seen
In these thy lowest works: yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and pow’r divine.
Hail! universal LORD !
In my ascent through the woody slope, passed two small cascades, which, though descending
with a gentler stream, and over a more gradual declivity, are not without their share of beauty, and picturesque effect. Here, having no better mode of allaying my thirst, I laid myself flat on the ground, and quaffed the health-inspiring pellucid beverage, which re-animated me with strength and spirits to climb the hill.
From the summit, though elevated to so great a height, the view extends no farther than to the top of the neighbouring mountains, which enclose this romantic spot. The imagination, therefore, can only wander; the eye is confined to those objects only, which are presented in a narrow compass. Hence it is that they are felt completely, and have so forcible an effect; because there is no distraction of ideas, by an introduction of distant objects, and the eye
“being hindered from ranging, the mind is forced to find entertainment for itself.”
George Lipscomb, G., Journey into South Wales…in the year 1799 (London, 1802), chapter 15, pp. 141-146

1800
Devil’s Bridge
{quotes Goldsmith’s poem}
‘The comfortable Inn, situated near this spot, stands in front of the river Rheidol, and commanding the most picturesque view fancy can paint, is built by the respectable and truly hospitable owner of Hafod’
The Bridge
Mentions Walker’s ‘Description of the Devil’s Bridge’ [first edn, 1796] and Warner, neither of whom mentioned the fall of the Rheidol.
He reproduced Walker’s table of the height of falls etc.
Plan Matt
Quotes Cumberland
Hafod
Quotes Cumberland extensively
Cliff (of Worcester) or Cooke, C., The Cambrian Directory or Cursory Sketches of the Welsh Territories, (Salisbury: 1800), pp. 67-72

early 19th century
Our first object after dinner was the Devil’s Bridge which we soon got upon; and found that report had scarcely done justice to many extraordinary phenomina which it abounds; for it is well entitled to all the praise which the pens of tourists have bestowed upon it.
Astonishment siezes you in casting your eyes into the abyss; the depth is prodigious and romantically grown, and shadowed o’er with trees, through which the torrent roars in fearful vociferation. Finding this situation inadequate to the fulfilmwent of our entire purpose, the view not impressing with sufficient energy and emotion of the grand and the sublime nor the sentiments of the terrific we accepted the invitation which was offered by a (?) and nearly perpendicular path; and descended, not without difficulty and much peril, until we reached a ledge which opened to us by the foaming cataract in all its power which burst with hi.., and reituated [?] roar through the vaulted cavern. Two arches, the one above the other appear to have claimed the attention, and injennuity of man, the one of ancient, the other of modern architecture and an artificial canal is found below the two; by the unca.. [?] excavations of the water which has worn away the sides of huge rocks and forced a passage through their channel. Our attention was next excited by a fall of immense magnitude from the height of upwards of 200 feet … …
… … quotes Popes description of a storm ‘As when from gloomy clouds the wirlwind springs …’
For my own part, I ignominiously confess I think the Hafod Arms Inn very nearly possesses an equal extent of beauty from its woody prospect, and a much grander from its cataract.
Before our sitting room was seen a ‘copious stream issuing from the mountain, and falling headlong in many a loud and foaming cascade’ discharging its waters in the river Rheidol.
Anon, Narrative of a Tour through Wales by an anonymous English Gentleman.
Described as early 18th century, but refers to Cumberland (1796) and Warner (1797) and is thus probably early 19th century, NLW MSS 18943B, pp. 24-28

1800 (published)
Bingley, William, (1774-1823), A tour round North Wales, performed during the summer of 1798, (London: 1800)
Didn’t visit Devil’s Bridge but quotes Aikin’s description, (1797), p. 474

[1801] (unpublished)
We arrived at the Hafod Arms at Devils Bridge quarter before 3 and upon enquiring for beds, were …
Martyn, T., A Tour of South Wales, [1801], NLW MS 1340C, p. 126

8-9.7.1802
I reached my quarters at Devil’s Bridge. …
Colt Hoare, Richard, Sir, Thompson, M.W., The Journeys of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, (1983), pp. 229-230

1802
25.9.1802 (Saturday)
Hafod Arms inn
The waterfall about 50 yards from the inn is the Pontarfynach or as it is absurdly called the Devil’s Bridge
{The Bridge and the Mynach}
[Prints of the Bridge and falls inserted] {More on scenery}
Gray, Jonathan, ‘Tour of the Western Counties of England and of South Wales in 1802’, North Yorkshire Record Office, ZGY/T4, pp. 59-61

1803 (published 1804)
{Devil’s Bridge}
This house is on Mr Johnes estate, and was built by him for the accommodation of travellers. It has hitherto been very ill kept; but two of his servants are now settled there, and the public are likely to benefit by the change. The house is to be enlarged by the addition of two wings, which will render it a handsome building. Its situation is magnificent. The back windows command the fall of the Rheidol, and overlook the intervening abyss in all its grandeur. This house, in spite of its discomforts, has of late years been constantly full during the summer months.
Malkin, B.H., The Scenery, Antiquities, and Biography of South Wales from materials collected during two excursions in the year 1803. Embellished with views drawn on the spot and engraved by Laporte and a map of the county, (London: 1804), pp. 364-369 This volume includes a view of the hotel by Laporte

1805
Devil’s Bridge {falls need to be safer}
returned to the Hafod Arms
16.7.1805
views from the Hafod Arms
went to the Mynach falls
Mavor, William Fordyce, A tour in Wales, and through several counties of England: including both the universities ; performed in the summer of 1805 (London : 1806), pp. 71-72; [3rd. ed.], [1809?]

1806
Devil’s Bridge Inn
7th August 1806
{went to the falls at Devil’s Bridge} ‘the great lion of the place’ {description}
{description of the bridges}
Douglas, George L. A., ‘Observations made during a tour in Wales and different parts of England’ NLS Ms 10349, pp. 147-171 NLS Ms 10350 (a tidy copy of the same)

1808 (published)
‘Pont y Monach or Pont ar Fynach, vulgarly the Devil’s Bridge’.
Nicholson, G., (1808), Nicholson’s Cambrian Traveller’s Guide, col 593

1810
Smith, James Edward, Fifteen Views Illustrative of a Tour to Hafod, in Cardiganshire, the seat of Thomas Johnes, Esq, M.P., by James Edward Smith, Esq, M.D., F.R.S, etc, President of the Linnaean Society, (London, 1810), the views painted by John ‘Warwick’ Smith

1812
The best point of view of the fall of the River Rheidol is in the inn situated opposite this romantic spot, the character of this waterfall is particularly singular the projecting rock over the river precipitates the water in the most un …. and picturesque direction. The rugged and impending rocks are here and there clothed with trees and shrubs
Picture ‘Rhyader fall near the Devil’s Bridge’
The Scenery of the Devil’s bridge approaches the sublime. The river Mynach issues below the double bridge and precipitates itsel with ???? [univ..ium] force in a succession of falls almost perpendicular for more than 200 feet. Immediately below the fall, the Mynach unites itself with the River Rheidol.
picture ‘Devil’s Bridge’. View of the falls with the inn at the top
picture ‘Devil’s Bridge’ similar to the above
Beaker, Mr and Mrs, (1812) Album of drawings (NLW PZ319, drawings vol 33), pp. 18-20

1812
30.8.1812 (Sunday)
To the waterfalls
Gray, Jonathan, Yorkshire Record Office, Letter J52h, Ludlow 1.9.1812

1814
Aberystwyth and Barmouth etc etc have been more than usually attractive this season. Considerable improvements have taken place at the Devil’s bridge under Mr Johnes. The Bridge itself is quite a new object, and Mr Johnes has laid the foundation of a new spacious Hotel which will be completed next spring, the present house being found inadequate.
Carmarthen Journal, 2.9.1814

1815
Devil’s Bridge
Rees, Thomas, (1777-1864) A Topographical and Historical Description of the Counties of South Wales, (London, 1815), pp. 436- For ‘The Beauties of England and Wales: or, original delineations, topographical, historical and descriptive of each country’. Dedicated to Thomas Johnes (Hafod)

About 1815 (unpublished)
The Hafod Arms Inn
Johnes, Thomas and Payne, Henry Thomas, (Archdeacon), (1757-1832)
Transcript of a Journal of a Tour from Aberystwyth to Llanbedr, c. 1815, NLW Cwrtmawr 101C MS 101

1816
This Inn, among other accommodations, provides guides for the visitors.
The Aberystwyth guide: … to which are added, several extracts, selected from some of the best writers, descriptive of the rivers Ystwyth and Rhydol, the Devil’s Bridge, Hafod, Strata Florida, &c. 1816, p. 47

1817
{Hafod Inn
Devil’s Bridge – the present bridge 1753
the falls – dangerous descent
4 descents in all to various waterfalls}
The inn
Fisher, Paul Hawkins, A Three weeks tour into Wales in the year 1817, (1818), pp. 12-14

1819 (unpublished)
May 22rd 1819. Rose at six and at six thirty set off for the Devil’s Bridge, nearly the whole 12 miles to which you are ascending but are prevented from tiring from the beautiful scenery below you of the Vale of Rhydiol…. At Pont y Monach, or the Devil’s Bridge, I arrived at half past nine and first of all made a hearty breakfast at the Hafod Arms…..
Jones, Jenkin, (Captain, R.N.), Tour in England and Wales, May – June, 1819.
NLW, MS785A; Trans Historical Society of West Wales, I, (1911), 97-144

1819
{Devil’s Bridge}
Michael Faraday (1791-1867), Dafydd Tomos, Michael Faraday in Wales : including Faraday’s journal of his tour through Wales in 1819 [1972], pp. 56-58
Original manuscripts in the Institution of Electrical Engineers, Savoy Place, London, Common Place Book 2 for 19 July 1819, UK0108 SC MSS 002/1/2Jones, Bence, The life and letters of Faraday, (1869), (second edition 1870), vol. 1, pp. 251-265 (extracts from the tour of Wales)
James, Frank A.J.L. (ed.) The Correspondence of Michael Faraday, Vol.1, (Institution of Electrical Engineers, 1991) p. 55

1820
Album of prints by Hugh Hughes includes prints of: Pont y Gwr Drwg (Devil’s Bridge)
Hughes, H., (1790-1863), The Beauties of Cambria, 60 Views in North and South Wales (1822, 1823?)

1821
[By stations, this tourist means places from which the best views may be seen.]
Hafod Arms, the inn near the Devil’s Bridge. It was built by the late Mr Johnes, the member for Cardigan, and well kept by his servant when I was there.
Pontarfynach [Devil’s Bridge]
The perpendicular depth of the four falls is 208 feet, without allowing for the declivity of the three pools. (Malkin, p. 367). {The Devil’s Bridge}
{Refers to Cumberland and Malkin for descriptions of the scenery.}
‘Our concern is picturesque points, which are of a high cast, and very deservedly admired.’
{Devil’s Bridge station}
{Falls of the Mynach} (brief description of two greatest waterfalls in Europe)
{Fall of the Rheidol, seen from the back window of the inn.}
Quotes Roger’s poem ‘Those loftier scenes Salvator’s soul adored’
{Station}
Print of ‘Fall of the Rhydoll’, (Newell and Sutherland)
‘The view looking down the Rheidol wears an opposite character of calm grandeur; but freedoms must be used to make a good picture of it. There is want of contrast; the two side screens meet at a formal angle; and both of them, with the hill in front, are covered with wood: besides the huge
stones in the foreground must be put in better order. The whole spot is a storehouse of materials for landscape – falling water, pieces of rock, masses of stone, stumps, old trees, etc. An artist of taste and talent told me, he was down there seven hours without quitting the place.
Unfrequented scenes are seldom without some marvellous story. When at Aberystwyth, I chanced to mention the fall of the Rheidol to an old lady, who asked me, if I had seen the wonderful stone there? What stone? Why, one on which, as she had heard, there were words written, which no man could read! She was a Wesleyan Methodist.
{The sounds of the falls}
{The Robbers’ cave – station}
Hafod ‘I saw little of them’ – refers to Cumberland and Malkin
Newell, Robert Hasell, Rev, (1778-1852) Letters on the Scenery of Wales; including a series of Subjects for the Pencil, with their Stations determined on a General Principle; and Instructions to Pedestrian Tourists, (1821), letter IX, pp. 75-84

1823
Poems written at the Devil’s Bridge
The CAMBRIAN (Newspaper), 20.9.1823

1823
Cwmystwyth
Pentrebrunant inn which had been rebuilt since I was in the country
Hafod Arms
The inn twice as large as when I first knew it
I found not only that the wood had been greatly cleared from each bank of the Mynach but that a heavy cast iron hand railing had been erected as a parapet to the bridge. I was told that this had been done by Mr Johnes himself, in consequence of some accident. … it is sadly out of keeping with the spot. How it is at the present moment I know not, for some time last year the arch broke down and became impassable for carriages ; and probably this heavy and unsightly railing has been removed.
{description of the bridges and waterfalls}
Quotes Mr Malkin, South Wales, vol. 2, p. 99)
Mention’s Burke’s view of the sublime
10.7.1823 (Thursday)
{stayed at the Hafod Arms all day because of rain}
Freeman, George John, Sketches in Wales; or, A diary of three walking excursions in that principality, in the years 1823, 1824, 1825. (1826), pp. 30-36

1824 (published 1824)
The fall of the Rheidol and Hafod Arms [Devil’s Bridge]
This Inn, among other accommodations, provides guides for the visitors. There is an Album kept here, to which all strangers are wished to contribute; and many very obligingly ‘in spite of nature and their stars’ comply. Another Inn is about to be built near this.
Prichard, Thomas Jeffery Llewelyn, 1790-1862, The new Aberystwyth guide to the waters, bathing houses, public walks, and amusements : including historical notices and general information connected with the town, castle ruins, rivers, Havod, Devil’s Bridge, and all places of note or interest adjacent; embellished with a map and two views, (Aberystwyth, 1824), pp. 47-48

1824

To the Torrent at the Devil’s Bridge, North Wales, 1824 by William Wordsworth

How art thou named? In search of what strange land
From what huge height, descending?Can such force
Of waters issue from a British source,
Or hath not Pindus fed thee, where the band
Of Patriots scoop their freedom out, with hand
Desperate as thine? Or come the incessant shocks
From that young Stream, that smites the throbbing rocks
Of Viamala? There I seem to stand,
As in life’s morn; permitted to behold,
From the dread chasm, woods climbing above woods,
In pomp that fades not; everlasting snows;
And skies that ne’er relinquish their repose;
Such power possess the family of floods
Over the minds of Poets, young or old!

1825 (unpublished)
visited the Hafod and the bridge
Atherton, Ann, Tour of North Wales and Cardiganshire , 1825, NLW, 20366B, 24th October, 1825

3.9.1828 (unpublished)
I went to the Inn which is placed close by [the Devil’s Bridge] and asked if they could let me have a bed; I was surprised to find that they could not only not let me have a bed but not even a parlour, what to do I knew not as there was no other inn near, having also understood that a Gentleman had just offered the landlady a guinea for a bed and that she had given up her own, that the servants had been turned out in order to make room for travellers and that many Gentlemen would be obliged to sleep in their parlours, after again intreating the landlady that I might be shown into a room of any kind, [to eat, presumably] she said there was none but what was occupied except I liked to be shown into a room with servants, however, what I might have rejected at other times necessity obliged me to do so then, so I accepted and fortunately found the servants very civil and nothing improper in their conversation but now what was I to do for a bed; the landlady at last said I could sleep in a post-chaise with the blinds put up and she would furnish me with a blanket, I thought this an excellent contrivance and a good joke and I believe laughed myself to sleep[.] after my affairs having so contrived I made a good meal on cold fowl and ham and spent the evening in writing and then went to my new lodging which I found a very comfortable one with the exception only that I hadn’t quite room to stretch my legs. I was awake in the morning by a postboy who saw the chaise jolt and could not conceive what it was and got up and looked in at the little back window.
Clark, Charles B., Tour of Wales in August and September, 1828, NLW MS 15002A
[According to his accounts, all he paid for this was 2 shillings for tea and one shilling to the waiter. The guide to the falls cost 1 shilling.]

1830
Description of Devil’s Bridge
The CAMBRIAN (Newspaper), 24.7.1830

1830
Letter about Devil’s Bridge
The CAMBRIAN (Newspaper), 28.8.1830

1830 (about)
16th Friday
Aberystwyth to the Devil’s Bridge 12 miles and to Sputty [Ysbyty Cynfyn inn] = 16 making for that day’s work 24 miles.
Devil’s Bridge, {long description}
Foley, Edward, Captain, of Ridgeway, Pembrokeshire
NLW R.K.Lucas Papers nos 1951-4, pp. 42-43

1831
Aug 29 Monday
When last at the Devil’s Bridge we found fault with the accommodation – on this visit, however, we had no reason for doing so. A very great improvement, probably the very increased influx of visitors is manifest and we had every reason to be satisfied with our quarters.
Anon, A journal of tours to Tenby, Aberystwyth, etc., NLW MSS 6685C, p. 42

[1831] (published 1831)
Devil’s Bridge lies in the direct line of the old road from Aberystwith to Rhayader. Since the purchase of this property by His Grace the Duke of Newcastle, the Hotel here has been thoroughly repaired and other considerable alterations and improvements have been made which add materially to the comforts and facilities of the visitors of this delightful spot; amongst which may be noticed the formation of artificial lakes of considerable extent, well stored with the choicest fish and the erection of boats of proper construction and dimensions for the use of anglers from the ‘Hafod Arms’ The interior arrangements of the house will be found to be vastly augmented under the care of the new landlord, Mr Norris who has recently located there from Bath.
Anon, A Traveller’s Companion or Stranger’s guide from Hereford to Aberystwith with a coloured plan. Kington, 1st edition [1831], p. 34; (2nd edition, [1839]), p. 33

1834
It will give you some idea of my returning strength when I tell you that next morning I arose at seven, and, with the Boots of the inn for my guide, descended to the bottom of the fearful ravine of roaring cataracts, 320 feet below the level of the road, and ascended again and surveyed them one by one with great delight …
Eloge, Frazer’s Magazine, 1835, no 61; Oliphant, Margaret, The Life of Edward Irving, (1862), pp. 388-389

1834?
{Devil’s Bridge: quotes Warner and Aiken [sic Aikin]}
Hemingway, J., Panorama of the Beauties, Curiosities and Antiquities of North Wales, intended as a Pocket Companion to the Tourist and Traveller, (1st edition, 1834? and many subsequent editions); (from the 4th edition, 1846), p. 49-55

June, 1834
At the time of our visit, which was early in June, 1834, there was only one inn, but another was building on the other side of the Devil’s bridge. From the clean, quiet rooms of the Hafod Arms, we enjoyed, even without stirring from our armchair, some very beautiful and tranquillising scenery.
The Penny Magazine, XLI, 15 August, 1835, pp 313-315

1835
The inn at Hafod, which had so long remained without opposition, now stands in awe of threatened competition, as Mr Sayer, who rents the falls at the Devil’s Bridge, is preparing to build in full view of the cataract.
Leigh, Samuel, Guide to Wales and Monmouthshire introduction to 3rd edition, 1835, ix.

1835
Pont y Monach, or Pont ar Fynach—that is, the Monk’s Bridge, vulgarly called the Devil’s Bridge, is a single arch, between twenty and thirty feet in span, thrown over another arch of less than twenty feet below, which crosses a tremendous chasm. According to tradition, the lower arch was thrown over by the monks of Strata Florida Abbey, about the year 1087; but the country people, thinking it a work of supernatural ability, ascribed it to the personage whose name it bears. The Abbey of Strata Florida was not, however, founded till 1164; the bridge, therefore, could not have been the work of those monks, unless its date is placed a century later. Giraldus mentions having passed over it in 1188, when he travelled through Wales with Baldwin, archbishop of Canterbury, to preach the crusades.
The upper arch was built over the other, at the expense of the county, in 1753, and the iron balustrades were added by Mr Johnes in 1814. The lower arch may be distinctly viewed by looking over the upper bridge; but the whole scene is so enveloped in wood, that the depth is not perceived; and many an incurious traveller has passed the Devil’s Bridge without distinguishing its circumstances from an ordinary road. The cleft over which these two bridges extend has evidently been enlarged, and was perhaps originally produced by the incessant attack of the impetuous Mynach on the solid wall of rock.
In order to view the scenery of this romantic spot, the visitor should first cross the bridge, and then descend by the right of it to the bottom of the aperture, through which the Mynach drives its furious passage, having descended from the mountains about five miles to the north-east. The depth from the present bridge to the bed of the river is 114 feet. The effect of the double arch is picturesque; and the narrowness of the fissure, darkened by its artificial roof, enhances the solemn gloom of the abyss.
On regaining the road, the second descent must be made by passing through a small wood, at the distance of a few yards from the bridge, to view the four concatenated falls from the point of a rock in front. Each of these is received into a deep pool at the bottom, but so diminished to the eye, at the present point of view, as almost to resemble one continued cascade. The first fall takes place about forty yards south-west of the bridge, where the river is confined to narrow limits by the rocks. It is carried about six feet over the ridge, and projected into a basin at the depth of eighteen feet. Its next leap is sixty feet, and the third is diminished to twenty, when it encounters rocks of prodigious size, through which it struggles to the edge of the largest cataract, and pours in one unbroken torrent down a precipice of 110 feet.
The height of the various falls is as follows:— in feet.
First Fall 18
Second Fall 60
Third Fall 20
Fourth Fall, or Grand Cataract 110
Total 208
Height from the Bridge to the Water 114
Total 322
As, however, no allowance is here made for the inclined direction of the river in many parts (and there are numerous interruptions to its passage), the total height from the bridge to the level of the stream, at its junction with the Rheidol, may be computed at nearly 500 feet.
The rocks on each side of the fall rise perpendicularly to the height of 800 feet, and are finely clothed with innumerable trees vegetating between the crevices, and forming one vast forest.
From this spot, with the assistance of a guide, a third descent may be made to the Fall of the Rhydiol, or Rheidol, the approach to which is difficult, and entirely impracticable during heavy rains. A huge fragment of rock, projecting over the river for a considerable way, precipitates the stream about eighteen feet. This fall is totally different from that of the Mynach, being quite destitute of foliage.
Turning from this scene, and looking along the glen, may be perceived the Hafod Arms Inn, standing on the brink of a precipice of forests, at a perpendicular height of more than 150 yards.
The cascades on the two rivers are not within sight of each other, nor is the Devil’s Bridge seen from the Falls of the Mynach, as erroneously represented in many engravings.
After repassing the Devil’s Bridge, a fourth descent, by the side of the Mynach Falls, is to the Robbers’ Cave, near the basin of the first fall. This is a dark cavern, inhabited in the fifteenth century by two men and their sister, called Plant Matt, or Matthew’s Children, who infested the neighbourhood as plunderers, and who continued their depredations for many
years with impunity. They were at length, however, taken up for committing murder, and executed. The descent to this cavern is very difficult.
The Hafod Arms, near the Devil’s Bridge, is a commodious inn and posting-house, erected by the late Mr. Johnes. Here a guide may be obtained to visit the Falls. The view from the windows of this inn is perfectly enchanting. Immediately below, and only separated from the house by the road, is a profound chasm, stretching east and west about a mile, the almost perpendicular sides of which are covered with trees of different kinds. At the bottom of this abyss runs the river Mynach, its roaring tide hidden from the eye by the deep shade of surrounding woods, but bursting upon the ear in the awful sound of many waters—in the thunder of numerous cataracts ; whilst in front of the spectator the Rheidol is seen rushing down a chasm in the mountains with tremendous fury.
The woods in the vicinity of the Devil’s Bridge abound with nests of the Formica Herculanea, the largest species of ants that are natives of Britain: these nests are composed of small ends of twigs, forming a heap a yard or two across, and from one to two feet high. The insects themselves exceed in size three of the ordinary black kind, and are possessed of uncommon strength.
Leigh, Samuel, Guide to Wales and Monmouthshire introduction to 3rd edition, 1835), pp. 130-133

Friday 22nd Jun, 1837 (unpublished)
We hired a car with 1 horse to take us to the Devil’s Bridge and to Hafod for which we were to pay 16s for 16 miles and 2s the driver…. The ride is completely over mountains as the road which is excellent is sometimes with a steep precipice….a cascade…fronts the Hotel called the Hafod Arms where you bait your horse, get a guide to go with you to the Devil’s Bridge and get an order to see Hafod House….The Landlady of the Inn wanted to persuade us to take her post chaise saying she did not give an order unless we did so. I refused it, saying I had made my agreement to take the car to Hafod and that therefore I should not think of paying 10/6d for her chaise- finding I was resolute she pretended to make me a favour and granted me the order.
Beecroft, Mrs, Cardiff Central Library, 2.325

1837 (published 1840)
.. the old road to the Devil’s Bridge being impassable [at present] [and the hotel is closed]
Turner, Thomas, Narrative of a Journey associated with a Fly, from Gloucester to Aberystwith and from Aberystwith through North Wales, 1837, (1840), p. 18, 33

1837 (unpublished)
About one o’clock we arrived at a small homely Inn [at Devil’s Bridge] where we partook of what the poor landlady had in her house.
We were met near the Hafod Arms, a large and commodious inn now under a state of repair by a guide who asked if we wished to see the falls ..
Horace, Francis, Journal of a tour 1837, NLW MSS 11596-7B, p. 246-7

1837
The day was beautiful and I was much delighted with the waterfall at the Devil’s Bridge … [it] was almost the only waterfall I ever saw without feeling disappointment. My companion and myself past 2 hours rambling about this beautiful spot. There were a great number of visitors and with true English feeling several had brought provisions. I was invited to share one of the picnic parties but declined. …
Rev Joseph Romilly’s Tour of Wales, 1837, Edited by Rev M.G.R. Morris, Llandysul, 1998, p. 57

1839
A lady’s maid, of all persons in the world the one that has no business to stand upon a precipice, lost her footing while looking over the abyss, and was borne down a frightful depth,   but her dress spreading out like a parachute, she was no otherwise injured than by being lodged in the black pool and terribly frightened. After some delay, ropes were procured and cast down ; but in the hurry, no proper noose was made, so that, while they were drawing her up as she clung to it with her hands, her strength failed her and down she fell again. But now a boy had contrived to work his way down, and rescued her, by placing her insensibly in a secure place until more effectual assistance was procured. The poor creature long suffered, as we understood, from the effects of the peril.
Anon, An Excursion over the Mountains to Aberystwith, Blackwood’s Magazine, 46, July 1839, p. 70

1844 (published 1846)
Rhayader …. we drove on further into the mountains, passed several small huts, where miserable children begged with a sort of regular chaunt [sic], and at last reached Aberystwyth Cottage, a very comfortable inn, not far from the really romantic Devil’s bridge, which connects the sides of a [p. 235] precipitous ravine …We returned to the inn, made a hasty dinner, and then proceeded on our journey …
Carus, Carl Gustav, The King of Saxony’s journey through England and Scotland in the year 1844, (1846)

1844
Slept at the ‘Hafod Arms.’ Paid tea, bed and breakfast 4s 6d. Went with the guide to see the bridge which is one arch of 29ft span and 120 ft above the stream of the Mynach. It extends from rock to rock over the old bridges which is attributed to His Satanic Majesty, but in reality built by the monks of Strata Florida 750 years ago. Walked 5 miles to Hafod, now the seat of the Duke of Newcastle. There is a fine marble monument in the church in memory of Colonel Johnes’s daughter. {Walked to Strata Florida}
Jenkins, Thomas, Jenkins, D.C., (1976), The Diary of Thomas Jenkins of Llandeilo, 1826-1870 (Bala, 1976), p. 46

1847
The Hotel was for several years almost closed .. a new road formed …
Cliffe, Charles Frederick, The book of South Wales, the Bristol Channel, Monmouthshire, and the Wye, a companion and guide… (1st edition, 1847, p. 264;
but see also 2nd edition (enlarged) 1848; 3rd edition 1854 edited and revised by the Rev George Roberts

1848 [This description of the Devil’s Bridge has been included in full because it was written by a reliable local historian and was probably used as a source by subsequent guides.]
The view from the window of the Hotel is perfectly enchanting; immediately below, and only separated from the house by the space in front, is a profound chasm stretching east and west about a mile, the almost perpendicular sides of which are covered with trees, chiefly coppice woods of oak. At the bottom of this abyss runs the river Mynach, its roaring tide hidden from the eye by the deep shade of [PAGE 103] surrounding woods, but bursting upon the ear in the awful sound of many waters. In front, the Rheidol is seen rushing down a chasm in the mountains, and with headlong fury precipitating itself in a fall. We now proceed to the bridge. Pont y Mynach, or Pony ar Fynach, (the Bridge over the Mynach) consists of a single arch between 20 and 30 feet in the chord, thrown over another of less space than 20 feet; beneath is a dark and tremendous chasm. The lower arch is generally said to have been thrown across by the monks of Strata Florida Abbey; but the country people, in superstitious times, deemed it a work of supernatural agency, and gave it the name of the Devil’s Bridge, by which it is now generally known. The upper arch was built over the other at the expence of the county in 1753, and the iron balustrade was added by Mr. Johnes in 1814. The lower arch is about 6 feet below the upper, and may be distinctly viewed by looking over the upper bridge; but the whole scene is so enveloped in wood, that the depth is not perceived.

A new and interesting view of the origin of the Devil’s Bridge, and of the hospices in its vicinity, has been communicated to the writer by a gentleman of Aberystwith, who has brought considerable local knowledge and learning to bear upon the point: he says,-

“This bridge is by all tourists stated to have been erected by the monks of Strata Florida, but the assertion rests merely upon conjecture. If it be assumed that it was built by any monks at all, I should be disposed to think that it was built by another order, i.e. the Knights Hospitallers, and my reason for thinking so is this:- The chief, or at any rate one of the prominent objects of the order, as its name implies, was hospitality – to establish places of rest and entertainment for the accommodation of pilgrims and travelers. Their patron saint was St. John the Baptist. It is a recorded and well authenticated fact, that at one time the whole of the parish of Yspytty-Ystrad Meyrick was their property. We find there a chapel, dedicated to St. John; also another at Yspytty Ystwith, a few miles distant from it. These two are on the south side of the [PAGE 104] bridge; on its other side, at a distance of about two miles, lies Yspytty Cenfin with another Chapel dedicated to St. John. Here we find three of these Hospices within a short distance of each other, and at each a Chapel, dedicated to St. John, the Patron Saint of the Knights Hospitallers; hence I infer that these three hospices were established by this Order, and, as one of them is on a different side of the River Mynach to the others, that the bridge was put up by the Knights Hospitallers for facilitating the communication between the Hospices, and not by the Cistercian order of Strata Florida, whose Patron Saint is, I believe, St. Mary. The position of the three hospices and Strata Florida will be better understood through a glance at the Ordnance Survey.”

The cleft over which these two bridges extend has evidently been deepened by the incessant attacks of the impetuous Mynach on the solid wall of rock; but as the width of the aperture is, in some places, not more than fifteen inches, it is improbable that the river should have been the sole cause of the chasm, and it must probably be attributed to some convulsion of nature, by which the rocks were first riven in sunder, and the waters thus finding an outlet, have contrived to work through their confined channel. Grand as is the view from the bridge itself, when the spectator looks down, half dizzy, into the drear abyss, yet he is then unable to form an adequate idea of the vastness, the gloomy magnificence of the scene as beheld from below.

In order to view the scenery of this romantic spot, the visitor should cross the bridge from the Hotel, and then descend by the right a steep and rather slippery path, to the rocky bottom of the aperture, through which the impetuous Mynach urges its furious passage. This stream, after having descended about five miles from the mountains to the north-east, forces itself here through masses of opposing rocks, hollowing out deep cavities filled with waters dark from the surrounding gloom. The cleft appears a narrow and perpendicular fissure in a solid rock, 114 feet in height, and the effect of the double arch, and the narrowness of the cleft, [PAGE 105] darkened by its artificial roof, increases the solemn gloom of the scene; while so loud is the din of the torrent as it chafes against the rocks which gird its waters, that persons standing in company on the edge of the rocks can, with difficulty, hear each other’s voices at the highest pitch.

On regaining the road, the second descent must be made by passing through a wood at the distance of a few yards from the other side of the road, to view the four successive falls from a point of a rock in front. Each of these is received into a deep pool at the bottom, but so diminished to the eye at the present point of view, as almost to resemble one continued cascade. The first fall occurs about 40 yards below the ridge, where the river is confined to narrow limits by the rocks, and from the steep inclination of its bed, is thrown with great violence over a rock, about 20 feet in height, into a black pool beneath. Scarcely has the water been forced from this foaming receptacle, when it is projected over another precipice of not less than 60 feet, into a smaller reservoir. From this it hurries to a third fall of 20 feet, when it encounters rocks of prodigious size, through which it struggles to the edge of the largest cataract, and pours in one unbroken volume down a precipice 110 feet in perpendicular height.

The third path, down which the guide conducts visitors, is in front of, and on the same side as the Hotel, by the side of the falls, and commands very beautiful views of them individually. The four cascades taken thus in detail, impress the mind more strongly than before with the gigantic measurement of their proportions, because here the extent of the unfathomed pools between each are obvious to the eye. The second fall of 60 feet is extremely grand. The summary of the various falls is as follows, – First fall, 20 feet; second, 60 feet; third, 20 feet; and the fourth, 110 feet; while from the bridge to the water beneath there is a depth of 114 feet, making the total descent 314 feet. As, however, in this computation, no allowance is made for the inclined direction of the river between the various falls, [PAGE 106] the total height from the bridge to the level of the stream at its junction with the Rheidol must be a fall of nearly 500 feet. The rocks on each side of the falls rise perpendicular to the height of 800 feet, and are finely clothed with coppice woods, vegetating between the crevices, and forming one vast forest. Near the basin of the third fall, and at the head of the fourth, is a dark cavern in the slaty rock, for years, according to tradition, the hiding place of two brothers and a sister, called Plant Matt, or Matthew’s Children, who infested the neighbourhood for years as freebooters, till at length, committing murder, they were taken and tried, found guilty, and executed. The woods through which the paths lead abound with nests of the Formica Herculanea, the largest size of ants that are natives of Britain. Their nests are composed of small twigs, forming a heap a yard or two across, and from one to two feet in height, and the insects themselves exceed in size three of the ordinary black kind, and are possessed of uncommon strength. The neighbouring rocks also are a favourite resort of hawks and kites of the largest kind known in this country.

The fourth descent is to the fall of the Rheidol, by many considered the finest portion of the scenery. For this purpose a guide should be engaged from the Hotel, as the approach is at all times difficult; and during heavy rains, entirely impracticable. The basin into which this cataract falls is agitated like a sea by the violence of the shock. The rocks which lie across the channel are enormous, the hue of the waters dark, the hills aspire to the clouds, and the foam and roar of the torrent adds to the gloomy grandeur around. Opposite this stupendous object, upon a bank high and well wooded on all sides, at the height of 150 yards, stands the Havod Arms Hotel. The perpendicular descent of this cataract is not less than 210 feet. The Rheidol soon after meets the Mynach, and their junction may here be traced. The cascades on the two rivers, however, are not within sight of each other.
New Guide to Aberystwith and its Environs Comprising Notices, Historical and Descriptive of the Principal Objects of Interest In The Town and Neighbourhood by Thomas Owen Morgan, Esq. [of Aberystwyth]. (1st edition, 1848), pp. 102-106; (2nd edition, 1851), pp. 106-111; (3rd edition, 1858), pp. 106-112

1849
Pont-y-Mynach, or Pont-ar-Fynach, vulgarly the Devil’s Bridge, near the Havod Arms in, is a single arch, about 30 feet in the chord, thrown over another arch of less than 20 feet. which spans a dark and tremendous chasm. The under arch is said to have been thrown across by the monks of Ystrad Florida Abbey, about the year 1087; but the country people, thinking so bold an effort above the reach of those ghostly fathers, ascribed it to his Satanic Majesty. The present bridge was built in 1758, at the expense of the county, over the original, which was left standing; and the railings were put up in 1814, by Mr Johnes, of Havod. It is a most romantic and extraordinary structure.
The scenery in this neighbourhood is inexpressibly grand and sublime—what Byron would call, “a. blending of all beauties ;” a combination of all those lovely charms and impressive wonders, which Nature has scattered with such exuberant prodigality throughout the mountains and valleys of Wales.
The Havod Arms inn stands on a most interesting site in this locality, and affords excellent accommodation to tourists.
Hicklin, John (ed.) Excursions in North Wales … 5th Thousand edition, (1849), pp. 18-22

1852
DEVIL’S BRIDGE, or PONT-Y-MYNACH. Mr. Roscoe, Writing of “ the grand and romantic scenery of Cardigan’s mountains and glens,” truly affirms, “ first in beauty as in popularity, is the oft-praised, but indescribable spot, where the Devil’s Bridge frowns over its sublime and perilous chasm.”
{route from Aberystwyth to Devil’s Bridge)
… Hafod Arms Hotel at the Devil’s bridge.
This house, erected by the late Mr. Johnes, and greatly enlarged and improved by his successors in the possession of Hafod, the late Duke of Newcastle, and Mr. Hoghton, is now a spacious, handsome, and well-conducted establishment. The windows of the house afford a prospect of surpassing beauty and interest. Immediately below is a profound chasm, stretching E. and W. about a mile; its precipitous sides richly covered with luxuriant woods, chiefly of oak coppice. At the bottom rushes the river Mynach, its waters hidden from the eye by the overhanging trees, but filling the ear with their incessant roar. In front is seen the river Rheidol hurrying down a similar chasm, and precipitating itself over the shelving rocks. Engaging a guide at the Inn, proceed first to the bridge, and here, as a writer before quoted observes, “is a scene to be feasted on, trembled at, and dreamed of, sleeping and waking; but not to be preconceived, painted, or described.” The bridge is a single arch of nearly 30 feet in span, erected immediately above an older arch of about 20 feet, both crossing an extraordinary chasm narrow, dark and deep. The lower arch, ascribed by the ignorant natives of former generations, as with regard to many works and events surpassing their comprehension, to Satanic agency, tradition represents to have been formed by the monks of Strata Florida Abbey, about the year 1087. Respecting the precise date of the erection there is some uncertainty, but it is mentioned by Giraldus Cambrensis as in existence in the year 1188, when, along with Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, he travelled through Wales, preaching the crusades. The upper arch was built over the old one, in connection with a raised and improved road, in 1753, at the expense of the county; and the iron ballustrades were added by Mr Johnes of Hafod, in 1814. The lower arch is seen by bending over the upper bridge; and from this spot the whole scene is truly grand ; but in order to form an adequate conception of the vast and gloomy chasm, and of the magnificent beauty of the scenery, it is necessary to pass over the bridge, and to descend by a steep, and somewhat dangerous path on the right hand. Here will be contemplated with amazement, not unmingled with awe, a narrow perpendicular fissure in the solid rock, 114 feet in height, roofed over by the strange double-arched bridge, and the waters of the Mynach struggling through the confined passage, and by their ceaseless rush and roar enhancing the solemn grandeur of the sublime abyss. It has been commonly supposed that the chasm has been produced by the force of the current, but, reflecting on the great depth of the opening, as compared with its width which in some parts does not exceed 15 inches, we cannot admit the prevailing opinion ; although it is easy to conceive that the waters, having here found an outlet, may have gradually deepened their confined channel.
Returning to the road, a second descent is made on the opposite side, passing through a wood, and round an abrupt point of rock, in order to view the Falls of the Mynach, as it escapes from the narrow ravine, and rushes down to mingle its waters with those of the Rheidol, making in its passage four distinct leaps or cascades. The guides generally conduct first to a point of view, where the pools, by which these falls are separated, being nearly concealed, the whole appear to form one continued cataract; and then by another path, from which they are seen individually. The river is first carried over the rocky ridge, and projected into a basin at a depth of 24 feet; its next leap is 56 feet ; the third about 20 feet ; after which it struggles amongst some vast masses of opposing rock to the edge of the grand cataract, from which it is precipitated, in one unbroken and impetuous torrent, not less than 110 feet. Including the distance from the bridge to the water, and allowing for the inclined direction of the river in those parts which are comparatively smooth, the total height from the bridge to the level of the stream at its junction with the Rheidol is computed to be at least 500 feet. The scene, in the midst of which this mighty rush of waters occurs, is distinguished alike by glowing beauty, and solemn terrific grandeur. The stupendous rocks, which rise on either side to a height of 800 feet, are richly clothed with luxuriant wood and foliage, and rendered bright and brilliant by a profusion of blossoms and flowers, and by showers of gay and glittering spray, reflecting the prismatic colours, and casting arormd the whole an arch of loveliness and glory. In a. rock by the side of these falls, is a small dark recess known as the Robbers’ cave, said to have been the retreat of two men and their sister, called Plant Matt, or Matthew’s children, who infested the country as plunderers, their hidingplace being for many years undiscovered. At length, having committed a murder, they were apprehended, condemned and executed.
From this spot, with the assistance of a guide, the Fall of the Rheidol may be visited. The approach, however, is difficult and during or after heavy rains, is almost impracticable. The majestic stream is hurled over a huge rock, to a depth of 18 feet, into a pool which is sometimes so chafed and agitated as to resemble the ocean in a storm. The vicinity of this cataract differs from that of the Mynach in being wholly destitute of foliage. It has, however, some peculiar features of majesty and grandeur, and by many persons it is deemed the finest portion of the scenery. The junction of the Mynach and Rheidol may here be traced, but the cascades of the two rivers cannot, from any point of view, be seen together. The falls which have been mentioned are all that are commonly shown to strangers by the guides ; but by exploring the valleys wherever a path is found, or can be made, several other falls will be discovered, and for some miles in both directions, a continual succession of lovely and admirable scenes will be presented. Below the junction of the two rivers, the wildness and grandeur of the scenery gradually give place to more softened beauty; the valley widens, and the Rheidol pursues a more tranquil course towards the ocean.
Black’s Picturesque Guide through North and South Wales, (1st edition, 1852), pp. 209-212

1874
The Hafod Arms (large and comfortable) is finely situated, overlooking from a height of 300 ft. the leafy glen of the Rheidol, while immediately below the house runs the narrower gorge of the Mynach, which here joins the Rheidol, filling the air with the roar of its waters. The Devil’s Bridge (‘Pont-ar-Fynach,’ or the ‘Bridge on the Mynach,’ it is called by natives, though they, too, sometimes call it Pont-y-Gwr-Drwg, or the ‘Bridge of the Evil One’) is not more than 30 yds. from the house on the road to Rhayader, and might easily be passed without exciting attention, so completely is the narrow gorge which it spans choked up by trees and shrubs. It consists, properly speaking, of 2 bridges—a lower one, now a mere curve of rude masonry, built, it has been surmised, in the 11th or 12th cent., by the monks of Strata Florida Abbey, whence comes its Welsh name; and a more modern arch immediately over it, of about 30 ft. span, built in 1753, at a height of 120 ft. above the torrent, which is barely perceived among trees and rocks, working its way through the dark abyss below. There is a similar double bridge on the Pass of St. Gothard among the Alps; the modern and upper arch having been made, as is the case here also, to avoid the inconvenient descent to the lower and older one, which in both instances, from the boldness of its construction, has been attributed by the wondering peasantry to the architecture of the Devil, the Satanic Pontifex Maximus.
The falls of the Mynach are in the grounds of the Hotel Company, who charge 1s [5p] for each visitor, which frees him as often as he likes to go. The falls of the Rheidol may be visited with more difficulty by another path.
The best way to see the bridge is to cross it, and, taking a path to the right, descend to the water’s edge. Immediately under the bridge the gorge is reduced to a mere crack in the slate rock, over which, to all appearance, a man might stride. The torrent in descending towards it rushes and boils among the hard rocks—
“The fall of waters, rapid as the light, The flashing mass foams, shaking the abyss”—
and, by the aid of the small stones which it whirls along with it, has scooped out the sides into grooves, giving to the bed of the stream the appearance of a succession of huge caldrons. The original rent must have been formed by some great convulsion of nature, since no power of water, in the present state of the globe, is capable of effecting it.
Most engravings of this bridge represent in one and the same view the waterfalls also; but in this the licence taken by the painter is as great as that allowed to poets, since from no point accessible at present can the bridge be seen at the same time as the falls, owing to a bend in the ravine. The falls may be seen by taking another pathway on the 1eft of the high road, about 30 yds. beyond the bridge, which leads by a rude staircase cut in the splintery rock through the underwood to a promontory projecting between the Rheidol and Mynach, just above their junction; ascend by the path in front of the hotel, which commands beautiful views of the falls individually. In times of flood, when the channel is full, the stream presents a magnificent spectacle, descending amidst rocks and rich foliage in a succession of leaps, respectively 18, 60, 20, and 110 ft. high. The 4th descent is to the fall of the Rheidol, opposite the hotel, in which the cataract is 70 ft. in height; the roar of waters, together with the narrowness of the ravine, the exquisite foliage on all sides, and the towering mountains which close it in, all combine to make a rare picture. The ravine and stream at the foot are crossed by an iron suspension-bridge. For this descent it is advisable to engage a guide, as it is always difficult, and after rains dangerous.
John Murray, A Handbook for Travellers in North Wales, (4th edition, 1874), pp. 204-205

1874
Black’s Guide, 3rd edition, 240-241

 

Other Devil’s Bridges

Pont Aberglaslyn was very rarely referred to as The Devil’s Bridge, but as some tourists suggested, this was erroneous.

1732

‘The road inconceivably stony and rugged about this bridge so that even the people of the country call it the Devil’s Bridge.’

Loveday, John, 1711-1789 Diary of a tour in 1732 through parts of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, made by John Loveday of Caversham … Printed from a manuscript in the possession of his great-grandson J. E. T. Loveday, with an introduction and an itinerary, (Edinburgh: 1890), 26th May 1732 

1793

Pont Aberglaslyn, commonly called the Devil’s Bridge.

Clarke, Edward Daniel, (1769-1822), A Tour through the South of England, Wales and Part of Ireland, made during the Summer of 1791, (London: 1793)

 

Lake District

1800

‘Proceeded to Kirby Lonsdale. Stopt to see a curious bridge over the River Lune. It is of great height and the underpart of the arches is ribbed. As I was examining the bridge, two chimney sweepers who had sheltered themselves under it from the rain told me with grave faces that the Devil was the builder of it.’

Hoare, Richard Colt, (Sir), Tours of Northern England, 1800 (Cardiff Public Library, MS 3.127.5); (Thompson, M.W., The Journeys of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, (1983), p. 129)

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