The bridges have an unusual construction in that the previous bridges have been built over the top of each other. The bridge spans the Mynach tributary before running off into the river Rheidol. The most recent of the bridges which is still in use today was built in 1901. The stone bridge before that was constructed in 1753. Instead of removing the previous bridges the original builders decided to use the bridge as a safe platform for their scaffolding.
The Mynach river drops around 90 metres (300ft) in roughly 5 steps. These natural occurrences are locally known as the Jacob’s Ladder. There is a local folklore tale about how the bridges were originally constructed. The story goes that the gap was too large for mortals to bridge. The builders met a Devil who made them an offer to build the bridge in return for the first soul who crosses the bridge. When the bridge was complete, the Devil was tricked by a cunning old women who threw bread onto the bridge and their family dog followed thus being the first mortal to cross.
The area has been a site for tourism for centuries. The famous author George Borrow famously wrote Wild Wales in 1854 which has a humorous account of his visit to Pontarfynach. There is the Hafod Hotel which was originally a small hunting lodge owned by Thomas Johnes. This has been expanded over the years to accommodate guests and serves food daily.
Devils Bridge Railway
The railway was constructed around 1902. The line was originally constructed to carry lead from the mines up to Manchester. With mining on steep decline through this period, it was never used for its design. Thankfully, tourism took off and the lines mainstay is now ferrying passengers from Aberystwyth to Devils Bridge. The train travels along the valley giving you commanding views. Clinging at times along the cliff face it gives you a real sense of admiration on how the engineers managed to achieve such feats with limited technology.
The train has a time table here.
The day trip is well worth a visit. Gather in Wales at a slower pace.