Fforest Fawr & Black Mountain
West of the A470, this entire half of the national park is sparsely inhabited, without any towns of note. Fforest Fawr (Great Forest), once a Norman hunting ground, is now a Unesco geopark famous for its varied landscapes, ranging from bleak moorland to flower-flecked limestone pavement and lush wooded ravines choked with moss and greenery.
Sitting at the muddy mouth of the River Usk and flanked by the detritus of heavy industry, Newport is never going to win any awards for beauty. Despite its grim appearance and gritty undercurrents, Wales' third-largest city does have some fascinating things to see. It's well worth a day trip, although you're unlikely to be tempted to stay over.
Despite a Blue Flag beach and the beautiful Mawddach Estuary on its doorstep, the seaside resort of Barmouth has a faded feel to it. In summer it becomes a typical seaside resort – all chip shops and dodgem cars – catering to the trainloads arriving in their thousands from England's West Midlands.
In stark contrast to the industrial city of Newport near Cardiff, the Pembrokeshire Newport is a pretty cluster of flower-bedecked cottages huddled beneath a small Norman castle. It sits at the foot of Mynydd Carningli, a large bump on the seaward side of the Preseli Hills, and in recent years has gained a reputation for the quality of its restaurants and guesthouses.
Charming little Beddgelert is a conservation village of rough stone buildings overlooking the trickling River Glaslyn with its ivy-covered bridge. Flowers festoon the village in spring and the surrounding hills are covered in a purple blaze of heather in summer, reminiscent of a Scottish glen.
The Mumbles (Y Mwmbwls)
Strung out along the shoreline at the southern end of Swansea Bay, Mumbles has been Swansea's seaside retreat since 1807, when the Oystermouth Railway was opened. Built for transporting coal, the horse-drawn carriages were soon converted for paying customers, and the now defunct Mumbles train became the first passenger railway service in the world.
A workaday town rather than a tourist hot spot, Haverfordwest is Pembrokeshire's main transport and shopping hub. Though it retains some fine Georgian buildings, many are in dire need of repair and it lacks the prettiness and historic atmosphere of many of its neighbours.
Rhayader (Rhaeadr Gwy)
Rhayader is a handsome small and fairly uneventful livestock-market town revolving around a central crossroads marked by a war-memorial clock. It's a place that appeals to walkers visiting the nearby Elan Valley and tackling the 136-mile Wye Valley Walk. Rhayader is deserted on Thursdays when businesses trade for only half a day, but market day on Wednesdays attracts a crowd.
Merthyr Tydfil (Merthyr Tudful)
Merthyr Tydfil (mur-thir tid-vil) occupies a spectacular site, sprawled across a bowl at the head of the Taff Valley, ringed and pocked with quarries and spoil heaps. It was even more spectacular 200 years ago when the town was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, and this bowl was a crucible filled with the fire and smoke of the world's biggest ironworks.
Hilly Harlech is best known for the mighty, grey stone towers of its castle, framed by gleaming Tremadog Bay and with the mountains of Snowdonia as a backdrop. Some sort of fortified structure has probably surmounted the rock since Iron Age times, but Edward I removed all traces when he commissioned the construction of his castle.