“It’s a place of mystery in lots of ways,” says Richard Harrington. “Even though I’ve been around for the last three years more or less, and a little when I was a child.”
He’s talking about the bleak but beautiful backdrop to Hinterland, the bilingual detective drama set in the hills and on the beaches around Aberystwyth. Series three finally begins on BBC4 tonight, having already aired on S4C.
Hinterland (“Y Gwyll” in Welsh) doesn’t exactly make mid-Wales look inviting. There are too many grisly murders and murky goings-on for that – but you can’t help but be hypnotised by the rugged scenery.
“The landscape is so dramatic that it lends itself to the imagination,” says Harrington, who plays brooding DCI Tom Mathias. “It’s a brilliant canvas for telling stories.
“We go out every day and try to find interesting locations and there’s a plethora of places that we still haven’t been to. Some are logistically difficult to get to but we always seem to by hook or by crook. Farmers will lend us tractors. We’ve even abseiled to some.”
Mali Harries as DI Rhys and Richard Harrington as DCI Mathias
Harrington, who was born in Merthyr Tydfil and usually lives in Cardiff, has clearly developed a soft spot for Aberystwyth and its untamed environs.
“You’re a stone’s throw away from a mountain or the sea – from this extraordinary landscape that takes your breath away. I can’t guarantee the weather obviously but it’s a great place to come on holiday because there’s so much to do. I’ve got two children, aged eight and 10, and they love coming here because there are so many places to exercise your imagination.”
Happily, you don’t need to abseil or borrow a tractor to enjoy Ceredigion’s many attractions for yourself. Check out Richard’s recommendations below…
12 reasons to visit Aberystwyth and the real Hinterland
1. What I really like to do is go to Borth, which is north of Aberystwyth on the coast, and walk the sand dunes of nearby Ynyslas. It’s an extraordinary place, very mystical. It takes you back to the fundamentals of life. Borth also has an animalarium with meerkats, a black panther and reptiles all looked after by these bohemians. The kids love it up there.
Sunset at Yynslas Beach
2. I love the coastal path that goes through Aberystwyth. I’m a keen runner and 15 miles up and down that is better than any marathon. I did the Marathon des Sables [a six-day ultramarathon] a couple of years ago in the desert and I did most of my training here.
3. Aber has a Welsh-speaking community but it’s a multicultural town because of the university. So you’ve got scholars walking around, hippies walking around, creative people walking around… It’s a place for everyone. It’s almost like a festival. If I didn’t have commitments elsewhere and if I was approaching 65, I would think about coming here to retire.
4. The Glen on the seafront has one of the best sun terraces I’ve ever seen and the view is absolutely stunning. It’s a lovely pub: very friendly, good food, exotic beers. There are some great bars for sport and the rugby club is always good fun if there’s a game on. There’s about 30 pubs in Aber, all in all.
The seafront at Aberystwyth
5. There are mountain-bikers everywhere and road-cyclists who race here from Pembrokeshire
6. The arts thrive here. There’s poetry, music, loads of Welsh folklore. When we finish work, I like to play music. There are a lot of virtuoso musicians on the crew and our Hinter-band plays the pubs of Aberystwyth. I play the drums and sing.
7. The world’s first camera obscura was built in Aberystwyth in 1880.
Look out for cyclists in Ceredigion’s hills
8. I love the springtime here because you can almost see the Irish Sea calming, instead of spitting and snarling at you every waking moment. It has no desire to come and reclaim the land. And I like the magic hour in the springtime: when the light gets very bleak before night falls. It’s a fantastic time to shoot. It looks extraordinary – almost like a dream.
9. Go to Charlies hardware store. I can go to Charlies and stay there all day without buying a thing. It’s tool porn. I might be proving my age here.
10. Opposite Charlies, there’s a really good restaurant called Medina. It’s an Ottolenghi sort of place where you can pick up a picnic. There’s a friendly fishmongers right next to it who have a gorgeous little restaurant down in the harbour called Pysgoty.
11. You can surf at Aberystwyth or up the coast at Borth. I haven’t surfed here yet but I do like to go and watch them.
12. There’s another lovely place called Baravin down on the front. “Bara” means bread and “vin” is obviously French for wine. They serve all sorts: oysters, pizzas, lovely salads, a great array of beer and wines. I just wish I had more time off to indulge.
Hinterland is on Saturdays on BBC4 at 9pm