The beauty of Mid Wales is one of Britain’s best kept secrets. The grandeur of Snowdonia and the miles of glorious beaches of Pembrokeshire and the Gower are well known, and most people have an idea, even if nowadays its probably wrong, of the once industrial valleys of Glamorgan and Gwent. Mid Wales is a relaxing and beautiful region with a personality of its own. Once you’ve discovered it, keep this secret to yourself – this area probably has the slightest traffic and people pollution of any attractive part of the mainland
Bounded by the Brecon Beacons to the south and Snowdonia to the north, the Cambrian Hills of Mid Wales are not as high, nor as rugged, but they provide a delightful frame to the beauties of the lakes and rivers of Mid Wales. This area is the source of both the Wye and Severn rivers.
Prime among the jewels of Mid Wales is the Elan Valley which was chosen, at the end of the nineteenth century to house the four man-made lakes that would provide fresh, clean water to Birmingham. In 1952 the Queen opened a new dam on the Claerwen, a tributary of the Elan.
The dams were built by a workforce which included Welsh, English, Irish and Italian workers, 1500 at a time were housed in a wooden village built on a flat area below the lowest of the dams. It contained a school and a hospital, but no pub. Families lived in individual houses and also took in single men as lodgers, other single men were housed in bunk houses.
When the initial four reservoirs were completed in 1905 the wooden buildings were demolished and a model village of fourteen stone houses was built in the Arts & Crafts style. The new village had a shop and a school, as well as the Estate Office. Each house had its own pig sty and plenty of room to grow food, while the whole village was set in open space for games and exercise. This village was to house the key workers of the waterworks and estate.
“Ty Olaf” is Welsh for Last House, and it is the last house in the village, the last to be built and the furthest from the dam. Ty Olaf Cottage is built in the generous garden of Ty Olaf.
The Visitor Centre, a ten minute walk from the cottage, has a café and an exhibition room which explains the history of the waterworks, and gives some idea of the flora and fauna of the area.
From England, coming via the M4, leave at junction 24. This junction is below the Celtic Manor which can be seen on a bluff, follow A449 Monmouth to the exit for A40, Abergavenny, then via Crickhowell heading towards Brecon A40 but turn right at the Cider Mill and follow A479 over the Black Mountain to Talgarth, where you can pick up signs for Builth Wells, on arrival at Builth, turn right at the Wyeside Art Centre onto the Wye Bridge, them follow signs for Rhayader, arriving via South Road (see below)
From England via Worcester, follow the A44 to Rhayader, East Street (see below)
From the North, M56 and A55 towards Chester, but south of Chester take the A483 by-passing Wrexham, Oswestry, and Welshpool, through Newtown to Rhayader North Street(see below)
In Rhayader continue to the War Memorial clock junction and take West Street, through Cwmdauddwr, do NOT follow Elan Valley Trail, but continue westwards past the Elan Valley Hotel, pass over a cattle grid, and , after passing white houses below the road on the left take the left turn, signed Visitor’s Centre/Elan Village, downhill. At the entrance to the Visitor Centre turn left over a Bailey Bridge (small sign Elan Valley Lodge) and drive through the village to the last house (No 11, Ty Olaf), follow around a chicane to the driveway and gate of Ty Olaf Cottage, a black and white sign advertises Holiday Cottage To Let. Say “WOW”.
Dr Beeching did for that idea, but the Heart of Wales line does pass through Llandrindod from either Swansea or Shrewsbury, taxi from Llandrindod.
Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead, find M25, then M4 westwards, keep telling yourself it will all be worthwhile, once over the bridge, follow driving instructions above.
Bristol, A38 north towards Bristo4226, thenA4050 towards Cardiff, but A4231, then A4232 to M4, M4 Eastwards, one junction to junction 32, then north on the A470 via Brecon to Builth Wells, then Rhayader, as above. This is not as difficult as it sounds.
Birmingham, M42 south and west to M5, south on M5 to Worcester, A44 to Rhayader, sounds easy but takes a while depending on traffic situation on M42.
Liverpool, east on A561 & A562, via Runcorn bridge to A557 to M56. see instructions for driving from the North, above.
Manchester, M56 west, then follow driving instructions from the North, above.