Things to do
Walking and cycling
The Elan Valley has many beautiful and well signposted routes. For much of its route the Elan Valley Trail follows the route of the railway which carried men and materials to build the dams. It begins in Cwmdauddwr, the part of Rhayader on the Elan Valley side of the Wye, passing through Elan Village, close to the cottage, and above the Visitor Centre, before following the reservoirs to the Aberystwyth Mountain road, and thence back to Cwmdauddwr. The views along this trail are varied and incredibly beautiful. The entire lop is about 20 miles but each section makes a delightful walk itself. The Elan and Claerwen valleys are part of the Monk’s Trod, a long distance walk joining the Abbeys of Abbey-Cwm-Hir and Strata Flora, and were once owned by the Cistertian order, resulting in many local names such as Cwm yr Escob, the Bishop’s Valley and Coed y Mynach, the Monk’s Wood. The Wye Valley walk enters the Elan Valley as it passes through Rhayader. This area is particularly suited to the cycling enthusiast, with gentle, metalled, cycle routes such as the Elan Valley Trail right through to the most challenging mountain bike trails.
The nearest town is Rhayader , an Anglicised version of its Welsh name which means Waterfall on the Wye. It is a small, charming Radnorshire market town full of character and with some really interesting and unusual shops. See my blog – Shopping in Rhayader. The town offers more pubs and hotels per head of population than anywhere else in Wales, as well as cafés, fast food outlets, gift shops, walking and biking specialists, an art gallery, office supplies and hairdressers. The area has become particularly famous for Gigrin Farm the Kite feeding centre which is on the southern edge of the town. When they began feeding these magnificent birds there were only 6 breeding pairs in Wales. In the snows of January 2010 they reported over 500 kites visiting on one day. Visit the “Links” page for services and businesses that can make a visit to the area a memorable and enjoyable experience. For details of Elan Valley Ranger guided walks and events visit www.elanvalley.org.uk.
Clive Powell’s Mountain Bike Centre in Rhayader hires out bikes, provides a shop and services for cyclists, including a licensed café, and also runs cycling breaks, days and weekends including on and off road routes. Rhayader has a well appointed Leisure Centre, with a swimming pool and spa bath. It also has a fitness room, squash courts, a solarium, and snooker, pool and table tennis tables. There are golf courses at Builth 01982 553296, Llandrindod 01597 822010 www.lwgc.co.uk and Llanidloes 01686 412559 (Information on the Llandrindod and Builth courses can also be found on www.heartofwalesgolfbreaks.co.uk (0845 2600622 (local rate)). All three courses have clubhouses and Llandrindod and Builth both have shops. Llandrindod also has a competition quality bowling green http://www.llandrindod-bowling.co.uk Pony trekking is available through the Lion Royal Trekking Centre which offers full and half day treks for all levels of rider www.lionroyal.co.uk 01597 810202. Two other riding stables offer instruction or hacks out. Booking is essential – The Heart of Wales Riding School http://www.heartofwales.co.uk 01597 851884 is 15 miles away, on the A488 Penybont to Knighton Road, as are the Underhill Riding Stables www.underhillridingstables.co.uk 01597 851890.
To the north of Rhayader, also on the Monk’s Trod, is the Gilfach Nature Reserve, over 400 acres of farmland, riverbank and woodland. Gigrin Farm Kite Feeding Station, South Street, Rhayader, www.gigrin.co.uk, mobile 07798702374 If you are interested in fungi, The Elan Valley is one of the best areas of Britain to forage in. Daniel Butler,fungi enthusiast and environmental writer leads regular “Fungi Forays” into our woodland and other nearby sites. Daniel will organise special forays, he has a brilliant web site and blog www.fungiforays.co.uk or can be reached on 01597 811168. The Elan Valley Rangers also include fungi walks into their programme of guided walks.
Rhayader now has a small, but excellent, Community Museum http://www.carad.org.uk . It features several screens showing local people remembering how the town was, as well as room settings and an exhibition room. Llandrindod houses the Radnorshire Museum 01597 824 513 The Thomas Shop www.thomas-shop.com fifteen miles from the cottage is a fascinating shop and Shop Museum, distinctively nostalgic and evocative of times gone by. Established in 1730, the current shop is the modernisation of 1805, and spans 4 centuries of service to the community. Described as ‘the restoration of a village treasure’ it now contains an extraordinary collection of memorabilia mostly donated by members of the community. The Thomas shop also has a gallery, a wool emporium and a tea room, not only is the place fascinating but so are Liz and Derek the couple who have resurrected and run the attraction for the last ten years. The Hall at Abbey Cwm Hir, is a privately owned house in the Victorian Gothic style, set in 12 acres of Victorian gardens, situated in the Long Valley (Cwm Hir)next to the ruins of a Cistertian Abbey, to the east of Rhayader, www.abbeycwmhir.com. 01597 851727.