Exploring Mid Wales - bespoke guided tours for the curious mind.
Arts, Culture and Heritage
Exploring Mid Wales
We offer bespoke guided tours, walks and cycle rides in the Mid Wales area. If you would like to make the most of your stay then allow us to show you some of the many hidden gems of the area. We are keen walkers and mountain bikers. We also offer specialist historical, geographical and literary tours.
Elan & Claerwen Valleys
To the west of Rhayader is the Elan Valley Estate, owned by Welsh Water and managed by the Elan Valley Trust, the series of reservoirs set in the outstanding scenery of the Elan and Claerwen Valleys have created a home for wildlife and a place to inspire us all.
Walking: With 72 sqaure miles of Elan Valley Estate, walking routes in this our part of the Cambrian Mountains is spectacular. See a selection of the Elan Valley walks here.
History: In the 19th century, at the time of the Industrial Revolution Joseph Chamberlain, then leader of Birmingham City Council, set about finding a clean water supply for the City.
The Elan and Claerwen Valleys had been identified by the engineer James Mansergh as having the best potential for water storage - with
• An average annual rainfall of 72 inches (1830mm).
• Narrow downstream valleys which made building the dams easier.
• Impermeable bedrock preventing the water seeping away.
• Altitude - the area is mostly higher than Birmingham enabling the water to be transported by gravity alone, without the need to be pumped.
An Act of Parliament was passed for the compulsory purchase of the area and in 1893 the building work began. Over 100 occupants of the Elan Valley had to move, only landowners received compensation payments. Many buildings were demolished, among them 2 manor houses, 18 farms, a school and a church (which was replaced by the corporation as the Nantgwyllt Church).
A railway line was constructed to transport the workers and thousands of tonnes of building material each day and a village of wooden huts was purpose built to house many of the workers on the site of the present Elan Village.
The Elan Valley Dams were officially opened by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on 21st July 1904, and the later built Claerwen Dam was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.
Present Day: The dams and reservoirs of the Elan Estate are situated within an area of outstanding scenic beauty. They provide a lasting amenity in their own right for visitors to enjoy. The protection of the water catchment area to prevent pollution of the reservoirs has safeguarded the habitats of numerous species of flora and fauna and now the 70 square miles of moorland, bog, woodland, river and reservoir are of national importance for their diversity of lower plants (ferns, mosses, lichens and liverworts) and the Estate is the most important area for land birds in Wales.
Llanwrthwl Village Visit
Llanwrthwl lies on the River Wye south of Rhayader. To the north west is the RSPB nature reserve called Carngafallt, a heather clad hill with slopes clothed in beautiful ancient hanging oak woodlands and thorn scattered fridd. Gafallt was King Arthur’s dog, and legend says that he left his paw print in a stone somewhere on Carngafallt. It was also here that a second hoard of gold jewellery was found – a set of bronze age torques, now in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. In the churchyard next to the parish church of St Gwrthwl is a huge standing stone.
Elan Valley Visitor Centre
The Elan Valley Visitor Centre is operated by Dwr Cymru Welsh Water and is set in a fantastic location against a spectacular backdrop of a Victorian stone dam.
It is the perfect starting point for your visit to the area. There's something for everyone; Information Desk; Shop; Cafe; Easy disabled access; Toilets; Large car park and coach parking area; Children's play area; Large picnic area; Easy parking; Education and interactive learning play an important role in the design of our centre and a Free exhibition.
Entrance to the Visitor Centre is free, and the £2 parking charge covers you for the whole of the Estate's car parks, all day.
Season tickets for car parking are also available, please ask at the Information Desk. They cost £15 and last for 12 months.
A visit to Elan Valley never fails to delight and inspire. We are custodians of a beautiful area stretching 72 square miles with historic landscapes and thriving wildlife. The dams and reservoirs, the working legacy of remarkable Victorian engineering, add to the captivating and ever changing scenery. You can stroll, picnic or hike; cycle or mountain bike; bird watch, fish or safari!
We operate as 'not-for-profit' so the team who work here can concentrate on safeguarding this special place and ensuring you make the most of your visit. As we say in these parts, Croeso! We look forward to welcoming you to Elan Valley.