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.
Welsh Royal Crystal
Centuries old handcrafting skills are used in the Welsh Royal Crystal glass making workshops. All crystal pieces are individually hand cut, thus capturing the clarity, brilliance and sharpness of cut associated with quality crystal ware. The range of shapes and decorative cuts embraces Traditional, Intaglio and Celtic design influences, which are unique to Welsh Royal Crystal products. The most stringent quality standards are applied to ensure that only the finest quality is stamped with the Welsh Royal Crystal assay mark - the traditional Welsh Dragon stamp represents a symbol of quality. Here at Welsh Royal Crystal, you can enjoy a workshop tour which features a demonstration by our Master Craftsman. Afterwards visitors can browse in the shop stocked with Welsh Royal products at very affordable prices. Parties and groups are well catered for and ample parking space is available for coaches and cars. Refreshments are provided in the coffee shop.
Rhayader Town Trail
Beginning from the Smithfield Market this walk will take about an hour at a leisurely pace allowing for time to stop and look. It is all accessible for wheel chairs and push chairs although there is a steep 50m climb in Waun Capel Parc.
Print off your copy of the Town Trail and map and learn about Rhayader’s past qnd appreciate its architecture.