About Cwm Elan | Elan Valley & Visitor Centre
The Elan Valley is just 3 miles from Rhayader on the southern edge of the Cambrian Mountains in Mid Wales. It covers an area over 72 square miles, making up 1% of the whole of Wales and is designated as an International Dark Sky Park - perfect for stargazing..
Visitors come from far and wide to see the spectacular scenery, which is ideal for walkers and wildlife enthusiasts. Popular with cyclists of all abilities, visitors can explore the estate on a relaxed ride while the more experienced can get the adrenaline pumping on one of the graded, natural mountain bike trails.
Elan Valley The area is famous for its spectacular dams and Victorian architecture and there is a large Visitor Centre which is a good starting point for your visit.
ELAN VALLEY DAMS
The six Elan Valley dams, located are one of the greatest civil engineering achievements of the late 19th and early 20th century, providing the water supply for the City of Birmingham.
The dams are the biggest draw to the Elan Valley and they offer a stunning year round backdrop for cyclists, walkers, and photographers. With the exception of Dol y Mynach all the dams are also accessible by car.
There are four dams on the River Elan; Craig Goch, Pen y Garreg, Garreg Ddu, and Caban Coch. The River Claerwen has the newest (and largest) Claerwen Dam with the unfinished Dol y Mynach Dam also found in this valley.The Elan Valley Visitor Centre is open all year round and you will find the story of the Elan and Claerwen Valleys and the remarkable building of the dams to provide water for the City of Birmingham.
VISITOR CENTRE, CAFE & GIFT SHOP
The Visitor Centre cafe has a spacious seating area with windows all around to enjoy the wonderful view of the River Elan and Caban Coch Dam. There is a patio area with picnic tables for people wishing to sit outside in fine weather. Well behaved dogs are welcome in the café. The cafe serves a range of meals, including breakfasts, light snacks and main meals. Welsh cakes, Bara Brith and many other cakes are baked on the premises.
There is also a well stocked gift shop with a wide range of useful maps, books, toys, locally sourced crafts and souvenirs.gift shop has a wide range of gifts and souvenirs available,as well as a range of bicycles that are available to hire. Many of the items are themed around the Elan Valley and Wales.
Coaches are welcome to use the cafe, but it is important that you contact the centre prior to arrival if you are planning a visit so that delays can be kept to a minimum.
Brand new e-bikes can be hired for a two-wheeled adventure around the trails. No level of fitness is required, and they are completely accessible. Call 01597 810880 to make a booking.
THE ELAN ESTATE
The Elan Estate is the largest single area of land owned by any of the national water companies and has been managed to protect the quality and quantity of the reservoir water since 1892. The 72 square miles of moorland, bog, woodland, river and reservoir are of national importance for their diversity of lower plants and the Estate is the most important area for land birds in Wales.
The Estate consists of rounded hills dissected by steep valleys, many of which are covered in deciduous woodland dominated by Sessile Oak. The better soils of the valley bottoms are now mostly submerged under the reservoirs. These habitats are grazed with the traditional Welsh Mountain sheep which are small, very hardy and can tolerate harsh mountain conditions. The sheep do not have docked tails, the naturally long tails protect their udders from chilling winds.
The gathering of sheep still takes place using quads and horseback with the help of several collie dogs and if you are able to view this farming activity it is quite the spectacle.
There are still a handful of semi-wild Welsh Mountain Ponies on the hills of the Elan Valley. This breed of pony were often taken to be pit ponies in the South Wales coal mines.
SITES OF SPECIAL SCIENTIFIC INTEREST (SSSI)
The majority of the Estate is included in a Special Protection Area under the EC Directive on Wild Birds and falls within the Cambrian Mountains Environmentally Sensitive Area. In addition, over 6,000 ha of the Estate is included in three Special Areas of Conservation under the EC Habitats Directive.
Almost 80% of the Estate is contained within 12 separately designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). These cover a range of habitats, from unimproved pasture and species-rich meadows to ancient woodland, upland mire and the major upland block within the boundary of the 20,000ha Elenydd SSSI.