If you're after a couple of days exploring the quieter areas of the Welsh outdoors, head to the northern reaches of our wonderful Cambrian Mountains. Follow our two day itinerary and make the most of your time in this lovely region of Wales.

Day one: exploring Llanidloes and Hafren Forest

Llanidloes is a small, friendly town by the River Severn, easily reached from the A470 on The Cambrian Way. Our journey starts here, so arrive early to enjoy a tasty coffee and cake in one of the many independent cafes. The rest of the morning is free to explore the rural town before making your way towards Llyn Clywedog and Hafren Forest.

Industry and insurgence

Llanidloes' focal point is the distinctive 17th century black and white timber-framed Old Market Hall. The town had a thriving textile industry, and was famous for being involved in the 19th century Chartist uprisings. Head to the Llanidloes Museum to find out more about the area's heritage, then visit the Minerva Arts Centre to see the beautiful vintage quilts and textiles on display. There are plenty of antique shops, delis and independent shops to explore. Have lunch in one of the pubs or cafes, or pick up a picnic from a deli.

A black and white timbered long building with arches under the first floor.

Market Hall, Llanidloes, Powys, Mid Wales

Remote reservoirs and native woodlands

After exploring Llanidloes, head north out of the town on the B4518. Turn left at the signpost towards Llyn Clywedog, a man-made reservoir with incredible big-sky views. This single track road road around the reservoir is a real treat for drivers - narrow and twisty - so take care.

The remains of Bryntail Lead Mines are on the way, right under the shadow of the impressive Clywedog Dam. Follow the brown sign to the car park. A walk along the mile-long waymarked Clywedog Gorge Trail around the site is a great way to see everything. Glyndwr's Way National Trail passes through the area so it's also a good starting point for walks.

Ruins of industrial buildings on grassy land, under a high dam.
Ruined industrial buildings in a valley, with trees in the background.
Looking over ruined industrial buildings from a footpath.

The remains of Bryntail Lead Mines, under Llyn Clywedog's dam, near Llanidloes, Mid Wales

Along the road above the dam, there's a viewing point with parking areas overlooking the reservoir. It's a decent spot for a flask of hot drink or a packed lunch. Watch out for rare ospreys over the water between April and August. Once you've refuelled, carry on to Hafren Forest to explore for an hour or so. There's a choice of relaxing or strenuous waterfalls walks in the forest, where you can enjoy being immersed in native woodlands. There's free parking, pushchair and wheelchair-friendly trails, and accessible toilets.

Check in to your accommodation - there are a couple of lovely options in Staylittle or back in Llanidloes. Have a rest and a bite to eat, and if the weather is kind, wrap up warm and head out again.

The Lodge / Y Porthdy

The Lodge

dam and resevoir.
Hafren Forest Hideaway

Hafren Forest Hideaway

dam and resevoir.
Trewythen Hotel

The Trewythen

dam and resevoir.
Bell tent glamping with starry skies

Belan Bluebell Woods

dam and resevoir.
Three people walking along a footpath though a field, overlooking a wide reservoir.
Aerial view of a large lake with a dam at one end.

 Llyn Clywedog, near Llanidloes, Mid Wales

Sunset and stars

Follow the B4518 north then turn left onto the twisty narrow mountain road towards Machynlleth. It genuinely feels like the middle of nowhere up there. The views are widescreen - stop and gaze over the desolate-seeming expanse of moorland surrounding Glaslyn Nature Reserve's sky-reflecting lake. Park up by the entrance to the reserve (there's limited parking), or head a bit further on to the Wynford Vaughan Thomas viewpoint. You'll enjoy dramatic views across miles of gently-shaded hills in hues of green and brown towards the wilder north. Experiencing the sun set over Foel Fadian's peak is incredible. The multitude of colours blazing across the sky against silhouetted hills is truly awe-inspiring.

The view from a slate memorial on a hillside, looking over miles of rolling hills.
Sunset over a trig point.

Wynford Vaughan-Thomas memorial viewpoint and sunset over Foel Fadian, Mid Wales 

You are in proper Dark Skies territory here, so settle yourselves comfortably and watch the stars emerging from the afterglow.

First, the planets - Venus and Saturn appear bright over the western horizon through the vestiges of the sunset. Then, as the skies darken, the constellations appear - the Plough and Sirius to the North, the Milky Way's river of stars across our galaxy, Mars a bright red dot. Marvel at the twinkling canopy of stars above.

Five people stargazing just after sunset looking at the Milky Way and Jupiter.

Stargazing at Glaslyn Nature Reserve, Mid Wales - the Milky Way is so clear

When you head back to your accommodation, with some advance notice, your hosts may be able to book you into a stargazing session with an expert. There's also an official Dark Sky Discovery Site back down the road at Y Star Inn Car Park, Dylife.

Day two: get active with outdoor adventures

If you're in an enthusiastic mood and the day looks fine, get up early and aim for the Llyn Clywedog viewing point for a sunrise to remember. After a decent breakfast back at base, there are plenty of options for some outdoor adventures before you head home.

Sunrise over a hills by a large reservoir.
Sunrise over hills by a large lake.

Sunrise over Llyn Clywedog, near Llanidloes, Mid Wales

Walking near Llyn Clywedog

The area round Llyn Clywedog has many waymarked trails to follow, including Glyndŵr's Way National Trail and the Severn Way. Chances are you won't see many fellow hikers. For a good morning's strenuous trek, follow the path in Hafren Forest to the source of the River Severn on Pumlumon Fawr. There are also lots of woodland trails to explore for all abilities.

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Hafren Forest sign board.

Hafren Forest, near Llanidloes, Mid Wales

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A wood waymarker post for the Severn Way.

Severn Way waymarker, Hafren Forest, near Llanidloes, Mid Wales

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Wooden signage next to a wood broadwalk in a pine forest.

Hafren Forest, near Llanidloes, Mid Wales

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A wooden broadwalk next to a narrow river and waterfall, in a pine forest.
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Two women walking along a gravel pathway up a hillside.

Source of the Severn Trail in Hafren Forest, near Llanidloes, Mid Wales

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A trail waymarker showing a woman and a moon.

Sarn Sabrina waymarker, Hafren Forest, near Llanidloes, Mid Wales

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A tall wooden marker on a paved area, on top of a hill, next to a spring.

Source of the River Severn, above Hafren Forest, near Llanidloes, Mid Wales

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Two people walking in a forest, alongside a river.

Source of the Severn Trail in Hafren Forest, near Llanidloes, Mid Wales

The trails round Glaslyn Nature Reserve are ideal for an amble about looking at the rare flora. For a bit more effort climb up nearby Foel Fadian - a short walk but steep in places. The views are worth it.

If you want to take on a challenge, the Cambrian Mountain Events team organise a tough 25 mile circular walk along the Sarn Sabrina route to the source of the Severn.

Views over a lake in moorland, from a hill above.

Glaslyn Nature Reserve from Foel Fadian, Cambrian Mountains, near Llanidloes, Mid Wales

Get on your bike

Hire a bike or ebike from Mountain Bike Wales in Staylittle for a self-led explore, or join a guided trip along part of the Trans Cambrian Way.

Try a few hours off-road motorbiking at the Yamaha Off Road Experience down the road from Staylittle, or head out a few miles from Llanidloes to SweetLamb KTM Adventure Experience. Both places offer beginners courses through to expert level.

Fishing on Llyn Clywedog

Bring your rod and licence and go fishing on the reservoir. The Clywedog Trout Fishery offers day permits, boat hire including accessible wheelyboats, and guided fishing sessions.

Useful information

Parking in Llanidloes: there is free parking by the river, or a couple of pay-and-display car parks in the town.

Llanidloes is easy to get to by public transport, but you'll need to cycle, or walk along Glyndwr's Way to get to and around Llyn Clywedog. There are a couple of places to hire bikes in Llanidloes. Traveline Cymru is a useful public transport journey planner.

Stay safe!

While enjoying the outdoors is great fun, safety is a priority.

  • Always be prepared for sudden weather changes, have warm, waterproof clothing, stout footwear, and food and drink.
  • Visit AdventureSmart.uk for information on how to stay safe whilst exploring Wales.
  • Follow the Countryside Code.
Sunset over mountains over a large lake.

Sunset over Llyn Clywedog, near Llanidloes, Mid Wales

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