The Elan Valley in rural Mid Wales has been inspiring visitors for centuries. Inhabited since the stone age, the area became known for mining, religious sites and for taking part in the Rebecca Riots of the 1840s. Today the valley is famous for the spectacular dams and scenery. The nearest large town is Rhayader, on The Cambrian Way snaking through Mid Wales.
Over 80% of the valley is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), home to reservoirs, aqueducts, hundreds of animals and loads of opportunities to have fun. We’ve put together a few suggestions on how to have a truly memorable and adventurous time in the beautiful Elan Valley.
Bike and hike
With open access to most of the 72 square mile Elan Valley estate, there are so many routes you can take to explore the area. Whether you want a gentle stroll through the greenery and dams or a more challenging hike amongst rocky crags and waterways, there will be a route to suit your needs and ability. Bike hire is readily available, if you fancy seeing the sights at a faster pace. Head to the Elan Valley Trail if you’re after surfaced paths.
Elan Valley has International Dark Sky Park status, meaning that on clear nights you can see stars, planets and constellations twinkling away with little light pollution. The Elan Valley Astronomy Group holds regular meet-ups at night in the Elan Valley visitor centre to educate visitors on the night sky and give people a chance to explore it through telescopes.
Keeping kids occupied in Elan Valley is relatively easy. The visitor centre runs fun family activities and active days out throughout the year, so keep an eye on their calendar of upcoming events. Typical events include bug-hunting, high ropes courses and pond-dipping, with wet weather alternatives too.
If you want to cover more ground, why not drive around the estate? You’ll get the chance to see many spectacular views in a shorter space of time. Alternatively, enjoy a bespoke tour, joining a ranger on patrol to discover hidden features of the valley.
You could also combine your drive with a visit to Penbont House tea room, near Pen y Garreg Dam.
A short drive away...
If proper on-foot adventuring ticks your boxes, Offa’s Dyke Visitor Centre is worth a visit. It has exhibitions on the history of the area, plus gives access to the Offa’s Dyke Trail. Knighton also has the Spaceguard Centre, a National Near Earth Objects Information Centre (NNEOIC) - the UK's only centre addressing the danger of comets and asteroid impact.
Vale of Rheidol Railway
How’s this for a gentle adventure? One of the Great Little Trains of Wales runs through the Rheidol Valley, from Aberystwyth to Devil's Bridge. For over 100 years, the Vale of Rheidol Railway been treating passengers to the beautiful scenery of the area. Explore more of the Elan Valley by taking the remote, narrow Cwmystwyth road to Devil's Bridge to catch the train.