East and south of Llandrindod Wells lies the ancient landscape once known as Elfael. Hidden amongst the rolling hills are medieval settlements and fascinating historic landscapes. Prehistoric relics such as Bronze-age cairns and track-ways await exploration. An abundance of hilltop fortifications built by the Iron Age tribes, Roman and early Christian settlements lure the walker onwards into a magical area of central Wales known to very few visitors.
The prominent hills of the Carneddau (not to be confused with the mountain range of the same name in Snowdonia) lie a few miles south of Llandrindod. Rising sharply to over 430 metres, the green moorland is home to sheep and buzzards, ponies and kites. Bronze-age cairns mark the summits of the highest points and iron-age hillforts such as Gaer Fawr and Gaer Einon show the ramparts of defensive fortifications. Surrounded by medieval churches and old farmsteads, this area is an ideal wander-land where homely country pubs await the traveller at the end of the day.
Adjacent to the Carneddau, Gilwern Hill is an open moorland fringed with dry stone walled enclosures and ancient track-ways, some of which relate to the Welsh Cattle Drovers who traversed these hills, driving their Welsh Black cattle to markets in the English cities. With easy access and good walking this area takes the visitor, on foot or cycle, straight to the heart of pre-historic Elfael.
The views to all horizons are extensive and the ‘big sky’ ranges to the English borderlands, the peaks of the Brecon Beacons and the Cambrian Mountains.
Black Yat and Llyn Heilyn
Rising from the natural lake of Llyn Heilyn is an ancient stone lined track which ascends gently to the plateau where Black Yat can be found. The old farmstead sits astride a ridge-way road of prehistoric age. Two small pools show where the nearby farms excavated the peat (mawn in Welsh) with which they cooked their food and kept their hearths ready for callers. This area is excellent for riders and walkers and the seasons are beautifully orchestrated in splendid hues that welcome the hearty visitor.
The river Edw cuts its way to the Wye through a narrow rocky valley where frothy falls mark its descent. The small insignificant flow dissects a large upland plateau where grouse moors and rides provide excellent off-road cycling, riding and easy walking along cropped turf track-ways. The hidden villages and dispersed farmsteads reveal the idiosyncratic architecture where half-timbered buildings prevail. Norman churches nestle in hidden valleys and stone manor houses and Gentry farms appear on the hillsides. The Wye rushes along rocky gorges and opens to large fertile farmland where the influence of Norman incursion overlies millennia of history.
The geology of this rich hill country results in steep sided valleys in which hide medieval villages with their old churches and graveyards, pubs and farmsteads. The slopes abound with ancient semi-natural woodlands of sessile oak and birch in which native and migratory birds abound. The ascent to rich upland moors is rewarded with wide tracks and distant vistas along which riders and walkers can wander in uninterrupted solitude.