Every July, local media channels are abuzz with news from this massive agricultural gathering. You’ll see plenty of immaculately groomed cows, horses and sheep here, some displaying fabulous rosettes. But it’s not all about prize livestock – local food stalls, sports and entertainment add up to a fantastic family day out.
The RWAS showground, home of the Royal Welsh Show, hosts other big public events all year round. The highlights are the Spring Festival (May) for smallholding, gardening and sustainable living enthusiasts, and the Winter Fair (December), featuring livestock displays and a huge Christmas market.
There’s been a bridge here for centuries. The one which stands today was built in 1779 and altered in the 1920s, as the original was only one cart wide. On calm days, when the river mirrors its graceful stone arches, it’s one of the prettiest bridges on the Wye. For the best views, head for The Groe. If it’s sunny, you could take a picnic.
In Victorian times, when Builth was a popular spa town, this riverside building was both the market hall and the Assembly Rooms, used for concerts, dances and public meetings. Today, it’s a thriving little arts hub which presents films, live music, theatre, dance and big name comedy nights.
A stone circle, a striking war memorial, a splendid quartet of giant redwood trees and a statue of a prize bull mark the eastern edge of Builth’s large park. It’s home to the local rugby club, the Bulls. There’s a shady path beside the Wye, and masses of space to kick a ball around – or run with it, if you prefer.
The end wall of a shop near the impeccably restored Lion Hotel is painted with scenes celebrating 13th century Welsh hero Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. As well as the prince himself, it shows his farrier, who reversed the shoes on Llywelyn’s horse to confuse his pursuers. Clever stuff.
Monument to Llywelyn, Cilmery
Sadly, that nifty backwards-horseshoe trick wasn’t enough to save Llywelyn’s bacon. After defeating the English army at Menai Straits, Llywelyn set up camp near Builth in December 1282, hoping to raise support from local chieftains. Instead, he was ambushed and killed. A stone menhir now marks the spot.
It’s a bit of a stretch to call this a castle, to be honest, since all that’s left is a grassy mound. But if you’re the imaginative sort, you’ll enjoy scrambling up to picture the scene in Norman times, when it was a timber motte and bailey, or in 1277, when Edward I had it rebuilt in stone, with a moat and drawbridge.
Wye Valley Walk
The Groe’s beautiful, tree-lined riverside path is part of a 136-mile walking route which follows the River Wye from its source all the way to Chepstow. From Builth, it’s 16.5 miles to Rhayader or 21 miles to Hay-on-Wye, through lush green landscapes. If you just have time for a stroll, you could head upstream to Penddol Rocks.
Builth Wells lies at the junction of the northern and southern sections of the epic National Cycle Route 8, which connects Cardiff and Chepstow to Holyhead. Pedal north to explore Snowdonia, or south to plunge into the Brecon Beacons National Park. The 17 mile stretch to Rhayader is a favourite.