When most people think of visiting Wales they think of the beautiful coast of Pembrokeshire, of shopping and theatres in Cardiff and Swansea, or maybe of the craggy mountains of Snowdonia in the North. Even for the Welsh these are the more popular holiday destinations. Few people consider the interior.
However, Mid Wales has a lot to offer. Not least, it’s uncrowded and visitors can enjoy quiet, peaceful holidays without parking problems and droves of people. Mid Wales must be one of the last places in the UK where you can enjoy spectacular views and stunning scenery completely undisturbed.
The Elan Valley is sometimes described as the ‘Welsh Lake District’. The lakes are mostly reservoirs serving distant cities like Birmingham and they come complete with spectacular dams- massive stone constructions that only add to the interest and visual amenity of the landscape. You can tour the dams and reservoirs and valleys by car, stopping at lookouts and picnic sites, walk, or hire a bike from the nearby town of Rhayader.
Only a couple of hours from Cardiff, the Elan Valley is beautiful in any season. In winter the peaks (some of the highest south of Snowdonia) are dusted with snow. In spring and summer you can enjoy sunny woodland trails and in the autumn the reds, yellows, and browns of trees and heather are reflected in the still waters of the reservoirs- all this without the crowds of the Lake District.
Mid Wales is probably the best place in the UK to see endangered Red Kites. These huge birds of prey are fed every day at the Gigrin Park visitor centre. For a small fee birdwatchers can sit in purpose-built hides and watch up to 400 kites swoop down for their dinner. Spend a weekend anywhere in the Elan area and you’ll almost certainly see them in the skies.
Devil’s Bridge is another little-known gem. Three bridges of different age span Rheidol Gorge on the edge of the town. The oldest is probably 11th Century and the most recent dates from the Victorian period. The waterfalls underneath are some of the longest and most spectacular in the UK. The town is accessible by car or by rail from Aberystwyth, 12 miles away on the Cwm Rheidol steam line.
There are plenty of other reasons to visit Mid Wales- historic market towns, unbeatably fresh local food, military and stone age history, and the source of the River Severn. The peace and quiet of Elan is also surprisingly close to the bustle of South Wales and the even Midlands.
Jess Spate lives in Wales and loves it. She works for Appalachian Outdoors, one of America’s best camping gear retailers.
(Original picture via Flickr by By qbik)