Disclaimer: As an affiliate I may earn a commission on any qualifying purchase at no extra cost to you – read more.
Wales is synonymous with tourism, attracting visitors from the UK and all over the world. Rhyader and the Elan Valley aren’t necessarily top of the list of destinations for visitors, however, this article will give you plenty of reasons to choose this area as your next destination.
Living nearby this area of Wales, I have visited often and experienced the best of what it has to offer, from the glorious scenery, stunning walks and adventure trails, incredible lakes and reservoirs, and activities that suit the whole family.
1. Walk The Rhayader Riverside Walk
My favourite thing to do in the town of Rhayader itself is the Rhayader wildlife riverside walk. This short loop takes just half an hour to complete but offers you a beautiful walk alongside the River Wye.
You can choose to walk right along the bank of the river or you can the pedestrian path provided which is better when the river is high or the banks are muddy. Signposts along the route point out what wildlife you should be looking out for and there are some picnic benches long the way too.
Although the site says it is suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs, you may find some of the surfaces a little difficult if your chair has small wheels or is particularly bumpy.
2. See The Six Wonderful Dams Of The Elan Valley
The Elan Valley is a jewel in the heart of mid-Wales, which offers locals and visitors the chance to experience the amazing scenery, is home to the impressive 6 dams, and offers the chance to spot the abundance of wildlife that lives there.
The reservoirs were built by the Birmingham Corporation Water Department to provide clean drinking water for Birmingham.
There are 6 dams at the Elan Valley, which are all magnificent spectacles to behold. Four of them follow the Elan river: Craig Coch, Pen y Garreg, Garreg Ddu, and Caban Coch, with the other two on the river Claerwen: the Clawerwen dam and the unfinished Dol y Mynach dam.
Seeing all 6 dams is definitely a must-do activity when visiting the Elan Vally and something to tick off your bucket list. The Elan Valley visitor centre provides lots of information on each dam and the best way to get to each one.
3. Experience Red Kite Feeding At Girgin Farm
Located just half a mile away from Rhyader is the spectacular 16-acre family-run working farm, Girgin, where hundreds of Red Kites are fed every day.
Girgin Farm makes for an excellent day out because not only can you watch the Red Kites being fed, there is also a coffee shop, gift shop, picnic site and farm trail.
At just £8 for adults and £4.50 for kids up to 15 years old, it also represents excellent value for money for a family day out.
For keen photographers there’s also an option of purchasing entry to specialist photography areas, and the price of these range from £22 – £35, however, these prices also include the standard entry fee.
4. Walk One Of The Routes At The Elan Valley
The Elan Valley is a walker’s paradise. With a 70 square mile estate and over 80 miles of designated rights of way, there’s plenty of routes to choose from.
The great thing about the different routes is that they cater for all kinds of abilities and fitness levels. Ranging from just 0.6 miles to a whopping 9.5 miles in length there are choices if you just want a quick walk or a full day out. Here is an overview of the different walks and start points:
|Cynch Wood||Elan Valley Visitor Centre||A short 1 mile walk that takes around 30 minutes.|
|Nant Y Gro||Elan Valley Visitor Centre||A 3.5 mile walk with steep climbs and great views. Allow 2 hours.|
|Penbont Woodland Trail||Pen y Garreg Car Park||Two routes (North and South), both are 0.6 miles and take 30 minutes.|
|Garreg Du Reservoir Walk||Garreg Ddu Car Park||A moderate 6.5 mile walk that takes 3 hours.|
|Gro Wood||Dol y Mynach Reservoir Car Park||A moderate 4.5 mile walk with steady climbs that takes 2 hours.|
|Drygarn Fawr||Dol y Mynach Reservoir Car Park||A strenuous 9.5 mile walk that takes you to the highest point in Elan Valley. Allow 5 hours.|
|Maen Serth and Crugyn Ci||Pen y Garreg Car Park||A strenuous 9.5 mile route with 4 short, but steep, climbs. Allow 4 hours.|
It’s good to remember that whilst in the Elan Valley a lot of the paths are multi-use so, please keep an eye out for those on bikes. Dogs are also very welcome so please do take your four-legged friend along to enjoy the experience.
5. Let The Kids Run Wild At Quackers Soft Play
Although 9 miles outside Rhydaer in Newbridge-on-Wye, Quackers makes the list as one of the top days out with kids in this area.
The soft play is incredible, and the kids will have fun navigating their way through the different equipment, including two massive drop slides, which do require a level of bravery!
After getting hot and sweaty in the soft play, a good option is to take walk around the nearby lake and let the kids use one of the free-to-use ride on karts.
There’s also a great café at Quackers or you’re also free to take your own picnic lunch.
6. Go Stargazing
Mid-Wales doesn’t have much in the way of nightlife, so instead, why not spend the evening gazing at the stars. The Elan Valley has been awarded International Dark Sky Park Status1 (source: Dark Sky).
This means that it’s protected from light pollution, making it a perfect place for budding astronomers, photographers, and anyone who enjoys relaxing under the starry sky.
The top recommended spots by the Elan Valley Trust are:
- Claerwen Dam
- Craig Coch Car Park
- Pont Ar Elan Car Park (one of 9 Dark Sky Discovery Sites in the Cambrian Mountains)
- Teifi Pools
7. Cycle Your Way Around The Elan Valley
I have cycled a lot in the Elan Valley and it is my top choice for being able to see large parts of the area in a single day. There are plenty of road and mountain bike routes available to suit your preferred cycling option.
My favourite family-friendly option is to pick up the Elan Valley Trail, which actually starts in Rhyader and follows the old Birmingham Corporation Railway for most of the journey.
Alternatively, you can cycle around the dams at Elan Valley itself. Their visitor centre hires out bikes, with children’s bikes costing £20 for full day hire, and adult bikes costing £30. If you prefer electric, it’s £45 for a full day.
If you have mountain bikes or BMX’s, the kids may also enjoy hitting the slopes at the Pump Track in Rhayader where they can try jumps and tricks. Don’t worry, it’s very beginner friendly!
8. Go Pony Trekking With Lion Royal Pony Trekking Centre
If you fancy seeing the beautiful Welsh countryside whilst channelling your inner John Wayne, then pony trekking might be the answer for you.
With Lion Royal Pony Trekking, you’ll ride one of their well-kept horses or ponies through the Elan Valley with your very own guide. You’ll tackle rivers, woodland, and hills along the way and the journey will be adapted to the ability of each group so don’t worry if you’re a complete newbie or an experienced rider.
The most popular packages are 1 hour for £35 or two hours for £45. The minimum age for this activity is 6 years old and keep in mind that this activity does not run during the winter, their season is typically May until Mid-September.
9. Discover Two Lesser-Known Waterfalls
Hidden away in a lesser-visited part of Elan Valley are two waterfalls that are well worth visiting.
Located near the Garreg Ddu reservoir, I recommend parking near Nantgwyllt Church. From here, the first waterfall is about 10 minutes walk along an easy-to-follow trail.
The second waterfall is just another 5 minutes further than this, although the trail is a little harder to follow and runs near steep drops to the river so I don’t recommend you visit the second waterfall with small children.
See my full guide to visiting the Elan Valley waterfalls for a more detailed explanation and a map of how to get there.
10. Give Geocaching A Go
If you’re not familiar with geocaching then it’s something that you should look into as it can add an extra dimension to those long walks, especially as a way of keeping the kids entertained whilst out and about.
In its simplest form, geocaching is a big game of hide and seek, where caches are placed and it’s up to you to go and find them, sign the logbook and replace as found ready for the next person to find.
There are some excellent geocaches at the Elan Valley which follow the lakeside paths and allow you to experience the wonderful scenery whilst doing so. Visit Geocaching.com to find out more and locate some caches.
11. Visit Gilfach Nature Reserve
The Gilfach Nature Reserve is tucked away 4 miles outside of Rhyader and makes for the perfect day out in the beautiful surroundings of mid-Wales. There are plenty of walks to enjoy around Gilfach Nature Reserve and it is advisable to bring a picnic to enjoy at one of the glorious picnic spots.
The Nature Discovery Centre will provide useful information on the reserve plus the abundance of wildlife that live there. Public toilets are available and there is a visitor centre, however, due to it being voluntarily run, the opening times can be a bit sporadic.
What Is Rhyader Famous For?
Rhyader is famous for being the first town on the banks of the river Wye. It is also named after a local waterfall on the river Wye. Rhydader is centrally located and plays an important part in the surrounding farming community.
How Do You Pronounce Rhyader?
The easiest way to pronounce Rhydader is to think of the ‘y’ as an English ‘i’ and by breaking it up into the following two words “ri adder” you will get the correct pronunciation of Rhyader.
Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Wales Guidebook. Originally from rural Mid-Wales, he has lived all over the country from Cardiff to Wrexham. A true Welshman, Kieren created this site to share his passion for Wales and help others discover this beautiful country.