To the west of Rhayader is the Elan Valley Estate, owned by Welsh Water and managed by the Elan Valley Trust, the series of reservoirs set in the outstanding scenery of the Elan and Claerwen Valleys have created a home for wildlife and a place to inspire us all.
Arts, Culture and Heritage
Elan & Claerwen Valleys
Walking: With 72 sqaure miles of Elan Valley Estate, walking routes in this our part of the Cambrian Mountains is spectacular. See a selection of the Elan Valley walks here.
History: In the 19th century, at the time of the Industrial Revolution Joseph Chamberlain, then leader of Birmingham City Council, set about finding a clean water supply for the City.
The Elan and Claerwen Valleys had been identified by the engineer James Mansergh as having the best potential for water storage - with
• An average annual rainfall of 72 inches (1830mm).
• Narrow downstream valleys which made building the dams easier.
• Impermeable bedrock preventing the water seeping away.
• Altitude - the area is mostly higher than Birmingham enabling the water to be transported by gravity alone, without the need to be pumped.
An Act of Parliament was passed for the compulsory purchase of the area and in 1893 the building work began. Over 100 occupants of the Elan Valley had to move, only landowners received compensation payments. Many buildings were demolished, among them 2 manor houses, 18 farms, a school and a church (which was replaced by the corporation as the Nantgwyllt Church).
A railway line was constructed to transport the workers and thousands of tonnes of building material each day and a village of wooden huts was purpose built to house many of the workers on the site of the present Elan Village.
The Elan Valley Dams were officially opened by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on 21st July 1904, and the later built Claerwen Dam was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.
Present Day: The dams and reservoirs of the Elan Estate are situated within an area of outstanding scenic beauty. They provide a lasting amenity in their own right for visitors to enjoy. The protection of the water catchment area to prevent pollution of the reservoirs has safeguarded the habitats of numerous species of flora and fauna and now the 70 square miles of moorland, bog, woodland, river and reservoir are of national importance for their diversity of lower plants (ferns, mosses, lichens and liverworts) and the Estate is the most important area for land birds in Wales.
36 mile Gwastedyn Church Trail
This circular 36 mile trail over an established pilgrimage route begins and ends in Rhayader and Cwmdeuddwr. Linking seven historic churches, the route uses mountain paths, lanes and old railway lines to guide you into the heart of our magnificent mountain, river and lake country. To follow the Trail takes you into a world of history and literature derived from the world of the Celtic Saints, the Romans and Romano British, the Normans, the Welsh princes, the medieval monks through to the romantic poets and the Victorians.
Mae’r llwybr hwn, sy’n dilyn llwybr pererindod sefydledig, yn 36 milltir o hyd ac yn dechrau a diweddu yn Rhaeadr a Chwmdeuddwr. Mae’r llwybr sy’n cysylltu saith o eglwysi hanesyddol, yn eich tywys drwy ardal odidog mynyddoedd yr Elenydd gyda’i hafonydd a’i llynnoedd, dros lwybrau mynyddig ac ar hyd ffyrdd a hen reilffyrdd gwledig. Mae dilyn y Llwybr yn eich cyflwyno i fyd hanes a llenyddiaeth o gyfnod y Seintiau Celtaidd, y Rhufeiniaid, y Brythoniaid Rhufeinig, y Normaniaid, y Tywysogion Cymreig, mynachod y canol oesoedd, hyd at y beirdd rhamantaidd ac oes Fictoria.
This trail is divided into more manageable six sections - see our Walking and Cycling page.
The Gwastedyn Trail is funded by the Community Welcome Scheme, which is managed by Powys County Council Tourism Section and is one of sixteen Rural Development Plan projects, which aims to assist local communities with small scale community based tourism projects.
Exploring Mid Wales
Exploring Mid Wales - bespoke guided tours for the curious mind.
We offer bespoke guided tours, walks and cycle rides in the Mid Wales area. If you would like to make the most of your stay then allow us to show you some of the many hidden gems of the area. We are keen walkers and mountain bikers. We also offer specialist historical, geographical and literary tours.
Nantmel to Ysfa Walk
A fairly level 4 mile walk beginning from St Cynllo's Church at Nantmel (Grid ref: SN 034 664), past Llyn Gwyn Lake to St Mark's Church at Ysfa.
St Cynllo’s Church, Nantmel
A Georgian Church rebuilt in 1792 on an ancient site in a circular enclosure and restored in 1881. The lower part of the tower is though to be 13th C. The lytchgate is 18th C. Sundial dated 1773. It was the main church of the area for some enturies and has six bells. The list of incumbents starts in 1349. The font having been thought to be from the Cistercian Monastery, Abbey Cwm Hir, which lies to the north of the Church has been identified as being made out of a Jacobean chimney pot. The dedication of the Church is to St Cynllo circa 5th C. It is said of this saint that wherever his knelt or his horse trod the marks remained permanently in the ground. The hills behind the church contain many ancient monuments, standing stones and the site of a prehistoric village. The walk down from Camlo Hill to the Church provides some of the most stunning long distance views of the Trail.
Eglwys Sant Cynllo, Nantmel
Eglwys Sioraidd a ailadeiladwyd ym 1792 ar safle hynafol mewn tir caeedig ar ffurf cylch ac a adferwyd ym 1881. Credir bod rhan isaf y tŵr yn perthyn i’r drydedd ganrif ar ddeg. Mae porth y fynwent yn perthyn i’r ddeunawfed ganrif ac mae’r dyddiad 1773 ar y deial haul. Hon oedd prif eglwys yr ardal am rai canrifoedd ac mae ganddi chwech o glychau. Mae’r rhestr o ddeiliaid swyddi yn yr eglwys yn dechrau ym 1349. Nodwyd y bedyddfaen fel un a wnaed o gorn simnai Jacobeaidd. Cyflwynwyd yr Eglwys i Sant Cynllo tua’r 5ed ganrif. Dywedir am y sant hwn pryd bynnag y byddai’n penlinio neu lle bynnag yr oedd ei geffyl yn cerdded fod y marciau yn aros yn barhaol yn y ddaear. Mae’r mynyddoedd y tu ôl i’r eglwys yn cynnwys llawer o henebion, meini hirion a safle pentref cyn-hanesyddol. Wrth gerdded i lawr o Fryn Camlo at yr Eglwys gellir gweld rhai o’r golygfeydd pell gorau o’r Llwybr.
CARAD Rhayader Museum and Gallery
Discover the stories of Rhayader and its region. Experience the rich heritage of the area through oral history, film, photographs and activities. Share your stories to leave for future generations.
Rhayader Museum and Gallery looks small and compact from the outside but, once inside, you will find a downstairs temporary Exhibition Gallery where there are a variety of exhibitions throughout the year. The building is fully accessible with a lift to the upper floor.
Upstairs in the Museum Gallery there are films to watch, and more than 50 oral histories to listen to along with a vast array of objects to look at. All of which help to tell the story of Rhayader from the early ages of man though to the current generation of people who live in and around the town.
Rhayader Museum and Gallery is run by CARAD, an independent charity. Currently, we charge an entry fee because we like to be able to use the money we raise to develop new exhibitions and projects.