Expert picks: Calon Cymru, the Heart of Wales

Calon Cymru

Sue Glen, a Personal Travel Agent at Co-operative Travel, shares her tips for a trio of small market towns: Builth Wells, Llandrindod Wells and Rhayader

Nestled between the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons to the south and the Cambrian Mountains to the north, lies the Heart of Wales. A trio of small market towns; Builth Wells, Llandrindod Wells and Rhayader, sit just 15 miles apart, yet each offers its own individual charm. With a wealth of outdoor activities, stunning scenery, cosy eateries, and an abundance of places to rest weary heads, it might be a small area on the map, but it has a big heart.

There are outdoor activities and sports available in this beautiful area to suit everyone. Enjoy the slower pace of life with a spot of fishing on the River Wye or experience the wilds of the Radnor Hills on a Riding Holiday with guided breaks for beginners through to trail riding breaks for more experienced riders. Adrenaline lovers can get their fix on the many mountain bike trails or try a range of Outdoor Activities from kayaking to gorge scrambling. 

Rhayader & The Elan Valley
Arriving in Rhayader, the signposts welcome you with Rhayader, Gateway to the Elan Valley Lakes.  An expansive, dramatic landscape featuring a series of dams and reservoirs, first built in the late 1800s, The Elan Valley is a haven for wildlife and offers amazing views, walking or mountain biking trails. The visitors centre situated on the road from Rhayader is a hub for information.  Look out for Ranger tours, crafts & kids activity days and annual Dam open days.  

Right in the heart of the Elan Valley sits the delightful Penbont House Tea Rooms, open daily with a large conservatory, it’s a perfect place to enjoy refreshing break, while soaking up the stunning views. With five en-suite bedrooms, it is also a wonderful base from which to explore the area during the day and experience the breath-taking starry night skies.

The Elan Valley scenery will impress at any time of year but the colours of the autumn woodland tumbling down into the reservoir reflections is a special treat.

Llandrindod Wells
Heading southwest from Rhayader, the Victorian theme continues as you arrive in Llandrindod Wells with its characteristic Victorian Spa town architecture. The landscaped lake is ideal for a family day out, with picnic areas, woodland walks, large outdoor play areas and even paddle boats. The lakeside café is the perfect haven on days when the weather is more suited to ducks!

For golfers, whether beginners or well-practised, the stunning 18-hole course overlooks the town and offers dramatic panoramic views. The Clubhouse is an absolute must, offering beautiful views and delicious home-cooked meals. For an evening meal the ‘boutique’ style Drovers Restaurant is just a mile from the town centre and serves authentic Thai dishes in a cosy, welcoming atmosphere with just a hint of quirkiness.

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Builth Wells
Builth wells is just seven miles from Llandrindod but quite different in character. Less of the grand Victorian features and much more of the rural market town, it exudes warmth and charm. The river Wye meanders through the town, so park your car in the Groe Car park and take a stroll along the river promenade, seeking out lunch or an afternoon treat in one of the delightful eateries after.

Along the High Street is the fabulously colourful and welcoming Georgie Porgie’s Coffee Stop & Beautifully Bonkers clothes shop. Family owned and full of character, it offers a lovely menu of locally sourced, home-cooked food. Enjoy a freshly brewed Black Mountain Roast coffee and pick up some beautiful hand-picked clothes, accessories, gifts and shoes.

At the bottom of the High Street you’ll find The Market a treasure trove of homewares, gifts and a wide range of gourmet foods & deli items that champion Welsh producers. Look out for the Wickedly Welsh Coffee & Biscuit Chocolate. Just next door is the Cwtch Café with indoor and outdoor seating in the covered courtyard. The Cwtch Club Sandwich is a must and if you can find space afterwards, there is a wonderfully tempting selection of cakes and sweet treats to choose from.

Where to Stay
Escaping to this beautiful area and not staying in a ‘Room with a View’ just does not seem right, and luckily, whether you prefer unzipping your tent door or throwing open curtains in the morning, there are options for all.

From lodges with hot tubs to cosy cottages or quirky shepherds huts, there are self-catering options in abundance.

Wake up to the magical tranquillity of the Radnorshire hills and a delicious Welsh breakfast in a cosy Farmhouse B&B such as Cwmfillo in pretty Rhulen, ideally situated for exploring Builth Wells and the wider Wye Valley area.

If the freedom of camping or glamping is more your style, the award-winning Fforest Fields site, close to Builth Wells and set in breath-taking surroundings with two lakes and beautiful woodland trails, could not be more perfect.

Sue Glen is a Personal Travel Agent at Co-operative Travel and comes with a wealth of knowledge from her own travels, as well as booking her customers holidays. Sue uses her 19 years of experience and expertise as a travel agent to create the perfect holidays for her customers and works to take away all the stress when it comes to booking a holiday. The service provided is personal, tailored and free of charge. See

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