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Mid Wales offers a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with its rolling hills, lush valleys, and rugged mountains. Nestled in this picturesque region are Radnor Forest and the Elan Valley, two areas brimming with natural beauty and adventures waiting to be explored. Here are six must-do activities that will immerse you in the heart of Mid Wales.

Outdoor adventures Mid Wales

Hiking Through Radnor Forest

Despite its name, Radnor Forest is a sprawling area of high ground rather than dense woodland, offering some of the best hiking trails in Mid Wales. Here are a few standout routes:

Black Mixen and Great Rhos Circular

This challenging 10-mile loop takes you to the highest points in Radnor Forest, Black Mixen and Great Rhos. The route offers breathtaking views across the countryside and is ideal for experienced hikers.

Water-break-its-neck walk

Water break its neck

A moderate 3-mile walk leading to the picturesque waterfall of Water-break-its-neck. The trail is well-marked and offers a relatively easy hike through beautiful woodland.

Whimble and Bache Hill Circular Walk

An 8-mile route starting from New Radnor, taking you over Whimble and Bache Hill. This hike offers fantastic views and a mix of open moorland and forested paths.

Cycling in the Elan Valley

For those who prefer two wheels to two feet, the Elan Valley offers an exceptional cycling experience.

Cycling Elan Valley

The Elan Valley Trail

The Elan Valley Trail follows the route of a former railway and provides a relatively easy ride with breathtaking views of the reservoirs and dams. The 9-mile route is perfect for families and casual cyclists, with plenty of spots to stop for a picnic and enjoy the stunning scenery. The well-maintained path ensures a smooth ride through this picturesque landscape.

Cwm Elan Circular Route

This 17-mile loop is more challenging, offering steep climbs and thrilling descents. Starting at the Elan Valley Visitor Centre, the route takes you through Cwmdauddwr and over Pen y Garreg Dam, providing stunning views of the surrounding reservoirs and hills. This route is perfect for cyclists looking for a more strenuous ride and the chance to see more of the Elan Valley's hidden gems.

Nantgwyllt to Garreg Ddu Mountain Bike Trail

For those who enjoy the thrill of mountain biking, this 10-mile trail offers a mix of single tracks, forest trails, and technical sections. The route starts near the Nantgwyllt Church and takes you through dense forests and along the edge of the Garreg Ddu Reservoir. The trail is well-marked but requires a good level of fitness and biking skills.

Exploring the Elan Valley Dams

The Elan Valley is renowned for its impressive series of dams and reservoirs. Built between 1893 and 1904, the Elan Valley dams were constructed to address the increasing demand for clean water in Birmingham during the late 19th century. The project was led by civil engineer James Mansergh, and the construction employed over 50,000 workers. The complex includes four large dams on the Elan River and two on the Claerwen River, creating a network of reservoirs that continue to supply water to Birmingham today.

Craig Goch Dam

Craig Goch Dam

Often referred to as the ‘top dam,’ Craig Goch is an impressive structure with its high stone walls and elegant arches. The dam’s overflow creates beautiful cascading waterfalls.
Pen y Garreg Dam: Known for its iconic central tower and dramatic scenery. Visitors can take a guided tour inside the dam to see its inner workings.

Garreg Ddu Dam

This submerged dam is unique, as it is designed to maintain water levels in the lower reservoirs during drought conditions.

Walking Routes Around the Dams

Elan Valley Trail

This 9-mile circular route is ideal for walkers of all abilities. Starting at the Elan Valley Visitor Centre, the trail takes you past Caban Coch, Garreg Ddu, and Pen y Garreg dams. The path is well-maintained and offers spectacular views of the reservoirs and surrounding hills.

Craig Goch Circular Walk

A 4-mile loop that starts at the Craig Goch Dam car park. This walk provides stunning views of the dam and the upper reaches of the Elan Valley. It's a moderately easy route with some inclines.

Caban Coch to Pen y Garreg Walk

A 5-mile return walk starting at Caban Coch Dam. This route takes you along the reservoir, past lush woodlands, and up to the impressive Pen y Garreg Dam. It's a peaceful walk with plenty of opportunities for photography and birdwatching.

Wildlife Watching in Gilfach Nature Reserve

Situated near the Elan Valley, Gilfach Nature Reserve is a hidden gem for wildlife enthusiasts. The reserve encompasses a range of habitats, from riverbanks to woodlands, making it a haven for diverse flora and fauna. Here’s what you can expect:



The River Marteg runs through the reserve, providing a perfect habitat for otters. Early mornings and late evenings are the best times to spot these elusive creatures.


The diverse habitats support a wide range of bird species. Look out for red kites, pied flycatchers, and dippers along the riverbanks. There are several bird hides strategically placed around the reserve for unobtrusive viewing.

Salmon Leaping

During the autumn, the salmon migration is a spectacular sight. Gilfach’s waterfalls and fast-flowing sections of the river are excellent spots to witness this natural event.

Wildlife Walking Trails

Marteg Valley walk

A 2-mile walk that follows the River Marteg, offering excellent opportunities to spot otters and a variety of bird species. The trail is relatively easy and suitable for families.

Gilfach Farm walk

A 4-mile circular walk that takes you through the heart of the reserve, past traditional farm buildings, and into areas rich in wildlife. The trail offers a mix of open fields, woodlands, and riverbanks.

Salmon leaping

Waterfall Walk

A short 1-mile trail leading to a picturesque waterfall, a perfect spot for photography.

Stargazing in the Elan Valley International Dark Sky Park

Designated as an International Dark Sky Park, the area offers some of the darkest skies in the UK, perfect for observing celestial wonders with low light pollution allowing for clear views of constellations such as Orion, Ursa Major, and many more. Planets like Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars are often visible to the naked eye.

Stargazing Spots

Elan Valley Visitor Centre

The centre often hosts stargazing events with telescopes and expert guides to help you navigate the night sky.

Craig Goch Dam

The high vantage point and minimal light interference make this an excellent spot for stargazing.

Claerwen Dam

Another great location, offering wide, open skies and a peaceful setting.

Stargazing Tips

Best Times

Autumn and winter offer the longest nights and often the clearest skies.


Bring a telescope for the best experience. A star chart or a stargazing app can also help identify constellations and planets.

Warm Clothing

Even in the summer, nights can be cold, so bring warm clothing.

Off-Roading in Radnor Forest and the Elan Valley

Off-roading in Radnor Forest and the Elan Valley offers a unique way to see the countryside. The rugged terrain and scenic routes make it a prime location for 4x4 enthusiasts. Here are some key considerations for off-roading in the area:

Respect for the Environment

While off-roading provides a thrilling way to explore the landscapes, it's crucial to stick to legal byways and designated routes to minimise environmental impact. Staying on marked routes helps protect the natural habitat and ensures that the beauty of the region remains unspoiled for future visitors.

Gentle Off-Roading Options

Mid Wales offers a range of off-roading experiences, from gentle green lanes to more challenging tracks. This makes it accessible for both beginners and seasoned off-roaders.

Guided Tours

Guided tours are available for those new to off-roading, ensuring safety and maximising the fun. These tours often include expert advice on handling different terrain and understanding the local environment, as well as restrictions on access.

Recommended Vehicle

To explore these routes, we borrowed an Isuzu D-Max 4x4, which proved the perfect companion for our adventures, allowing us to explore the routes and carrying us and our kit between the areas.

Isuzu D Max 4x4

The D-Max features a seriously robust build and we didn’t ever question the off-roading capabilities making navigating the rugged terrain easy, even for beginner off-roaders. Whether we were climbing steep hills, fording streams, or driving along rocky paths, the Isuzu 4x4 handled everything with ease, allowing us to fully enjoy the landscape of the area.

Tips for Your Trip

Best Time to Visit: Spring and summer offer mild weather and lush landscapes, while autumn brings vibrant foliage.
Accommodation: There are plenty of well-equipped campsites, as well as friendly B&Bs and pubs with rooms.
Equipment: Bring sturdy hiking boots, a good camera, and a pair of binoculars for the best experience.

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