Builth Wells is attractive little town, hidden amongst the verdant valleys of Mid Wales. Unlike most quaint towns in the middle of the countryside, Builth used to be a kingdom. The tiny Kingdom of Builth.
Elystan Glodrydd aka “Æthelstan the Famous” was Builth’s most famous ruler, and founder of the Fifth Royal Tribe of Wales. It’s though he died somewhere around the year 1010.
Like all respectable ancient kingdoms Builth was frequently at war with its neighbour, the Kingdom of Powys – now the primary county of Mid Wales – which includes Builth. Powys won then?
Luckily Builth Wells is quiet now, no wars. Not that this is a reason to visit – it’s lack of historic war. Builth Wells has much more going on for it than that. Below are ten brilliant things to do and see around Builth Wells.
1. Take a Welsh Overland Safari
Although there are no big cats in Wales (relatively speaking – there might be some overgrown house cats), there are some wonderful natural sights. The Welsh Overland Safari is a series of authentic and impassioned tours of the Mid Wales area, owned and run by Richard Davies – a Brecon Beacons National Park ambassador.
These bespoke tours are a perfect way for you to discover the true heart of Wales and share in some jaw dropping scenery. Some of the highlights include a trip to Pen-y-Crug hillfort, with 360 panoramic views of the Usk Valley, and visiting an ancient yew tree near Defynnog – thought to be a sapling during the Bronze Age (5000 years ago).
It's possible this unassuming Yew in St. Cynog’s church yard is the oldest in Britain.
2. Builth Castle – Not a Hill
No, not a hill. It had you fooled – it’s the remnants of a very old castle covered in grass.
Cloaked by a row of houses, Builth Castle is sometimes forgotten and seldom appreciated. It may not be as well preserved as some Welsh Castles, but it was still one of Edward I’s key fortresses. This alone makes it worth seeing.
Settling down to a picnic up here, overlooking Builth and the winding River Wye is a lovely way to spend an hour or two.
3. The Macabre Llywelyn Monument
Who was Llywelyn, and why does he have a monument?
Llywelyn ap Gruffudd or “Llywelyn the Last” was Prince of Wales between 1258 and 1282. Towards the end of his life Llywelyn was a prime figure in the battle for Welsh independence against Edward I. It was thought that Edward I was a formidable adversary. He was (supposedly) very tall for his era and instilled fear in his foes.
After a few years of bloody war, everything came to an end at the Battle of Orewin Bridge in what is now Builth Wells. Edward’s soldiers lured Llywelyn into a trap, separating him from his forces and killed him.
The macabre part…
...a well near the monument is where his severed head was washed, before being sent on to Edward I at Castle Rhuddlan.
Not the most pleasant gift to receive, unless you’re a blood thirsty conqueror in 1282. In which case, as standard as an Amazon parcel.
4. Wrestle Carp at Pant-y-Llyn
Only a handful of miles south of Builth Wells is a magical hidden lake, mostly unknown to the world.
It’s not the home of Excalibur, although Wales was thought to be King Arthur’s home turf. What Pant-y-Llyn is, is one of the best fishing lakes in Wales. Quiet, picturesque and teeming with wild carp – that’ll put up a real fight. How are your angling skills?
The deeper water in the northern corner is clear all year round and weed raking is permitted. One thing you’ll need to pay attention to, is the presence of signal crayfish. American crawdads. Although harmless looking, these little fresh water lobsters carry a crayfish plague, deadly to our native species – Astacus astacus. This plague can be spread via wet angling equipment from place to place.
So please, be careful.
5. Mynydd Epynt – Where Kites Soar
Mynydd Epynt, translates into English as “mountains crossed by a horse path”. This wild upland area of Mid Wales is an ancient mountain plateau and an ideal place to see kites soaring.
It’s also a modern military training landscape, so you may hear mortar blasts echoing through the hills.
If you don’t stray into the military areas (which will be heavily signposted) you’ll be fine. You probably wouldn’t get far even if you did.
Anyway, under moody skies, perhaps on an autumn afternoon – the sound of mortars is quite atmospheric.
6. Explore Erwood Station Gallery
With 2000 square feet of gallery space, the Erwood Station Gallery is the largest contemporary applied arts gallery in Powys. It seems there’s barely an artistic form the Erwood Gallery doesn’t showcase.
You’ll be able to see some of the finest painting, ceramics, woodwork, jewellery and sculptures in the whole of wales. To top this off, the tea room has delicious cakes.
Cake. The foundation of society.
To see what’s on at the gallery, please click here.
7. Buffalo Bill’s Redwoods at the Groe
Around Groe Park in Builth Wells are four extra special trees.
These giant redwoods (sequoias) were planted well over a hundred years ago, commemorating Buffalo Bill’s visit to Wales.
Buffo Bill (William Frederick Cody) was an American scout, bison hunter and showman – who received the medal of honour for his actions during the civil war.
He was also a character of legend – much was created by his own hand. In 1883 he founded Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, a travelling show – featuring outlandish, adventurous stories from the old (pre-civil war) west.
It was showmen like Buffalo Bill that helped shape our modern image of the American West, and western genre.
Wandering through Groe Park and beneath the branches Bill’s redwoods is more of a Sunday afternoon way to experience the wild west.
8. The Breath-taking Wye Valley
Unlike some, its beauty has been revered for a long time. It’s so beautiful, that it influenced the founders of the Romantic literary movement in the 18th Century – William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge Taylor.
What can you deduce from this?
Well, the obvious conclusion is that the Wye Valley is one of the most pretty, sublime and poetically inspiring places in Britain. You’ll soon see why when laying your eyes upon the dramatic limestone gorges and lush native woodland.
9. Catch a Flick at Wyeside Arts Centre
The Wyeside Arts Centre is an independently run charity, showing live performances and films. Some arts centres can be a bit pretentious, and exclusive – but not this one.
It appeal to people with all sorts of different tastes. When it comes to films this means you can see both blockbusters and indie releases, and theatre – anything from Shakespeare to panto.
Plus, you can catch world’s finest performers via satellite link, with London, NY and more.
For more info, please click here.
10. Go to the Pub
Well, why not? Especially if you’re on holiday. If it’s summer you can laze in the dappled shade of a beer garden, and if it’s winter you can warm your hands by a log fire. And, in all seasons you can drink in moderation, and relax.
Wales does pubs and does them well. As with most Welsh towns Builth Wells has some lovely pubs to pick from.
Your Well-Deserved Welsh Break
Life can be intense sometimes.
You need to take a break and visit a quiet place brimming with natural beauty.
At the Lake Country House, we’re only a stone’s throw from Builth Wells, The Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia.
We're offering you a sanctuary from the busy, the intense and the tiresome.