Beyond Pen Y Fan: Exploring wild mid-Wales

Beyond Pen Y Fan: Exploring wild mid-Wales

A couple of weeks ago I was driving through the Brecon Beacons on my way back from a fab weekend in mid-Wales. As our car passed the hordes of people parked along the road next to the footpath that leads up to Pen Y Fan, I was struck by how busy it was. I noticed that the groups of families and friends were almost queuing, trudging in single file to take the well trodden path to the top. 

I wondered if they had pictured it like that in their minds?

My weekend – in contrast – had been spent taking in views like this one, with barely another soul in sight:

Llyn Clywedog

I had spent 48 hours exploring some lesser trodden parts of Wales, all thanks to my good friend Carys. Carys’s family have a holiday home in the little mid-Wales market town of Llanidloes, and it had served as a perfect base for exploring all of the open, green spaces in the surrounding area.

Day 1

Mid Wales

With Carys and her boyfriend Rhys as our guides, we had first explored the Clywedog Reservoir (Llyn Clywedog in Welsh). This is a 615 acre reservoir which was built on the head waters of the river Severn in the late sixties to supplement the flow on the river and also alleviate flooding in upper Severn valley. There is a trout farm onsite, stocking around 30,000 fish, making Clywedog one of the premier trout fisheries in the UK.

Llyn Clywedog

It’s also absolutely bloody beautiful!

Llyn Clywedog, mid-Wales

Day 2

On the Sunday, we had explored the Hafren Forest. The forest spans 40 square kilometres of upland, and in an area where once there were previously only sheep and a handful of deserted lead mine workings, commercial foresting started in 1937 .

Rhyd y Benwych

The 40 – 50 year felling cycle at Hafren allows Natural Resources Wales to manage it as a habitat for wildlife, and for the enjoyment of visitors. Landscape design plans allow for vigorous growth of newly felled and planted areas, while partially planted broad leaved trees help to ensure the health of the streams.

Hafren Forest, mid-Wales

Again, it’s a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.

Hafren Forest

The last stop on our trip was just so Carys could show off her perfectly honed bird-spotting skills – with the help of her trusty (and heavy!) binoculars we had managed to spot mid-Wales’s only breeding pair of ospreys. Sadly, they were too far away for me to get a pic, but it was still exhilarating to get the chance to see them from afar.

Bird spotting, mid-Wales

By the end of our little trip to mid-Wales, I was kicking myself for not getting up there more often. Like the hordes of people I’d seen on the drive back to Cardiff, I’ve become so used to heading to Pen Y Fan, or Rudry, or even Bute Park whenever I need a nature-fix. It’s so easy to go back to the same old places, but if there’s one thing I learned from my weekend in Llanidloes, it’s that it’s definitely worth getting out of South Wales and going a little further afield – especially if like me, you love feeling like you have a place all to yourself.

If you fancy recreating my mid-Wales weekend, I found a gorgeous little cottage in Llanidloes  for just £99 a night; it’s walking distance from the shops and pubs of the town centre but sits right on the river severn and even comes with fishing rights. Just imagine ending a day of exploring by fishing for your supper in your own garden whilst drinking a nice cold beer – sounds dreamy, right?! You can check out the cottage here and if it’s your first Air BnB experience, book using this link to get £30 off: www.airbnb.co.uk/c/jcook.


Next on my list of wild Welsh places to explore is Snowdonia National Park – if anyone has any blog posts or recommendations they can share with me, let me know in the comments below. 

Like this post? Take a look at my other posts about days out in nature!

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