Have you ever heard of Rhayader, near Llanidloes, in the Cambrian Mountains, Mid Wales? When I asked my friends no one knew what I was talking about until I mentioned the Red Kites. The Cambrian Mountains are as large as Snowdonia, not craggy like North Wales but wild and woolly, covered in grass and heather. Amidst them is the Elan Valley where dams were built to provide the water for Birmingham. Vast reservoirs and quiet lanes, great for mountain biking with there’s lots of great accommodation in Mid Wales. Amazing really that the only thing my friends had heard of was a chap who fed Red Kites with Carcasses pulled his tractor. So let’s call it Red Kite Country.
I was hoping we would catch a glimpse of a Red Kite when we went to stay at MID WALES BUNKHOUSE near the Cambrian Mountains, but I was not expecting them to be a constant feature in the skies throughout our weekend there. We watched them hovering to scan the ground for prey, the characteristic kite shaped tail constantly twitching and unfurling as the Kite balances on the air streams, and a then glimpse of stunning red of the wings as it banked towards us.
The bunkhouse was in rural Wales, set amidst a wildlife garden, its wooden veranda overlooking a lawn clucking with chickens and ducks and pockets of wildflowers with tiny safe pools and tall trees reaching up into the sky. We lost the kids to the garden within moments of arriving and I am sure they would have been happy to hang there the whole holiday, despite the fact that the bunkhouse had Wifi, which says a lot for a bunch of near teens.
Out & About
We did manage to make it away from the bunkhouse for a couple of trips. The Gilfach Nature reserve, five minutes’ drive away along quiet lanes was deserted on the sunny Sunday we visited. Swishing grass, a backdrop of heather clad hillsides and the babbling of the river Marteg cascading over waterfalls and through shady glens, perfect for picnics and paddling. We walked along a shady disused railway, part of the Wye Valley Walk to where the Marteg meets the Wye and had a swim. The visitors’ centre is a farmyard preserved as it was in medieval times. There is a nature discovery centre, closed when we visited, but there were canned drinks, biscuits and make your own tea and coffee facilities with an honesty box available in the byre. The perfect welcome.
We wished we had brought our bikes the moment we arrived in Mid Wales to find the quiet lanes and endless tracks and bridleways. So for our second trip, we headed to the Elan Cyclery where the very helpful staff kitted us out with excellent bikes for the day. There are loads of challenging bike routes on the Cambrian Mountains, but we opted for a cycle trail which followed an old railway track from Rhayader to the Elan Valley Visitors Centre. After tea and cake, next to a huge, turn of the century dam, we explored beyond the dam on quite lakeside roads, up through woods, deep into the mountains to visit more of the dams that create the huge reservoirs. We never met another cyclist in all those miles of accessible beautiful scenery, although a large furry creature (perhaps a water vole) hustled across the path just in front of my wheels and my daughter shouted that “a lizard with feet” had scurried away from her bike.
What a great stay
We had a brilliant few days in this quiet part of Wales, all thanks to our hosts at Mid Wales Bunkhouse who made us welcome and took the time to pass on local knowledge about what to do. In the Cambrian mountains, you escape from the pressure of everyday life, no traffic, no hordes of tourists, just beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife and the peace and welcome of Mid Wales Bunkhouse.