Heading for Mid Wales with your family soon? It's been a firm family favourite of ours for over 35 years so you might just love these 'Top 5 Quick Tips for visiting Mid Wales with Kids'. This unspoilt region of Mid Wales is so varied and scenic, that one mountain roadtrip between Rhayader and Devil's Bridge is even going to make it into our 'Top 10 Scenic Drives across Europe' So if you want to find out how this area stacks up for motorhomers, campers or families with kids then read on below...
Imagine striding out over the Mid Wales Mountains before grabbing a picnic beside the purple heather adorned hills of the Elan Valley (in late August) or merely strolling through the enchanting forests full of waterfalls like Haford. You'll even find yourself close enough to feed the majestic Red Kites but one things for sure, you certainly find yourself relaxing in the breathtaking countryside of Mid Wales...
If like us you've got a dog (see Tizzy the Labrador above) then it's the ideal place to discover a new trail or hillside walk... there's nothing quite like seeing them enjoying the freedom and there's plenty of variety to keep your kids entertained too. Ours love a little adventure when we go hiking (see our Gorge du Verdon or Mt Etna posts) and they certainly haven't ever been disappointed by the breadth of opportunity in Mid Wales.
Some will head for the Pumlumon area near Devil's Bridge with it's iconic Plynlimon Mountain.... Whilst others will love Glyndwr's Way and Offa's Dyke national trails which run across Mid Wales (Don't forget to check out this great Mid Wales app for more of our favourite walks). But for us, we'll always head for the valley that connects Rhayader to Devils Bridge and our favoured walks near a great campsite or motorhome stopover at Tyllwyd. (there's even a cottage for rent if you fancy a little more comfort!!)
If you're looking for a remote, peaceful atmosphere that offers dramatic yet unspoilt views of the scenery in Mid Wales... then we'd recommend you head straight for the Elan Valley Centre and an opportunity to drive along the banks of the reservoir.
Close to the oldest town in Mid Wales at Rhayader (dating back to the 5th Century), the Elan Valley holds some of the purest water found in the Cambrian Mountains. This water quality impressed the Victorian mayor of Birmingham so much he decided to flood the Elan and Claerwen valleys. The series of 6 dams still pipes the water to Birmingham by gravity alone (some 72 miles!!!)
The boulder strewn River Elan cuts its merry way through the Cambrian Mountains until it reaches the mosaic of heather and grassland that is the 'Elan Valley. A true mecca for mountain bike riders, the Elan Valley Trail offers much more for young families too.
The Elan Valley offers plenty of circular walks from it's excellent visitor centre. Discover riverside walks with plenty of opportunity to learn to skim stones through to clambering up heather clad slopes to gain spectacular views over the series of impressive dams. A regular bird watching scheme is in place for those who look to take binoculars on walks whilst others who grab their cameras will love the myriad of special views (winter to summer) that offer themselves to those who are prepared to explore a little further.
But the fun doesn't stop there, there's a whole host of enjoyable activities at the centre itself plus a fantastic cafe and bike hire centre. So if your kids love the chance to catch butterflies or learn how to be a wildlife photographer.... it's well worth popping in before exploring the wider 70sq miles of the Elan Valley (Walking Maps available - Click Here)
If you only reach one just beach during your stay in Mid Wales, then make sure it's 'Ynyslas'.... Situated close to the popular seaside town of Borth, Ynyslas is certainly the choice of locals and also forms part of the spectacular Dyfi National Nature Reserve... Offering a series of stunning sand dunes and fascinating wildlife, it's probably one of our favourite places in the whole of Europe (much like Norfolk's Holkham on the other side of the UK)... and a place we've visited since the girls were very young!
The large shallow 'bay inlet' at Ynyslas is a sun trap with warm water, plenty of soft sand and you can even park up and enjoy the view (before grabbing a picnic in style!) Click here for much more detail including walking maps and visitor information
NB SAFETY WARNING - Swimming is not endorsed at Ynyslas due to the strong currents, but if you want to swim, then just pop to the nearby Borth Beach which is both lifeguarded and patrolled (just near the lifeboat station)
From the first of the beautiful orchids in June through to the end of September, expect this place to be packed... but don't worry, there is always a small space that you can find to enjoy this beach (there's even a visitor centre to enjoy too nearby!)
But head along the coastal part of the A487 road and you could possibly go further afield if you wanted to enjoy even more beaches... but rest assured, we've tested most and would wholeheartedly recommend Ynyslas.... So although it may not have quite made it into our 'Top 5 Family Friendly Coastlines in Europe' it's certainly comparable with the stunning beaches of Pembrokeshire and worth every second of the "are we nearly there yet'" journey to the coastline
As most regular readers will know, we love any chance to get on two wheels and have enjoyed some truly jaw dropping rides across Europe (with perhaps the best being our Flamsbana in Norway). So you'll be pleased to know that this area of Wales is right up there for descents, ascents, MTB trails or just some scenic family bike rides.
If you're looking for something to rival the likes of a North Yorkshire 'Dalby Forest' series of challenging MTB trails, then head for Nant-yr-Arian.... which even features in Red Bull's 'Top 10 Trails in Wales' But for those who choose to stay in the valley near Tyllwyd, you'll have hit the jackpot as the trails nearby have even led to the campsite hosting MTB series challenges (see above)
But there's plenty more for those that love getting out with their kids... So choose from the LÃ´n Cambria or LÃ´n Teifi routes through the breathtaking scenery of the Pumlumon mountain range (see above)
Or for those with smaller children, then the Rheidol Trail offers a great route through the Rheidol valley, whilst the traffic free Ystwyth Trail provides even easier cycling opportunities...
But if you're looking for the best route to include a variety of the above, then we'd reccomend heading for the Elan Valley and head clockwise around the dams. There's plenty of family friendly parts, and others that will be enjoyed by either road cyclists or MTB enthusiasts.
And for those who enjoy a more leisurely pace... then you can always hop onto one of the Elan Valley's electrically assisted three wheel trikes for a fun yet challenging ride!!
Ask any hiker who is familiar with this area and then mention the likes of the 'Black Covert', 'Maenarthur Trail' or the 'Plynlimon Mountain Trail'. These range from the 1.5mile (Black Covert) to the 2.5mile (Maenarthur) or the 2468' up the Plynlimon (best accessed from the Nant-y-moch reservoir).... but our kids always seem to vote for Haford Lodge. And here's why....
Accessed by the fantastically named ' Pontrhydygroes'... the Haford car park is free and there are over 9 miles of paths to choose from.... all with steep sided, tree lined slopes that inevitably take you down towards the beautiful series of thunderous waterfalls...
But for those with small children, just make sure you pack your swimming wear as the natural swimming pool at the bottom of the trails is a place to easily spend a 'free afternoon' of family fun... After heading past the cascades and crags, picturesque buildings and bridges... you'll keep catching glimpses of the river bathed in sunshine, with it's crystal clear water teeming with fish and 'dam building' opportunities.... and there's even picnic benches nearby for a hearty Welsh Cream Tea afterwards!
It's a place to lose yourself for hours in the most enchanting of wild Welsh Forests and in a nutshell it conjures up everything we love about this area... plenty of opportunities for family fun, at a low cost and with a degree of getting active to all of them.... It's easily accessible by motorhomes with plenty of campsites scattered across the area (click here) and most of all.... It's relatively undiscovered even in the height of the summer holidays!!!
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