Rolling hillsides, rocky bluffs, deeply gouged valleys and ancient deciduous woodland; the Mid Wales landscape sure is a treat for city-tired eyes. Narrow lanes penetrate deep into the nooks and crannies, making the best of it available to anybody with a pioneering spirit. Start at Cwm Ystwyth or Devils Bridge, and then hurdle the hills to the south into the Wye Valley at Rhayader.
The Elan Valley can safely claim to be the Lake District of Wales, even if its lakes are really just huge reservoirs, originally constructed to provide water for the English Midlands. The sheer scale will take you by surprise — they actually built villages and railways in order to construct the dams — and the beauty of the surrounding countryside is guaranteed to leave you breathless. Llyn Brianne, north of Llandovery, shouldn’t be overlooked either.
This is kite country, not that you’ll be allowed to forget it, as this beautiful and once very rare bird has become a symbol of almost everything Mid Wales. It shares the skies with buzzards and ravens — the latter perhaps a more fitting candidate for a national emblem — and glides effortlessly above huge swathes of open moorland. Grouse graze the moors, and otters are making a comeback in the rivers and streams.
There’s no better way to get to the heart of the Welsh countryside than on foot, and there are trails and paths to suit everybody. The mountains and valleys of the Brecon Beacons present a friendly face for the part-time walker; the altogether wilder landscapes of Cwmdeuddwr and Pumlumon offer a challenge for those with more experience. The Severn Source walk in the Hafren Forest is suitable for anybody with a reasonable level of fitness, and many of the reservoirs have paths around them.
Recent years have seen development of world-class singletrack mountain bike trails all over Wales, but the first was at Coed-y-Brenin, a few miles north of Dolgellau, at the southern end of the Snowdonia National Park, while there’s another fine site at Cwm Nant yr Arian, just outside Aberystwyth. Other trails at Machynlleth are also worth a try if you’re in the area with your bike.
Snowdonia is home to the tallest mountains in England and Wales and, while they are modest in height compared to the Alps or Rockies, these peaks still have teeth. The highest, Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) has become something of a sacrificial lamb with a train running to its summit and a café on hand to quench the thirst of those who alight there. This is no way to climb a mountain, though — try the Glyderau or Carneddau ranges for an altogether more organic experience.