Things to do in Powys

Penned on the 9th February 2023

Things to do in Powys

If you’re looking for a destination with vast natural beauty and dramatic scenery around every corner, Powys should be on your wishlist. This county is the largest in Wales, though despite its size it’s sparsely populated, making it perfect for exploring wide areas of unspoilt countryside. The area stretches from the border of Snowdonia National Park to the Brecon Beacons in the south, so majestic mountain ranges, stunning valleys and impressive waterfalls are a typical backdrop for trail walking and wildlife-spotting here.

But Powys is not just revered for its landscape and outdoor pursuits – it has a rich history and culture too, with medieval castles, literary connections, innovative museums and charming market towns to explore. There are some wonderful eateries to satisfy foodie visitors, as well as independent shopping boutiques to while away a few hours’ shopping and relaxing in cafes with coffee and cake. 

If you’re looking for some inspiration for your trip, here are some of our favourite things to do in this beautiful mid-Wales county. 


Summit Pen Y Fan

Snow dusted across the Pen Y Fan ridge

Pen Y Fan in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park is one of the most popular walks in Wales – and for good reason. At 886 metres it’s the highest peak in the Brecons, with spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding rolling green hills, the Bristol Channel, the Gower peninsula and the Cambrian Mountains on a clear day. It’s accessible for a mix of abilities too, with four different routes to the top ranging from easy four mile trails that are suitable for families and dogs, through to more challenging (and quieter) ten or eleven mile circuits. All can be completed in a day though, providing the weather makes it safe to do so. 


Get lost in books at Hay-On-Wye

Colourful sign of books in Hay-On-Wye

Hay-On-Wye is a small but thriving market town on the Welsh border, world-renowned for its books and literary festivals. It’s even been named as the world’s first ‘book town’. There are over thirty second-hand bookshops lining its picturesque streets, many of which are packed floor to ceiling with genres of literature for all tastes and interests. There are beautiful antique stores, galleries and craft shops to dip in and out of too, as well as cafes, restaurants and pubs with comfy corners to settle down and read your new book with a welcomed refreshment. The famous Hay Festival takes place in late spring, attracting over 100,000 thousand visitors and great poets, writers, philosophers, comedians and musicians every year. It really is a book-lover’s paradise.


Cycle at Elan Valley

Flowing dam at Elan Valley with mountains in the background

Elan Valley has 72 square miles of spectacular landscape made up of dams, reservoirs and rugged Welsh mountains – and it’s wonderful to explore on two wheels. For a surfaced route that’s suitable for families and novices, try the 18 mile long Elan Valley Trail. It follows the line of the old Birmingham Corporation Railway for most of the way, taking in the incredible views as you go. Elan Valley also has a solid reputation for mountain biking, so if that’s more your thing there are various grades of downhill mountain biking tracks to choose from, featuring drop-offs, jumps and tight bends. You can hire from Neil’s Wheels or Clive Powell Bikes if you don’t have your own with you.


Discover medieval history at Powis Castle and Garden

Red brick castle surrounded by lush greenery

Powis Castle and Garden is a National Trust property in the market town of Welshpool, and is a must-visit for history-lovers. It was built around 1200 as a medieval fortress and stands high and proud, overlooking its Grade I listed garden. The castle was occupied by the Herbert family from the 1570s and today you can marvel at generations of the family’s grand collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture and fabrics. The onsite Clive Museum is home to one of the UK’s most significant collections of South Asian artefacts too, dating from the 1600s to the 1830s. Once you’ve explored indoors, take a stroll through the tranquil formal gardens with views over the Severn Valley before calling into the Courtyard Café for a coffee and cake or an ice cream. 


Explore Powys’s waterfalls

Tall waterfall within woodland

The landscape of rivers and hills in this county mean it’s also home to many spectacular waterfalls. In fact, there are over 140 waterfall routes of varying lengths and difficulties to explore by foot, meandering through luscious green valleys and venturing into hidden caves. The largest is Pistyll y Llyn to the west of the county in the Cambrian Mountains, a horsetail-style set of waterfalls made up of dramatic cascades up to 91 metres in height. Pistyll Rhaeadr in the Berwyn Mountains is a must-visit too. This waterfall is smaller but no less magnificent – and is often referred to as one of the Seven Wonders of Wales. 


Learn about sustainable living at the Centre For Alternative Technology

Centre for Alternative Technology nestled amongst woodland with rugged Welsh mountains in the background

Nestled in a stunning UNESCO spot, this eco-centre is dedicated to researching and supporting greener ways of living. It’s a great place for people of all ages to visit and learn about how to lessen our impact on the environment, with interactive displays and practical examples of sustainable living, renewable energy and organic gardening to explore. You’ll arrive in style too, travelling up the centre’s remarkable 180ft cliff railway powered entirely by water-balancing. For a peaceful end to your visit, enjoy a walk around the site through the beautiful woodlands and gardens. And when you’re hungry head to the outdoor Vegetarian Café for a wholesome lunch.


Shop independent at Machynlleth

Maengwyn Cafe, Machynlleth Colourful buildings on the north side of Heol Maengwy

Machynlleth is a quirky market town nestled within Wales’s stunning UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere. There’s plenty to see and do here, from visiting the Museum of Modern Art to bird watching at the RSPB Ynys-hir Nature Reserve. One of the town’s highlights though, is its vibrant array of independent shops. From antique stores and bookshops to craft shops and fashion boutiques, there’s something for everyone to enjoy perusing and picking up a souvenir. It’s well worth visiting on Wednesdays too, when the local market takes place and the town has an extra special buzz. 


Look for wildlife along the Severn Way

The Severn River running through lush greenery

The Severn Way is a 210 mile walking route that starts in Powys before heading along Shrewsbury, Worcester, Gloucester and all the way down to Bristol, taking in forests, mountains and, of course, the Severn River. It’s a haven for wildlife-lovers, with stunning nature reserves along the way. On the Powys stretch, look for kingfishers, little grebes, red warblers, frogs, newts, rabbits, butterflies and more. If you’re very lucky you might even spot a river otter (don’t forget your binoculars!). Llanmerewig Glebe is a small nature reserve that’s well worth visiting in the autumn too, because it’s home to a rare sight – a huge, managed crop of beautiful, but highly poisonous, Autumn Crocuses. 


Marvel at underground caves

Amazing rock formations at underground caves

The National Showcaves Centre for Wales in the Brecon Beacons makes for a wonderful family day out exploring magical underground caves. In the natural wonders of Dan yr Ogof Cave and Cathedral Cove you’ll see amazing formations, stalactites and stalagmites; and in Bone Cave, human skeletons, fragments of pottery and more. There’s plenty more to keep children entertained for hours too, including a Dinosaur Park with over 200 life-sized dinosaur models, a Jurassic-themed underground karting track for little ones, a playground complex complete with aerial walkways and tunnels, and a Shire Horse Centre and Farm to meet a host of farmyard residents. 


Have a day out at Llandrindod Wells

Autumnal leaves at temple gardens with pretty houses in the background

Affectionately known as ‘Llandod’ to locals, Llandrindod Wells has been voted the happiest place to live in Wales, as well as the fifth happiest place to live in the whole of the UK, so it’s well worth a visit! There’s plenty to see and do here, including walking the Heritage Trail where you’ll admire the architecture and characterful streets; learning about the history of the area in the Radnorshire Museum; and strolling in the beautiful Rock Park to see the sculptures and Victorian spa buildings. For something special, why not treat yourself to a top-to-toe pamper at the luxurious spa at The Metropole?


Walk the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail

Rolling hills and green fields overlooking the Offa Dyke Trail

Dating back to the 8th century, the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail is one of the most famous walks in the county – and has even been ranked by Lonely Planet as one of the best walks in the world. The route follows the England-Wales border for 177 miles, which serious walkers can complete in a 12 day hike. For everyone else there are plenty of sections to choose from in Powys and other Welsh counties, whether you’re looking for a short stroll or something more strenuous. Take a look at some of the National Trail’s linear and circular routes here. And you can learn more about the routes and history of the area at the Offa’s Dyke Visitor Centre in the Powys town of Knighton.


Hire a boat at Brecon Park Boats

Two small boats gliding along the Brecon Canal

For a fun way to explore the county’s waterways at Brecon Canal, hire a boat for the day from Brecon Park Boats in the south east of Powys. There are easy-to-drive 8-seater and 6-seater electric boats available, as well as cycle boats and traditional canoes for more active families or couples. The canal winds its way through the glorious Brecon Beacons National Park with breath-taking scenic views, and offers the chance to get up close and personal with the local wildlife. Pack a picnic to enjoy on the peaceful riverbank or moor up and stop off at one of the canal side pubs for a real ale or some classic pub grub. 


See the red kites at Gigrin Farm

Buzzard photographed on the snow at Gigrin Farm

This 160 acre family-run farm in the countryside just outside the market town of Rhayader is famous for its Red Kite Feeding Centre. Every day at 2pm hundreds of Red Kites descend here, making for a truly magnificent spectacle. You can visit whilst the feed is happening and there are hides for you to watch from, as well as specialist photographic hides for keen photographers – all are just metres away from where the majestic birds are fed. There’s a coffee shop onsite serving hot drinks, cakes and snacks too, plus a gift shop that bird-lovers will enjoy browsing for red kite souvenirs, binoculars and more. 


Fine dine in a two Michelin Star restaurant

Mushroom dish served with bread roll

For an extra special treat and fine dining experience head to Ynyshir, a two Michelin star restaurant with 5 AA Rosettes – it’s the only to have such high accolades in the whole of Wales. It’s one of the most remote Michelin star restaurants in the UK too, nestled in the heart of the countryside near Snowdonia National Park and Machynlleth. Headed up by Chef Gareth Ward, Ynyshir serves alternative tasting menus, taking you on an immersive culinary journey to showcase the very best of seasonal Welsh ingredients. Expect up to thirty courses over four to five hours, with the likes of ‘Welsh Wagyu beef and Anglesey onions’, ‘Miso cured black cod’ and ‘Chilli crab deep fried bun’. 


Stay in Powys

Bathtub in front of large window overlooking the Welsh countryside

If you’re looking for somewhere special to stay during your visit to Powys in Wales, you need  look no further. We have some gorgeous handcrafted hideaways to choose from for a short getaway or a week long stay… think cedar clad, open plan cabins with sumptuous interiors, nestled amongst the unspoilt countryside where you’ll wake to the sound of the birds before heading off on your day’s adventures.


Take a look at our Powys collection and plan your one-of-a-kind glamping holiday here.


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