You’re spoilt for choice for things to do outdoors in and around beautiful Llanwrtyd.
- Green Events
- Nature and Wildlife
- Bog snorkelling
- Running and horse riding
- Stone skimming
- Chariot Racing
- World Alternative Games.
Several of the outdoor pursuit events listed below started back in the 1980s when traders in the town realised that something had to be done to boost the town’s economy following the decline in popularity of Llanwrtyd Wells Pony Trekking Centre that had prospered since the 1950s.
A Tourist Association was formed to organise a series of new and original events, one year at a time, to attract tourists back to Llanwrtyd Wells. The first was the Man versus Horse Race organised in 1980 to resolve an argument between the landlord of the Neuadd Arms and the local huntsman as to whether a man or a horse would be faster over a long distance race.
There then followed a series of new organised throughout the 1980s.
Many of these have become permanent fixtures in the Green Events’ year’s calendar, namely World Bog Snorkelling Championship, Real Ale Ramble, Lord Crawshaw Memorial Walk, Welsh International Four Days Walks, Drovers Walk, Mid-Wales Beer Festival and The Man versus Horse Marathon
Nature and wildlife
Llanwrtyd Wells makes the ideal base from which to study, explore and enjoy this wild and spectacular countryside, whether you are here for one of our events, a short break or longer holiday .
The drama of the Brecon Beacons and Cambrian Mountains, and the beauty of the Elan Valley are within easy reach.
Mid-Wales is defined by its rivers, valleys, woodlands, meadows and mountains and abundant wildlife, and for the nature lover, Llanwrtyd Wells has plenty to offer.
The River Irfon, which flows through the town, meanders through the stunning Abergwesyn Valley and Nant Irfon National Nature Reserve and passes by Vicarage Meadow and Cae Pwll Bo Wildlife Reserves.
These are renowned for displays of spring flowers such as the vibrant globeflower, bluebells and orchids.
Dippers, grey wagtails and goosanders are a common site on the river and if you’re very lucky you may catch a fleeting glimpse of the secretive otter.
The iconic red kite trawls the skies above the area, as do buzzards and ravens.
Each spring redstarts, pied flycatchers and cuckoos return to the area to nest and raise their young.
The Mid-Wales Red Squirrel Project, centred round Llyn Brianne reservoir and bordered by Llanwrtyd Wells, is a focal site for red squirrel conservation, one of only three significant populations in the whole of Wales.
For those who like to forage you can eat wild whinberries on the hillsides and raspberries from summer hedgerows and seek out ceps and chanterelle fungi in the autumn woodlands.
Whatever your interest, Llanwrtyd Wells has plenty to offer, but best of all you’re likely to have it all to yourself!
Bog snorkelling has been described by Lonely Planet as one of the top 50 “must things to do”!
The World Bog Snorkelling Championship
This has brought international fame to the town. A series of snorkelling events – organised from the start in 1986 by Green Events – is held during the August Bank Holiday weekend – with many competitors contesting in fancy dress.
The competition takes place in two parallel 60 metre peat trenches on a boggy site outside the town.
Participants take turns to swim the length of the bog and back as fast as possible. Only the doggy paddle swimming stroke is permitted. The first World Bog Snorkelling Triathlon
The World Bog Snorkelling Triathlon
The first World Bog Snorkelling Triathlon was first held in 2005. It comprises three activities for male participants: a run of 8 miles followed by a bike ride of 12 miles, then a 60 yard snorkel in the peat bog.
The event is open to individuals and relay teams of three (one discipline each). Less arduous and shorter races are also available for juniors, seniors and ladies.
Llanwrtyd Wells can lay claim to be the birthplace of mountain biking in the UK. We welcome cyclists and mountain bikers to ride on our peaceful, undulating lanes in the Heart of Wales, through wonderful scenery, far from the madding crowds.
The first organised ride took place in 1985 and the early Man versus Horse Marathon (See Outdoor pursuits/Running and horse riding) also included bikes.
For those who enjoy mountainous routes there’s the incredible beauty of the Cambrian Mountains and the Epynt Hills, plus hundreds of miles of well-maintained forestry tracks with precipitous single tracks and black runs.
At the end of your ride, relax at one of our cafés (Caffi Sospan or The Drovers Rest) or pubs (Belle Vue, Neuadd Arms or Stonecroft).
Events for mountain bikers
These are run by Green Events:
- Real Ale Wobble: A very popular event held in November to mark the beginning of the 10-day Mid-Wales Beer Festival. (There’s also a Real Ale Ramble (see Outdoor Pursuits/ Walking). Over two days it attracts hundreds of mountain bikers to way-marked and marshalled routes with free ale at checkpoints on the way. Alternative courses for serious bikers and amateurs. Evenings offer opportunities to try out many real ales in the different pubs in town.
- Summer Cider Cycle: Similar to Real Ale Wobble but with cider provided at check points instead of beer. It takes place in August and involves a fun bike ride through surrounding countryside and forestry with distances from 14 to 25 miles and varying degrees of difficulty.
- World Bog Snorkelling Triathlon: The race, held since 2005, comprises three activities for male participants: a run of 8 miles, a bike ride of 12 miles, and a 60 yard snorkel in the peat bog. Open to individuals and relay teams of three (one discipline each). Less arduous and shorter races are available for juniors, seniors and ladies.
Llanwrtyd Wells has a long history of organising walking events and welcoming walkers. The beautiful environment provides a dramatic and peaceful place to walk and experience nature, and in 2018 the town acquired the status of ‘Llanwrtyd Walkers are Welcome’.
The Neuadd Arms and the Heritage and Arts Centre have leaflets to help you navigate the trails. These include short walks such as along the River Irfon and road to St David’s Church (see What to do/Heritage and Culture/St David’s Church). With a few days’ notice the Neuadd Arms can arrange longer guided walks for groups.
Two Walking Groups hold regular weekly walks. Visitors are welcome to join these (see Community > Sport and Recreation > Walking groups).
Walking events during the year
Green Events organises various annual walking events every year:
- Lord Crawshaw Winter Walk: In the first week of February. Way-marked routes of 12 and 20 miles take you through hills and forests. Or you can take shorter, gentler guided walks of 5 and 8 miles.
- Easter Music, Beer, Walk: On Easter Saturday and Sunday you can go on guided walks from the Neuadd Arms, organised by Walkers are Welcome members, and afterwards in the evenings enjoy live music and a wide choice of beers from Llanwrtyd’s Heart of Wales Brewery.
- Drovers Walk: Held in the latter half of June. Challenging way-marked routes of 12 and 20 miles follow the footsteps of the drovers who used to drive their livestock through Abergwesyn and over the Epynt Hills. Walkers can stop at checkpoints along the route to sample locally brewed beers from the Heart of Wales Brewery at former drover pubs. Or you can take shorter, gentler guided walks of 5 and 8 miles.
- Welsh International Four Days Walks: In mid-September a series of way-marked and marshalled walks of 12 or 20 miles takes place over four consecutive days. These offer a social opportunity for like-minded people to get together and enjoy the amazing scenery of the Cambrian Mountains. Walkers regularly come from Mériel, a town near Paris twinned with Llanwrtyd Wells.
- Real Ale Ramble: In November and held at the end of the town’s 10-day Mid-Wales Beer Festival. 12 and 20 mile options on both Saturday and Sunday, with real ale available at checkpoints along the way. In the evenings you can sample many types of real ale in the different town pubs.
Running and horse riding
In 1955 Llanwrtyd Wells became the first ever Pony Trekking Centre in Wales. Welsh hill ponies were borrowed from local farmers and as many as 70 ponies would go out on a day’s trek.
This was a very popular time for the trekkers who were often welcomed at remote farms for their lunch or tea breaks.
With years of equestrian knowledge we therefore have lots to offer and welcome anyone who would like to bring their horse on holiday with them.
With plenty of bridle paths and forest tracks, undisturbed countryside and open fields for a good gallop.
Here you will enjoy the experiences of riding across the territory of the world-famous Man versus Horse Marathon described below or having a more leisurely hack to one of the inns in our area.
We have a number of local establishments or individual horse owners who are able to provide quality stabling and services for horses and riders.
For initial enquiries please telephone 01591 610515/610371. The hotel will be pleased to advise you on who in the town might best cater for your requirements for livery, stables and grazing for your horse.
Ordinance Survey maps can be purchased from the local Garage Shop or you may book a guide to escort you on your daily rides.
Green Events organises the Man versus Horse Marathon and two other events for runners only:
- Man versus Horse Marathon: This world famous event, first run 1980 and held on the second Saturday of June, attracts up to 900 runners and 50 horses and is watched by hundreds of spectators. It covers a distance of 22 miles involving over 4,000 feet of ascent and descent in the amazing scenery of the Cambrian Mountains. Relay teams of three, each member running seven miles, can enter as well as individual runners.
- Ron Skilton Memorial Half Marathon: Following the sad death of Green Events’ treasurer Ron Skilton from Motor Neuron Disease in 2005, an additional race in his name was added to the Green Events’ calendar. The race is run in October in the form of a figure of eight, mainly off road and through 13 miles in the surrounding countryside and forestry. It is open to individual runners and to 2-person relay teams. The money raised is donated to the Motor Neuron Disease Association.
- Devil’s Staircase Ultra Trail Run: The inaugural Devil’s Staircase race will take place on April 4, 2020. The race distance will be 30 miles, and the total ascent and descent is 5232ft. The race will start from Llanwrtyd town square, head on across the hills to the iconic Devil’s Staircase and then pass Soar y Mynydd, the most remote chapel in Wales. The route then continues over the dramatic Llyn Brianne dam. This race is for adventurous runners, those that like a challenge, as the difficulty of the route will make it one of the toughest in the UK.
The Welsh Open Stone Skimming Championships championships are held in Llanwrtyd Wells on Bank Holiday Sunday at the end of May.
The aim is to spin a flat stone so that it skims across the water as far as possible (see www.green-events.co.uk/?wos_main).
There are different categories for junior, youth, female and male competitors plus a special section for winners of previous competitions.
Purpose made stones are available in different shapes and sizes.
At a separate Guinness World Record event organised on Bank Holiday Monday in 2018 spectators watched Scottish champion Dougie Isaacs beat other international competitors to establish a new Guinness World Stone Skimming Record with a throw of 121.8 metres – exceeding his previous record by 14 metres.
Spectators watched the incredible sight of his stone whizzing along the surface of the lake and almost ending on the opposite bank.
(Barnes Wallis, inventor of the Bouncing Bomb, took his idea from his childhood love of skimming stones.)
Saturnalia Roman Weekend Chariot Racing
The World Mountain Bike Chariot Racing championships take place every year in early January. Teams of 3 compete against the clock and against each other to find the fastest in the world. The biking is part of the Llanwrtyd Roman festival.
World Alternative Games
This world-famous phenomenon combines over 50 fun events in which participants compete in the Corinthian spirit to ensure that taking part is more important than winning.
- wife carrying
- husband dragging
- slow bicycle racing
- finger jousting
- backward running
- gravy wrestling
- woolsack carrying – and so on.
A seven side wheelchair rugby match allowing disabled people to participate with non-disabled people is also held at the Royal Welsh Show Ground in Builth Wells.
Certain activities (including mountain bike snorkelling, ditch racing and dyke jumping for which the peat terrain is eminently suitable) coincide with other bog snorkelling events during the August Bank Holiday Weekend (see Outdoor Pursuits/Bog Snorkelling). These activities are held every year.
Since 2016 a Transnational Project has been underway with Wales and Finland joint partners to promote and support each other’s events. Other countries including Italy and Bulgaria have expressed interests in joining.
As the partnership increases, a calendar of quirky events taking place in each country can be shared with each other. Llanwrtyd Wells’ fame continues to grow, as it provides leadership in the promotion of quirky and startling events!
How did the games start?
The concept originated during the lead up to the London Olympic Games in 2012. Whilst some events were held in other parts of England, disappointingly, except for a couple of events, Wales was left out.
We decided to approach the Welsh Government to seek funding for the holding of an ‘Alternative Games’ in Llanwrtyd Wells with a series of activities along the theme of the town’s already famous quirky events.
The Welsh Government approved and the Inaugural Games was held in the summer in between the London Olympic and the Paralympics Games.
The World Alternative Games event is run every alternate year over three long weekends during the latter half of August.