Builth Wells is set in the heart of Powys, Mid Wales. Builth (Welsh: Llanfair-ym-Muallt) had a brief period as a popular spa town during the 19th century, yet these days, visitors are more likely to visit the town for its association with Wales' premier farming and countryside event the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show.
However Builth Wells offers so much more than the Royal Welsh Show with wonderful landscapes and prestigious views of the surrounding countryside and the rivers Wye and Irfon. There is an eclectic mix of traditional shops some specialising in arts and crafts, including the Wye Arts centre, which also houses a cinema. Close by is the village of Cilmery where a Welsh Prince was killed in 1282 and is now home to a memorial to Prince Llywelyn the Last.
Visit the Gilfach Longhouse and Nature Reserve, open all year round, an attraction for all the family, where you can spot wildlife in its natural habitat and take tours along the nature trails.
Set in the glorious Welsh countryside and yet but a short trip from Worcester and the midlands of England, Builth Wells has much to offer, both within the town and the surrounding area. The town is an ideal base for keen walkers and there are many other sporting activities in the area including horse riding, golf and fishing.
The town is in keeping with its period and thus there are no retail parks or shopping malls. There are though a range of traditional independent shops, craft shops and quaint little fashion boutiques, as well as gift shops, a butcher's, baker's, jeweller's, several grocery stores an ironmongers and a newsagent. Whatever you're looking for, you'll be sure to find it in one of these shops.
The Wye Arts Centre houses a cinema and a theatre where you can find ballet, opera and children's productions. It is certainly the place to go to when visiting Builth Wells for its variety of entertainments.
For a bite to eat there are plenty of cafes and restaurants in the town centre and if you don't fancy sitting in anywhere and want your food fast, there are plenty of takeaways. Fish and chips anyone
Although quite small, Builth Wells has enough attractions to keep the whole family happy. The area of Groe, located just along the river Wye, is the perfect place for sports minded people, with a putting course, covered swimming pool, dog free playing area for children, tennis courts and a bowling green. Yet if sports don't appeal to you, there are plenty of beautiful walks offering breathtaking views of the countryside surrounding Builth Wells.
Builth Wells is also perfect for fishing in the Wye and Irfon rivers; and walking, pony trekking and mountain biking in the rural, unspoilt countryside. The town has an impressive Sports Centre with modern and new facilities and the 18-hole Builth Wells Golf Course is perfect for golfers from beginners to the more advanced.
Builth Wells is famous for the annual Royal Welsh Show, the largest agricultural show in Wales and run by the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society. The first show was held in Aberystwyth, west Wales, in 1904, but the main showground was subsequently moved to Builth Wells where the show has been held every July since 1963. Competitions include horse riding competitions and sheep shearing competitions, and there is an arts and crafts show each year, as well as falconry and sheep dog trials. The show attracts thousands of visitors from both the rural and farming communities each year! During the winter, there is the December Winter Fair, another major event of the farming calendar, again with many enjoyable activities for visitors to do.
Red Kite Feeding Station at Gigrin Farm is a 20 minute drive from Builth Wells but it is definitely worth the journey to see these magnificent birds at a close range. The red kites are fed daily along with buzzards, ravens and other carrion feeding birds. Watch at a close yet safe distance as the magnificent birds of prey have their daily feed. Feeding times are 3pm during the summer time and 2pm during the winter, so make sure you are there on time!
The Gilfach Longhouse and Nature Reserve has a lot to offer its visitors and is open for free all year round, so no matter what time of year you come to Builth Wells, you will still be able to visit this wonderful attraction. With meadows, woodland, moorland and an upland river, the reserve welcomes you to embrace nature and its beauty. Why not visit the visitor's centre Here you can watch live filming of the wildlife in the reserve and learn more about the history of Gilfach's longhouse and nature reserve. If you want to get out amongst the wildlife yourself, then you only need to take one of the enjoyable self-guided nature trails and lose yourself for a short time in nature!
Walks, Cycle Trails and Other Activities
There are many walks criss-crossing the rolling countryside and the Wye Valley Walk and the Wye Valley Cycle Trail cross-tracks as they meander through Builth Wells.
The town's name of Builth, translating in Welsh as Buallt or Buellt, is older than the town to which it actually refers. Originally Buallt would have applied to the Cantref or Hundred, an area which at one time would have belonged to the old Welsh administration system. 'Wells' would have been added when the town had a short period of being a popular spa town during the Victorian period, but the number of visitors soon declined.
The history of Builth Wells is somewhat vague. Although the remains of Roman settlements were found in the surrounding area, there is no indication to say that there were Roman inhabitants in Builth Wells itself. However, the history of the town can be traced back to Norman times for the original motte and bailey castle was constructed by the Norman Lord Philip de Braose.
During the 1350s the town was hit badly by the plague, more commonly known as the Black Death. It is reported to have claimed hundreds of people's lives in Builth Wells and the population dropped rapidly. Although The Black Death is notorious in Britain's history, the main drama in Builth Wells's history is the tragedy which occurred in 1690 when a fire broke out and destroyed the homes of forty families and caused severe damage to the town.
The death of Prince Llywelyn occurred close to Builth Wells in the village of Cilmery. Llywelyn the Last died in 1282. Llywelyn had destroyed Builth Castle in 1260, but returned in 1282 in the hope of gaining support from the Welsh in his battle against the English. Llywelyn was killed by one of King Edward's men at some point along the banks of the river Irfon in December of that year. Afterwards his head was sent to the king and stuck on a spike in the tower of London, a symbol that the English could, and had, defeated the Welsh. Llywelyn the Last is today commemorated by a granite monolith in the village of Cilmery, near to the site by the river Irfon where he is believed to have been killed.
Castles and Forts
Builth Castle is today nothing more than a series of earthworks - sadly little remains to give testimony to the structure which once stood at the site. Philip de Braose erected the original settlement in 1098 and it remained in the hands of the Braose family for almost an entire century. However, in 1168 Lord Rhys invaded the area and destroyed the original castle. By 1183, documents record a clash here between the Welsh and Normans, and much of what we see reflects this original motte and bailey fortification. The second settlement was constructed on the original foundations by the sheriff of Gloucester in 1210.
During the next 90 years, the castle saw repeated conflict and changed hands between the Welsh and English on several occasions.
In the 1240's masonry structures were established at Builth. However in 1260 the Welsh Prince Llywelyn the Last (known as the famous Llywelyn ein Llyw Olaf in Welsh) invaded Builth and destroyed the second castle once again. However it was as the result of the English King Edward I's initial campaign against the Welsh in 1277 that Builth's formerly modest stronghold was refortified and transformed into a formidable fortress. It is reported that Edward wanted the castle to have a monumental tower, a stone wall with six turrets and a drawbridge with two large turrets.
In the 1330's, possession of the castle was turned over to the Mortimers, Anglo Norman Marcher lords, who alternated control with the English monarch for the next 200 years. In the early 1400's, during the last Welsh rebellion, Builth Castle survived an assault by Owain Glyndwr, and remained in fair repair into the Elizabethan Age when it was finally destroyed and the masonry used as building material for the town of Builth.
The town would have originally taken its name (the Welsh name is Llanfair-ym-Muallt) from the original church of St Mary's that was built around the same time as the castle.
Accommodation and Services
There are plenty of accommodation facilities in Builth Wells including hotels, bed and breakfasts, farms which let out rooms or converted cottages, and self-catering country cottages. Many have views of the rivers and all offer a comfortable and pleasant stay. There are also plenty of camping options, with caravan parks and camping sites in the surrounding countryside.