Builth Wells, Powys: history and best places to visit

The small market town of Builth Wells lies in the heart of mid-Wales in Powys. Packed full of history and traditional Welsh heritage, here we explore the best places to visit.

Market town in countryside

Our guide to Builth Wells in Powys, Mid Wales looks at the history of the market town, and best places to visit in the area.

Where is Builth Wells?

Builth lies in the very heart of Mid Wales, situated at the confluence of two rivers (the Irfon and the Wye). This tiny town is packed with history, character and charm, and visitors can get their bearings by taking in the riverside walk, which goes around the perimeter of the town, taking in both Wye and Irfon rivers and showcasing the town’s impressive collection of bridges, including the mighty Wye Bridge, originally built in 1775.

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History of Builth Wells

Builth history can be traced back to the post-Roman period  when a British ruler and landowner called Vortigern is thought to have settled in the area. The first recorded settlement was in Radnorshire on the north side of the village. However, it was in the in the 11th and 12th centuries during the Norman invasion of Wales that town then known as ‘Builth’ began to take shape on the north side of the river.

What does ‘Builth’ mean?

Llanfair ym Muallt is the Welsh name of Builth is which means ‘The church of St. Mary in Buallt’ which can be traced back to the church of St Mary, which was founded in the Norman period. But it was not the church that prompted the development of Builth but a castle built by the Norman lord Philip de Braose around 1100.

Originally known as ‘Builth’ the market town become Builth Wells in the 1830s when mineral springs were discovered and developed to the west of the town. It was in the 1870s that the spa town grew in prosperity when the railway opened up the previously remote town, attracting visitors to travel to the region more easily.

Walker on hillside

How far is Llandrindod Wells from Builth Wells?

Builth Wells is a hilly, but rewarding 6 miles from Llandrindod Wells or 7.6 miles by road. There is rural bus service which runs regularly.

The Lôn Las Cymru cycle route

For keen cyclists, crossing most of Wales’s mountainous countryside is the challenging 250 mile Lon Las Cymru cycle route, also known as National Cycle Route 8.  Covering the full length of Wales, it passes through Builth Wells and Llandrindod Wells and makes a great summer ride when it’s blessed with an abundance of flora and fauna. cycle.travel/route/lon_las_cymru

Mountains and lake with bicycles
Bikes by Llyyyau Cregennen beneath Cader idris a mountain in Gwynedd, Wales, which lies at the southern end of the Snowdonia National Park near the town of Dolgellau, UK/Credit: Getty Images

 Best places to visit in and near Builth Wells

Wyeside Arts Centre

This beautiful arts centre has made the town a local cultural hub for the past 30 years. Builth is an excellent gateway to Mid Wales’ varied and beautiful landscape. wyeside.co.uk

Local secret

Llewelyn the Last, so titled because he was the last prince of an independent Wales, was ambushed and killed just north of Builth in December 1282. A stone monument at the place where he fell can be found in the village of Cilmeri, one mile west of Builth on the A470. After his death the title Prince of Wales was conferred on the future Edward II, starting the tradition that continues to this day.

Abergwesyn Common

The ancient area of Abergwesyn Common, lies on the southern edge of the Mid Wales Cambrian Mountains. Dating back to the Bronze Age, the the wild and landscape has panoramic views with Drygarn Fawr marking the highest point. The common covers 12 miles between the Nant Irfon valley in the west and Llanwrthwl in the east and it is possible to walk the entire ridgeway. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/abergwesyn-common

The Elan Valley

Reservoir and bridge
Elan Valley, Mid Wales/Credit: Getty Images

The Elan Valley reservoirs offer a stunning drive – you’ll find these to the west of Rhayader, a 15-mile drive away on the A470. Don’t forget to stop off at Gigrin Farm to see red kites being fed daily.

Brecon Beacons National Park

Hiker sitting enjoying the view on a hillside
Hiker in the Llangattock escarpment quarries looking towards Crickhowell, in the Brecon Beacons national park, Wales (Getty)
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Brecon Beacons National Park is just an hour’s drive south of Builth. Home to a mix of mountains and moorland, standing stones, castles, waterfalls and wildlife, the Brecon Beacons National Park extends for 42 miles from east to west, and is divided into three distinct areas: the Black Mountains in the east, the Brecon Beacons and Fforest Fawr in the centre, and the Black Mountain region (formerly called the Camarthen Fans) in the largely Welsh-speaking west.

Our guide to Brecons Beacons National Park includes area information and a pick of the best walks. 


Best places to stay

The Caer Beris Manor is a spectacular building in a gorgeous location, set in 27 acres above the River Irfon on the western outskirts of Builth. www.caerberis.com

The Greyhound Hotel offers a cheaper alternative to the Caer Beris when it comes to accommodation, plus boasts its own richly varied menu covering all tastes, appetites and budgets, which is sourced locally where possible. www.thegreyhoundhotel.co.uk