Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

Home Travel StoriesBrecon Beacons 2019

Going Home With Elan, Valley

Ride Date 30 Jun 2019

By Ren Withnell

We have survived the caravan. Now it is time for us to depart. I can't say we will be returning to Coity Bach in a hurry because Sharon and I are obviously far too upper class for such a place. Excuse me a moment, I need to adjust my cravat and cummerbund. I say, isn't it about time Rolls Royce produced a motorcycle?

Piles of all kinds, boxes, pans, books, clothing, parcels, chair and lord only knows what else
Don't worry we'll just step over the chaos en route to the shower.

A bit of a quandary this morning. We could take the shorter easy route home or we could take a longer more interesting route. Obviously we'd prefer a more interesting route. Thing is I can't find a halfway house, it's either shortish and boring or over 200 miles but interesting. We aren't big mileage riders. Even so with sunshine and a whole day it would be a crying shame to waste it. 

I keep on hearing about the Elan Valley. You know the thing, cheesy "Top 10 must see places to visit before you die" and "Top 10 prettiest villages in Britain". If you are unwise enough to actually click on the linkbait then between pop-ups, banners, adverts and noisy promotional videos you might catch a mere glimpse of an image and a badly written paragraph about the Elan Valley.

I have my reservations but we'll take a look. 

Both the CB500X and Z250SL are buried in a mound of luggage
Come on madam, time to hit the road.

Rhayader proves to be a promising start. It is a town like many others though the centre retains it's character. It has a Co-op and Spar, not a sprawling Tesco and B&Q warehouse, you get the idea. I find it pleasant enough to make a mental note we ought to return and investigate further.

As soon as we're out of the town heading east towards the Elan Valley we can see fat bulbous hills way ahead. Steep at the sides, rounding off to flatter tops, I can't help but see folds in voluptuous green and rocky cushions. I've been hanging out with that hippy Sharon for too long haven't I. 

The visitor centre resides deep in the folds between two porcine hills. I must have been hanging out with that Sharon person for too long as I'm almost happy to spend proper money on food for us both. Actually it's not cheap but within standard deviations and the quality is better than fairly good. Those that know me know that is in fact high praise from myself.

I had noticed a couple of other bikes here on our arrival and a few behelmeted clients in the canteen. Outside it seems we have inadvertently arrived at something of a biker's hangout. A brace of Harleys, several BMWs and various Japanese models adorn the car park. We spend 10 minutes chatting to a couple on a huge Grand Tourer. Typical. They've been all around Europe, have retired well and have a splendid existence. Not envious no, not me. Pfffft.

A handful of riders parking the bikes at the Elan Valley Vistor Centre car park
Blooming scruffy bikers making the place look untidy. 

A note about the reservoirs hereabouts. Most reservoir dams I've come across have a "top". Usually a road across if not a walkway, maybe a decorative tower or small building for machinery. As you look along the reservoir to the dam you can see - the dam. 

There's several dams here where the spillway and thus the water level is the top of the dam, with nothing above. Think more like a vast weir rather than a typical dam. Too look across the water from the far end, towards the dam, is to see the water suddenly stop in a line with hills beyond. Envisage an immense infinity pool in the countryside. Fascinating, simple and startling until my minds makes sense of it.

I have to accept that the Elan Valley is very nice indeed. Top 10? That is purely an opinion though if you are in the area I believe it is worth making the effort to come here. Narrow winding lanes, hills, countryside, novelty dams and not too much traffic, even on this bright Sunday.

This lush green trees, hills, Sharon and her bike all at the Elan Valley
Gerrout me shot woman! 
More this woodland droops over the calm waters in a pretty shot
There are things worthy of stopping to look at.

I'm heading for Devil's Bridge, not to be confused with the Devil's Bridge near Kirkby Lonsdale where the biker's hangout is. I know this place because I've seen it in the Welsh noir murder mystery Hinterland aka Y Gwyll. Filmed in the equally miserably captivating style as Swedish noirs I rather enjoyed the series. Devil's Bridge is where several key scenes were played out.

And I won't be stopping to have a look. No. Traffic. Traffic lights on roadworks. Too many people already parked up here. Blast. I can see the hotel, I can see the bridge and yet there is nowhere sensible to park, not for the law abiding non trouble seeking good citizens that we are anyway. Blast. Another day I guess. I'll come back on a dark, wet and sinister day, that will really give it that noir edge.

Onwards, onwards. Around the outskirts of Aberystwyth, through Machynlleth and into Y Crochan Cafe as Sharon needs a pee and I need tea. On through the now familiar Dolgellau and then into home turf in North Wales. 

Upon reflection and with the clarity of hindsight this has been a first rate weekend, only tainted by our problematic accommodation. We have been blessed with good weather, we have explored some enchanting country and towns and we have, erm, seen Merthyr Tydfil. I feel smug when I say we made the very best of it even if it was not perfect.


Contact ren@bikesandtravels.com if you wish to share your own travel tales.

Sunshine And Mould With scorching temperatures forecast in a change to the usual script Sharon and Ren are booked into a Gypsy Caravan. Can you guess how that's going to turn out?
Somewhere Between Heaven and Merthyr Tydfil What can the Brecon Beacons offer and is Merthyr Tydfil as bad as the media would have us believe? The Dynamic Muppets find out to save you the trouble.
More Brecon Beacons It's all waterfalls and nature today with a little motorcycling thrown in.
Going Home With Elan, Valley The Elan Valley. Over-hyped or actually worthy of it's accolades? Sharon and Ren check it out on their way home.

Reader's Comments

Ian Soady said :-
The Elan valley reservoirs were of course built in the 19th century to supply the good (and not so good) citizens of Birmingham with lovely fresh Welsh water. It's so good you can put it straight in your battery as it's a soft as [insert own cliché here]. Of course that was in the days when water was a basic utility not a commodity to be bought and sold - Joseph Chamberlain (very enlightened for a Liberal) created the municipal water and gas supplies. History fails to note what the Welsh people thought about our stealing their water.....


For trivia enthusiasts there used to be a model of the whole thing in Birmingham's Cannon Hill Park.
24/7/2019 10:46:45 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
You are a fountain (ha!) of information Ian.
24/7/2019 12:14:24 PM UTC
Rhian said :-
I love your Coity Bach comments as that happens to be my sister who thinks she is so much better than me with her pretend of silver spoon and even though she stole my belongings she still lives like a pig

2/9/2019 12:26:53 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Wow! It's always a concern when I'm a little harsh online, for one day I may come face to face with someone I've upset. It seems you're not fan of your sister then?
3/9/2019 9:06:25 AM UTC

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