The Elan Valley in Wales is a lovely place to visit at any time of year, but here’s a top tip. It seems to be the only place in the UK that isn’t heaving with people during the last weekend in August. We decided to head there for a short break over the bank holiday weekend. We booked a campsite we’d never heard of and took a chance. Luckily, it paid off. Here’s what you need to know about a family holiday to the Elan Valley.
Accommodation in the Elan Valley
We love camping, so our first choice for accommodation was the stunning Elan Oaks Camping and Caravan Site. The facilities at Elan Oaks are excellent. Warm, clean and pleasant showers and toilets, laundry and dish-washing facilities, waste disposal, water supply and electric hook-ups. They have Wi-Fi there which is functional but a bit hit and miss. So, there was little temptation to work or play on gadgets and technology. I appreciate that’s not for everybody and in different circumstances I would have needed Wi-Fi to allow me to work. That said, for a short break over the bank holiday, it was lovely to get away from tech for a few days.
The lack of Wi-Fi inspired us to have barbecues, sit round a camp fire, admire the views and watch stars and beautiful sunsets. Right next to the campsite there is a long cycle path. It’s perfect for families with older children that want to go out on bike rides. It was also ideal for walking and running with the dogs.
If you prefer accommodation indoors, the Elan Valley Hotel seemed very welcoming. Both the accommodation and the restaurant are dog friendly. The hotel is a very short walk from Elan Oaks campsite and we had a lovely meal there. We sat outside to enjoy the stunning scenery, but the friendly staff made it clear that we would have been fine taking the dogs indoors.
Elan Valley Visitor Centre
The Elan Valley Visitor Centre incorporates a great café, tourist information, children’s park, picnic area, shop and education centre into one building. There’s plenty of parking and the whole thing is set against the backdrop of the Victorian stone dam. From the visitor centre, you can walk up the hill to see stunning views across the reservoir. You can also hire bikes to ride around the dam or just along the cycle path that runs alongside the Elan Oaks campsite. We walked up to take in the views, leaving my husband in at the bottom with Lia. They enjoyed the café and park while we walked.
Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre
Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest is about half an hour drive from the Elan Valley. Located near to Aberystwyth, this is arguably the best place in the UK to see red kites in a natural setting. Visitors can sit on the banks of the lake and watch the kites being fed on the other side. This allows people to admire their beauty without getting too close.
Red kites are stunning birds of prey that have been fed at this feeding station since 1999. The scheme was introduced to protect the small number of birds living in the area. These days, there are literally hundreds of them and it’s quite a sight when they fill the sky. There is also a reasonably priced café with a good selection of food and a small shop. There are walking, running, mountain biking, horse riding and orienteering routes and two children’s play areas.
The Elan Valley is somewhere we’ll keep going back to as the girls get older. In the future, we’ll be cycling, walking, running and horse riding. I also love the fact that on a bank holiday weekend, the area isn’t too busy. The roads to get there were also fine and we didn’t get stuck in traffic. There’s definitely something to be said for having a short break inland on the August bank holiday weekend instead of heading for the coast.