A Dam Fine Day Out | Walking in the Elan Valley

4th February 2023

The Welsh Lake District

We had a great day out in the Elan Valley last week, just an hour’s drive from The School House B&B. With 72 square miles of unspoilt nature, 5 reservoirs and plenty of walking and cycling pathways to choose from, we reckon this might just be the ‘Welsh Lake District’ (only much quieter than the English one!). There are 6(ish) dams of varying styles, all very picturesque and set in peaceful valleys, surrounded by the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains.

Elan Valley has an annual rainfall of 1830mm, more than the whole of New Zealand. The reservoirs generate an average of 365 megalitres (that’s 356,000,000 litres) of water each day, which travels 118km to Birmingham by force of gravity alone.

A Great Dog-Friendly Walk

It may be the second wettest place in Wales after Capel Curig, but on a dry February day it was perfect for a midweek dog-friendly walk. Setting off from Llanerchi car park, the plan was to do the full 6.5-mile loop of the reservoir. Unfortunately time got the better of us, so we just walked for an hour and then retraced our steps. It was a lovely peaceful walk through the woods along the shore of the reservoir, with several small but impressive waterfalls for our dog Molly to jump in.

A dam on a reservoir surrounded by hills

The 'Hidden' Dam

As we arrived back at the car, a couple asked us where the ‘hidden’ dam was. It turned out that they’d always missed the Claerwen Dam, which you can only access via a no-through-road. At 56m. high it’s not really something you can hide, but somehow they’d never managed to find it. We decided to head up the Claerwen valley for a peek ourselves as we hadn’t been for a few years. I’d forgotten how Bond-esque the dam is, and I was expecting to see Daniel Craig hurtling over the edge on a piece of wire at any minute.

A dam with water running down - Claerwen Dam

Walking and Cycling in the Elan Valley

You can hire bikes from the Visitor Centre all year round – there are even electric ones if you don’t want to exert yourself too much! The cycle paths are well-signposted so it’s easy to find your way around. There are several suggested walks too, from the short lakeside stroll that we opted for, to a more strenuous up-and-over hike - guaranteed to give you the best views across to the Cambrian Mountains.

Elan Valley Open Days

On certain dates there are open days with tours of one of the dams – in 2023 they are running them on 21st and 23rd February but there will be other dates published in due course. The tours cost just £5 for adults but booking is essential – find out more here: https://elanvalley.org.uk/events/dam-open-day/.

We can’t wait to go back to the Elan Valley, and we think you’ll love it there too. If you want us to make you a packed lunch to take we can do that – click here for more details.

A montage of photos from a walk in the Elan Valley

Keywords: Days Out, Walks, Dog-Friendly