At one time the southern part of the county of Powys was best known for its four spa towns, Llandrindod Wells, Builth Wells, Llangammarch Wells and Llanwrtyd Wells. Today, the lure of sulphurous waters has lost much of its appeal but all four of them retain a charm and elegance that seems to bean intrinsic characteristic of spa towns everywhere. Surrounding these elegant towns is a varied countryside ranging from the bulky Cambrian Mountains in the west to fertile farmland in the east. Close to Rhayader are the spectacular reservoirs and dams that make up the scenic Elan Valley. Built at the end of the 19th century to supply water to the West Midlands, the reservoirs area great feat of Victorian engineering, and the surrounding hills are home to one of Britain’s rarest and most beautiful birds – the red kite.
Further south lies the Brecon Beacons National Park, which takes its name from the distinctively shaped sandstone mountains of the Brecon Beacons. Two other ranges lie within the park’s 519 square miles. To the east of the Brecon Beacons rise the interlocking peaks of the Black Mountains, which stretch to the English border; to the west is Black Mountain, which, though its name is singular, refers to an unpopulated range of barren, smooth-humped peaks. One of the area’s most impressive natural features lies underground – the largest complex of underground caverns in northern Europe can be explored just outside Craig-y-Nos.
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