Llandrindod Wells, or “Llandod” for short, was a boom town. The “healing qualities” of the local spring waters had attracted visitors since the mid 18th century. But it wasn’t until the enclo- sure of the common in 1862 and arrival of the railway three years later that the town really took off.
Soon a pump room and bath house were erected at the Rock House Estate and the surround- ing lands laid out as gardens. A new town grew up with its own church, ornate shops, luxury hotels and grand private houses. The marshy land nearby was drained to form a stupendous boating lake.
During the “season” from May to mid-September, orchestras entertained thousands of visi- tors as they queued to take the waters – two to six glasses a day depending on their various ailments.
In 1909, the High Street Baths launched the wide range of electrical treatments expected of amodern spa. A private nine-hole golf course, probably the first in Wales, was opened and fol- lowed by an 18-hole course above the lake. There were tennis courts, croquet lawns and horse racing on a meadow near the river.
Llandrindod Wells must have been about the busiest and healthiest place in Wales. A town with a perpetual ruddy-cheeked glow.
Things haven’t really changed. Our spa town heritage means that wellness is still part of our DNA. We recognise that natural health and wellness are increasingly important in today's busy world so we'd love you to experience a little Llandrindod Wellness. We have views on every corner and we're surrounded by beautiful countryside, our very own natural health centre and adventure playground.
Our town is light and airy town full of elegant buildings and wide tree-lined streets and the biggest attraction is still the boating lake. You can’t miss it. It’s a 14-acre expanse of water with the largest public fountain built in Brit-ain in the last 100 years slap-bang in the middle of it. Every copper scale on the spouting water serpent and the leaping carp carries the initials of a resident or visitor.
There’s also a café, crazy golf course and children’s play area. As you wander around the lake, keep your eyes open for the famous “Llandoddie” sculpture, perched on its oak tree stump. And whatever you do, watch out for toads.
During the mating season in March and April, the creatures pour out of the woods and head for the lake to spawn. Too preoccupied to use the specially provided tunnels of love, they sim- ply dash across the road.
There’s nothing for it but to close the route around the lake for three weeks every year whilea “toad patrol” of local volunteers helps them on their way in buckets. Undignified perhaps but worth it in the end.
If you’re feeling a bit below par, or just plain curious, you can still sample the famous chaly- beate water at a small fountain in Rock Park. You can follow a 1.5km tree trail to see the mag-nificent giant redwoods, Douglas firs, oaks, yews, field maple and maidenhair trees planted bythe Victorians.
And if you’ve got youngsters in tow, you can trace the footsteps of Little Red Riding Hood as she goes trip-trapping over the bridge and wakes up a friendly troll.
Everywhere in the town there are reminders of its Victorian heyday. But these days there tends to be a contemporary twist. Behind the ornate frontage of Vans Good Food Shop, forinstance, you’ll find a wholefood emporium.
The Metropole Hotel may still be run by the great-great-grandson of the man who opened it back in 1896 but its thermal whirlpool, sauna and steam room are state-of-the-art. And to- day’s lemongrass body polishes and seaweed wraps are a little more sophisticated than gulp- ing down a few glasses of water for sixpence. Yes, it's all part of Llandrindod Wellness.
Llandrindod even has its own Albert Hall. It plays a big part in the annual Victorian Festival and every Thursday night from June to September holds a raucously popular Old Time Music Hall Show.
The Radnorshire Museum in Temple Street is the place to see all sorts of artefacts from the town’s glory days including costumes, postcards, bath chairs and even a needle spray brass shower.
You’ll also find 450-million-year-old fossils, a collection devoted to local vicar and celebrateddiarist Francis Kilvert and one of only three Sheelah-na-gigs in Wales. This crudely carvedstone woman from the Dark Ages had been buried under the floor in the old parish church –perhaps because of her lack of modesty.
Housed in the Art Deco landmark of Tom Norton’s Automobile Palace is the largest collection of historic cycles in Britain. Covering everything from the Hobby Horse, the Boneshaker andthe Penny Farthing to the carbon-fibre machines of today, there are 250 bikes packed into6,000 square feet of display space. No wonder they call it the National Cycle Collection.
It might inspire you to tackle the 84-mile Radnor Ring that links Llandrindod with Rhayader, Knighton and Kington – or hop onto National Cycle Routes 8 or 42, which both pass through the town.
But if you’ve left your lycra at home, you could simply stroll the Llandrindod Wells Heritage Trail around the town’s most interesting buildings. Or drive just a few miles north to see one of the best examples of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in the whole of Wales.
The Hall at Abbey-Cwm-Hir contains 52 rooms stuffed with marble fireplaces, Rococo ceilings,decorative plasterwork and hand-painted wallpaper. Every room is an adventure – and the owners, their family or their very close friends will show you every one.
So there’s still a definite buzz about the Victorian boom town of Llandrindod Wells. It could besomething to do with its location right at the heart of Wales – and its reputation as a confer- ence hub where big political decisions get made. Or it might just be something in the waterbringing you a taste of Llandrindod Wellness.