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Llanfair Caereinion

Llanfair Caereinion

Once a rural hub home to the largest livestock market in Mid Wales, present-day Llanfair Caereinion is a more peaceful proposition. Well known as a terminus at one end of the historic Llanfair and Welshpool Light Railway, a closer look reveals that there’s much more to the town than just the train.

Rising up from the banks of the River Banwy, Llanfair Caereinion’s network of winding, hilly streets radiate from a central crossroads. This intersection was once the site of the town market (look out for the former market hall, now a fish and chip shop), but today serves as an excellent starting point for visiting sightseers.


Thanks to its compact nature, most of what you’ll want to see lies in easy reach, including the expansive churchyard, some lovely riverside walks and the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway, the town’s best-known claim to fame.


Alongside its headline attractions, Llanfair Caereinion’s streets also reward exploration, featuring a century-spanning selection of architectural styles and a small, but varied, range of shops, pubs and small businesses.


Start your engines

Steam engines, that is. Built in the early 20th century to transport people and goods from rural communities in the Banwy Valley, the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway only survived as a commercial concern until 1956. Nowadays, the line is focused on pleasure rather than business, offering relaxing rides through green Mid Wales countryside. Train enthusiasts will love getting a closer look at the collection of antique engines, gathered from far-flung locations like Hungary, Austria and Sierra Leone. Everyone else can simply enjoy the ride.


The leisurely two-hour round trip to Welshpool and back gives you plenty of time to soak up the rolling hills and valleys of Mid Wales – and there are also special services that offer breakfast, afternoon tea or fish and chips as you travel. That’s what we call food on the go.


If you don’t have time for a make the journey (or if you want to explore more of the railway’s heritage) pop into Llanfair Connections next to the station, where you can see an impressive collection of historic memorabilia.


Toy story

Relive your childhood with a visit to Cloverlands Model Car Collection, also found at Llanfair Connections. Built around the personal collection of local motoring enthusiast and model maker Gillian Rogers, it’s home to over 5,000 miniature cars from across the globe.


There’s something here for every mini-petrolhead, from collections of Grand Prix and touring cars to displays of military vehicles. A highlight is the large 1935 Singer Le Mans, a replica of the car that Gillian drove for over 40 years to motoring events across the UK and Europe (including the famous 24-hour race in France which inspired its name).


Trunk calls

Get lost in the woods with a walk at Goat Field Arboretum at the western edge of town. Nestled around the banks of the River Banwy, this area of wild woodland is home to more than 25 native tree species, which in turn provide a thriving habitat for countless numbers of birds and animals.


Wander the network of forest pathways and you’ll also stumble across the Gorsedd Stones – a circle of rugged monoliths erected to commemorate Llanfair Caereinion’s hosting of the Powys Eisteddfod – and an interpretive centre housed in an old mill building. If you fancy a longer walk, continue on to explore Deri Woods on a 2-mile/3.2km round trip that finishes back in town.


Take me to church

To explore multiple eras of Llanfair Caereinion’s long history, pay a visit to St Mary’s Church, sitting in its large churchyard in the heart of town. Much of the church that stands today dates from 1868, but keen-eyed observers can find reminders of a story that begins in the 11th century, when the church is believed to have been founded. The timber roof structure and carved stone effigy of the knight Dafydd ap Gruffyd Vychan have their roots in the 1400s, while the south porch and font date from the 13th century.


You can travel even further back in time at the northern edge of the churchyard, where a series of steps lead down to St Mary’s Well. No one knows exactly how long this holy spring has been in use, but its supposed healing powers attracted visitors for centuries long before a single stone of the church was laid.



  • Up to 11. Modern-day Llanfair Caereinion is a pretty peaceful place, but things are much noisier at Foel Studios just a few miles south-west of town. Established in 1973, this recording studio has been used by a who’s who of UK and international rock bands over the decades. These include The Stranglers, who recorded their hit single Peaches here, and Manchester-based James, who liked the studio so much they moved into a cottage next door while making their 1997 album Whiplash.


  • Let there be light. Little Llanfair Caereinion was one of the first places in the country to have electric street lights, despite only being connected to the National Grid in 1950. The formation of the town’s Electric Light Society in 1914 saw the town draw power from a water turbine on the River Banwy and a diesel generator, leading to the nickname of ‘Shining Llanfair’.


  • Watery fate. After being injured during his time with the Royal Welch Fusiliers in World War Two, Private Victor M Jones worked in the coal yard of the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway. When a farmer was dragged into a particularly turbulent stretch of the River Banwy by his horses, Jones leapt into the water in an attempt to save him, losing his life in the process. The tale of the Soldier and the Whirlpool has become part of Llanfair Caereinion’s history and a memorial to Private Jones now stands close to the train station.


  • Right on time. Local farmer Samuel Roberts, who lived in Llanfair Caereinion in the 18th century, had an unusual sideline as a prolific clockmaker. Between 1755 and 1774, he made almost 400 ornately carved grandfather clocks, which are now valued collectors’ items and museum pieces (one particularly striking example is held in the British Museum’s archive).


  • The write stuff. A notable former resident of Llanfair Caereinion was Islwyn Ffowc Elis, one of the most popular Welsh language writers of the modern era. Elis served as a Presbyterian minister here in 1950, before winning the prose medal at the 1951 National Eisteddfod and publishing a series of successful novels. His debut Cysgod y Cryman, published in 1953, is widely regarded as one of the most significant Welsh books of the 20th century.



Here are a few of the things you won’t want to miss when you’re visiting Llanfair Caereinion. While we’ve laid things out in a way that will help you get the best of your time in town, this itinerary isn’t set in stone. If you’re on a tight schedule, just use it as jumping-off point to explore the places and things that interest you most.


Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway

Start out with a visit to the town’s famous narrow-gauge heritage railway. If you have time, take a ride along the line to experience this engagingly old-fashioned style of transportation. You can travel the full length of the 8½-mile/13.7km line to Welshpool and back in about two hours, or take a partial trip that lasts about an hour.


If you’re in too much of a hurry to get on board for a trip down the line, the historic station is still well worth a visit. Grab a coffee and a bite to eat in the cosy café and you’ll have the perfect vantage point from which to watch the antique engines puffing in and out of the platforms.


Llanfair Connections/Cloverlands Model Car Collection

Dig a little deeper into the history of the Llanfair and Welshpool Light Railway at Llanfair Connections, right next to the station. This visitor and interpretation centre features a selection of artefacts and exhibits that shed light on the railway’s past as a commercial transport line and its rebirth as a tourist attraction – plus a replica model railway for the (big) kids.


There are many more miniatures on display at Cloverlands Model Car Collection (also located at Llanfair Connections). This spectacular array of over 5,000 model vehicles is built around the personal collection of local model maker and motoring enthusiast Gillian Rogers, who spent a lifetime gathering everything from toy Grand Prix and touring cars to military and rescue vehicles.


Riverside Walk

Cross the wooden footbridge opposite the train station to follow the River Banwy through town and on to Goat Field Arboretum, a leafy nature reserve home to over 25 different species of native trees. Watch out for plaques and information boards that tell you about each tree, plus the Gorsedd Stones, a circle of monoliths that commemorate Llanfair Caereinion’s hosting of the Powys Eisteddfod.


If you have time, you can extend your walk through Deri Woods before looping back to town (a 2-mile/3.2km round trip that takes about an hour).


Explore the streets and St Mary’s Church

Take some time to wander through Llanfair Caereinion’s network of winding, hilly streets. You’ll find a good selection of shops, pubs and places to eat (including a fish and chip shop that now occupies the town’s former market hall).


Then pay a visit to the St Mary’s Church, which stands in a large churchyard in the centre of town. Thought to have been founded in the 11th century, the current church largely dates from 1868. You’ll still see remnants of the building’s earlier incarnations, including a 13th-century font and a stone effigy of a knight from the 15th century.


The oldest feature of all is the holy well, which sits close to the River Banwy to the north of the churchyard. Visitors have been drawn to its supposedly healing waters since long before the church was built.

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