The Man Versus Horse Marathon, for instance, has been an annual fixture since 1980. A horse, you won’t be surprised to learn, normally wins – although in 2007 two human competitors beat the first horse home by a full 11 minutes.
Llanwrtyd Wells is also proud home of the World Bog Snorkelling Championship. If you’ve ever wanted to swim two 60-yard lengths of a muddy peat bog by flipper power alone, this is the event for you.
Keep your eyes open too for the Welsh Open Stone Skimming Championship, the SaturnaliaWinter Warmer Beer Festival and the infamous Real Ale Wobble for mountain bikers (despite the name, beer tokens are only available at the finish).
In 2012 the event organisers of Llanwrtyd couldn’t help noticing that the London Olympics was, in comparison, a little mundane. So they arranged the World Alternative Games or WAG for short. Russian Egg Roulette, Gravy Wrestling (yes, that’s wrestling in a pool full of gravy), Worm Charming, Backward Running, Stiletto Racing and Hay Bale Throwing seemed somehow much more Llanwrtyd Wells.
They may perhaps have gone too far with Wife Carrying. The prize for the fastest couple to complete the 225-metre course was the wife’s weight in beer.
But what else can you expect from a town that found fame in 1732 thanks to an especially eccentric vicar? In those days it was just a tiny hamlet on the River Irfon that went by the name of Pont-rhyd-y-Fferau, or “Bridge over the Ankle-deep Ford”.
Then the Rev Theophilus Evans spotted a frog swimming happily in foul-smelling Ffynnon Ddrewllyd spring and wondered if the water might have some healing properties. Well, it certainly cleared up his scurvy. And the rest is history.
Llanwrtyd Wells as it was soon christened became a booming spa town based on no fewer than four groups of wells. By the 19th and early 20th century, thousands were flocking to “take the waters” and the Abernant Lake Hotel was one of those built to cater for them.
There was no lake to start with so they simply made a five-acre one by damming an ox-bow in the River Irfon. The lake and grounds are still used for adventure activities such as canoeing, kayaking, archery, climbing and abseiling. Not to mention the world’s only mountain bike chariot race.
Things are a little more conventional at nearby Coed Trallwm Mountain Bike Trails, although the swooping singletrack on the black trail is quite enough to be going on with. Just remember to wipe the flies from your teeth after the schuss – and don’t forget to avoid the Giant Oak Tree.
The drovers’ walks that criss-cross the stunning scenery around Llanwrtyd Wells might be a safer bet. There’s a choice of 10, 15 or 25-mile waymarked routes all starting from the town square.
In the old days drovers would fit their black cattle with curved iron shoes to protect their feet on the long walk to market. Their pigs had little woollen boots with leather soles. And the ducks and geese had their feet dipped in tar and covered with sand. It’s OK, though, if you just want to wear walking boots.
You could always do a little driving of your own. Normally we’d prefer you to stick to more environmentally friendly modes of transport but we’ll let you into a little secret – the Abergwesyn Pass is one of the most scenic roads in Britain.
This old drover’s track stretches 20 miles from Abergwesyn to Tregaron. After a seemingly endless series of hairpin bends up a one-in-four-gradient (no wonder they call it the Devil’s Staircase), the road opens out into a spectacular moorland landscape of vast skies and emptiness.
By the time you get back to Llanwrtyd you may have to peel your hands from the steering wheel. Fortunately you can settle your nerves in some of the best restaurants in Wales.
The Carlton Riverside Restaurant with Rooms, for example, is in Hardens Restaurant Guide, Time Out, the Guardian Best B&B Guide and the Good Hotel Guide. It’s been named one of the top 100 restaurants in the UK. And chef Mary Ann Gilchrist has been awarded a Michelin star.
Other stellar local chefs include Peter James at the Drover’s Rest and Roger Stevens, who was top man in the kitchens of London’s Waldorf Hotel – until he decided to relocate to somewhere more eccentric.
The town is also home to Cambrian Woollen Mill. Not content with being one of only three working mills in the whole of Wales, it’s also a tea rooms, museum and heritage shop, gift shop, craft room and art gallery.
So you can’t just buy the 100% pure Welsh woollen tweeds – you can see how they’re made too. You’re taken through every stage from dyeing and blending to willeying, carding, spinning, warping and weaving. And this being Llanwrtyd Wells, it all starts with an animatronic shepherd called Ieuan.
Events in Llanwrtyd Wells
1st February 2020
Lord Crawshaw Memorial Walk
Lt. Col. The Lord Crawshaw of Aintree O.B.E., T.D., D.L., was a great friend of and fellow walker with Llanwrtyd Wells Walking Club.
Part of our Annual Challenge Walks Programme, this annual memorial walk has been organised in his honour to recognise his contribution to walking in Wales. Dick Crawshaw was a past President of the Long Distance Walking Association and established a world non-stop walking record of 255.8 miles in 1972.
29th August 2020
Rude Health Bog Triathlon
The Bog Triathlon first ran in 2005, following a demand for more dirty fun around our famous Waen Rhydd Bog.
The event - the most unusual in the Triathlon calendar - starts with an 8 mile run followed by a single length of the 60 yard peat bog trench and then a 12 mile mountain bike ride. The event is open to individuals at £15 each and relay teams of three (one discipline each) at £25 per team.
14th November 2020
Real Ale Wobble
Whether you are a hardened mountain biker or a fun rider who happens to like a drop of real ale, The Real Ale Wobble will be right up your street. The wobble is a non-competitive event marking the beginning of the 10-day Mid Wales Beer Festival.
With courses for both serious bikers and enthusiastic amateurs, anyone can give the event a go. Routes are waymarked and marshalled, with 2 check points along the way and one at the finish where beer tokens can be exchanged for locally brewed real ale (water, hot drinks and soft drinks are also available).
24th May 2020
Welsh Open Stoneskimming Championships
Unlike Bog Snorkelling, almost everyone has skimmed a stone at some stage of their life. "Ducks & Drakes" (for the British), "Ricochets" (for the French) & "Letting the Frogs out" (for the Ukrainians) are just a few of the names for the game played in almost every Country in the World. But it is now more than just a game: This simple pastime has developed into two distinct branches of a competitive Sport.
30th August 2020
Rude Health World Bog Snorkelling
The 34th annual World Bog Snorkelling Championships are to be held on Sunday 25th August 2019 in Llanwrtyd Wells - an event that Lonely Planet described as one of the top 50 "must do" things from around the world. Hundreds of participants from around the world, and plenty of spectators, are expected once again.
The event takes place at Waen Rhydd bog on the outskirts of the town, getting underway at about 10am. The site is signposted from the town for those who don't mind about a mile walk, and there is also a shuttle bus running from the town square to the bog and back throughout the day, beginning as soon as we can manage after 9am. There are food and drink stalls, crafts, a bouncy castle, live music and a real ale and cider bar on the site, so it's a great day out even if you don't fancy taking the plunge. Online entries close 7 days before the event, so don't leave it too late!
Entry fees are £15 for seniors (aged over 18) and £12 for juniors (aged 14 to 17).
21st - 22nd November 2020
Real Ale Ramble
The Real Ale Ramble is held annually in conjunction with the 10-day Mid-Wales Beer Festival. The ramble begins from the Town Square and follows any of 3 waymarked routes of 10, 15 or 25 miles with free real ales available at the checkpoints! Walks on both the Saturday and Sunday 25th and 26th November. Live entertainment in the pubs on Friday and Saturday evenings.
13th June 2020
Whole Earth Man Vs Horse
The event began in June 1980 following a chat over a pint (or three) in the back bar of the Neuadd Arms Hotel. The then Landlord, Gordon Green, overheard two men discussing the relative merits of men and horses running over mountainous terrain. The enterprising Gordon, never one to miss an opportunity to promote Llanwrtyd Wells and improve business at his hotel, decided to put it to the test. And so began Green Events and its first, longest standing and now internationally acclaimed event, Man v Horse.
18th October 2020
Ron Skilton Memorial Half Marathon
Following the sad death of our Treasurer and good friend, Ron Skilton, to Motor Neurone Disease in December 2005, this event was added to our Green Events calendar. In his younger years Ron was a keen runner and cyclist so we felt that a half marathon would be a fitting tribute and a way to remember him and celebrate his life.
The route for the half marathon is a figure of 8, mainly off-road and approx 13 miles long. The scenery is magnificent and the course challenging as the area is mountainous. Feedback from previous years is that it is great fun, well marked and marshalled, and people are keen to come back and do it again!
The competition is open to individual runners and 2 person relay teams, and the event is used to raise funds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.