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Located just a few miles from the border, Welshpool is a key gateway into Wales. This lively market town has been a regional trading hub for centuries, linked to Wales and beyond by road, rail and canal. It’s still home to a weekly livestock market (one of the biggest in Europe) and a centre of the rural economy, but this traditional role sits alongside a modern high street packed with shops, pubs, restaurants and cafés.

Past and present rest easily next to each other in Welshpool. Broad Street, the town’s handsome main thoroughfare, is lined with historic buildings ranging from half-timbered Tudor and Jacobean houses to elegant red-brick terraces from the Georgian and Victorian eras. These striking examples of antique architecture now house shops and places to eat – everything from big-name brands to local one-of-a-kind independents.


There are plenty of Welshpool one-offs to watch out for. Sitting at the crossroads on what was once a busy coaching route is the Royal Oak, an inn that has been welcoming weary travellers since the 1600s. There’s also the Cockpit, the last of its kind to be found anywhere in Wales. Built in the 18th century, this unusual hexagonal building was a venue for cockfighting – a popular activity in less enlightened times – but is now the headquarters of the Women’s Institute.


Transporting you back to the past

Welshpool’s significance as a trading town is reflected in its transport links. Alongside a modern-day train station, it’s also at one end of the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway, a narrow-gauge service that makes its picturesque way west to Llanfair Caereinion.


The town also sits on the Montgomery Canal, once an aquatic highway carrying cargoes of limestone, coal and agricultural goods, now a peaceful highway for pleasure boats and waterside walks.


Take a dive into Welshpool’s past at Powysland Museum. Housed in a former warehouse overlooking the Montgomery Canal, it’s a treasure trove of local history. Don’t be fooled by its comparatively small size – every inch of the museum is packed with things to see.


You’ll discover exhibitions covering the regional train industry, a recreated Victorian household and displays of clothes made by Laura Ashley, the world-famous Montgomeryshire-based fashion designer. You can peer even further into the reaches of time too, thanks to an impressive collection of archaeological finds dating back to the prehistoric era.


All aboard

There’s excellent shopping throughout Welshpool, but one of the most popular stops is the Old Station. As the name suggests, this super-sized store is located in the town’s Grade II listed former railway station, an elaborate 19th-century building with an unusual French château-inspired design.


As you explore a generous selection of departments selling clothing, gifts and accessories from brands like Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Harris Tweed, James Pringle and Regatta, watch out for old platform signs, antique railway equipment and plenty of other reminders of the Old Station’s previous life. And if you need a break from browsing, pop into the café on the first floor to grab a tea, coffee, cakes and home-cooked meals.


King of the castles

Located a short distance from the centre of town within reasonable walking distance, Powis Castle is a must-visit if you’re spending any time in Welshpool. Look for the gate at the southern end of Berriew Street car park for a lovely stroll (roughly 2 miles/3.2km there-and-back) through green parkland to reach the castle.


This front-ranking National Trust property, a grand mansion that began life as a rough-and-ready medieval stronghold, is a marvel both inside and out. Head indoors to see the opulent interiors, packed with art and historical artefacts gathered by the families who have lived here over the centuries.


Step outside and you are surrounded by stunning gardens, a multi-layered (and multicoloured) paradise of Italian-inspired terraces, Georgian flower gardens and wild woodland. Special mention must go to the gargantuan yew hedges – over 300 years old and 46ft/14m high, these green giants are a breathtaking sight. Tending to these hedges is a Herculean challenge. The National Trust likens it to ‘extreme gardening. Trimming the high topiary is a huge task. It takes one gardener about 10 weeks on a hydraulic cherry-picker to get it all done.’


On track

Once a vital source of transportation for people and goods from the rural communities to the west of Welshpool, the Llanfair and Welshpool Light Railway now runs purely for pleasure. With a collection of heritage engines from the UK, Austria, Germany and even Sierra Leone, it’s a delight for anyone who owned a train set as a child (or adult).


You don’t need to be a rail enthusiast to enjoy a ride. The two-hour round trip across rolling countryside and through the Banwy Valley to Llanfair Caereinion is the perfect way to soak up Mid Wales’s lush, lovely border country. You can even enjoy some food on the move, with special services serving up breakfast, afternoon tea and fish and chips.



  • Hole story. If you don’t believe that a gravel pit excavated to create the Welshpool bypass would be a wildlife haven, you’ve never been to Llyn Coed y Dinas. Flooded, once the diggers left, to create a large lake, this nature reserve on the southern outskirts of town is now home to a varied mix of wildlife. Depending on when you visit, you might see otters, great crested grebes, kingfishers or tufted ducks.


  • Up, up and away. In 1987, dairy farmer and aviation enthusiast Bob Jones started flying planes from a field on his farm just south of Welshpool. Today his little grass airstrip has grown to become Mid Wales Airport, complete with tarmac runways and aircraft hangars. As well as a hub for hobbyist flyers and small corporate services, the airport is home to the Welsh Air Ambulance service.


  • It’s the pits. Tucked away just off the high street is the Cockpit, a true Welshpool one-off. It’s the last surviving venue in Wales for the barbaric (and thankfully forgotten) ‘sport’ of cockfighting. Built around 1727 as part of the Castle Inn, it remained a venue for avian combat until the practice was outlawed in 1849. Today, the unusual hexagonal building is headquarters of Welshpool’s Women’s Institute.


  • Game on. Welshpool’s first castle, a small motte and bailey known as Domen Gastell, sits surrounded by trees close to the train station. Built during the medieval period, its flat grass top now serves as a green for the town’s bowling enthusiasts.


  • The good word. Built in the 13th century, St Mary’s Church has some deep literary roots. In the early 15th century, it was home to the priest known as Adam of Usk, a prolific chronicler who recorded important information on historical events like the uprising of Owain Glyndŵr. Later, William Morgan served as the church’s vicar between 1575 and 1578. After his time in Welshpool, Morgan found acclaim as the first person to translate the Bible into Welsh, eventually rising to the office of bishop.



There’s a lot to see and do in Welshpool, so to help you on your way we’ve highlighted a few of the things you won’t want to miss. There’s no need to tackle everything in the exact order listed below, but we’ve tried to lay things out in a way that makes sense geographically. And if you’re on a tight schedule, just take your pick from the places and activities that interest you most.


The Old Station

Start off with some retail therapy at Welshpool’s stellar department store. Originally the town’s 19th-century train station, it’s now filled with room after room of clothes, gifts and accessories from big brands like Regatta, Harris Tweed, Cashmere and James Pringle. Despite its rebirth as a shopping centre, you’ll still see plenty of reminders of its past as a transport hub, including platform signs, grand fireplaces and even the old ticket office.


Powysland Museum

Explore the social and archaeological history of Montgomeryshire at Powysland Museum, situated in a former warehouse at the edge of the Montgomery Canal. It’s filled with fascinating artefacts that illuminate millennia of the region’s heritage, from medieval jewellery and Roman pots and pans to Victorian railway tools and colourful tiles from Strata Marcella, a Cistercian Abbey that once stood on the banks of the River Severn not far from Welshpool.


Powis Castle Walk

Look for the gate at the far end of Berriew Street car park (not far from Powysland) to take the short walk out to Powis Castle. You’ll stroll through beautiful green parkland on your way to one of the most striking castles in the country, standing high on a ridge amongst gorgeous gardens and terraces. It soon becomes obvious why this is one of the National Trust’s headline properties when you explore is extravagant interiors, see artefacts from India in the Clive Museum and wander the kaleidoscopic formal gardens. It’s well worth the roughly 2-mile/3.2km round trip.



Whether you’re a history buff or a super shopper, there’s plenty to enjoy on a walk through Welshpool. As you browse big high street names and independent boutiques, keep an eye out for architecture that tells the story of the town’s long history.


There’s the substantial 19th-century Town Hall, which now hosts weekly markets, the timber-framed Mermaid Inn (a pub for over two centuries) and the Royal Oak, which got its regal name when Queen Victoria visited Welshpool in 1832. Also watch out for the hexagonal Cockpit. Built in the 18th century as a venue for cockfighting, it’s the last building of its type still standing in its original location in Wales.


Welshpool and Llanfair Railway

Hop aboard for a ride on this small but perfectly formed narrow-gauge railway. Puffing its way along 8½ miles/13.6km of picturesque track to Llanfair Caereinion, it’s the ideal way to take in Mid Wales’s green, gentle border country. It’s worth a visit to the station even if you don’t have time to take a trip. Train enthusiasts won’t want to miss the chance to see some of the railway’s amazing antique engines, which have been gathered from far-flung locations including Austria, Hungary and Sierra Leone.

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