Rhayader itself, in spite of the superb beauty of its surroundings, cannot honestly be called picturesque. During the creation of the Elan Valley Reservoirs, when the little town overflowed with prosperity, its main streets seem to have been refronted by local builders who were their own architects. Still, there are a few quaint old houses left, and the bridge spanning the river is not without attraction. There are several good hotels and other comfortable accommodation in the town (see pp. 78-81), for besides being an angling centre this is the starting-point for the tour of the Elan Valley Reservoirs.

Space does not permit us to describe these vast artificial lakes, the source of Birmingham's water-supply, in detail, but a few practical hints may be given. The reservoirs form a chain six miles long as the crow flies, but the skirting road, which has a good surface but is narrow in parts, is about eight miles in length. The chief reservoirs, in order upwards, are the Caban-Coch, the Gareg-Ddu, the Pen-y-Gareg and the Craig-Goch. The scenery surrounding them is of great diversity, ranging from wooded hills and rocky heather-sprinkled bluffs to lofty sheep-walks and wild and desolate moorlands.

To reach the lakes from Rhayader, cross the Wye, and beyond the railway bridge bear left. After crossing a watersplash and passing a large hotel you soon come in sight of the huge Caban-Coch dam, down which the overflow pours in a vast cascade, forming a magnificent spectacle. Skirting a wall of rock, with fine views across this largest of the lakes to wooded shores beyond, you arrive at the Gareg-Ddu dam, which also forms a viaduct. (The road crossing this runs to left along the opposite shore of the Caban-Coch reservoir to the partly-constructed Dol-y-Mynach reservoir at its farther end : this side-trip is recommended to those who have time to spare for it.)

The best view-point of all is attained near the highest part of the road skirting the second (Gareg-Ddu) reservoir. At the head of this lake the road makes an acute-angled turn over a narrow bridge crossing the stream below the Pen-y-Gareg dam, then another acute-angled turn up a hillside. Large cars generally stop at the bridge. The scenery grows wilder as one proceeds along the western shore of the Pen-y-Gareg Reservoir. Beyond the dam of the highest (Craig-Goth) reservoir-a very fine sight-the road becomes definitely unfit for large and heavy cars, but robust souls in search of adventure should continue to the head of Craig-Goch reservoir (Pont-yr-Elan), and get their machines somehow up a slope of broken rock to the ancient long-disused Rhayader-Aberystwyth coach-road. Turning along this to right you mount to a height of over 1,60o feet. The surface is terrible, but you are repaid by the magnificent scenery surrounding you as you descend cautiously into Rhayader.