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Visit and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:

Builth Wells, Powys. About 1 mile below the confluence of the Wye with the Irfon, Builth opens itself at an l8th century bridge across the Wye. The street goes from the six arches of this structure towards the church, considerably restored but keeping its ancient outline and holding Elizabethan memories intimate to the town in the effigy of a knight, Sir John Lloid of Towy, personal attendant of the Tudor Queen; he died in 1585. It is the scenery around Builth that calls most for attention; the Wye towards Glasbury in one direction, and towards Rhayader in the other, offer outstandingly attractive views. The town itself is now no older than the end of the 17th century, since in 1691, just before Christmas, it was entirely destroyed by a fire that not only startled but roused consternation in England. The Government gave permission to the house-less townsfolk to send out appeals for assistance over the rest of Britain; and record survives of a Lincolnshire parish that was so moved by this petition that it sent “eight shilling one fardin”. For those days, this represented a worthwhile donation. One probable survivor of the great fire of Builth was the old wool market of stone set a little way up the hill above the main street.

Buallt seems to have been the earlier name for the place, varied by 17th century cartographers as Buelth or Bealt. Apart from its long-established popularity as a place for medicinal waters, it has always been important as a centre for stock-sales and as a meeting-ground for the two strains of cultural tradition, the English and the Welsh. But, among the Welsh, Builth still remembers that fatal day in another December, the one of 1282 when Llywelyn the Last was slain at its outskirts. Tradition says that the Prince was in flight from the pursuing English forces, and came to the town of Builth to seek shelter; and that the townsfolk shut him out to die. The treachery of Builth passed into an adage; but strategically the relationship of the English and Welsh forces did not place Llywelyn in that kind of position. This tale belongs with the one that, to evade pursuit, the Prince had his horse's shoes turned round so that the snow would give prints in reverse a ruse attributed to several legendary figures.

Builth now keeps its memories of Llywelyn rather at a distance, with the monument at Cwm Llywelyn by Cilmery and with the ruinous castle at Aberedw, once his hunting-seat. But it is now a spreading town, sedate in the broad green of meadow and wooded hill, thinking more of its early l9th century prosperity than of the embattled past. Of its own castle, nothing remains but the earthwork mound behind the Lion Hotel. The pump-room and the Old Crown Hotel are memorials of the days when Builth came into the fashion set by Beau Nash in Bath during the latter part of the 18th century. What was once a resort chiefly for the local squires and their ladies, among whom the virtues of the Builth waters were traditionally celebrated, became fashionable in more international circles. This was largely because of a visit paid to the place in 1808 by Lady Hester Stanhope, niece of the younger Pitt and his domestic support during his struggle with Napoleon. Her lively intelligence is preserved in her letters, ranging in subject from her residence in ambassadorial circles at Constantinople to her final retreat from the world into the remote and beautiful home she found for herself at Glan Irfon near Builth. What made her renounce the world of affairs is not clearly known: but Sir John Moore's death at Corunna during the British retreat from Spain in the Peninsular campaign of 1809 seems to have had a disastrous effect on her life. She kept her coach in Builth (at the Royal Oak Hotel, it is said), where she had first known the beauty of the Welsh valleys. Her life at Glan Irfon was one of charity; she gave food and wool to the needy, and encouragement and patronage to the gifted. Among the young men she took on long pony-treks into the hills was Thomas Price, the son of a clergyman and later a parson himself, better known to the present generation of Welshmen as Carnhuanawc, poet and philologist.

Builth is an excellent centre for the discovery of some of the most varied and heart-stirring regions of Wales. Northward, the way to Rhayader is chequered with peaks and valleys that witnessed the long struggles between the Welsh rulers of Powys and the forces of the De Braoses and the Mortimers. On the one hand there are broad stretches of level pasture land, on the other the rolling uplands of Radnor and the Black Mountains. The Wye here has travelled 50 miles from its source in the Plynlimon range, and has settled to a series of wide and wooded arcs through the green; but, at one point near Builth, it is forced into a narrow passage 1 mile long that turns it into streaming rapids where salmon struggle against the rush of water with the same agile strength that Gerald de Barn noted in his Itinerary of Wales for the Third Crusade in 1188. Builth Rocks, as the place is known, is famous for its salmon, and they are more eagerly sought after than even the Wells of Builth were in the days of Lady Hester Stanhope.

Nearby towns: Brecon, Hay-on-Wye, Llandrindod Wells, Llanwrtyd Wells, Talgarth

Nearby villages: Aberedw, Alltmawr, Bettws Disserth, Beulah, Boughrood, Bronllys, Builth Road, Clyro, Cregrina, Crickadarn, Erwood, Garth, Glasbury, Glascwm, Gwenddwr, Hundred House, Llanafan-Fawr, Llandefalle, Llandegley, Llanfaredd, Llanfihangel Rhydithon, Llanfihangel-nant-Melan, Llangammarch Wells, Llanstephan, Llanwrthwl, Llanyre, Llowes, Llyswen, Lower Chapel, Maesmynis, Merthyr Cynog, Nantmel, Newbridge on Wye, Painscastle, Penybont, Rhosgoch, Upper Chapel, Velindre

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