A historic market town on the banks of the River Wye, some 20 miles from its source on the Plynlimon range of the Cambrian Mountains; population 2,000. The mountain road to Cwmystwyth and Devil's Bridge, with some stretches single track with passing places, has been described as one of the most scenic drives in the world.
The town is the gateway to a spectacular complex of reservoirs and dams in the Elan Valley and is home to some of Britain's rarest wildlife and plants. Work started on the scheme to provide water to Birmingham in 1894 and it was officially opened in 1904.
The Elan Valley Trail is a linear path following the line of the old railway that was used in the construction of the dams; it starts just west of Rhayader and finishes 8 miles further up the valley at Craig Goch Dam. A Visitor Centre provides information on the Elan Valley.
At Gigrin Farm, located just south of the town, wild red kites are fed every day of the year. At one time, Mid Wales was home to the last few remaining red kites but due to the hard work of conservation bodies, the number of kites using the feeding station can vary from anything from a few dozen to 400 or more depending on weather and time of year. Welsh Royal Crystal is Wales' only commercial maker of handmade Welsh Crystal with all stages of manufacture carried out in their own factory on the outskirts of the town. Visitors can enjoy a tour of the manufacturing process which features glass blowing, cutting and decoration of the glass shape and final polishing; a Welsh Royal Crystal shop adjoins the factory.
There are two galleries at Marston Pottery, a two minute drive from the town centre and both feature the work of Phil Rogers, a potter in Rhayader for many years. In the pottery showroom visitors will find kitchen and tableware in the form of jugs, teapots, casseroles and the like, alongside bottles and vases. Cole Woodturners have a shop in Rhayader and are a family business established in 1992 which produces a large number of mostly practical products from locally sourced wood. Rhayader Leisure Centre has two squash courts, two full sized snooker tables and a 20m swimming pool with an integral jacuzzi.
The Hall at Abbey-Cwm-Hir (north-east of Rhayader) is one of Wales' finest examples of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture; built in 1834, the house was doubled in size in 1869. The current owners spent nine years restoring it to a building of Gothic splendour; boasting stunning interiors and fascinating collections. They have also restored 12 acres of Victorian gardens in a beautiful setting above the ruins of the C12th Abbey of the Long Valley. Tours of all 52 rooms of the house are conducted by a family member.