Pocket Britain
Britain > Mid Wales > Welshpool

A traditional Welsh market town with a restored narrow gauge railway

Listen to this article
Welshpool is an old market town in Wales, just a kilometre or two from the English border. Many similar British towns have become more modern in recent years. Welshpool though, is truer to its roots than most.

Buildings in the centre of Welshpool
Photo by ingo.ronner
One relic from the past is the cock-fighting pit, inside an octagonal building near the main high street. This is the only one in Wales that's still in its original position. It may not look too big, but in its day 150 people would have crammed themselves inside to watch the specially-bred roosters battle to the death. Thankfully the practice was outlawed in 1849, so it's been a long time since the cockpit has hosted a fight. Welshpool isn't that traditional a place!
Animals were treated with slightly more respect at the local livestock market. The town was always known as one of the border area's better shopping destinations, and this hasn't changed. In fact, the market has enjoyed a recent redevelopment. It was was relocated to a new 16-acre site, which has room for over 1000 sheep and hundreds of other animals. This makes it the largest one-day sheep market in the whole of Europe.

Sheep on the way to market
Photo by Ian Wilson
In the past, much of the livestock was transported to market via steam train. This old railroad was called the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway, and it closed for business in 1956. However, a group of enthusiasts campaigned hard, and it was reopened just 7 years later as a tourist attraction. The track's two rails are only three-quarters of a metre apart, which is very narrow. This allows the train to make tighter curves, and to climb steeper hills. These qualities are put to good use as the trains zig-zag through the beautiful borderlands. You'll pass over stone bridges and through wooded glens, before arriving at Llanfair Caereinion, 14 kilometres to the west. The train is a great way to see the amazing scenery that surrounds Welshpool, but it's not the only method. You can also explore by horse, by bicycle, or even by quad bike.

The Earl on the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway
Photo by fairlightworks
Alternatively, you can stick to using your own two feet. One popular walking trail is along Offa's Dyke. This is a long ditch, designed to clearly mark out the border between England and Wales. According to folklore, "it was customary for the English to cut off the ears of every Welshman who was found to the east of the dyke, and for the Welsh to hang every Englishman whom they found to the west of it." Even today, the border between the two countries still follows this path fairly closely.

The fabulous views from Offa's Dyke footpath
Photo by ingo.ronner
Another popular walking route is along Glyndwr's Way, a long-distance footpath that begins in the town. From here, it goes to Wales' western coast, before looping back round and ending at the town of Knighton. The entire trail is 217 kilometres long, so it might be a bit much for an afternoon. Don't worry though, because even the first section passes through some beautiful scenery.

Walking near Welshpool
Photo by Richard0
However, make sure you don't leave town without seeing Powis Castle, Welshpool's biggest landmark. It takes its title from the Kingdom of Powys, an ancient Welsh state in the Dark Ages. The castle isn't quite as old as that, but it was built at least 800 years ago. You'd expect such a place to be in ruins by now, but this is far from the case. Throughout its history the fort has been constantly occupied, and its various owners were always repairing, rebuilding or updating it. Today, Powis Castle features a pick 'n' mix bag of architectural styles. Nevertheless, it still has the power to stop many a visitor in their tracks. The building is made from a beautiful red sandstone that really does draw the eye.

Powis Castle
Photo by Dave-F
Inside, you'll find dozens of pretty rooms and artworks. The real star of the show though, is outdoors. Powis' gardens are laid out in a series of descending terraces, featuring arches, fountains and artfully pruned trees. They look almost exactly the same as they did when they were first designed, back in the 18th century.

View over the gardens at Powis Castle
Photo by steve p2008
Visitor Information
Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway is open weekends from April to October and most weekdays over the Summer. It is advisable to check their timetable for specific journeys. Fares cost around £12 for adults, £1 children. The Station, Llanfair Caereinion, Powys, SY21 0SF. Tel: 01938 810441
Powis Castle is open March to October, from 10am to 4pm (5pm in Summer). Entry costs around £11 for adults, £6 children. Welshpool, Powys SY21 8RF. Tel: 01938 551944

Back ~ Top ~ Home ~ Index

Pocket Britain is optimised for use on a smartphone or tablet with internet access. All content is subject to copyright. All reasonable methods have been used to ensure information supplied is accurate at the time of publication. However, it is advisable to check information before relying on it. Privacy Policy