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The Llyn Brianne Reservoir is a beautiful 530-acre (2.1 square kilometer) body of water nestled in the Cambrian Mountains of Mid-Wales. Created in 1972 by damming a section of the River Towy, the reservoir's purpose is to store winter rain and snowmelt that can be released into the river during dry periods. The River Towy supplies a large part of south Wales with drinking water and would be in danger of going dry if it were not for the release of water from the upland reservoir. In addition to a constant flow of water, Llyn Brianne offers a haven for fishermen, bird watchers, mountain bikers and walkers.
Set in an area known as Little Switzerland, Llyn Brianne or Lake Brianne is just north of Llandovery and extends for three miles towards Tregaron. The Upper Towy Valley is considered one of the most beautiful areas of Wales. The rolling Cambrian Mountains fill the space between their better-known neighbors, Snowdonia to the north and Brecon Beacons National Park to the south. A peaceful, largely unspoiled area with a rich cultural history and vibrant natural beauty, Llyn Brianne attracts a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
The most notable tourist attraction of Llyn Brianne is the massive spillway of the dam when the reservoir releases water. The dam is the United Kingdom's tallest, standing at a height of 300 feet (91 meters), and is the world's largest clay core dam. In 1996 the reservoir spillway was increased by three feet (one meter) in height and a hydro electric generating station was added to the base of the dam. When all three turbines are operating, the station can generate 4.3 megawatts of electricity. The spillway was recently made famous by kayakers who filmed themselves racing down the spillway at over 40 mph (64 kph). Welsh Water, owners of the dam, issued a statement in 2008 calling the practice "dangerous" and stating that such activities were banned at the reservoir. The Llyn Brianne dam can be found at the conjunction of the counties of Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Powys, north of Llandovery.
Llyn Brianne's close proximity to Llanwrtyd Wells makes it popular with extreme sport enthusiasts. The town of Llanwrtyd Wells is known for its mountain bike trails which loop through thousands of acres of forest and hillside. Hiking the trails is also a popular pastime with nature enthusiasts and bird watchers.
With a maximum depth of 278 feet (85 meters), Llyn Brianne Reservoir is a favorite with boaters and anglers. Because Llyn Brianne is a fresh water reservoir, motor boats are not allowed. Sea trout and salmon can be found in the reservoir, but the River Towy has an excellent reputation for its gigantic sea trout. The River Towy (or Afon Tywi in Welsh) is the longest river which runs entirely through Wales. On its 68-mile (109-kilometer) long journey seaward, the river runs south-westwards through Carmarthenshire where it flows through the towns of Llandovery and Llandeilo. It is joined in Camarthen by the tributary Afon Gwili at Abergwili which adds a substantial amount of water to the river's flow. The Towy then flows into Carmarthen Bay, where it shares a combined estuary with the River Taf and River Gwendraeth. A 12th Century Norman castle, Llansteffan Castle, stands guard over the mouth of the Towy estuary.
Visitors to the Llyn Brianne area will have no trouble finding accommodations. For vacation rentals and holiday cottages, the beautiful village of Rhandirmwyn offers hotels, bed & breakfasts, and a number of self-catering options. Additional accommodations can be found in the towns of Llandovery and Llanwrtyd Wells. Brecon Beacons National Park is an easy drive south of Llyn Brianne and offers camping and caravan parks as well as some of the highest mountain peaks in South Wales.
Although a rather isolated area, the landscape around Llyn Brianne has much to offer tourists and year-round residents. Downstream from Llyn Brianne, the Dinas Bird Reserve is home to a rare pair of breeding Red Kites as well as other endangered birds. The Dinas Reserve offers walks along the cascading River Towy and through the stunning forestland in the area. The National Botanic Garden of Wales is located in Carmarthenshire and features beautiful flora and fauna, much of which is displayed under a gigantic glass dome which has the largest single-span glass roof in the world. A few miles west of Llandovery, near the village of Pumsaint, the Dolaucothi Gold Mines are great for a family adventure. Guided tours take visitors into the mines and a museum, gift shop and cafe offer a place to rest and relax.
In addition to Llansteffan Castle, the ruins of Carreg Cennen Castle can be found southeast of the town of Llandeilo which is southwest of Llyn Brianne. Constructed in the 1300s, the impressive fortress sits at the top of a cliff. Trails lead up to the castle and there are also cafes, gift shops and picnic areas along the way. Be sure to bring your camera because the castle and the view are quite amazing.
Set in a quiet location conveniently close to mountain biking and hiking trails, bird watching, horseback riding, and fishing, Llyn Brianne Reservoir has much to offer the outdoor enthusiast. Featuring some of the region's most scenic and secluded countryside, the wild beauty surrounding Llyn Brianne and the Upper Towy Valley makes it one of Wales' most exhilarating places to visit.
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