For the inhabitants of the smallest town in Britain, normal events are just too ordinary. Now in their third decade, the Llanwrtyd Wells games prove that the best ideas are always the ones hatched in a pub. A mixture of unusual, bizarre or just plain strange events, the Llanwrtyd Wells games have long been a tradition. Inventors of strange sports including bog snorkelling, man versus horse racing and mountain bike chariot races, it's certainly not the normal fare.

To be Welsh is to be different – but that still hardly begins to explain how a rural town in Powys has become the world capital of bog snorkelling, man v horse racing and underwater mountain biking. And that’s just the long established stuff. The latest addition to the Llanwrtyd Wells sporting calendar – a mountain bike chariot race – was launched in January 2008 by the town’s self-appointed captain of tourism, Gordon Green MBE. “It’s part of our new Saturnalia Beer Festival – based on the Roman festival where slaves and their masters temporarily swapped roles.” Teams race around a figure-of-eight obstacle course. The chariot is a steel drum on wheels pulled by two cyclists. Togas are optional.

The events began in 1980, after Gordon (then the landlord of the Neuadd Arms) heard two regulars discussing whether a man could run faster than a horse over a significant distance. They decided to conduct a public race to find out, and the town’s first event was born: the 22-mile Man v Horse race. “It took 25 years for the first man to actually beat a horse,” explains Gordon. “Huw Lobb won in 2004, in just two hours five minutes. With the cash prize increasing by £1000 a year, he won £25,000.”

Mountain bikers joined in 1985 – the same year the launch of the World Bog Snorkelling Championships kicked off. That too was dreamed up in the Neuadd Arms. “Someone said that their garden was nothing but bog, so we dug a 60-yard trench and got people snorkelling down it.” Five years later the mountain bikes were at it too – with lead in the frame and water in the tyres.

The world famous championship is held every August bank holiday (unless there’s a drought) at Waen Rhydd peat bog. Competitors doggy-paddle two lengths of a 60-yard trench wearing snorkel and fins, without recourse to proper swimming strokes. Current record holder Joanne Pitchforth of Heckmondwike (also an underwater hockey player) completed the distance in just one minute 35 seconds.

The real ale wobble is a long-distance drinking and riding event, strictly non-competitive for obvious reasons. “It’s a bit like orienteering on a bike, but instead of getting a card stamped, you have half a pint of beer at each checkpoint instead”, explains Gordon, who is a true MBT fan. “It’s the largest area of wilderness left in England and Wales. You can get into anything here, and get away from everything”.

There's lots to see and do in Wales, the home of proper holidays, from sleeping in a yurt on Shell Island to learning bushcraft in Snowdonia. A world of beautiful scenery that's far removed from the typical idea of a holiday abroad, Wales truly is something different.

Duncan specialises in writing about UK short breaks, interesting family holidays in the UK and food & drink. He knows all there is to know about WalesDNS_ERROR_ZONE_REQUIRES_MASTER_IP,ERROR_DS_DRA_SCHEMA_CONFLICT,ERROR_INVALID_PORT_ATTRIBUTES,ERROR_SECONDARY_IC_PROVIDER_NOT_REGISTERED,ERROR_SYSTEM_TRACE
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