This was formerly the RED LION, under which name it was known for at least 250 years, and probably for a longer period than that. Ogilby mentioned it as a principal Inn at Rhayader in his Britannia, published in 1675.
It became a well known coaching Inn from the time when coaches first penetrated into this part of the country. The turnpike road from Presteigne and Kington to Rhayader was completed in 1779 and by about 1790 the road had been carried through to Aberystwyth. Before these roads were made, very little wheeled traffic of any kind passed through Rhayader, but by 1781 the Red Lion had its own postchaises, and the coaches followed soon afterwards. A weekly wagon service between Rhayader and Kington was instituted in 1781, performing the journey of 26 miles in 12 hours.
Clipscomb stayed at the Red Lion in 1799. In his "Journey Into Wales" he wrote that the landlord was "a well-informed man, and a good-humoured Welsh girl, with no knowledge of English, was the only attendant, but possessed genuine politeness." For supper he and his friends were served with "a couple of roasted fowls, ham dish, veal cutlets, piece of cold beef, excellent tarts, and a quart of strong beer per man." The charge for this meal (which present patrons will hardly expect to be repeated) was ONE SHILLING.
The Red Lion was well established as a coaching Inn by 1814, and is mentioned in Cary's Traveller's Companion of that year. In 1815 it was described as "a bow-sashed house," where postchaises could be hired at 1/4d a mile. The Stage Coaches at this period, and up to the end of 1820 continued to use the old road to Aberystwyth, by way of the Devil's Bridge. The Coaches only extended their run from Rhayader to Aberystwyth, in the summer months. The road via Llangurig did not come into use until about 1830. The Royal Mail coaches began to come by Rhayader to Aberystwyth in 1835, and ran daily on this road, summer and winter alike until 1858. Other coaches continued to use the Aberystwyth road up to 1864 when the railway was completed, to make direct connection with Aberystwyth through Llanidloes.
Probably the most enterprising landlord of the Red Lion, was James Lantrow who died in 1825. He ran his own coaches from the Bull and Mouth, London, through Oxford and Worcester, to the Kings Head, Kington, extending the service twice weekly in the summer to the Talbot Inn, Aberystwyth. He also ran a goods wagon Rhayader and Kington, where it connected with wagons for London and other places. In 1816 the coach took 28 hours to get from Kington to London, and 13 hours from Kington to Aberystwyth. Rather better times were made in 1825, owing to an improvement in the roads.
We can imagine that travellers on those journeys had time to enjoy the hospitality of the landlord of the Red Lion, such as they may do today, under its changed name of the Lion Royal. But if we seek the ghosts of the Royal Mail and its passengers, surely they dwell only on the road. No lingering laughter at the bar for those breathless adventurers, who left Kington at 1.23pm and were in Aberystwyth at 8.13; returning, they left the Gogerddan Arms (now the Lion Royal) at 5.30am, Rhayader at 9.30am and arrived at Kington 12.44pm. These were the times given in the schedule of 1835. They were never beaten, even by the coaches of the 1860's, and so strictly were they observed that people set their clocks by the passing of the Royal Mail.