We had been moving around Wales at a pretty rapid pace on our epic road trip and it was now time for a break. We were looking for a central location so we could explore the many fabulous destinations in Mid Wales at a more leisurely pace, and a simple search on the Quality Cottages website provided the inspiration we needed.
Narrowing down our selection, we went with Pandy Bach and it became our home for the next 10 days. This gorgeous cottage was a 19th century fleece mill, but it’s not quite so old anymore. The structure was renovated several years ago into a luxurious and cosy home, and I fell in love instantly.
The owners had left a generous food hamper for us with cereals, welsh cakes, milk and plenty of other goodies, which came in handy since we were looking forward to cooking in the well-equipped kitchen. As we travel the world, cooking at home has become a luxury for us.
The location was superb - exactly what we wanted. We felt the serene seclusion of the quiet countryside and rolling emerald hills, yet just a few minutes drive away was the centre of Machynlleth with its supermarket and small town conveniences.
During our time in Machynlleth we spent every other day exploring Wales.
Here were our 5 favourite things to do in Mid-North Wales.
5. Devil’s Bridge
According to legend the original bridge in Ceredigion was built by the Devil, as it was too difficult for mortals to build. The agreement stipulated that the Devil would build the bridge in return for the soul of the first living thing to cross it. The Devil built the bridge, but was tricked by an old woman who threw bread onto the bridge. Before he could react the old lady’s dog crossed the bridge, thus becoming the first life to cross the new bridge. Terribly disgruntled it’s said the Devil left Wales for good that day and has never returned.
These days the bridge’s appearance is rather curious as it consists of three separate bridges coexisting one upon the other. The most recent is an iron bridge from 1901. This was built over a stone bridge from 1753, which was built over the original bridge built between 1075 – 1200. Wow!
Adjacent to the bridge is Devil’s Bridge Falls, which we decided to check out. Entry was £2 (2x £1 coins per person in an unmanned turnstile). If you don’t happen to have the correct change you can visit the nearby Haford Hotel who are happy to break a note for you. We didn’t pay for the kids. Oh, and there is free parking on site.
2 separate walks are available and we chose the Nature Trail, Waterfall and 3 Bridges, which is said to take about 45 minutes. It took longer for us with the kids taking their time and our resident photographer stopping regularly.
The Nature Trail is a beautiful walk through giant Sessile Oak trees and golden leafy paths, past the spectacular 300-foot waterfall. There were plenty of viewing platforms, as well as a trek down Jacobs Ladder – 100 continuous stony steps. The kid’s favourite element was a short rest at the Robbers Cave – an ancient hiding spot next to the Waterfalls that was previously used by robbers (thus the imaginative name!).
A refreshing hike and not too hard on the kids.
Aberystwyth, also known as Aber, is located on the mid-west coast of Wales. It is primarily a university town, since the establishment of its university in 1872.
The city features a pier and a beautiful seafront promenade that is definitely worth a stroll down. Standing proud at the north end of the promenade is Constitution Hill, and at the south end is a harbour. In between them are the ruins of an ancient castle and a playground. As you can imagine our kids made a b-line straight for the playground.
We spent a lovely afternoon pottering around the grounds, watching the brilliantly colourful sunset and nibbling warm, fresh donuts on the pier. It was blissful.
Barmouth is a seaside resort town in north-western Wales. It’s very quiet in the middle of winter but I can imagine it would be a bustling hotspot in summer. After a bit of searching we found the super scenic “Panorama Walk” overlooking the surrounding countryside. An enjoyable hike with the kids, with several routes available to suit various fitness levels.
2. Harlech Castle
We love exploring castles and Harlech was no different. Located in Harlech, Gwynedd in north-western Wales is a well-preserved medieval fortification constructed upon a rocky outcrop close to the Irish Sea. It was built by King Edward I between 1282 and 1289.
UNESCO considers Harlech to be one of "the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe", and it is classed as a World Heritage site. The sea originally bordered the west side of the castle. A water-gate and a long flight of steps leads down to the former shore, which allowed the castle to be resupplied by sea during sieges. In modern times the water has retreated substantially.
It was a spacious fortification for the kids to run around and explore with phenomenal panoramic views of the sea and lush countryside. Entry was £4.25 per adult, or for 2 adults and any number of kids, £12.75. At the time we visited renovation work for a new entry area was underway, but once inside the castle, we hardly noticed it.
After climbing the fort we stopped at a small nearby café for a tasty lunch. Thanks Harlech!
1. Bounce Below
If you’re only going to do 1 thing in Mid-Wales, this is it. You can read all about our time at the Llechwedd Slate Caverns in this post. You really don’t want to miss this attraction, it’s absolutely unique. A lot of fun for kids and adults alike.
The final word
We found South Wales to be downright irresistible, but Mid-North Wales gave it a real run for its money, both in the cottages it offered and the attractions. To try and compare the two is like asking which eye do you prefer? I want both of them! They compliment each other so beautifully and provide a slightly different perspective into the captivating country that is Wales. In fact, Wales is like a giant chocolate cake… I just want it all!