Powys is big, green and many layered. Just like a leek, funnily enough. Here are some of our favourite ways to get a feel for the scenic county’s extreme sports, sustainable tech and fine traditions of cooking and brewing. These three rough itineraries are a mere scratch in the surface of a place bursting with potential adventure.
Where: Machynlleth, Tywyn
How long: Full day
Best for Gearheads
Don’t bother showering in the morning, as you’re going to get muddy and sweaty pretty soon anyway on the world-renowned ClimachX mountain bike trails. Follow red bike signs to the car park near Ceinws in the Dyfi forest, pull up and decide how much to take on. The full loop is 15km, ending in a rapid-fire sequence of eight enormous berms – this is not a trail for the faint hearted.
Once you’ve stopped shaking, head a few minutes down the road to the Centre for Alternative Technology. Interactive, informative exhibits and family activities exist right alongside cutting edge environmental research and development. If you don’t stop at the vegatarian café in CAT, you could head into Machynlleth for dinner.
The lovely little town, called simply “Mac” by the locals, has a great range of pubs and restaurants. Eat early-ish and leave time for the half hour to Tywyn, which is technically over the Powys border into Gwynedd, but worth the trip. Here you’ll find a superbly-restored art deco cinema, with a gin bar in the lobby so you can take something a little stronger than popcorn into the movie with you.
Where: Vyrnwy, Meifod
How long: Half day
Best for: Casual hikers, wild swimmers
You could do the first two things in this half day either way round, probably depending on the weather. A visit to the UK’s highest single drop waterfall, Pistyll Rhaedr, could form part of a scenic hike in the Berwyn mountains, or just be an early morning warm up. Then after you’ve got the blood pumping a bit, head down for some wild swimming in Lake Vyrnwy. There are other ways to explore the water too, from renting rowing boats to simply walking the shores to see the dam wall that created the lake and the famous tower, which is incredibly ornate given that it’s only there for water treatment.
There are plenty of spots to picnic by the lake, but if you’d rather treat yourself to a superb pub lunch, you’ve got plenty of options. Plas Y Dinas in Llainfechan or The Seeds in Llanfyllin are both great for something special (book in advance for either) and about half an hour from the lake, while The Station Grill in Llansantffraid, a little further down the road, has a lovely relaxed countryside setting.
Where: Elan valley, Rhayader
How long: Half day
Best for: Eclectics!
The Elan valley is one of the most beautiful spots in Wales and still relatively unexplored. There are numerous trails around the 80 sqm estate, which is all dog friendly, from short hops that take in the dam and the lake, to the 9.5 mile route of Drygarn Fawr, which visits the highest point in the area.
Once you’ve had your fill of biking, riding, walking or even swimming in the Junction Pool, it’s time to mix it up a bit, with a wild and wonderful cultural experience at The Willow Globe. At the incredible outdoor theatre near Rhayader, Shakespeare is brought to the tree-lined stage with flair and vigour. Be prepared to be right in among the action!
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