Cwmystwyth is a farming community lying by the Cambrian Mountains in ‘Hinterland’ famous West Wales and the cottage looks out onto sheep-grazed uplands. The field adjacent to the cottages has been designated the centre of Wales. Below, the Ystwyth valley with its ancient hanging oaks and contemporary coniferous woodland is one of the most beautiful valleys in mid-Wales. The Cambrian Mountains are breath-taking in more ways than one! Although you will never be lost for what to do next, this section of the website has links to activities and places in the area to ensure the whole family is having a great time! Maybe have a look here first!
There are so many but among our favourites are Aberdyfi (just fabulous), Aberaeron, New Quay and Llangrannog.
Aberdyfi is a small seaside village nestling on the north side of the Dyfi / Dovey estuary and is a thriving little harbour resort set within the Snowdonia National Park, where the river Dyfi meets the blue waters of Cardigan Bay. Aberdyfi has watersports galore – sailing, sailboarding, rowing, canoeing, fishing and boat trips. In the summer, there are yachting regattas, sailboarding competitions, rowing regattas and other watersports events along with family entertainment on its award-winning beaches.
Aberaeron grew from fishing village to a significant trading port but those days are past. Today the streets are lined with independent shops. There is an annual seafood festival and the yacht club hosts a number of regattas each summer. Nearby Penbryn Beach is one of the best spots in Wales for stargazing and spotting seals. New Quay is a pretty seaside town in Ceredigion, Wales with a resident population of around 1,200 people. Located on Cardigan Bay with a harbour and large sandy beaches, it remains a popular seaside resort and traditional fishing town. Llangrannog’s lovely sandy beach nestles below the cliffs. In the 18th century, salt smuggling was rife in Ceredigion where it was used to preserve bacon and herring. Costing half the price in Ireland, there was a busy illegal trade, evidenced in places such as Ogof yr Halen (meaning Salt Cave) at Llangrannog. Similarly wines and spirits were smuggled, stored and traded in local caves. In the village, Llangrannog’s church is dedicated to Carantoc, the son of a 6th century saint and founder of numerous churches in Wales. The Urdd is the Welsh youth movement and it is the biggest of its kind in Europe. Each year its centre at Llangrannog provides activities for some 20,000 youngsters and features a heritage centre, dry ski-slope, equine centre and climbing wall all open to the public.
Blue Flags fly over six of Ceredigion’s most popular beaches again for 2017. Borth is good for swimming and about 35-40 minutes drive away. A prehistoric forest, an eerie landscape including the trunks of hundreds of oaks that died more than 4,500 years ago, was revealed at low tide by the ferocious storms of February 2014 which stripped thousands of tons of sand from beaches in Cardigan Bay. The forest of Borth once stretched for miles on boggy land between Borth and Ynyslas, before climate change and rising sea levels buried it under layers of peat, sand and saltwater. Nearby is Ynyslas which is no good for swimming because of currents but is a dream place for running with sea-loving dogs! It is sandwiched between a long sandy beach in Cardigan Bay and the beach in the Dyfi Estuary. The area between the sea and the estuary beach is made up of the Ynyslas Sand Dunes which are part of the Dyfi National Nature Reserve and home to many rare plants and animals. The sands of the estuary beach can be driven onto and parked upon. The nature reserve has a visitor centre with toilets and a small shop. Tresaith is beautiful and not to be missed…well worth the drive but get there early for easier parking. The Afon Saith stream cascades over the cliff edge at the right-hand end of the beach. There’s fabulous rock-pooling as well as a cafe, a bucket-and-spade shop and the Ship Inn which sells decent pub grub and craft beers from the Brains brewery. Also check out the Beaches.
Cwmystwyth is considered the most important non-ferrous metal mining site in Wales providing a premier example of mining heritage in Ceredigion. Within the site there is evidence for all phases of mining activity; from the Bronze Age, through the medieval period, to its revival in the 18th century and the peak of activity with a subsequent decline in the late 19th and the early 20th century. It has been designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Silver, lead and zinc have been mined in the valley of the River Ystwyth since Roman times, an activity that reached its peak in the 18th century. The largest of the very many mines was the Cwmystwyth mine. The mine lies up the valley from the cottages and the mines themselves are fenced off for safety. The Silver Mountain Experience nearby at Llywernog, Ponterwyd SY23 3AB is great for families.
This fascinating centre is near Machynlleth but check out times of opening on the website.
Check out the latest exhibitions at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre and as there are often great exhibitions open.
There are stunning views from the surrounding summits. Red kites and buzzards soar overhead and ravens, peregrines, sparrowhawks, merlins and goshawks may be seen. There are binoculars in Ty Mari and bird books in both cottages. The Ystwyth valley is one of the foremost areas of the country for observing red kites. This large bird of prey was on the verge of extinction before being successfully repopulated in the valley. Whilst the birds may often be seen circling on thermals outside of the cottages, local feeding centres provide opportunities to see the birds at much closer quarters and are particularly popular with children. There are several RSPB Centres in Mid-Wales where lapwings, little egrets, redshanks and white-fronted geese may be seen. If you pop down to Aberystwyth pier as the sun is setting, you will often catch an amazing sight as you look up and see the murmuration of starlings. Wonderopolis says of this: ‘regardless of the size of the murmuration, all the birds seem to be connected to the same network. This phenomenon puzzles scientists, because it goes beyond what we know from biology about how animals behave. The mystery of the murmuration is a fascinating example of a natural phenomenon that hides secrets about the world that scientists have still yet to uncover! Have your video at the ready!
If you want a couple of inspiring books to read on your holiday, these will inform and inspire your birdwatching in Wales:
Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel (Black Swan pub. 2015)
Deep Country by Neil Ansell (Penguin 2012)
Cardigan Bay is the largest Bay in the British Isles, stretching approximately 50 miles from Bardsey Island off the Llyn Peninsular in the north to Strumble Head in Pembrokeshire in the South. Cardigan Bay is home to a rich variety of wildlife including the largest resident population of bottlenose dolphins in the whole of Europe. Although the ever playful bottlenose dolphins which often steal the limelight, Cardigan Bay is also home the smaller harbour porpoise, atlantic grey seals, and a wide variety of bird species.
This has lead to Cardigan Bay’s beautiful coastline being designated as a Special Area of Conservation to help ensure its beauty and its wildlife is safeguarded for generations to come. Have a look at this website and see if it could lead to a memorable day out. We haven’t tried it but they have won a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.
Sarah Bunton is an artisan chocolatier based at Devils Bridge in the Cambrian Mountains of Mid-Wales. She strives to create fine chocolates that are both delicious and innovative, taking classic combinations (and exciting new ones) and adding our own special touch! Chocolates are for sale at Y Caban by the station at Devil’s Bridge and for a group of 8 or more she will arrange a chocolate workshop! Call 01970 890650
A lively Anglican church, St Michael’s is on the sea front at Aberystwyth and nearby in South Road SY23 1JF there is a warm welcoming Elim church. The Local church at Hafod, St Michael and All Angels has services in Welsh and English at 1030am on the 1st and 2nd Sunday each month. The church is well worth a visit and is open every day between 1030am and 430pm from Easter to September 30th.
Cycling and Mountain biking
Cycling is a great way to explore the welsh countryside and many cyclists enjoy the unique character of the Cambrian Mountains. This guide will help you plan your holiday. Natural Resources Wales works in partnership with the cycling community to provide dedicated cycle tracks at many of the most popular locations. Wales as a whole now has over 1000 miles of cycling paths. Due to the relative quiet of travelling on a bike, birds and mammals are often not scared off so quickly. Cycling therefore represents an excellent way to take in the abundant wildlife on offer. There is also a good mountain bike trail near the cottages and mountain biking in the winter can be memorable!
Exploring Wales on horseback is a great way to enjoy the beautiful countryside. Nearby Rheidol Riding Centre is there for a wide range of ages and levels of experience, offering gentle pony treks or more exhilarating cross-country courses. There is also the well-reviewed Caeiago Riding Centre at SA19 8LZ.
Land Rover Safaris
Cambrian Safaris (01974 261425 and 07773182001) provide excursions into the heart of the Cambrian Mountains in a Land Rover Discovery. You can enjoy the fantastic views, local history and wildlife without getting wet or exhausted! The tours are customised for you, picking you up from Ty Mari or Penroc. Your guide has extensive knowledge both of the area and of wildlife as well as knowing Welsh Hideaways and their owners. You can tour the places featured in the BBC series ‘Y Gwyll’ (Hinterland), discover yet more around and above Cwmystwyth and the Elan Valley and are sure to discover memorable places that are well off the beaten track. Prices vary according to the time taken and the distances covered.
More leisurely progress through the countryside is offered by the Vale of Rheidol railway. Between mid-April and late October a renovated, early 20th century steam locomotive runs between Aberystwyth and the nearby village of Devil’s Bridge, covering the 12 mile trip in around an hour. The journey covers a height difference of over 600ft and affords superb views of the valley.
Step outside the cottages when the street light is off and the clouds are gone and you will look up at an awesome starscape, as you can see in one of the Gallery photos. The Elan Valley is recognised internationally as a dark sky park. Download a Skyview app and identify the stars! For anyone who wants to learn to take astronomy photos courses are held in Rhayader. The courses by Gary Palmer FRAS and there is also a course website.
Devil’s Bridge Falls, three miles from Cwmystwyth, is a famous tourist attraction and not to be missed, although the climb is not for the frail or faint-hearted. Slightly further a field is the dramatic and varied Ceredigion coastline. This video shows the coastal walk from New Quay to Aberaeron. Between Cwmystwyth and the market town of Rhayader lies the Elan Valley – a chain of hydroelectric dams set in glorious countryside and is well worth the twenty-minute drive. There are wonderful walks in the area and a clip from this video gives you some of the history Tours of the Rheidol hydro-electric power station can be arranged between May and September with Rheidol Visitor Centre.
Other local attractions include:
100 things to do in Ceredigion before you die – A great overview of our beautiful county!
Ceredigion Museum – One of the most beautiful museum interiors in Britain
Aberystwyth Arts Centre – Check what is on today
National Library of Wales – One of the great libraries of the world.
Aberystwyth Cliff Railway – At the northern end of Aberystwyth promenade.
Wildlife of Wales:
Borth Animalarium – Mid-Wales own Zoo
Fantasy Farm Park – The all day adventure
Gigrin Farm – See Red Kites in their hundreds!
New Quay Honey Farm – Visit the world of bees!
Wild Life Trust of South and West Wales – This site shows all that is going on!
Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre – Dolphin watching is one of the highlights
RSPB Cymru – locate all the centres for bird watching in the area
Radnorshire Wildlife Trust – If you are going to Rhayader, have a look here
Glansevern Hall – Stunning gardens near Welshpool (Closed in 2017 so check online before visiting)
Llanerchaeron NT – 18th century Welsh gentry estate
Cardigan Bay Seafood Festival – One of the highlights in the Welsh food calendar
Caws Teifi Cheese – Flagship local cheeses
Taste Trail Ceredigion – See the local taste trail map!
West Wales events and festivals – See what’s on!
Cwt Tatws – Stylish Welsh accessories
Jane Beck Blankets – Welsh blankets and quilts
Seld – Contemporary Welsh gifts and furniture online
The Welsh Heart Company – Welsh tartan hearts, gifts and wedding accessories
Curlew Weavers – There are free tours around the mill (demonstrations by appointment only) and a large craft shop