Visiting Machynlleth

by Cass Jenks

Situated on the border between Powys and Gwynedd, right where the Wales Coast Path cuts inland along the Dyfi Estuary, Machynlleth is a characterful market town with a vibrant atmosphere and a strong connection to its stunningly beautiful surroundings.

A house decked in vibrant flowers sits on a side street in Machynlleth.
An upward view of Machynlleth clock tower.
Boldly painted shops on Machynlleth's high street.

It’s no surprise that four of our holidays visit or overnight in this outdoorsy place: Machynlleth’s local taxi services are well used to whisking walkers to and from the trail; the pubs offer warm welcomes to muddy dogs, boots and bicycles alike; and the high street teems with independent cafes for mid-trail lunches.

If you’re exploring Glyndŵr’s Way, the Ceredigion Coast Path or the Meirionnydd Coast Path on foot, or cycling the Trans Cambrian Way, an extra night in Mach could be an excellent addition to your holiday.

So what should you look forward to seeing in Machynlleth?

Machynlleth’s stunning surroundings

Machynlleth sits within the Dyfi Biosphere, and there’s no doubting the natural beauty of this UNESCO-recognised area. Steep green hills encircle the town, dipping down to the broad running waters of Afon Dyfi.

Dyfi Bridge crosses the Afon Dyfi just north of Machynlleth.

Hang a left at the famous bridge on the outskirts of Machynlleth and you’ll quickly reach the biodome itself, complete with the tidal-sculpted sands and marshes of the estuary (not to mention the expansive beaches of Aberdyfi at the estuary’s mouth, accessible via a hike along the Wales Coast Path or on the X29 coach service out to the bustling seaside).

Mach is a great jumping-off point to explore coniferous plantations along forestry tracks, too, or the rounded hills of the ancient Cambrian Mountains to the south-east. For the cycling-inclined, check out the selection of looping off-road routes just south of the town at Beicio Mynydd Dyfi MTB, the ideal way to enjoy the pretty countryside.

Art and culture in Machynlleth

It might come as a surprise that such a small market town boasts this much cultural clout, but Machynlleth hosts art displays, festivals, theatre, talks, literature events and live music. It’s home to the annual Machynlleth Comedy Festival, which draws famous comedians from all over the country, and showcases Welsh music, culture and heritage at the Gwyl Machynlleth Festival

The Museum of Modern Art in Mach is a real gem, nestled within a converted chapel. Its seven art galleries are free to enter, boasting a collection of 400 works and an ever-changing list of exhibitions. MOMA features a stage that’s been stunningly converted from the original chapel pews, too. Known as The Tabernacle, this impressive space is open for sightseers to visit within gallery opening hours, or you can check what’s on and book to watch one of the live talks, concerts, films and plays hosted here.

Historic Machynlleth

The Welsh Revolt took place at the start of the 15th century, led by Owain Glyndŵr. By 1404, he controlled most of Wales. When he summoned a national parliament, it took its seat here in Machynlleth.

Glyndwr's Parliament House and the community centre.

Bunting hangs from the cafe at Glyndwr's Parliament House.
A plaque hung on the wall of the parliament building in Machynlleth.

Glyndŵr’s Parliament House was founded in the years following. Extensively rebuilt in the 1900s, the Parliament House and attached Institute act now as a café, shop and community centre, with visitor access into the historic building and courtyard.

The ornate gates opposite the Parliament House offer access along a shaded walk through the town’s community gardens, and there at the end you’ll find Y Plas, an old Georgian mansion housing a café and another community centre.

The community at Y Plas

Perhaps the nicest part of Machynlleth is how well-loved the public spaces are here. The local community does a great job of looking after their home, and this is particularly evident in the shared space at Y Plas.

The gravel pump track at Machynlleth.
A large standing stone carved with Glyndwr's name.
A fish fountain and ordered beds of red flowers at the memorial garden in Machynlleth.

The mansion’s reclaimed grounds have been transformed into a park, a pump track for local kids on their bikes, and most impressively, a volunteer-maintained vegetable garden: Gerddi Bro Ddyfi.

As a visitor, you can freely explore this well-tended space, which boasts apple trees trained in the Victorian style, raised beds, cane growing structures, herb gardens and an area withheld this year for wildflowers.

The sign outside Gerddi Bro Ddyfi, including a chalkboard displaying this week's volunteer hours.

A series of raised beds host green plants at Gerddi bro Ddyfi in Machynlleth.
Vegetables grow on either side of a curving woodchip pathway through the community-maintained gardens of Machynlleth.

Perhaps not the most likely tourist attraction, this whole site is an enjoyable testament to the character of the area, and the perfect place to wind down a great day on the trails.

Visiting beyond Machynlleth

If Machynlleth itself isn’t enough of a lure, the town is a great hub to use while exploring the surrounding area. Head out along the southern bank of the estuary to visit the Dyfi Osprey Project, or on further still to RSPB Ynyshir and the stunning sand dunes at Ynyslas National Nature Reserve.

The border of Snowdonia is marked with a decorative stone beside the Dyfi Bridge outside Machynlleth. A fingerpost points out the National Cycle Route 8.
A man and a dog walk the dunes at Ynyslas.

For something more unusual to add to your trip, the Dovey Valley Shooting Ground offers have-a-go sessions for newbie shooters and advanced clay-shooting setups for the experienced. Or you could follow National Cycle Route 8 north from town. It makes a good walking or cycle route up to the Centre for Alternative Technology, where you can learn about futuristic technologies and look out over the valley from their elevated viewing platform. (December 2023 edit: CAT has recently shut its doors to drop-ins, but group bookings are still available.)

Adrenaline-seeking cyclists (with suitably robust mountain bikes) may well enjoy a visit to the blistering pistes of Dyfi Bike Park. Slightly (but only slightly) gentler trails await a little further up National Cycle Route 8, too, at Cli-machx, which is free to ride and has plenty of options on offer.

Originally published 20/07/23

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