I recently returned home after spending a fabulous week with my family and two dogs in mid Wales. We stayed in an 1850s Welsh longhouse, ten minutes from the market town of Machynlleth. The old cottage was absolutely beautiful with its isolated setting, luscious garden, log burners and exposed wooden beams. It was everything I’d hoped it could be and more. (It would have been the perfect writing retreat too, but I had to promise my husband that there’d be no writing for a week as it was our family holiday.)
The longhouse was perfectly situated for exploration of mid and north Wales. Admittedly, after a busy year, we allowed ourselves a few days lounging around reading and relaxing, but we also went to visit some of the surrounding attractions.
We spent a pleasant few hours in Machynlleth itself, with its variety of shops and its connection to Owain Glyndwr – a Prince of Wales who rebelled during the reign of King Henry IV. Owain was crowned Prince of Wales in 1404 and held his own parliament in the town. Some of the original buildings are still standing.
Fifteen minutes drive from the cottage was Aberdyfi, with its beautiful clean beach, a section of which permits well-behaved dogs. Aberdyfi translates as mouth of the river Dyfi and is on the north side of the estuary. We enjoyed a walk along the beachfront with our two dogs then a scrumptious alfresco lunch of freshly cooked chips dowsed in salt and vinegar. (Nothing like the sea air to spark an appetite!) After this, we paddled in the sea – the dogs too – and my son actually dived into the water, even though it was a bit cold for my liking!
Later on in the week, we headed up to Beddgelert, a village in the Snowdonia area of Gwynedd. It is apparently named after the legendary hound Gelert, although as with all such tales, the authenticity of the story has been disputed. If you haven’t read about Gelert, then do, but be warned that it is a sad tale. I first heard it in primary school and it still makes me cry. However, whether Gelert’s connection to the village is fiction or fact, the area is undeniably pretty with its stone cottages, open landscape, mountains and river. We enjoyed a delicious lunch there, a long walk in the sunshine to see Gelert’s grave and the ruins of his home, then we had ice-creams from a parlour that boasted more flavours than I imagined possible.
After several hours in Beddgelert, we headed for Snowdon. This mountain range is extremely impressive, and should be on everyone’s bucket list. As it was late in the day, we didn’t get out of the car but drove along the Llanberis pass to enable us to view the scenery in all its glory. The air up there was so fresh and pure that I felt thoroughly cleansed by breathing it in. I’ve visited Switzerland and the mountains of north Wales really reminded me of that picturesque scenery with the forests, lakes and revitalising clean air.
There were many more places we could have visited over the course of our holiday, but time was limited and we only headed out on the finer days. Wales cannot guarantee good weather but it can offer beautiful and dramatic scenery, delightful beaches with clean shores and locations where legends have been said to exist; locations where the author in me experienced a variety of emotions and where I felt completely inspired.
A beautiful landscape rich in history and legend can touch the heart and remind us of how we are just a part of something much bigger, how our everyday struggles and toils are actually insignificant and how we should worry less and try to enjoy more. And that, I believe, is the whole point of a holiday: to escape it all for a short while to rest and recuperate and to be able put things into perspective again.
What better place to do this than in wonderful Wales, land of beauty, dramatic landscapes and legends?