Mid-Wales is a huge, beautiful region, crisscrossed by mountain passes, dotted with characterful little towns and never far from water – whether sparkling rivers, great lakes or the sea of the Cambrian coast. This is the least-known part of Wales, and it’s here that you’ll find Welsh culture at its most natural, folded into the contours of the land as it has been for centuries. By far the most popular attraction is Brecon Beacons National Park, stretching from the dramatic limestone country of the Black Mountain (singular) in the west through to the English border beyond the Black Mountains. The best bases are the tiny city of Brecon or the market towns of Abergavenny and Hay-on-Wye, the former a foodie paradise, the latter a must for bibliophiles.
North of the Beacons lie the old spa towns of Radnorshire, the most enjoyable of which are Llanwrytd Wells, known throughout the land for its eccentric events, and twee Llandrindod Wells. The quiet countryside to the north, crossed by spectacular mountain roads such as the Abergwesyn Pass from Llanwrtyd, is barely populated, dotted with ancient churches and introspective villages. In the east, the border town of Knighton is the home of the flourishing Offa’s Dyke Path industry. Like many country towns in Mid-Wales, beautiful Llanidloes has a healthy stock of old hippies among its population, contributing to a thriving arts and crafts community and a relaxed atmosphere. Montgomeryshire is the northern portion of Powys, similarly underpopulated and remote. Its largest town, Welshpool, is home to Powis Castle, one of the country’s finest fortresses, and is also close to Lake Vyrnwy, a delightful spot for rambling and nature watching.
The enduringly popular Cambrian coast stretches from Cardigan up to Harlech, starting off with cliff-top paths and small sandy coves which give way to wide sandy beaches around higgledy-piggledy New Quay and neat Georgian Aberaeron. The beguiling “capital” of Mid-Wales, Aberystwyth, is a great mix of seaside resort, university city and market town backed by the Vale of Rheidol Railway to Devil’s Bridge. Further north, Machynlleth revels in beaches, mountains and the showpiece Centre for Alternative Technology. Beyond the great mountain massif of Cadair Idris, the beautiful Mawddach Estuary leads to Dolgellau, a base for mountain biking in Coed-y-Brenin and the first of the huge North Wales castles at Harlech.