Possibly more than any other part of Britain, Wales – the mid and west in particular – has become something of a haven for those searching for alternative lifestyles. Permanent testimonials to this include the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), near Machynlleth, now one of the area’s most visited attractions, and Tipi Valley, near Talley, a permanent community living in Native American tepees who run a regular public sweat lodge. Both institutions were founded in the idealistic mid-1970s and have prospered through less happy times. For the most part, it’s been a fairly smooth process, although antagonism between New Agers and local, established families does break out on occasion, usually stoked by the sometimes liberal smugness of some incomers.
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For visitors, the legacy of this “green” influx is evident throughout Wales. Even in some of the smallest rural towns, you’ll often find a health-food shop, wholefood café, somewhere flogging esoteric ephemera or an alternative resource centre. Any of these will give you further ideas and contacts for local happenings, places, groups and individuals.
There’s also a plethora of good festivals from spring to autumn, ranging from big folk and blues bashes to smaller gatherings in remote fields, with little more than a couple of banging sound systems. Information travels best by word of mouth, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for information and don’t hesitate to ask around. For more organized and larger events, you’ll see adverts and fliers months in advance.
For ecologically minded tourists, there are now numerous package deals that include walking, cycling, dancing and healing holidays and retreats in remote centres, usually with vegetarian and vegan food as part of the deal. Some of these are static, many are in temporary sites, while others keep you on the move.
Retreats and holidays
Buckland Hall Bwlch, near Brecon t01874 730330, wbucklandhall.co.uk. Beautiful hall and gardens hosting holistic lifestyle courses and workshops.
Cae Mabon near Llanberis, Gwynedd t01286 871542, wcaemabon.co.uk. Stunning Snowdonia setting for residential courses, storytelling and arts events, with accommodation in roundhouses, a hogan and benders.
Centre for Alternative Technology Llwyngwern, near Machynlleth, Powys t01654 705950, wcat.org.uk. Residential courses on green themes such as self-build homes and organic gardening.
Dance Camp Wales Pembrokeshire wdancecampwales.org.uk. Ten-day participatory dance festival held in July or August in a beautiful location, with about 500 participants.
Healing Tao Britain Conwy t01492 515776, whealingtaobritain.com. Residential weekend workshops on meditation and Chi Kung.
Heartspring Llansteffan, Carmarthenshire t0845 652 2536, wheartspring.co.uk. Three- or five-day retreats in a beautiful house, with holistic therapies and great veggie food.
Spirit Horse Camp Powys wspirithorse.co.uk. Camps to celebrate ancient ceremonial and cultural traditions in a stunning, secluded setting.
Vajraloka Buddhist Meditation Centre Corwen, Denbighshire t01490 460406, wvajraloka.org. Regular retreats, either men-only or mixed.