Cardigan Bay (Bae Ceredigion) takes a huge bite out of the west Wales coast, leaving behind the Pembrokeshire peninsula in the south and the Llŷn in the north. Between them lies the Cambrian coast, a loosely defined mountain-backed strip periodically split by tumbling rivers, which stretches from Cardigan up to Harlech. Large sand-fringed sections are peppered with low-key coastal resorts, peopled in the summer by families from the English Midlands.
The southern Ceredigion coast is broken by some spirited little ports, all soaked in a relaxed, upbeat and firmly Welsh culture: the old county town of Cardigan fringed by the lovely Teifi Marshes and Cilgerran Castle; higgledy-piggledy New Quay; and pretty Georgian Aberaeron. Ceredigion’s main town is ebullient Aberystwyth, a great base for the waterfalls and woods of the Vale of Rheidol out towards Devil’s Bridge and the red kites at Bwlch Nant yr Arian.
To the north, the flat river plain and rolling hills of the Dyfi Valley lay justifiable claim to being one of the greenest corners of Europe. Their focal point is the genial town of Machynlleth, a candidate for the Welsh capital in the 1950s and site of Owain Glyndŵr’s embryonic fifteenth-century Welsh parliament. In the hills to the north lies the fascinating Centre for Alternative Technology. Machynlleth looks up at one of Wales’s most inspirational mountains, Cadair Idris (2930ft), incised by the Talyllyn Valley (with its toy railway) and the delightful Dysynni Valley. On its northern flank, the beautiful Mawddach estuary snakes its way seaward from grey-stone Dolgellau, springboard for the mountain biking and forest pursuits at Coed-y-Brenin. The coast begins to feel more like north Wales at hilltop fortress of Harlech where the castle overlooks the dunes and the Llŷn.