Elan Valley Reservoirs & Dams

Elan Valley Reservoirs & Dams

Spectacular Scenery

Information

Name:Elan Valley Reservoirs & Dams

Location: Near Rhayader – 48 miles–80 minutes drive.

Description

Elan Valley boasts 72 square miles of unspoilt nature and reservoirs. Whilst it is a bit further afield from our cottages than some other attractions, it is one of our favourite days out. The drive there is very scenic and the roads are quiet. 

When you arrive, head to the visitor centre where you can get a guide with maps and find out more about the dams. There is a gift shop, cafe and loos there and they often host exhibitions. You can also pay for parking (£2.50) which then means you can park in any of the car parks around the Estate. 

From the visitor centre you can then choose to drive to the dams and around the reservoirs, head out on foot on one of the walking trails or even hire a bicycle – Cycle Hire Prices.

The reservoirs are scenic but it is the dams which make this a unique place to visit. They are a marvel of engineering but also very beautiful.

The landscape is of national importance for the diversity of lower plants (mosses, liverworts and lichens) and the Estate is the most important area for land birds in Wales. It is covered by 12 separate Sites of Special Scientific Interest. 

The Estate has been awarded an International Dark Sky Park Award and it is filled with a wealth of nocturnal Wildlife which thrives under the very dark skies.

Elan Valley is good to visit all year round as the landscape changes with the seasons. Autumn is a particularly splendid time to go for the colours.

Llyn Brianne

Llyn Brianne

Reservoir & Dam

Information

Name: Llyn Brianne

Location: Upper Tywi Valley 20 miles /45 minutes 

Description

The drive from Coedmor Cottages to Llyn Brianne is a delight in itself. You want to take your time and savour the views as you enter the Cambrian Mountains. 

Not technically a Natural Wonder, the lake is actually a reservoir created in the late 1960’s/ early 70’s. But the scenery is reminiscent of Canada or Scandinavia – just beautiful. 

When you get to the lake there are two car parks – one at the bottom of the dam and one at the top (probably the best choice). Both are free. The top car park has toilets but they are not always open (a toilet is available at nearby RSPB Gwenffrwd Dinas nature reserve – a lovely walk along the river there too). The dam at Llyn Brianne is the UK’s tallest at 91m (300 ft). Walk across the top of the dam and see Martins swooping below.

There is a good track to walk around part of the lake – probably too far to walk around the whole lake in a  day for most people! But you can walk along the track and then retrace your steps back to the car park. The woodland here is famous for being one of the last places you can see Red Squirrels. You will also likely see Red Kites and Buzzards overhead.

If you are keen on stargazing, the car park at Llyn Brianne is also a Dark Sky Discovery Site – part of the Cambrian Mountains Astro Trail.

The drive around the lake is a great way to take in the scenery and for an alternative route back to the cottages the road between Llyn Brianne and Tregaron is worth a detour.

If you drive back towards Llandovery, you will come across the Towy Bridge Inn – right next to the bridge on the River Towy (where else would it be!) Pop in for a drink or some food. 

Carreg Cennan Castle

Carreg Cennan Castle

Historic Castle, Farm & Tea Rooms

Information

Name:Carreg Cennan Castle

Location: Trapp, Llandeilo – 27 miles–50 minutes drive

Description

Voted by readers of Countryfile magazine the most romantic ruin in Wales. The dramatic castle stands on a great limestone crag nearly 300ft/90m above the River Cennen with stunning views over the Carmarthenshire countryside.

One of the unique features of the castle is a natural limestone cave. Some recent findings down there suggest that is was one of the oldest inhabited caves in the whole of Wales.  Part of the cave was modified to be used by the castle.

The castle is situated next to a traditional working farm which offers free parking. The farm is free to visit and also has Tea Rooms and a Gift Shop. 

Entry to the Castle is £5.50 for Adults (£4.50 for over 60s). It opens at 9:30am and closes between 4:30pm and 5:00pm depending on the season. 

 

 

Aberporth After Lockdown

Monday 6th July was the first time we were allowed to travel more than 5 miles from home in Wales since the week after we moved here in March. We took the opportunity to explore the lovely beaches at Aberporth. It was really quiet with just a few families and surfers. So lovely to feel the sea breeze on our faces! The drive is very picturesque too and it only took us 40 minutes from the cottages.

Dyffryn Beach

Aberporth lies at the southern end of Cardigan Bay about six miles north of Cardigan and ten miles south of New Quay. It overlooks two sandy beaches both with European Blue Flag status.

Dyffryn Beach from above

Dyffryn Beach is to the west of the headland and Dolwen Beach to the east. Aberporth Beach is often used to describe both of these beaches together.

Dolwen Beach

The beaches both have soft golden sand and shelve gently into the sea. They were both pretty quiet when we were there which is unusual for July. Probably because tourists weren’t allowed to visit until the following week .

View of the pretty houses in Aberporth from Dyffryn beach.
The beaches are popular with surfers.

We went in the afternoon when it was low tide, so there was more space to walk and we got to explore the rocks and rock pools. 🦐 🦀

Limpets and barnacles galore!
Rock Pools.

We walked on Dyffryn Beach as we had Ziggy with us – dogs aren’t allowed on Dolwen in the Summer months.

Ziggy loves the beach!
Dyffryn Beach is dog friendly all summer.
Ziggy enjoys getting his paws wet.

We also had a wander up the hill into the town and then walked down through a small wooded area back to the beach. A very pleasant stroll with views over the beaches.

View from the top of the hill back down to the beaches
Sculpture on the walk back to the beach.
Dyffryn Beach from the walk back down from town.

We couldn’t go onto Dolwen beach as dogs aren’t allowed in Summer.

The steps down to Dolwen Beach
Dolphin Sculpture overlooking the Beaches – Sightings are common in this area.

The shops and cafes were still closed when we visited this time, but we went back a couple of weeks later and it was much busier with tourists and everything was open. We enjoyed a lovely salted caramel ice cream 🤤

So quiet for July
Yes!! The joy of being able to have a day at the beach after lockdown! 💙

I’m pretty sure we will never again see Aberporth so quiet in July…but come the Autumn when the crowds of tourists get smaller, we think it will be a great place to walk and chill out for an afternoon.

Morning Walk at Penbryn Beach

When we were planning our Big Move to Wales we did some exploring around the area and the beaches and harbour towns of Cardigan Bay were one of the deciding factors in us choosing to move to Lampeter. So for our first trip out we really wanted to take Ziggy to Penbryn Beach. We had been before in September when we had our second viewing of the Cottages so we already knew what a magical place it is.

Penbryn in September the day after we decided to buy The Cottages

“Social Distancing” was already in force but we weren’t yet in lockdown, so we were allowed to head to the beach for our daily exercise. Penbryn is looked after by the National Trust, so there is a proper car park which you pay a couple of pounds for and this goes towards the upkeep (and there are loos there too). The beach is a walk downhill – you have two choices here. You can walk down the road or go through the woodland. We chose to go the road route as we wanted to get to the beach asap.

Only Ziggy’s second time at the beach…ever!

As you reach the beach there is a stream that runs right down into the sea. Ziggy couldn’t wait to get wet…he loves water but won’t swim – he panics if he goes out of his depth. When we lived in Reading we were so far from the sea that we only took Ziggy to the beach once. He loved it, but couldn’t understand why the water tastes so bad 😂 At Penbryn he went crazy running on the sand – he loved the wide open space…and we were virtually the only ones there.

Penbryn in March – gorgeous soft sand.

There are caves at the far end of the beach – worth exploring but they don’t go very deep.

Cave at Penbryn

The beach is about a mile long so you can have a decent walk along it. We took the scenic route back up to the car park through the enchanted valley. It really is a wonderful walk although it is quite steep in places. But there’s no rush. Take your time and enjoy the meandering pathways that take you through woodland and fern-clad terrain with a stream babbling below you.

Then just as you thought it couldn’t get any better, you come upon a bridge and a waterfall! Seriously, if fairies are real, this is where they live. 🧚‍♀️

Penbryn Waterfall

Penbryn is about a 40 minute scenic drive from our cottages. If you want to make a full day of it you can also get onto the Wales Coast Path from Penbryn for a longer walk. See more about Penbryn Beach (and the clip from a James Bond movie filmed there) in our Natural Wonders section: Penbryn Beach

Dolaucothi Gold Mines

Dolaucothi Gold Mines

History and Nature Trails

Information

Name: Dolaucothi Gold Mines

Location: Pumsaint – 9 miles – 18 Minutes drive

Description

These unique gold mines are set amid wooded hillsides overlooking the beautiful Cothi Valley and have a 2000 year history. Between 70 AD and 80 AD, the Romans began the first extensive mining of Dolaucothi, creating large open-cast workings and digging several tunnels to exploit the gold veins. The most active period of mining at Dolaucothi in the Victorian/Edwardian Age occurred around the turn of the 20th century and carried on sporadically until the 1930’s.

There are lots of activities to take part in. You can pan for gold, take a self-guided audio tour of the Roman Goldmines, explore the 1930’s sheds and machinery, shop for Welsh Gold jewellery or take an underground guided tour. These tours take visitors right into the Drift Mines, perched on the hills above the Mine Yard. There are 5 underground tours per day to the Victorian and Roman mines and these take about 1 hour. The season runs from 1st April to the end of October. The site is run by the National Trust and opening times vary through the seasons so check online. Entry price is currently £10.50 for adults.

If you don’t fancy going down the mine or you want to spend longer exploring the area, there are also a number of nature trails to follow ranging from very easy to challenging. These are open all year round and are a haven for a multitude of wild birds as well as red squirrels and pine martens.

Just 10 minutes walk away is the Dolaucothi Arms pub – voted Rural Pub of the Year by BBC Countryfile in 2019. It offers a traditional pub menu in the Winter and a Mediterranean style menu from April to September. N.B. the pub is closed on Mondays and opening hours change in the winter months so check their website.

The National Botanic Gardens of Wales

The National Botanic Gardens of Wales

A Delightful Day Out with Flora & Fauna

Information

Name: The National Botanic Gardens of Wales

Location: Llanarthne 28 miles – 45 minute drive

Description

Set in the beautiful Carmarthenshire countryside, the National Botanic Garden of Wales is spread over 560 acres with an amazing collection of over 8000 different plant varieties. With the largest single-spanned glasshouse in the world and the best display of Mediterranean climate zone plants in the Northern Hemisphere it is easy to see why it has been voted No 1 Garden to Visit in Wales (by BBC Gardeners World).

The garden also has a wide diversity of wild plant and animal species across its mosaic of lakes, meadows, streams, woodland, and marshes. It boasts over 100 types of moths & butterflies, over 50 varieties of birds, 20 species of mammals (including otters, dormice and bats) as well as frogs, toads, newts and lizards.

New for 2020, the Regency Restoration project has restored the legendary landscape of one of the finest Regency Waterparks in the UK. The garden will feature a necklace of seven lakes, cascades, falls & weirs first created 200 years ago.

Along with the themed gardens there is also a Butterfly House and Waun Las Nature Reserve – with wildflower-rich meadows. There are two cafes and a restaurant on site as well as the Garden Plant Shop selling plants and gifts and a craft shop and art gallery too.

2020 prices are £11.50 for adults (including Gift Aid).
Opening times: 10:00am – 6:00pm 1st April to 31st October
10:00am – 4:00pm 1st November to 31st March
Postcode is SA32 8HN Telephone: 01558 667149

As if all the gardeny goodness wasn’t enough, there is now also the brilliant British Bird of Prey Centre on site for extra entertainment. There are daily flying displays with the 20 native birds of prey – you can even see a Golden Eagle flying. Displays are 11:30am and 2:30pm with the Owl Show at 1:00pm. You can also book private experiences to have time flying the birds – bookable in advance at info@britishbirdofpreycentre.co.uk

There is a packed programme of events and courses held throughout the year from exhibitions, gardening courses, art classes and photography tuition. You can easily spend a whole day exploring this delightful place.