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.
The summit of Esgair Fraith is 415m – it is in the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains and has a Bronze Age cairn at the top. On a clear day you can see the western edge of the Brecon Beacons to the east. To the south you can see the highest peak of the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire. To the west, you can see the sea at Aberaeron. To the North you can see the Cambrian Mountains and the foothills of Snowdonia.
Its not a long walk if you park by the old Roman road of Sarn Helen. Just a 5 minute walk along the track, through the gate (or over the stile) and then climb the grassy path to the cairn at the top of the hill. Red Kites, Buzzards and Skylarks will be sharing the view with you.
Our cottages are only 5 miles away from this brilliant vantage point, so we visit often. If you want to stretch your legs further, there are brilliant walks through the neighbouring Clywedog Forest Plantation too as well as a longer walk to a nearby lake.
If you are lucky you may even get to see RAF jets fly by – this has happened to us a couple of times.
There is another historic site on the other side of the Sarn Helen road which is only a few minutes walk. Carreg Y Bwci ( The Goblin Stone) is a site of national importance. Thought to have originally been a Bronze Age burial chamber with standing stone circle, it was then probably used as a Roman signal station – like something from Lord of the Rings!
Both sites can be visited in less than a couple of hours – although you may want to stop and sit a while to take in the amazing views – taking a picnic is recommended!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 .
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. 🦀 🦐
We walked on Dyffryn Beach as we had Ziggy with us – dogs aren’t allowed on Dolwen in the Summer months.
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.
We couldn’t go onto Dolwen beach as dogs aren’t allowed in Summer.
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 😋
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.
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.
“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.
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.
There are caves at the far end of the beach – worth exploring but they don’t go very deep.
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 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
During lockdown we have had plenty to keep us busy but we have also set aside time to explore the countryside around the cottages. In Wales, lockdown rules are especially strict and at the moment we are only allowed to go out once per day for exercise and it has to be very close to home – no driving to get to a beauty spot for walking.
Just as well that we live in such a gorgeous place then! ? At this time of year when the meadows behind our cottages are empty or just have sheep, the farmer who owns them doesn’t mind us walking up the hill to get some exercise…and more stunning views. As you get higher even more of the landscape opens up.
Right at the top is an old abandoned slate quarry and the panorama is so amazing from up there it is worth the effort to climb the hill.
The gorse bushes are now blooming and the colours are unreal. ? We have been blessed with some perfect weather and the bluest of skies. It is so calming spending time just taking it all in and stopping to look at the colours and smell the flowers. Did you know that gorse flowers smell like Pina Colada? ?Why did I never know this before? It is quite an intoxicating aroma – very coconutty!
Being surrounded by nature does make you slow down – it is so therapeutic. We have so many different birds around us. Red Kites and Buzzards circle overhead and the songs of the robin, coal tit, willow warbler and wren are so musical. We even have a resident hare that visits the farmland behind our picnic meadow – we see him most mornings if we are out early enough.
We have discovered a few different circular walks that you can do right from the cottages so if you want to stretch your legs and connect with nature when you come to stay we can give you directions…or you can just explore and find them for yourself! ?
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 natural beauty of the plateaux, valleys and gorges of the Cambrian Mountains is equal to and often greater than some British national parks. Although distributed among three counties – Powys, Ceredigion & Carmarthenshire – the Cambrian Mountains are geographically one area, and form the main watershed of Wales. The rivers Severn, Wye, Elan, Irfon, Tywi, Cothi, Teifi, Ystwyth, Rheidol, and Twymyn all have their sources here. There are only a few roads across the mountains and they are acknowledged as some of the most scenic routes in Britain.The walker is king in the Cambrian Mountains and you can find many routes online, such as the ones on Walking Britain. The landscape is vast, but not featureless. There are plenty of lakes and reservoirs that will make you feel like you could be in Canada! Interesting features like Strata Florida, The Teifi Pools and Devil’s Bridge mean that you can spend several days exploring the area. There are also amazing wildlife habitats like Cors Caron Nature Reserve which has great walking trails and is recognised internationally as an important wetland reserve.
Our romantic holiday cottages are located in the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains and you can even see the mountains in the distance from our meadows.