Over ten years the Machynlleth Comedy Festival has grown from the best secret in comedy to widely being regarded as the best alternative comedy festival in the UK. With an emphasis on providing acts a platform to try new ideas and experiment, it has set itself apart from other UK comedy festivals. Thousands of people attend the event every year, with over half the attendees travelling in from outside of Wales.

Two men

Henry Widdicombe enjoying a drink in the Big Top at Machynlleth Comedy Festival

Splendid surroundings

However you get to Machynlleth there’s no getting away from the natural splendour of the place. Nestled at the head of the Dyfi Estuary and surrounded by mountains the first thing I would recommend is to climb a hill, or walk along the banks of the river. Climbing Pen’rallt, the small hill to the north of the town, or the Roman Steps at the rear of Y Plas, will give you fantastic views over Machynlleth and the estuary. 

The view overlooking Machynlleth

The market town of Machynlleth, in Mid Wales

Get the train

The next thing I would do would be to jump on the train to Dyfi Junction. One stop out of Machynlleth sits what has to be one of the best railway stations in the UK. Sat among the marshes of the estuary and seemingly in the middle of nowhere it’s like alighting into a scene from the film Spirited Away.

Aerial view of Dovey (Dyfi) Estuary & Aberdovey (Aberdyfi) Gwynedd

An aerial view of the Dyfi estuary

Take a pilgrimage

Take a bite to eat and a book and enjoy the quiet while you wait the 40 minutes for the train to return from Aberystwyth to take you back to town. If I had my way this would be a compulsory pilgrimage for all visitors to Machynlleth, but then I guess it wouldn’t be so quiet. Just up the road from Dyfi Junction is RSPB Ynys-Hir, which is also well worth your time. They’ve done a wonderful job of creating a nature reserve that balances conservation with accessibility.

View from a hide at RSPB Ynys-hir Reserve
Lapwing sitting on grass with a baby lapwing standing next to it

RSPB Ynys-Hir Reserve

Independent shops

Back in town be sure to check out the huge array of independent shops. Machynlleth has done an incredible job of staying independent over the years, and this gives the place an energy and vibrancy lost in so many small towns. You’ll notice an abundance of antique and junk shops that are always packed with curios. There are also some wonderful bookshops, Penrallt Books being a personal favourite, and just about everything else you could imagine, from Wheeler’s Fabrics, to high-end home décor in Bedwen, the sister shop of Deco which resides in the original Laura Ashley shop, to local cooperative Dyfi Wholefoods.

If you can, it’s well worth being in town on a Wednesday when the local market takes place, and the town has a special buzz about it. The charter for the market was granted by Edward I in 1291, who gave the right to hold 'a market at Machynlleth every Wednesday for ever and two fairs every year.'

You should definitely wander around the wonderful Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) Machynlleth, housed within the Tabernacle. It happens to be one of our festival venues. The MOMA gallery shows Modern Welsh art and has an extensive collection of works by artists from 1900 onwards, majoring on artists living and working in the country.

Exterior of Owain Glyndwr Centre.
Giant egg sculpture with woman stood looking at it inside a stone wall room.

The Owain Glyndwr Centre, and a Cosmic Egg sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art Machynlleth

Places to eat

By now you’re probably getting hungry. The good news is you’re spoilt for choice with a range of great pubs and independent cafes. The Wynnstay and White Lion are two of my favourite pubs, and both have inviting beer gardens. And there’s cafés of every variety in Machynlleth. Blasau Deli in Royal House is perfect for tea and cake, as is Caffi Alys housed in the Owain Glyndwr Centre. And lastly, no visit to Machynlleth is complete without visiting Hennighan's Top Shop Chip Shop, the town’s very own award-winning chippie.

Nearby attractions

There’s so much more going on in and around the small town at all times of the year, and I’d encourage you to look at the notice boards and do your own digging. For instance, you’ve got Edible Machynlleth growing plants for picking and eating throughout the year in public spaces, as well as the community gardens just past Y Plas. The award winning Dyfi Distillery (three medals at the 2020 World Gin Awards) is just out of town and offer tours, and while you’re there King Arthur’s Labyrinth will take you deep into an old network of mines. 

Also on the road north to Corris, you’ll find the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), complete with funicular railway to gain entry. CAT has been leading the way in sustainable living since the '70s and I would say is unmissable if you’ve never been.

Have fun!

The funicular railway at the Centre for Alternative Technology
Rows of bottles of gin on a shelf.
Tour group in the caves at King Arthur's Labyrinth.

Centre for Alternative Technology, Dyfi Gin Distillery and King Arthur's Labyrinth, near Machynlleth

Further information

The full line-up for the Machynlleth Comedy Festival can be found on the festival website

The best way to hear about all the latest announcements is through their Twitter @machcomedyfest, Mach Comedy Festival Facebook page and Instagram @machcomedyfest. For information straight to your inbox sign up to their newsletter via the website.

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