The view down the Tal-y-Llyn pass towards Llyn Mwyngil is one that graces a hundred postcards and Insta Stories. High, craggy mountains on each side, the lake a long metallic sliver at the bottom, and a winding road stretching towards the horizon. This is my way home. On that very horizon, past the lake and the mountains that stand guard around our town, is the town of Tywyn.
I love that view despite its ubiquity, because travelling on that road in that direction can only mean one thing: I'm going home. Whatever the weather on the mountains, Bro Dysynni is always lighter, as if there's an ever-present, kind sun at the end of the road.
Tywyn's old tales
It's the sea that attracts most people, visitors and locals alike. A long promenade stretches like a pointing finger towards Aberdyfi to the south, Llwyngwril to the north, and a long warm day on the soft sand with a book and occasional visits to the prom cafes is the perfect antidote to stress. And you don't have to venture far to seek sites of local interest.
In low tide, the peat beds are exposed in the sand just to the south of the promenade - a long series of carefully cut out squares, like ancient homes, and dotted with the remains of a submerged forest. This place brings to mind the legend (though I choose to believe it's true) of Cantre'r Gwaelod, the story of an ancient and fruitful land that was lost to the sea. On a more practical and luxurious level, these peat squares capture sea water as the tide recedes, and by the end of a hot day, they create your very own natural hot tub.
At the other end of town, there is the ancient and endlessly fascinating church of St Cadfan, an imposing and peaceful site of historical interest. In its silence, you will find treasures. St Cadfan's Stone, which dates from the ninth century or earlier, is inscribed with the earliest written Welsh. Explore a little further and find the stone effigy of Gruffudd ab Adda. In damp weather, the effigy weeps. Yes, you read that correctly and no, no-one has yet snapped up the story for a Netflix thriller. Geologists say that a flaw in the stone in Gruffudd's right eye is responsible for the tears that trickle down his cheek, but perhaps you, like me, have little time for such sensible reasoning. He is crying, which is why I go to visit him often.
Tywyn buns and books
If you're feeling shaken after seeing a stone in tears, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants in Tywyn for you to take a breather. The Retreat Bar and Cafe makes wonderful coffee and serves tasty and reasonable meals (the pizzas, especially, are fantastic). A trip to The Proper Gander feels like a real treat, although the prices here too are very reasonable for food that tastes fresh and delicious, the flavours delicately and carefully combined. The Whitehall pub serves a fantastic menu, ranging from spicy burgers to delicately cooked fish - a good bet if you want to eat good food, but you also have to cater to a fussy child's palate.
If you fancy a wander around the shops, the High Street offers plenty of places selling local crafts and trinkets. Clock Tower Books is a small, atmospheric bookshop situated in the Market Hall, and sells new and second hand books about anything and everything - ask Karl, and he will find you the best book you'll ever read.
Tywyn is for foodies - it's a gastronome's paradise. The honey ice cream in Holgates' ice cream shop is the stuff of legends, and tastes like childhood and summers and bright colours. The local butcher, T Rowlands and Son, is second to none, and Oliver's Bakery - well, I don't know what they put in their bread, cakes and pasties, but I've broken every diet I've ever been on in there, and it's always worth it. Try their speciality, the butter buns - also known as Tywyn buns. You can thank me later.
Exploring the Bro
After having your fill of food, there are plenty of walks and paths to explore. Take the Wales Coast Path north, over the Dysynni river and towards the ruins of the old army camp in Tonfannau. A short drive east along the winding Bro Dysynni Valley will take you to the imposing and majestic Craig yr Aderyn (Bird Rock) and the silence and tranquility of Castell y Bere castle. Or you can take the Talyllyn Railway steam train from Tywyn to Abergynolwyn, and explore the many paths and ridges of this quiet, spectacular corner of Wales.
If you don't want to travel by car or public transport, it's possible to walk to nearby Aberdyfi along the sandy beach. You will find a bustling, chocolate-box pretty harbour village that can get very crowded in summer, but is at its best out of season when it's a little quieter. Also within easy walking distance is Ynysmaengwyn park and woodland, the site of a ruined mansion which is now teeming with wildlife and flowers.
But if there is one thing, just one thing, you must do when you visit Tywyn, it is this - go to the cinema. The Magic Lantern Cinema has been recently refurbished, although it has retained all of its old charm, and then some. The murals on the walls are imposing and beautiful, the quirky design of the bar evocative of another time, and the cocktail list... Well. Try The Rocketman. You won't regret it.
And so, that is Tywyn - a weeping knight, a sandy beach, a steam train, a cocktail and a butter bun. I could tell you so much more about this little town, unseen at the far end of that view of Tal-y-Llyn, but you will find gems I haven't yet uncovered.
Top Tywyn tips
Find out more about Manon Steffan Ros' books on Y Lolfa's website.
You can travel to Tywyn easily by public transport - there's a mainline railway station and regular buses. Traveline Cymru can help you plan your trip. If you have an electric car, there are EV charging stations at the Talyllyn Railway's Wharf and Abergynolwyn stations, Hendy Farm Cottages and Cynfal Farm Cottages.
Tywyn Beach is brilliant for building sandcastles, rockpooling and paddling. As always, please read up on staying safe by the coast by taking at look at the RNLI's Guide to Beach Safety first. Part of the beach has restricted access for dogs between April and September, but there's plenty of beach for them to run around on the north and south ends.
If you decide to venture out walking and hiking, Adventure Smart UK has plenty of advice on how to ‘make a good day better’, and we recommend you read it before planning your days out. Many of the footpaths around Tywyn go across farmland so please be respectful and follow the Countryside Code.