Wales and the unexpected: there are all kinds of oddities (we mean this kindly) hidden in the hills. Here are a few to be getting on with. You’ll find plenty of others along The Cambrian Way as you go.

Betws-y-Coed, North Wales

When you’re in Snowdonia, all roads lead (eventually) to pretty Betws-y-Coed, the traditional gateway to the mountains. It’s an excellent base-camp for hiking/cycling holidays, with several good treks from the village itself, like the woodland climb to Llyn Elsi, or a riverside stroll to Swallow Falls.

Fun fact: Betws-y-Coed is the most misspelt place name in Britain (the local website found 364 different variations of how to spell Betws-y-Coed). We find this both mystifying and highly amusing. In case you were wondering, it means ‘prayer house in the woods’.

Find places to stay and things to do in Betws-y-Coed.

A grey stone bridge over a narrow river.

The bridge at Betws-y-Coed, North Wales

Mawddach Estuary, North Wales

The River Mawddach meets the sea at arguably our most spectacular estuary, carving a great sandy gouge in the mountains of Snowdonia. It’s straddled by two resorts, Fairbourne and Barmouth, and linked by a famous wooden viaduct that trains share with walkers and cyclists. The poet William Wordsworth wrote, ‘With a fine sea view in front, the mountains behind, the glorious estuary running eight miles inland, and Cader Idris within compass of a day’s walk, Barmouth can always hold its own against any rival.’ We have nothing further to add.

Find places to stay and things to do in Barmouth.

A glider over lakes and an estuary.
Bild von kleinen Booten im Hafen von Barmouth und Häusern und Hügeln im Hintergrund.
Rail bridge and small boat at low tide

Barmouth and the Mawddach Estuary, North Wales

Dyfi Distillery, Corris, Mid Wales

The Dyfi Distillery started making gin in 2016, won multiple best-British-gin awards in 2017, and promptly sold out of everything. They haven't lost their award-winning touch since. Recent wins include three medals at the 2020 World Gin Awards - Best Welsh Dry Gin with its Dyfi Original, Pollination Gin scooped a gold medal and Hibernation Gin was awarded a silver. They only distil in tiny batches, using herbs foraged from a secluded valley that is Wales’ only UNESCO World Biosphere. Your best chance of bagging a bottle is at their distillery, which is part of the Corris Craft Centre community. 

Ein satz Dyfi Gin flaschen auf einem regal.

Dyfi Distillery, Corris, Mid Wales

National Cycle Museum, Llandrindod Wells, Mid Wales

Cycling has always been big in Wales. According to top coach Sir Dave Brailsford, it’s because we’ve got plenty of quiet lanes and big hills, which are the cyclist’s favourite habitat. So it’s fitting that Britain’s National Cycle Museum is here in the heart of cycling country at Llandrindod Wells. They’ve got 260+ cycles, from ancient bone-shakers to hi-tech carbon jobbies, and knowledgeable staff to show you what’s what.

Farmers’ Welsh Lavender, near Builth Wells, Mid Wales

The lavender fields near Builth Wells produce the scented oil that goes into the Farmers' range of body care creams, balms, lotions and scrubs. You can visit most days during the summer (it’s very pretty, the views are lush, and cake is on the menu) – but ring ahead first, just to check they’re not out tending to their crops.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BliDBvTgMAi/

Erwood Station Gallery, Mid Wales

Old railway carriages are the galleries at Erwood Station, which served the Brecon-Builth Wells branch line until its closure in the 1960s. Now it has an eclectic selection of painting, ceramics, sculpture and jewellery. There’s also a self-service café and lovely riverside walks along the River Wye, which flows alongside.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CCAzWjIBnPB/

Gigrin Farm, Rhayader, Mid Wales

Red kites are one of the big success stories of conservation. While they were extinct almost everywhere in Britain, they survived – just – in remote pockets of the Cothi and Tywi valleys. Nowadays, they’re a common – but never commonplace – sight almost everywhere in Wales. For the best display of all, the daily red kite feedings at Gigrin attract up to 600 of these stunning birds, as well as a supporting cast of buzzards and ravens.

group of birds (red kites) flying and landing.
three birds (red kites) in flight.

Red kites at Gigrin Farm, Rhayader, Mid Wales

Penderyn Distillery, Brecon Beacons

Welsh distilleries were drummed out by non-conformist religious fervour in the 19th century, and have only really sneaked back in the 21st. The leading light is Penderyn, which makes terrific whisky in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons. The visitor centre is open daily.

A group of visitors on a Penderyn Distillery tour with a guide looking at the yellow gold vats.

Penderyn Distillery tour in action

Rhondda Heritage Park, Trehafod, South Wales

The Rhondda Valleys (there are two: Fawr and Fach, big and small) form the world’s most famous coal-mining area. There used to be 53 working pits in Rhondda, and this one – the Lewis Merthyr colliery – has been preserved as Rhondda Heritage Park, a living-history museum that vividly recreates the hardships and camaraderie of the Valleys’ mining community. All the guides are proper ex-miners and, in the café, the food is proper Welsh-Italian: there’s been a big ex-pat Italian community here for more than a century.

Distance view of Rhondda Heritage Park with hills in background

Rhondda Heritage Park, Trehafod, South Wales

Related stories