With stunning scenery around every bend, Mid Wales has some of the most scenic drives in the UK where visitors can take their time and enjoy the views.
Many of the fantastic routes are set against panoramic and breathtaking backdrops. Here are a few suggestions to whet the appetite of motorists who love to explore places off the beaten track.
For those seeking to build a holiday or short break around these scenic routes, visit - https://www.visitmidwales.co.uk/accommodation/ - to view the range of quality accommodation available across Mid Wales.
Our scenic drives begin with Abergwesyn Pass from Llanwrtyd Wells - famous for bog snorkelling, the man versus horse race and the Alternative Olympic Games - to Tregaron.
This single track runs through an almost brutally wild landscape of moors, escarpment, pine forest and scurrying streams. In the middle, there’s a steep series of hairpins called the Devil’s Staircase.
It’s not built for speed, which means its 20 odd miles can seem much further, especially when you might not pass a single soul for the entire trip, other than the occasional sheep.
Along the route, drivers will see Soar y Mynydd, the most remote chapel in Wales, which is well worth a short diversion. Further south, past Llyn Brianne reservoir, is the RSPB Gwenffrwd-Dinas reserve.
The mountain road from Aberystwyth to Rhayader crosses the spine of the spectacular Cambrian Mountains.
Head out of Aberystwyth on the A4120 to Devil’s Bridge, follow the B4574 to Cwmystwyth, then pick up the tremendous mountain road that soars through the mountains, past the northernmost of the Elan Valley reservoirs before eventually dropping down into Rhayader.
On the way, drivers can check out the university town of Aberystwyth, take a steam train journey up to Devil’s Bridge on the Vale of Rheidol Railway and explore the Devil’s Bridge Falls.
There are also the Elan Valley reservoirs, conceived by Victorians to supply water to the industrial English Midlands and now a tranquil paradise for walkers and wildlife. Be sure to check out the valley for stars on a clear night, as it’s a Dark Sky reserve.
Other scenic routes to explore include the mountain road from Llanidloes to Machynlleth, via Clywedog Reservoir. The views are wonderful and take in the former lead mining community of Dylife and the Dylife Gorge and Wynford Vaughan-Thomas viewing points which afford panoramic views over the surrounding area.
The breathtaking routes continue with the Bwlch y Groes Pass, a route that lies on minor roads linking Dinas Mawddwy, Llanuwchllyn and Lake Vyrnwy, with views across the Dyfi Valley and Cadair Idris.
This is part of the pilgrim's route from North West Wales to St David's in South Wales. A cross, which can be found just below the summit at the junction of the roads from Vyrnwy and from Dinas Mawddwy, was placed on the route as a symbol of faith and strength comforting travellers since medieval times.
Bwlch y Groes was used between and after the wars by the Austin Motor Company and the Standard Triumph Motor Company to test prototype cars and their performance during hillclimbing.
Another must is the route that takes drivers along A487 from Machynlleth via Corris towards Dolgellau and before turning off on the B4405 to Tywyn via the picturesque Talyllyn lake at the foot of Cadair Idris mountain.
In the seaside resort of Tywyn, you can swap your car, motorhome, motorbike or bicycle for a different form of transport – Talyllyn Railway, the world’s first preserved railway.
For those drivers who enjoy sea views, try out the coastal route from Portmeirion in the north to Cardigan in the south west of Mid Wales.
Portmeirion is a magical place, an exquisite Italianate village designed by Clough Williams-Ellis tucked neatly into a headland overlooking the River Dwyryd. The village was the surreal location for cult 1960s TV series The Prisoner and it’s a hugely popular day-trip.
On the journey south along the A496, check out Harlech Castle, a World Heritage Site, which was built in the late 1200s and now looks slightly marooned on its rocky plinth. A new bridge has made access easy and connected the castle with a new visitor centre that has five luxury apartments for hire.
The famous song ‘Men of Harlech’ commemorates an epic siege in the 1460s, when the castle held out for seven years, the longest siege in British history.
Barmouth was a hard-working, ship-building, slate-exporting port until 19th century tourists took a shine to its mountains-meet-sea charms. Nowadays it’s Southern Snowdonia’s most popular resort, with big beaches and splendid views up the Mawddach Estuary.
Take the toll bridge across the estuary at Penmaenpool to join up with the A493 coastal route and be sure to also check out Aberdyfi, a small seaside village in southern Snowdonia. where the River Dyfi meets the green-blue waters of Cardigan Bay.
Aberdyfi is the subject of a popular Welsh folk song, ‘Clychau Aberdyfi’ or ‘The Bells of Aberdyfi’, which refers to the legend of Cantre’r Gwaelod, a submerged kingdom beneath Cardigan Bay.
Drive inland to the ancient capital of Wales at Machynlleth to crossing the River Dyfi before continuing on the A487 to Aberystwyth, a pier-and-prom Georgian/Victorian resort, is well worth a visit.
There’s lots to see and do in the town, including the Aberystwyth Cliff Railway up Constitution Hill, the priceless treasures of the National Library of Wales and the Ceredigion Museum.
Next stop driving south is the busy little town of Aberaeron, which has a fine set of colourful Regency buildings along its harbour.
This stretch of the Welsh coastline is incredibly rich in wildlife, with Britain’s biggest pod of dolphins spending the summer in Cardigan Bay, centred around New Quay, once an important fishing and shipbuilding town that is now a popular holiday resort.
Our journey ends in Cardigan, an old fishing port with impeccable Welsh roots. In 1176, the first eisteddfod was held in Cardigan Castle and there’s still a traditional Welsh feel to the town.
View the scenic drives https://www.visitmidwales.co.uk/scenicdrives or watch a YouTube video about driving in the Cambrian Mountains at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CZMxKZ_ZrU .
The spectacular Aberystwyth to Rhayader route through the Cambrian Mountains.
The Abergwesyn Pass on the route from Llanwrtyd Wells to Tregaron.
© Crown copyright (2021) Cymru Wales
The Llanidloes to Machynlleth scenic drive at Dylife.
© Crown copyright (2021) Cymru Wales
The Talyllyn Pass and lake.
Image: Barbara Fuller
Spring is one of the best times of the year to see rare wildlife and get up close to nature in the beautiful countryside of Mid Wales.
This unspoilt region in the heartland of Wales has an abundance of natural environments and some of the rarest species of birds and animals in the UK, including visiting ospreys, red kites, otters, beavers and even dolphins.
The UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere Wales - https://www.dyfibiosphere.wales/ - is one of the best places to see a diverse range of wildlife.
Otters swim in the rivers, beavers have recently been released, ospreys return every spring to breed, red kites grace the sky and dolphin pods are often spotted from the beach and on boat trips.
Nature reserves perfect for bird watching include Cors Dyfi and the Dyfi Osprey Project - https://www.dyfiospreyproject.com/ and the RSPB Ynys-hir reserve https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/ynys-hir/ which are all near Machynlleth.
For the last 50 years, RSPB Ynys-hir has been a wonderful home for wildlife and a haven for visitors who really want to get away from it all.
Located on the A487, Wales Coastal Way, in the village of Eglwys-fach, the reserve covers 850 hectares with a wide mix of habitats - mountain, lowland wet grassland, reedbed, bog, woodland and saltmarsh.
Springtime at this reserve is spectacular, with pied flycatchers, redstarts and wood warblers singing their hearts out whilst the woodland floor transforms into a beautiful carpet of bluebells. Watch the diving display flights of lapwings and the piping calls of redshanks on the Marian Mawr pools.
Cors Dyfi Reserve and Dyfi Osprey Project is the best place to see ospreys, otters, beavers, nightjars, warblers, increasingly rare hen harriers and even water buffalo, which are introduced to graze the marshes.
Ospreys spend their winters in West Africa, but since 2011 some of them have come to Cors Dyfi each spring to mate. Over the years, the osprey partners have raised one to three chicks successfully each year. Watch them live at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtlCjc1D4Qo
In a double success story for Mid Wales, ospreys have also been nesting at Hafren Forest alongside Clywedog reservoir, near Llanidloes, since 2014. Watch them live in the nest at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyciWNPFuWM
Nearby, along the Cardigan Bay coast, dolphins and porpoises often put on a display for spectators. For the best chance of seeing them, visit Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre in New Quay and take a boat trip.
New Quay is one of only two places in Great Britain where you can see bottlenose dolphins. Dolphin Survey Boat Trips - https://www.dolphinsurveyboattrips.co.uk/ -
provide an underwater microphone which allows passengers to listen to the dolphins in their natural habitat.
Further inland, at Forge, near Machynlleth, visitors are allowed to get up close and personal with birds of prey at the Falconry Experience Wales - https://raptorexperiencewales.co.uk/. Fly and handle Lakota the bald eagle or Moggie the white faced owl under professional supervision.
The falconry experience also includes falcons, hawks, American buzzards, a white tailed sea eagle and a fast paced demonstration of a falcon flying to a lure.
Falconry Experience Wales also organises Raptor Days with wildlife presenter and author Iolo Williams who introduces people to the raptors at various locations in Mid Wales. The first two days this summer are sold out, but spaces are available for July 24 and August 9. More details on the website.
To enjoy the spectacle of seeing more than 100 red kites feeding, travel to the Red Kite Feeding Station at Bwlch Nant yr Arian, between Llanidloes and Aberystwyth - naturalresources.wales/bwlchnantyrarian?lang=en
Bwlch Nant yr Arian became a red kite feeding station in 1999, as part of a programme to protect the small number of red kites in the area at that time. Nowadays, the red kites fly in from a 10-mile radius to be fed by the lake daily at 3pm and the spectacle can be watched from the lakeside viewing area.
For those seeking to build a holiday or short break around wildlife watching, visit - https://www.visitmidwales.co.uk/accommodation/ - to view the range of quality accommodation available in Mid Wales.
Red kites can be watched at Bwlch Nant yr Arian feeding station.
Ospreys at the Dyfi Osprey Project.
Bottle nose Dolphins in Cardigan Bay.
Image: Steve Hartley, Dolphin Survey Boat Trips.
Wildlife presenter Iolo Williams with Lakota the bald eagle at Falconry Experience Wales.
A beaver family has been released at the Cors Dyfi Reserve.
The team at S3 have been out and about in Mid Wales. This 3 day shoot was mainly around Powys so look out for footage on our Instagram & Facebook pages! @visitmidwales remember to keep tagging us into your shots of your #RealMidWales
If you would like more information about this project please contact the team on 01654 702653
Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and London.
This group engage with 'real experiences' when they choose their holiday destination.
So what do we call 'real' experiences?
We all know that we have stunning scenery and beautiful places to visit - but so do other destinations - so how can we entice visitors to come to Mid Wales rather than going elsewhere?
The project will focus on the characters who visit and live in Mid Wales, and the relationships we form with our guests.
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