Must see attractions in Mid-Wales

  • Top ChoiceSights in Powys

    Centre for Alternative Technology

    A small but dedicated band of enthusiasts have spent 40 years practising sustainability at the thought-provoking CAT, set in the Dyfi Unesco Biosphere Reserve, north of Machynlleth. Founded in 1974 (well ahead of its time), the CAT is an education and visitor centre that demonstrates practical solutions for sustainability. There are 3 hectares of displays dealing with topics such as composting, organic gardening, environmentally friendly construction, renewable energy sources and sewage treatment and recycling. To explore the whole site takes about two hours – take rainwear, as it's primarily outdoors. Kids love the interactive displays and adventure playground and there's a great organic wholefood restaurant. The visit starts with a 60m ride up the side of an old quarry in an ingenious water-balanced cable car (closed in winter to save water). A drum beneath the top car fills with stored rainwater and is then drawn down while the bottom car is hauled up. At the top you disembark by a small lake with great views across the Dyfi Valley. There are workshops and games for children during the main school holidays and an extensive program of residential courses for adults throughout the year (day courses start at around £45). A new purpose-built education centre also offers postgraduate programs on sustainability, organic food production, renewable energy and sustainable architecture. Volunteer helpers are welcome, but you'll need to apply. To get to the CAT from Machynlleth (seven minutes) you can take the 34 bus. Buses T2 and X27 go to the village of Pantperthog, a 10-minute walk away.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Powys

    Powis Castle

    Surrounded by magnificent gardens, the redbrick Powis Castle was originally constructed in the 13th century by Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, prince of Powys, and subsequently enriched by generations of the Herbert and Clive families. The castle's highlight, the Clive Museum, houses exquisite treasures brought back from India and the Far East by Clive of India (British conqueror of Bengal at the Battle of Plassey in 1757) and his son Edward, who married the daughter of the first earl of Powys. The extravagant mural-covered, wood-panelled interior, the mahogany beds, tiger skins and one of Wales' finest collections of paintings proclaim the family's wealth, while the Clive Museum, with its cache of armour, bejewelled weapons, precious stones, textiles, diaries and letters, is testament to a life richly lived in colonial India. You may spot a gold tiger's head encrusted with rubies and diamonds – one of only two to survive from the throne of Tipu Sultan – as well as a Chinese sword with snakeskin scabbard and finely carved ivory chess pieces. The baroque Italianate gardens are extraordinary, dotted with original lead statues, flowerbeds and ancient yews, with an orangery, formal and wild sections, terraces and orchards. The castle is just over a mile south of Welshpool, off Berriew Rd.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Ceredigion

    Cardigan Castle

    Cardigan Castle holds an important place in Welsh culture, having been the venue for the first competitive National Eisteddfod, held in 1176 under the aegis of Lord Rhys ap Gruffydd. Neglected for years, it's sprung from the ashes via a multimillion-pound refurbishment and now stands as a major centre of local Welsh culture, with permanent exhibitions on the castle, Cardigan and the Eisteddfod, live performances, language classes, festivals and more taking place within its hollowed-out walls. Kids and mammal-lovers will get a kick out of 'bat-cam' – a live feed from the colony of greater horseshoe bats that squats in the medieval cellar beneath the handsome Georgian house that now dominates the grounds. Below the main buildings are the 2-acre Regency Gardens, where many rare and archaic plants are among the 130 species cultivated. Last, there's a restaurant, and pleasant accommodation in the castle's old stables and other outbuildings. Bed-and-breakfast doubles start at £90, or £420 per week for self-catering.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Powys

    MOMA Machynlleth

    Housed partly in the Tabernacle, a former Wesleyan chapel, the Museum of Modern Art exhibits work by contemporary Welsh artists in a permanent collection supplemented by ever-changing temporary exhibitions. The chapel itself has the feel of a courtroom, but the acoustics are superb – it's used for concerts, theatre and August's annual celebration of international music, the Machynlleth Festival.

  • Sights in Powys

    Gregynog Hall

    While Gregynog Hall has been here in some form for 800 years, its current mock-Tudor manifestation – notable as one of the first uses of concrete in modern construction – dates to 1840. It's now the 300-hectare Grade 1–listed garden, dating to at least the 16th century, that's the major attraction. Walking tracks trace avenues of sculpted yews, banks of rhododendrons and azaleas, 300-year-old oaks and bird-filled beech woodlands. Admission to the grounds is unrestricted; parking costs £2.50. From 1924 Gregynog was the home of the Davies sisters, Gwendoline and Margaret, who bequeathed an extraordinary collection of paintings to the National Museum. The sisters intended to make the house an arts centre, founding a fine-arts press in the stables and holding an annual Festival of Music and Poetry. In the 1960s the estate was given to the University of Wales, which uses it as a conference centre and venue for the Gŵyl Gregynog, an annual classical music festival held in mid-June. The house, largely unchanged since Margaret's death in 1963, opens for group tours by appointment and houses a cafe and shop (10am to 4.30pm from mid-February to December). The hall is 5 miles north of Newtown and is signposted from the B4389.

  • Sights in Ceredigion

    Llanerchaeron

    This beautifully maintained Georgian country estate offers a fascinating insight into the life of the Welsh gentry and their staff 200 years ago. The villa itself was designed by John Nash and is one of his most complete early works, featuring curved walls, false windows and ornate cornices. The estate was self-sufficient and remains virtually unchanged in that respect, with staff tending to the fruit, veg and herbs in the walled garden and looking after rare-breed livestock. You can join the 'Petticoats of Power' guided tour, get involved in the daily tasks of the farm, eat at the riverside cafe, buy some of the estate's produce at the well-stocked farm shop or simply stroll around the ornamental lake and pleasure gardens. Llanerchaeron is 2.5 miles southeast of Aberaeron along the A482.

  • Sights in Powys

    St Nicholas' Church

    Evocative Norman St Nicholas' Church dates from 1226 and boasts a vaulted ceiling decorated with intricate coloured bosses, a beautifully carved pre-Reformation rood screen and striking mid-19th-century stained-glass windows. Look out for the elaborate canopied tomb of local landowner Sir Richard Herbert and his wife Magdalen, parents of Elizabethan poet George Herbert. Among the twisted yews of the churchyard is the Robber's Grave, the final resting place of John Davies of Wrexham, who was sentenced to death by hanging in 1821 for highway robbery. He vehemently protested his innocence and declared that grass would not grow on his grave for 100 years. It remained bare for at least a century.

  • Sights in Ceredigion

    National Library of Wales

    On a hilltop east of town with a sensational view of Cardigan Bay, the National Library is a cultural powerhouse. Founded in 1916, it holds millions of books in many languages – as a copyright library it has copies of every book published in the UK. Among its 25,000 manuscripts are such gems as the 13th-century Black Book of Carmarthen (the oldest existing Welsh text), a text of Chaucer penned by his scribe Adam Pinkhurst and a 1st edition of Paradise Lost. Other galleries display an ever-stimulating set of changing exhibitions featuring the library's collection and Welsh heritage in general.

  • Sights in Powys

    Oriel Davies Gallery

    One of Wales' leading contemporary spaces hosting often edgy national and international exhibitions, Oriel Davies is the largest visual-arts venue in the region and offers a range of talks, courses and workshops. Its sunny, glassed-in cafe (open 10am to 4pm) is popular, vegetarian-friendly and the best place for a light meal, such as homemade soup, quiche or baked potatoes. In summer you can eat overlooking the leafy riverside park, which contains a mound that is all that remains of Newtown's 13th-century castle and a gorsedd (druidic) stone circle dating from the Royal National Eisteddfod of 1965.

  • Sights in New Quay

    Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre

    You can learn more about Cardigan Bay's marine life here (in New Quay, 7 miles from Aberaeron) and also join a dolphin-survey boat trip, as researchers collect data on bottlenose dolphins and other local marine mammals. Trips vary in length and price (two hours aboard the Sulaire costs £20; four hours/a full day aboard the Anna Lloyd is £38/65) and dates are posted on the website. Call 01545-560032 to ensure the weather-dependent trips are on.

  • Sights in Ceredigion

    Hafod Estate

    Nearly 200 hectares of sublime, picturesque grounds await at Hafod Estate, a lovely Georgian park not far from Devil's Bridge. Five walks of between 1 mile and 4 miles weave around the landscape, showing off its different aspects. Open all year round, and free to access, Hafod is off the B4574 between Pontrhydygroes and Cwmystwyth; park at the church and walk from there.

  • Sights in Ceredigion

    Devil's Bridge

    Mysterious Devil's Bridge spans the Rheidol Valley on the lush western slopes of Plynlimon (Pumlumon Fawr; 752m) where the Rivers Mynach and Rheidol tumble together in a narrow gorge. Just above the confluence, the Rheidol drops 90m in a series of spectacular waterfalls. Devil's Bridge is itself a famous crossing point, where three bridges are stacked above each other. The lowest was supposedly built by the Knights Templar before 1188, the middle one in 1753 and the uppermost road-bridge in 1901. It's one of many bridges associated with an arcane legend that involves the devil building a bridge on the condition that he gets to keep the first living thing that crosses the bridge. An old lady then outwits the devil by throwing some food over, which her dog chases and everybody's happy – except the devil and, presumably, the dog. Access to the waterfalls and the old bridges is from beside the top-most bridge. There are two possible walks: one, just to view the three bridges, takes only 10 minutes (£1); the other, a half-hour walk, descends 100 steps (Jacob's Ladder), crosses the Mynach and ascends the other side, passing what is said to have been a robbers' cave. It's beautiful but steep and can be muddy; wear sensible footwear.

  • Sights in Powys

    Robert Owen Museum

    Housed in Newtown's Edwardian library and council chambers, this sober museum is the best place to bone up on Robert Owen's legacy. The son of a saddler who became a successful cotton-mill owner, Owen introduced radical reforms including a 10- to 12-hour workday, a minimum working age of 10 and schools for his employees' children. Combining plenty of text with artefacts and pictures, the exhibits are rich in detail. The museum's front desk also serves as Newtown's tourist information point. Owen is considered a founding father of the cooperative and the trade union movements. At the corner of Gas and Short Bridge Sts, a statue and garden herald him as a 'pioneer, social reformer and philanthropist'.

  • Sights in Ceredigion

    Ceredigion Museum

    This museum is in the three-storey Coliseum, which opened in 1905 as a theatre, then from 1932 served as a cinema promising 'amusement without vulgarity'. The elegant interior retains its stage, around which are entertaining exhibitions from the museum's collection of 60,000-plus artefacts on Aberystwyth's history – every­thing from old chemist furnishings and hand-knitted woollen knickers to a mini puppet theatre and a replica 1850s cottage. There are temporary exhibitions (some with entry fees), and even yoga from 5.15pm on Thursday (£5). Aberystwyth's tourist office is in the museum building.

  • Sights in Powys

    National Cycle Museum

    Housed in the art nouveau Automobile Palace, the National Cycle Museum comprises more than 250 bikes. The exhibits show the progression from clunky boneshakers and towering penny-farthings to bamboo bikes from the 1890s and the vertiginous 'Eiffel Tower' of 1899 (used to display billboards), as well as slicker, modern-day versions. Great effort has been made to put the bikes in context, with re-created Victorian and Edwardian cycle shops, photos and signboards – it's run with infectious enthusiasm. The building was constructed by Tom Norton, a local entrepreneur who started as a bicycle dealer and became the main Austin distributor.

  • Sights in Powys

    Owain Glyndŵr Centre

    Housed in a rare example of a late-medieval Welsh town house, the Owain Glyndŵr Centre houses an exhibition telling the story of the Welsh hero's fight for independence and starring the Pennal letter, written by Glyndŵr in pursuit of an alliance with the French. Although it's called the Old Parliament Building, it was probably built around 1460, some 50 years after Glyndŵr instituted his parliament on this site, but it's believed to closely resemble the former venue. If it's locked, ask for the key at the Caffi Alys next door.

  • Sights in Powys

    Andrew Logan Museum of Sculpture

    The supremely flouncy and fascinating Andrew Logan Museum of Sculpture is a surprise find in this tiny village. Occupying a former squash court, it's a glorious celebration of the beautiful, frivolous, and humorous, including the huge, glittering Cosmic Egg and a larger-than-life portrayal of fashion designer Zandra Rhodes. Logan has been running the Alternative Miss World contest since 1972 ('a parade of freaks, fops, show-offs and drag queens') and the museum contains many relics of the shows.

  • Sights in Ceredigion

    Mwnt Church

    This lovely, lonely church, 5 miles from Cardigan along winding country lanes leading to sea cliffs, is striking for its simplicity and remoteness. Whitewashed, austere and dwarfed by the its windswept setting, the 13th-century church exudes a mysticism and religious conviction that can only be marvelled at now. It's an evocative landmark (among so many) on the coastal path that winds by. Services are held here at Christmas, Easter and Sundays in July and August.

  • Sights in Powys

    Powysland Museum & Montgomery Canal

    The Montgomery Canal originally ran for 35 miles, starting at Newtown and ending at Frankton Junction in Shropshire, where it joined the Llangollen Canal. Beside Canal Wharf in central Welshpool is the Powysland Museum, marked outside by a big blue handbag (an Andy Hancock sculpture to commemorate the Queen's jubilee). Inside, the museum tells the story of the county, with fascinating details such as beautifully painted narrow-boat gear and a Roman coin hoard.

  • Sights in Powys

    Cloverlands Model Car Museum

    With over 3000 exhibits, Cloverlands is one of the most extensive collections of its kind in the UK, and a must for model-car lovers. Around half the cars are on loan from one collector, Gillian Rogers, including quarter-scale, working models of a Fiat 1936 Topolino and a 1935 Singer Le Mans, built especially for the collector and her sister. There are special openings on bank holidays, and appointments can be made for out-of-hours openings.