Britain in its finest: Machynlleth is the ex-capital of Wales. This historic city makes a wonderful base for hiking and serves amazing roasts as a reward.

  • Harriet Sime of the Daily Mail visits Machynlleth to find it a friendly town that’s “fizzed with old stories”.
  • For the circular Torrent Walk she sets off for Dolgellau, Snowdonia National Park.
  • She recommends the Black Lion, just outside Machynlleth for an authentic roast dinner. 


This may be a new name to you. You’re probably unable to pronounce it. However, Machynlleth used to be the capital of Wales.

Owain Gyndwr was a rebel against England’s crown and gave the small town (unofficially) the title of Prince of Wales after setting up the Parliament in this area in 1404.

Cardiff may have risen to ascendency in the years since, but now Machynlleth is showing signs of fighting back — if not quite to wrench back political power, but by becoming a capital of culture and sustainability. 

Green dream: Machynlleth has an eco-friendly vibe and is home to the most influential sustainability research base in Europe

Green dream: Machynlleth has an eco-friendly vibe and is home to the most influential sustainability research base in Europe

The town’s 'stern-looking' clock tower

The town’s ‘stern-looking’ clock tower

Stroll around the mid-Wales town — pronounced ‘muh-kuhnth-leth’ but often referred to as just ‘Mach’ — and you’ll soon come across posters advertising comedy and music festivals, markets selling arts and crafts, and cosy cafes offering vegan fare and good ‘paned’ (Welsh for cuppas).

Much of this is down to New Agers who drifted into the town (population 2,200) in the 1960s, followed by the current Prince of Wales’s visit to the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in 1978.

Since then, CAT has been the leading European sustainability research center, featuring organic gardens and experimental green buildings, as well as woodland habitats.

It’s a pleasant town for a stroll around the two main colourful streets which lead to the stern-looking clock tower at its centre. 

It is now an art supplies shop. We discover that Laura Ashley had opened her first store in this small, modestly-sized location back in 1961.

Apparently, in the early days of her business she camped nearby on the banks of Mawddach Estuary with her three children — all under six — for half a year just to make ends meet.

Old stories are a common feature of Mach. And the locals, who almost sound as though they’re singing when they speak, are proud of its history, both ancient and recent.

The Royston is a wonderful place to stay overnight. It has seven bedrooms and can be found just 15 minutes from town. 

Pictured is one the rooms at The Royston, a seven-bedroom guesthouse 15 minutes out of town

Pictured is one the rooms at The Royston, a seven-bedroom guesthouse 15 minutes out of town

Although the hotel was opened only in April 2019, it has been named Welsh Hotel Of The Year and gained an ardent following. A couple leaves the hotel on their seventh visit. 

Bright artwork and vintage furniture are used to decorate the rooms. Original fireplaces can also be found on floorboards. The garden is filled with fresh flowers.

In this part of Wales, hiking boots are essential. To tackle the circular Torrent Walk, which runs through the dramatic gorge of the River Clywedog in Snowdonia National Park, one morning we travel to Dolgellau. As we walk through the forest, we pass lichen-covered rocks and dark woods before reaching a series of lovely cottages covered in roses. We are accompanied by the river for the duration of our hour-long hike.

'Hiking boots are essential in this corner of Wales,' writes the Daily Mail's Harriet Sime. Pictured is Snowdonia National Park

Harriet Sime, Daily Mail journalist writes that hiking boots are essential for this part of Wales. Snowdonia National Park is shown in the picture

A Sunday roast is the best after a long walk. And, if you want to experience a proper Mamgu (that’s Welsh for ‘Grandma’) roast, The Black Lion on the outskirts of Machynlleth is the place to go. 

The front room is home to 500 year-old locals who enjoy a glass of beer and devour huge Yorkshire puddings from the plates that are filled with meat, vegetables and other goodies.

The floor of the corner where we are perched is slightly higher than the rest of the room. Nigel, who runs the pub with his partner Dafydd, tells us this space had to be ‘shaved down’ a couple of hundred years ago to make space for the tall chef who once rustled up the roasts. It’s the perfect spot to toast this historic town.