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Machynlleth or Conwy?

In 2023, we plan to travel to England/Scotland/Wales in late September/early October and Snowdonia is definitely on our list of places we'd like to see. We'd like to stay on either side of the park. Conwy is certainly an option—many people here and elsewhere suggest it—however, we are interested in Machynlleth as well. Although Machynlleth has MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) Wales and the Centre for Alternative Technology and is just outside the park, I haven't seen any postings about it here.

Anyone ever been to Machynlleth? Live nearby? We will regret not staying in Conwy?

We will have a car.

Posted by
6113 posts

I have been to Machynlleth, although it’s some years ago. It has always rained whenever I have passed through, which doesn’t help, but my recollection is that it’s a rather dreary place. I don’t recall the art museum. The Centre for Alternative Technology has been running for years and the latest online reviews are very mixed.

I was in Conwy earlier this year - a stunning setting on the river estuary. It’s a small place, but I would stay here or Llandudno over Machynlleth. Llandudno is only a few miles from Conwy and offers a wider choice of accommodation and shops, plus you could take a trip up the Great Orme on the funicular railway. You can walk Conwy in 10 minutes.

Posted by
2444 posts

Machynllleth is a nice enough little town and for non car users, has the benefit of just being east of Dovey Junction - thus allowing train access from both the east (England) and then SW to Aberystwyth or northward up the stunning Cambrian Coast Railway. The main ‘A’ roads in all directions from Machynlleth are very winding due to the terrain. Anyone really wanting to test their driving skills should try the back road going SE to Llanidloes! The coastal village of Aberdovey just to the west is lovely.

However, in my opinion the best location for seeing Snowdonia (NW Wales) is Porthmadog. From here, you can easily day trip down to Machynlleth and loop back via Aberdovey. Porthmadog is right by Portmeirion (a must see) and it is easy to go south to Harlech to that Castle and on to Barmouth. Of course, from Porthmadog, you can easily drive northward to the heart of Snowdonia and even take the steam train to Caernarfon or Blaenau Ffestiniog. The lovely coast of the Llyn peninsula lies to the west and it is also possible to reach Anglesey. You can also drive to Conwy and visit nearby Llandudno and Bodnant Gardens.

So, while I would not rule out Machynlleth, it is not the most central location for seeing the best the area has to offer. Neither is Conwy/Llandudno for that matter and perhaps the reason people are recommending that place is because Rick Steves does - and it has easy access by train and the A55 Expressway. Make sure that your chosen accommodation has parking. Look at these places on Google Maps and check out on street view. Note that all the places mentioned can be visited as day trips from Machynlleth, Porthmadog and Conwy/Llandudno. It just is that the more central location of Porthmadog, makes those day trips shorter and saves you driving the same route over and over again.
Google the places mentioned.

Posted by
32976 posts

Thank you for mentioning Machynlleth. I don't see it mentioned here much, and it has been a long time since I thought of that part of the world.

I had to learn Machynlleth (and how to pronounce it) and Dovey Junction when I was learning the Aber line (from Birmingham) on the railway, 20 or so years ago. For a non-native Welsh speaker it was always interesting when I picked up the microphone. Interesting trivia was that Dovey Junction had a platform but no access to the station.

Posted by
1920 posts

Not many visitors get to Machynlleth and those that do tend to pass through on the way to somewhere else. From memory, Dollgellau was the more attractive place, but again not really on the tourist route.

Given the choice, I would choose Conwy with its town walls and ruined castle. I've made many visits over the years and really love the place. Llandudno, a Victorian seaside town may have more choice of accommodation though.

Porthmadog has been suggested by another poster - rather than Portmadog, I'd suggest Criccieth, which is a much more attractive place to stay with its two beaches and ruined castle. It's only 5 miles away from Porthmadog.

The Centre for Alternative Technology was cutting edge when it opened 40 years ago, but the science may have moved on since then?

Posted by
6634 posts

I fall into the drove through it on the way to someplace else category. We spent the prior night in Aberystwyth then headed up to Caernarfon. I agree with the others who suggested Llandudno. It has more to see, restaurants, and lodging than Conwy. From it, it’s easy to get to Conwy and Anglesey. Chester is an hour away.

Posted by
6113 posts

The ospreys head south for the winter at the end of August, so won’t be there when you are visiting, unfortunately.

Posted by
1160 posts

I'd second either Porthmadog or Criccieth. Both would make great bases for exploring Snowdonia. Also I really like Caernarfon. It has one of the best castles in a brilliant location on the Menai Straits. I also like Machynlleth - it's a perfectly pretty little town. My order of preference based on location both for touring and in it's own right, attractiveness, shops/restaurants etc would be:
1. Caernarfon
2. Criccieth
3. Porthmadog
4. Machynlleth
5. Conway

While Conway has a great castle and some interesting town walls, it just feels really busy - with a major road passing through.

Posted by
363 posts

We went to Conwy in 2018 and we loved it. We stayed at a hotel in Llandudno. It is a charming area and the castle is wonderful. My daughters really enjoyed our visit there. We had a car and drove from Chester to the Lake Vyrnwy area to see some family history sites, then drove through Snowdonia to Conwy and Llandudno. Wales is breathtakingly beautiful.

Posted by
2444 posts

I really don’t know why people have added to this thread as we have not heard from the poster since they posted their original question.
We have no evidence that they have even been back let alone a message of thanks for our efforts. Makes me wonder why I bother to answer on this forum.

Posted by
1920 posts

I aghree with you James. There are so many people who ask a question but never bother to respond to any answers. There is no excuse for bad manners.

Posted by
9 posts

To all whom replied to this thread, my sincere apologies for not yet responding. I meant no disrespect nor did I mean to convey lack of gratitude for the thoughtful suggestions given. I've just needed some some time to read more about Wales and do some digesting of all the information.

After having done so, we've ruled out Conwy because we'd like to prioritize smaller villages, with cozy pubs and natural beauty, over castles and entertainment options. Our greatest wish is to have the opportunity to visit with locals and learn about the beautiful country of Wales from those who call it home.

So now I'd like to send back out to the thread (I promise a prompt response!) a request for some comparisons and contrasts among Machynlleth, Dolgellau and Beddgerlet, which may help us decide where we should stay for our short (2-3 nights) stay in Wales.

Posted by
2444 posts

Well, I am pleased that you came back. As you can imagine, it can be annoying to spend time giving responses and then have no contact and left wondering if the poster ever came back.

Beddgelert is a small village surrounded by lovely scenery. Make sure any place where you intend to stay has parking and check it out on Google Streetview.

Posted by
1920 posts

Beddgelert can be quite touristy, especially during the day. Dollgellau and I think that would be my choice.

Posted by
9 posts

Okay, looks like:
1 vote for Beddgelert
1 vote for Dolgellau.
We'll start looking at places to stay and let you know what we came up with.

Thank you!

Posted by
6113 posts

Sorry, but I think you are making a mistake by ruling out Conwy. It’s a stunning setting on the river estuary and it’s not particularly large place. It has a village feel. Nearby Bodnant Gardens are stunning. It’s far more attractive than Dolgellau IMO. You will certainly have more accommodation options here.

Posted by
9 posts

Hmm. Well, I looked at the population of Conwy, and over 100,000 people it seemed too large for the type of stay we're thinking of. Obviously, I need to think about this more . . .

In addition to Conwy, are there other (smaller villages with natural beauty) that may not be on my radar you'd suggest?

Posted by
2444 posts

The population of Conwy county maybe 100,000 as that includes a larger area than just the town of Conwy.

Take a look at Betws-y-Coed - although it is on the main A5 road. Also note that some premises are run by non Welsh people. Click the look for a Google Map as check it out on street view.

Posted by
1160 posts

I've stayed in all of the places mentioned on this thread and the one I would (and have) go back to is Beddgelert. It's a beautiful village close enough to Porthmadog for supermarkets etc, and right in the midst of the national park. Walks galore from your doorstep.

Posted by
6113 posts

The ward of Conwy has a population of just over 4,000 people. The 100,000 + covers the whole borough.

Beddgelert is far more remote - a good vase for walking but it’s very small and doesn’t have many facilities. There’s not as much to do in the evenings.