top of page



Although its tongue-twisting placename might be quintessentially Welsh, Machynlleth is untypical of most country towns in Wales. It’s a free-and-easy mix of influences, where the local rural community mingles with a cosmopolitan crowd amongst whom sustainability and green living are high on the agenda.

There’s no two ways about it: Machynlleth is an exceedingly handsome place. Unlike most other country towns in Wales, it has a long, wide main street that creates generous quantities of space and light.


Green roots

It’s no surprise to discover that Machynlleth, where art meets agriculture, is a focus for green living, attracting an alternative, eco-conscious audience. It’s one of the main towns in the UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere Wales, a designation given to areas that explore locally how healthy environments lead to sustainable livelihoods, vibrant cultures and robust economies.


To cement this reputation, just up the road you’ll find the Centre for Alternative Technology, a pioneering and very prescient ‘village of the future’ founded in the 1970s long before sustainability and self-sufficiency became common currency. It’s a fascinating, ever-evolving centre, packed with working examples of renewable energy, experimental green buildings and ingenious, planet-friendly devices. Its quest for net-zero gas emissions by the mid-21st century starts on arrival, with a ride on one of Europe’s steepest water-balanced funicular railways.


Back in Machynlleth, Heol Maengwyn, the spacious main street, is lined with a mellow mix of cafés, workaday shops – a chemist, grocers, and the like – and independent retailers with a flair for individuality. Prominent amongst these is Ian Snow, an eclectic emporium that’s a riot of colour and choice. ‘We travel the world to discover characterful, ethical pieces for your home,’ it says. It sells everything from educational toys to artwork, clothes to furnishings, closely mirroring the nature of a town where global and local concerns blend.


Ian Snow shares the street with shops selling antiques and exquisite handmade shoes, art, modern rustic homeware, books and wholefoods… it’s all very Machynlleth.


A coaching inn, and struggles for independence

The one building that unashamedly harks back to the old days is the Wynnstay Hotel. Dating from the 18th century and the time of stagecoach travel, it’s one of Wales’s best-loved coaching inns.


This warm and welcoming hostelry has all the authentically classic features you couldn’t replicate even if you tried – creaky floorboards, wonky passageways, open fires, wooden beams, fishing memorabilia and cosy nooks and crannies (the Welsh word ‘cwtch’, meaning cuddle, captures them perfectly).


At the opposite end of the street there’s a building that takes you even deeper into Machynlleth’s past. Because of its history and central location there was talk, at one time, of Machynlleth becoming the capital of Wales. Cardiff beat it to the post in 1955, but many centuries earlier the town was, in fact, regarded as the capital – albeit unofficially – when it was the reputed location of the original Welsh parliament.


All is explained at the Owain Glyndŵr Centre, named after the Welsh leader who led an uprising against England and held his Welsh parliament on this spot in 1404. Housed within something that’s an historic item in its own right – a rare example of a late-medieval townhouse – the centre contains exhibits and displays on Glyndŵr and his campaign for independence.


Art and architecture

Back to the future, MOMA is a must-visit. Stroll back along Heol Maengwyn to Machynlleth’s ornate 19th-century clocktower, then turn right. You’ll soon come to the Museum of Modern Art. You wouldn’t think it from the outside (it’s based at a former chapel and Victorian building), but within it exhibits cutting-edge contemporary art that’s bold, arresting and sometimes challenging.


It’s not just art that fires the local culture. Machynlleth hosts a programme of prestigious annual festivals, covering comedy, literature and folk music. It's a lively place each Wednesday, too, when the street market comes to town.


The town’s setting amongst rolling hills is best appreciated from the park behind Heol Maengwyn. It’s a lovely green space, enhanced by the presence of Y Plas, a Grade II listed Georgian mansion, former home of the Marquess of Londonderry, which nowadays houses council offices and a smart café and restaurant.


If you’re feeling the need for some aquatic activity, pop into the Bro Ddyfi Leisure Centre for a swim in the pool – it’s located close to Y Plas.



  • Tell Laura I Love Her. 1960s and 70s fashion superstar Laura Ashley’s first shop opened here in Machynlleth. It was a humble affair in a house she shared with husband Bernard and her two children. From little acorns…


  • Owain waves his magic wand. Owain Glyndwr’s mercurial character was revealed by no less than William Shakespeare. In Henry IV he referred to Owain as that ‘great magician, damned Glendower’. Shakespeare also has him saying:

  •               ‘At my nativity

  •               The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes,

  •               Of burning cressets, and at my birth

  •               The frame and huge foundation of the earth

  •                Shaked like a coward.’


  • A flying visit. You wouldn’t have thought it, but hell-raising group Led Zeppelin had a soft spot for these peaceful parts. As an escape from their whirlwind lifestyles Robert Plant and Jimmy Page retreated to an isolated cottage near Machynlleth where they wrote songs for their third and fourth albums including (possibly – it’s subject to rock trivia dispute) parts of the legendary ‘Stairway to Heaven’.


  • She was not amused. Beatrix Potter, writer of the famous Peter Rabbit books, visited Machynlleth in1888 when she was very young. Her report reads like a nit-picking TripAdvisor review (‘hardly a person could speak English,’ she moaned). She didn’t much like the train journey either: ‘Four hours to go sixty miles between Shrewsbury and Machynlleth. When mushrooms are in season the guard goes out to pick them.’


  • The village of the future. It’s the perfect fit. Machynlleth’s eco-credentials are enhanced no end by the presence of the Centre for Alternative Technology in woodlands a few miles north of the town. It all began in unpromising circumstances in the 1970s in a disused quarry that no one seemed to want, inspired by a movement that no one seemed to care about in those days. How times have changed. The centre is now a world leader in promoting sustainability and living in harmony with the Earth.



  • Richard Nixon’s Welsh roots. US President Richard Nixon was descended from a local 17th-century farming family.


  • Pitching up. American baseball star Ted Lewis (1872–1936) was born in Machynlleth, emigrating to the USA at the age of eight. He was the baseball pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters and Boston Americans. Sport wasn’t his only interest. He was passionate about eisteddfodau in America, and became firm friends with poet Robert Frost.



You’ll easily while away an entire day in Machynlleth. There’s a lot to see and do here. You don’t have to tackle the places below in any particular order, though we’ve listed them in a way that should help you get the most from your visit. If you have less time to spend in town, just cherry pick the places that spark your curiosity.


Owain Glyndŵr Centre, Parliament House

Start at the eastern end of town at this emblematic centre, which tells the tale of Owain Glyndŵr, the last native leader of Wales, and his quest for Welsh independence. It didn’t quite work out his way, though Owain is said to have held a Welsh parliament here in 1404 before mysteriously disappearing in 1412 never to be seen again, leaving an enigmatic legacy that still inspires a mix of passion and speculation.


Heol Maengwyn

This long, wide main street gives Machynlleth much of its character. It’s possibly based on a blueprint laid down by 13th-century town planners – if so, they knew what they were doing way back then. Giving it extra curb appeal are the buildings, a mix of Georgian and dark local stone, that line the street, along with an enticing choice of independent shops. To see it at its liveliest come for the Wednesday open-air market.


The clocktower

Heol Maengwyn ends (or begins) at Machynlleth’s famous clocktower. It’s an ornamental structure, put up by the Marquess of Londonderry in 1873 to commemorate the coming of age of his heir, Lord Castlereagh.


The park and Y Plas

Machynlleth’s air of spaciousness is maintained in the parkland that runs alongside Heol Maengwyn. It’s here that the Marquess of Londonderry lived, in a grand house known as Y Plas (‘The Mansion’). Standing on the site of a former house dating from 1673, it’s a Grade II listed Georgian mansion with an imposing 1853 façade. Amongst the leading lights of Victorian society who visited Y Plas was the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.


In 1948 the house was given to the town as a public park. It now houses offices and a café/restaurant, and has conference facilities.


It stands amongst extensive landscaped grounds with gardens, pleasant, leafy walks, picnic sites and a children’s play area, all set against a quintessentially Mid Wales backcloth of smooth, rolling hills.


Bro Ddyfi Leisure Centre

Close to Y Plas, this modern leisure centre has the full complement of facilities – gym plus indoor swimming pool and bowls hall.



The Museum of Modern Art, just around the corner from the clocktower, perfectly reflects Machynlleth’s arty, cosmopolitan vibe. Based somewhat incongruously at a former Wesleyan chapel known as The Tabernacle and an adjacent Victorian building, it contains a number of galleries filled with colour, life and arresting imagery.


Changing exhibitions complement MOMA’s evolving collection of over 400 works that concentrate largely on artists – including sculptors – living and working in Wales in the 20th and 21st centuries. There’s also a characterful concert space where you can sit in a chapel pew and listen to a soothing string quartet rather than a hellfire and damnation Nonconformist Sunday sermon.


There’s another more intimate performance space at the converted Old Tannery Building behind The Tabernacle.


MOMA plays a leading role in Machynlleth’s thriving cultural life in more ways than one. It’s the focal point of the annual Gŵyl Machynlleth Festival alongside other gatherings, concerts, talks, performances, classes and workshops.

bottom of page