Plas Talgarth, West Wales, July 2012

It has become a tradition to spend two weeks – first in Wales and then in Scotland in Summer. This time we chose West Wales. Plas Talgarth one of the Macdonald Hotels and Resorts is situated in Pennal on the Southern border of Snowdonia National Park. It took us just five hours to get here from Cornwall. This time we are staying in one of their villas with a luxurious lounge and a large kitchen-diner with terrace. The villa doesn’t look very attractive from the outside but is quite interesting inside. There are four floors or levels here in the villa. Although these houses can accommodate eight people I would not recommend it to a group of more than six people or actually even four or five, because the smallest bedroom has got a bunk bed and is tiny.

 The first-day holiday slogan of “I am not doing anything today” has also become a very good custom. I didn’t go anywhere except for a very short drive to the garage in Machynlleth to get some food, and we also went to treat ourselves at the health center of our resort: steam room, sauna and jacuzzi. There are also a gym and a swimming pool available for the resort guests but I am not a big fan of any of those. A good steam room is more my cup of tea.

 The following day we drove to the nearest town Aberdyfi. We left our car at the car park near Penhelig train station (£3.50 for a stay of over 4 hours) and walked from there to the town centre. The tourist information bureau is on the banks of the Dyfi estuary. The bureau is quite small but visiting it is very useful. We got some information about short and long walks in the area, and we got a local train line map there as well. The train line operated by Arriva goes along the shores of the Cambrian coast of West Wales all the way from Machynlleth up to Pwllheil. We were advised to purchase a day ranger ticket for £9 each, that allowed us to hop on and off the train here and there. There are two important things that need to be considered when planning a train journey on this route: first – the trains go only every two hours, second – most of the train stops are “on request”, so you need to remind the conductor of the stop where you need the train to call.

 We left Penhelig just after 1 pm. Our first destination was Barmouth or Abermaw in Welsh. I passed through the town on the way from Anglesey two years ago, enjoyed the landscape and have since wanted to come back to explore this part of Wales more. We wanted to leave the train at Marfa Maddach and walk to Barmouth crossing the river over Barmouth bridge (half a mile long with a swing bridge at the north end) but the train didn’t stop at Marfa Maddach despite our request. The conductor apologised to us saying that there was something wrong with the train and that distracted the driver’s attention and he did not stop the train… So we left the train in Barmouth, bought fish and chips and had our lunch on a bench overlooking the estuary. We crossed over Barmouth bridge and back on foot. When we returned to Barmouth we decided to walk to the next station along the seaside rather than wait for about forty minutes. Llanaber station is tiny and looks abandoned, but you cannot usually hear the sea whilst on a train platform as you can here. Our train was ten minutes late and it was also full of people. We could hardly find any seats available. The journey to Minffordd took us about 50 minutes. We walked up the lane from the platform and found ourselves on another platform but of a different rail track – a narrow gauge offering trips along two routes: Ffestiniog Railway and Welsh Highland Railway. The price of a round trip day ticket on Ffeestiniog Railway is £19.60. On the platform I noticed an advert of what sounded to me a very special train trip accompanied by a jazz band.

 We had a different reason for visiting Minffordd, and that was Portmerion Italianate village, the fantasy creation of architect Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975. Portmeirion was built by its founder “to show how a beautiful site could be developed without spoiling it”. Clough Williams-Ellis’ moto was: “Cherish the past, Adorn the present, Construct for the future”. A twenty minute walk from the train station brought us first to Castell Deudraeth Hotel and then to the village itself. It was already half past five when we got to the front gate, so the guard charged us just £5 to enter as all the shops and cafés were closing at that time. He still had to charge us something to enter the private grounds. We walked down the coble lane into a small square, where we managed to buy some drinks and had a chance to look around whilst sipping fizzy elderflower through a straw from the bottle. I had a very strange feeling there, to me the village seemed to be a combination of the architect’s great idea realised in Roman and Italian style houses and gardens and of his rich and inventive sense of humour: a mixture of real classic and film-making-decoration-houses, gardens and statues alike. Obviously different people will have different impressions of the place, but I am absolutely sure that it is a great site to visit, to spend a day or even to choose as a base for a holiday. There are different types of accommodation available both inside the village, by the river and outside – in the Castell Deudraeth.

 Our train was leaving at a quarter past six so we headed back to the train station. We flagged down the train, you have to do it on the “request stop” stations, and after an hour and a half journey we left the train at Penhelig, the conductor unlocked the front door of the train for us there, and we drove back to Plas Talgarth. I felt tired but enriched by the unplanned trips of the day.

Both the Cambrian Coast Gazer brochure, a very useful train map, and the train timetable can be found at the tourist information office at major stops of the route, such as Aberdyfi and Barmouth. For more information please visit the website http://www.thecambrianline.co.uk/

One Response to “Plas Talgarth, West Wales, July 2012”

  1. […] It has become a tradition to spend two weeks – first in Wales and then in Scotland in Summer. This time we chose West Wales. Plas Talgarth one of the Macdonald Hotels and Resorts is situated in Pennal on the Southern border of Snowdonia National Park. It took us just five hours to get here from Cornwall. This time we are staying in one of their villas with a luxurious lounge and a large kitchen-diner with terrace. The villa doesn’t look very attractive from the outside but is quite interesting inside. There are four floors or levels here in the villa. Although these houses can accommodate eight people I would not recommend it to a group of more than six people or actually even four or five, because the smallest bedroom has got a bunk bed and is tiny. Read more… […]

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