Gwalia Farm, Cemmaes, Machynlleth, Powys SY20 9PZ
When the famous children’s author Beatrice Potter visited Machynlleth in 1888 she described the countryside as ‘most beautiful, but on rather a large scale for 'getting about’’. Little has changed. To make the most of pottering (no pun intended) between this wonderful market town, the looming Cader Idris mountain, the various tourist centres and the beaches to the west, you really do need a set of motorised wheels. So if you’re intending to pack in plenty of activity during a visit, your trusty feet and bicycles alone won’t do, unless you’re in training for the Olympics. It’s a super-steep mile-long climb to Gwalia from the main A road. If horse-riding and swimming are your things, you will find riding lessons all over Wales. Swimmers have sandy beaches just an hour’s drive away and also at an indoor leisure centre in Machynlleth itself. Also, in the campsite’s grounds there’s a pond, complete with its own little pier to jump off.
Get plotted at one of the country’s most primitive campsites in remote countryside, then do nothing and see no-one bar your neighbours until it’s time to go home. This campsite ticks very few of the boxes that many modern-day campers consider vital to a comfortable stay. There are no cooking facilities, amusements, refreshments, nightlights (it’s darker than dark here at night) and no shower onsite, though you can pay £1 to use the one in the house shared with B&B guests. What you do have are a couple of flat fields with pitches on the outskirts of an expanse of rushes and a couple of kayaks and a canoe you can use free of charge on the medium-sized pond. Life here is simple; distractions are nonexistent.
Since coming here in 1979 the owners have learnt to be self-sufficient. They keep their own chickens in the front yard – camping children can join in feeding and egg-collecting and there are goats that might need hand-milking. Peace reigns more or less until early September, when baby tawny owls are kicked out of their nests and voice their concerns at suddenly being left to fend for themselves. Surrounded by trees, Gwalia is a blessing for anyone with strong hunterer-gatherer DNA. Campfires are permitted, stray pieces of wood can be picked up and used and the owners sell bundles. There’s usually only a handful of campers present at any one time and they are spread far enough apart so that all you’ll see of your neighbours are wafts of campfire smoke rising from the other side of the rushes.
Machynlleth, six miles away is well known for its vibrant Wednesday markets, held at the central Maengwyn Street, where you can pick up arts, crafts and edible, organic all-sorts. Do take bikes if you can, though, three cross-country mountain bike routes start in Machynlleth (Mach 1, 2 and 3), and there’s a purpose-built trail, the ‘cli-machx’, in the nearby Dyfi Forest.
The Owner Says
Gwalia is a traditional small holding set in the peaceful hills of mid-Wales, near Machynlleth. It's an amazingly special place, loved by the owners and their many guests over the years. It's a family run, environmentally sensitive smallholding with an abundance of wildlife. Please note: Gwalia Farm is an ADULTS ONLY campsite. Cars are parked a minimum of 10m from the camping pitches, there is no vehicle access onto the campsite.
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My partner and I spent 5 days here in August 2012, it was a wonderful week spend exploring the area by car and foot. The campsite itself was tranquil and private, exactly what we were looking for with a perfect "back to basics" feel. For the first two nights we were the only people there and the weather was fine so that was a pleasant surprise. The owners were a really lovely couple who sorted us out with firewood when we needed it, we also made friends with there cats! Looking forward to going back here next year with a couple of our friends
This is camping very nearly sauvage. Idyllic when the weather is kind, rather trying when it is not. The tent field is a bit marshy but the pitches themselves are flat, dry and level. The toilet facilities in the wood are an expedition in themselves in the middle of the night and the washing-up sink is charmingly primitive. However, Gwalia and its surroundings are surely modelled on Tolkein’s Shire. The appearance of a few friendly hobbits would not be remotely surprising. It is about as green and lush and fecund a place as you can get. It is deeply, deeply peaceful.