So much to do at Lake Vyrnwy – so little time:

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How much can you fit into a day at Lake Vyrnwy – let’s see. We left the car next to the Artisans coffee and gift shop (it also hires out bikes if you want to use two wheels). 
Off we set to walk (only a few hundred yards) to the canoe hire for a quick kayak on the water, great fun and they provide the all important life jacket and tuition (if you need it). 

Then it was back to Artisans for a coffee and slice of cake and I have to say that was very disappointing. The coffee was more milk than coffee and the cake had seen better days so we didn’t bother. It felt as though this coffee shop had the market cornered and therefore didn’t need to do anything else for its customers. This was reiterated when I wanted to be served and the staff seemed more interested in drinking their drinks at the back and chatting. Over 7 minutes I waited to be served (and they knew I was there waiting).

Next it was as visit to the RSPB shop (top tip, they sell coffee in their shop, well worth it and to support RSPB at the same time). Great shop selling usual RSPB things, but also a very good selection of binoculars. 

Then to watch a very informative video presentation in the Severn Water Vyrnwy experience. This was free for visitors and well worth taking the time to watch. We then set out for our walk along the lake road. If you walk right around it is about 15 miles, I have to be honest, I only managed a fraction of this. But it was long enough to see the sheer beauty of Lake Vyrnwy. 

Finding the ‘pecking order’ Totum pole (easily missed if your not careful).

The Victorian ‘training tower’ (unfortunately not open to visitors).

Little beaches (no swimming or fishing is allowed on the lake).

And of course, the dam itself.

Finally we finish at the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel, perched above the lake with commanding views. The hotel was very welcoming even though we were not staying the night (£269 pn for a premium room in the summer). We sat on the terrace overlooking the lake with our drinks, relaxed and took in the view. 

The only thing that spoilt it was the rubbish left (not something I would expect from a hotel charging those rates). 

Overalł, Lake Vyrnwy was such a lovely place to visit. Lots of woodland walks, places to park around the lake parimeter road, picnic places and the lake itself. The best time is first thing in the morning and late afternoon / evening as they are less crowds and you can enjoy the peace and quiet. 

Castles of Wales – Dolforwyn Castle, Powys:

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If you travel on the main road between Welshpool and Newtown, you will come across the signs to Dolforwyn Castle, and what a gem it is. Dolforwyn Castle can be found on a wooded ridge with commanding views across the Severn Valley and is a fine example of medieval Welsh castle design. 
Llewelyn ap Gruffudd was recognised as the Prince of Wales in 1267, and to maintain his control he ordered the construction of Dolforwyn Castle between 1273 and 1277. The castle does not appear to have been occupied for very long because by 1381 it was already described as being in poor repair. By 1398 the castle was described as “ruinous and worth nothing”. 

It seems that after this date the castle attracted little interest and was almost lost from history. The Castle was given to the Cadw (the Welsh Government historic environmental service) in 1955. Following a long period of excavation, the castle was finally opened to the public. 

Overall it was a great little find. It’s a small castle compared to others, but a beautiful location with fantastic views. It’s worth noting that once off the main road, it’s single track road (with passing places) that takes you to a very small car park (space for about 4 or 5 cars). From the car park there is a steep track up to the castle, it it’s certainly worth making the effort to see this gem of Mid Wales. 

Castles of Wales – Montgomery Castle, Montgomery, Powys:

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I stumbled across this castle almost by accident whilst seeing it from the road on the way to Welshpool. The castle is set on top of the hill overlooking the town of Montgomery and surrounding countryside and is well worth a visit. 
Unlike Powys Castle, Montgomery Castle is a ruin, but what a castle it must have been in its time. When you walk through from the car park, you see the outer walls, two new bridges linking the outer, middle and inner parts of the castle, the remains of a tower and what would have been a kitchen. It’s an ideal place for a short visit or a picnic so if your in the area, go visit, you won’t be disappointed. 

The castle is one of many Norman castle on the Welsh borders and stems from around 1071-1074, however the stone remnants as we see them today stem from 1223 when the castle was rebuilt. In 1267 the castle was the site of treaty negotiations with King Henry III and the future Prince of Wales Llwelyn ap Gruffudd. Following the final Welsh war, it appears Montgomery Castle became a prison and fortress rather than a front line Castle as it had been.

There is no visitor centre, shop cafe etc, but that’s what makes it so nice. The castle is free to visit and the car park (again free) is at the top of castle hill so you can avoid the climb up to the castle. For those that want the exercise, there is a footpath from the town up to the castle and plenty of places to have a drink on your return. 

Journeys – Welshpool to Aberystwyth with Arriva Trains Wales:

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Welshpool station is an unmanned station with direct services to Shrewsbury, Telford, Birmingham New Street and Birmingham International to the East and Newtown, Machynlleth, Aberystwyth, and all stations to Pwllheli to the West. 
My first piece of advice would be buying your ticket at the information centre in Welshpool or on the train itself. There is an automatic ticket machine on the station itself but when I traveled it was taking people’s money but not issuing tickets (fellow travellers told me that the machine was regularly broken). 
The second bit of advice is to sit facing forwards on the right-hand side of the train. This will give you the best views of the countryside, the river Dovey and the estuary across to Aberdovey. You will also get to see the National Library of Wales as you pull into Aberystwyth. 
The journey time was approximately 1.5 hours and when I travelled, the trains were all on time. The train was made up of four carriages that divided at Machynlleth with two carriages continuing to Aberystwyth. A refreshment trolley was available and made two trips through the train during my journey. 
The train itself was very clean inside, although I wish the windows were a little cleaner to see the passing countryside. The staff were very friendly and made sure they helped their customers when necessary. 
Overall, I enjoyed the journey especially the lovely Welsh countryside we travelled through on our way to the coast. The train was on time which is so important and the staff were great. Well done Arriva Trains Wales.