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Published September 15th 2016
Can't pronounce the name? Visit anyway
Mach is a small market town in the Powys region of Mid Wales and was once the seat of the ancient Welsh Parliament of Owain Glyndwr (really famous Welsh bloke), whom I like to refer to as the Welsh William Wallace. I'd like to think that a few Welsh people might do the same in reverse, as Wallace is very much the Scottish Owain Glydwr. And fine, fierce men they both were when it came to staving off revolts from English armies.
The clock tower
Anyway, Glyndwr was the last Price of Wales who was actually Welsh and, as such, in the eyes of many Welsh people (those that I've spoken to, anyway), they don't recognise Charles so much as he's not. We have much the same issue with the Duke of Edinburgh. Well, that and the fact that he's massively racist and sexist. What a shining representative of a modern Edinburgh and Scotland he is…not.
Machnylleth has a very high percentage of Welsh speakers, readers and writers (many people I meet can speak Welsh, but are unable to read or write in the language), and has played an important part in the history of the nation. The main economic driver of the town is tourism, and there's no shortage of things to see and do. These are my favourite spots:
The grounds of Plas Machynlleth
If you wander up the high street, away from the main through road, you'll happen upon a set of quite imposing wrought iron gates. There's a lane at the left hand side where you can sneak past and go for a lovely wander in the park. If you follow the concrete for a few minutes, you'll pass by the time capsule, the beautiful little community herb garden, before rounding the corner and arriving at Plas Machnylleth.
P-Mach was the Welsh home of the Marquess of Londonderry and is a Grade 11 listed building. It is now used as a community venue and has a wide range of concerts, festivals and all manner of other events on through the calendar year. It's a beautiful building and the surrounding park land is well maintained and makes for a lovely quiet walk, just minutes away from the bustling main thoroughfare.
Parliament/Owain Glyndwr House: The house, which dates back to the 15th Century, tells the story of Owain Glyndwr, from the location where he was crowned Prince of Wales back in the day. The Grade 1 listed building has been transformed to detail Glyndwr's timeline and includes interactive displays, as well as a fabulous parquet floor. Sorry, the hotel inspector in me still gets really excited by these things.
Rather wonderfully, the Parliament also has a mural by Murray Urquhart, a Scottish artist from Dumfries and Galloway who studied at the Edinburgh School of Art. The mural shows the scenes of Glyndwr's win at the Battle of Hyddgen over all the King's army (and, presumably, all the King's men).
Mach's lovely park
MOMA: The Museum of Modern Art Wales comprises various exhibition spaces and an auditorium. It's a beautiful building inside and out and regularly showcases works from leading and upcoming artists, including many works by 20th Century landscape artist, Sir John Kyffin Williams. The galleries are open throughout the year and it's a great place to check out wonderful Welsh artists and then hit up MOMA's Cafe Glas to have a chat about it over a cup of coffee and a Welsh cake...obviously.
Freshfields: Ok, so this has no historical interest, but it is a fantastically large charity shop that is a treasure trove of books (seriously, it has sooo many), household goods, toys, games, furniture, clothing and shoes. I recently bought a pair of green leather Office heels for £3.50 and I've been smiling ever since.
As well as freshfields, there are several other charity shops and dozens of other stores dotted up and down the main high street. Ian Snow's sells, well, pretty much everything and I'm also a sucker for Antique Emporium.
Talerddig Bakery: a great cafe for a spot of people watching
Food and Drink: The number of beautiful independent stores in Mach reminds me a lot of my favourite coffee shops in Porthmadog. There are so many to choose from and I love sitting at the window table at Talerddig Bakery, drinking coffee and pretending to read the paper when, what I'm actually doing is indulging in a spot of dog/people watching. Mach might have the most eclectic mix of people I've seen in Wales, so far, and the town has a lovely atmosphere.
Sitting just behind the clock tower is Chimes cafe, which serves great coffee and home made snacks, and The Green Goat Cafe pops up on market day on a Wednesday and serves fabulous local produce and does a mean slow cooked pork.