out of 10
Pen y Braich is a great place to stay if you're really into the Great Outdoors. It sits atop a fairly steep hill and there's glorious views of the surrounding countryside. The cottage is fairly basic, but it has undergone a successive, series of improvements. There is now good all day long Wifi, a wood burner and a good solar heating system. There's also an impressive deck that's been added to the garden - it's excellent to sit out on. The cottage is very spacious and there's lots of room inside for people to chill out. There's large kitchen and a second sitting room. The gardens are also extensive with a pergola and new deck as mentioned, so larger groups or families would find it hard to get on each others nerves ...
The location of Pen y Braich is however 100 Star. There are no near neighbours. The owner lives in Manchester and the locals are a fairly friendly and aimable lot. If you like being surrounded by green forests, lakes, rivers, mountains and hills, you'll love it here. It usually takes about 30 minutes to get to a larger town. If you want a resort with lots to do on the immediate door step, then this area wouldn't meet your needs.
The cottage is but a 10 minute drive from the Snowdonia National Park. A favourite place of mine includes the Coed-y-Brenin, by Dolgellau. It's got a myriad of tracks and trails for ramblers, and mountain-bikers and an amazing set of waterfalls - the Rhaeadr Mawddach and the Pysytll Cain being key among them.
Lake Vyrnwy is a hop, skip and a jump from the cottage. It's a massive reservoir that was built in the late 19th century. It supplies Liverpool with its water. A whole village was submerged to give rise to the lake that you see today. My mum actually went to the lake in the 50s with my grandparents and remembers seeing some of the remains of the village because the water levels were so low. Also it was a very popular attraction back in the day, and there were cars completely around the edge of the lake. Everyone decided on the day of my mum's outing to make their way to Lake Vyrnwy. Luckily today, it's somewhat quieter. It's busier at the dam end. But the lake never becomes too busy. There's always a quiet spot to amble along, or a part of the lake shore to sit by and just take in the fantastic, general vista.
There's a cafe at the dam end and the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel for more in the way of restaurant dining. There's some good loop walks to be had at the side of the lake. One at the far end takes in a waterfall. There's also some trails that go high above the lake and allow people to take in the vast expanse of Lake Vyrnwy which is reputed to be over 4 miles long.
If you want to reach busier towns, it will usually involve a drive of anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour. Pretty Dolgellau, which is overshadowed by the mighty Cader Idris, is among my favourites, along with the impressive Shropshire towns of Shrewsbury, Clun, Bishop' Castle, Ironbridge, Much Wenlock and the very Welsh, Welshpool.
I've trekked up the Cader a few year's ago. It's not for the faint-hearted. And the most popular route, the Pony Path, makes for quite a tough ascent.
The Mawddach Trail, near Barmouth is totally on the flat for those that don't want any height at all. I would also recommend the Severn Trail which can be joined along the towpath of the Montgomery Canal. This easily be trekked along from Welshpool. The Wales Coastal Path can also be picked up along Cardigan Bay and there people can get some stunning views of the coastline.
Castles worth visiting in the area of Castell y Bere, near the Cader Idris mountain, Powis Castle in Welshpool, Clun Castle, Montgomery Castle and Harlech Castle.
Those into walking, should check out sketchmap online and print off some walks in the area. The Offa's Dyke trail runs along the Welsh Borders and I would personally recommend the trek up to Beacon Ring hillfort on Long Mountain, near Welshpool. The Shropshire Way that meanders around Clun and Bishop's Castle is also worth checking out.
If you want to go further afield, the Dee Valley, Llantysilio and Llangollen are also worth the journey. They would take around an hour to reach from Pen y Braich. Visiting Valle Crucis Abbey is also worth it. A very nice trail can be taken from Llantysilio Green onto the Llangollen Canal (part of the Shropshire Union Canal network) all the way into Llangollen itself. Llangollen is the home of the annual, international eisteddfod. It's got a good shopping centre and quite a few cafes and restaurants.