Cardiff is a good two-and-a-half hour drive from London, via the M4. Once in Wales, a car's a must if you want to do any exploring. Driving here, especially on minor roads, can be a real pleasure.
Cardiff Airport (www.cwlfly.co.uk) and Bristol Airport (www.bristolairport.co.uk) are the closest international links.
Train travel in Mid-Wales is scenic if not super-reliable: the Heart of Wales line (www.heart-of-wales.co.uk) runs daily between Llandrindod Wells and Llandovery. From Shrewsbury, trains run east to Machynlleth and Aberystwyth. Arriva Trains Wales (0845 606 1660; www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk) operates most services.
Country code for the UK: 44.
On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin; The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Aberystwyth by Malcolm Pryce; Collected Stories by Dylan Thomas; Red Kite Country by Mike Reid and Colin Woolf.
Do go / Don't Go
It's all about the weather: seasonal serendipity will decide whether you enjoy a roaring fire or a beach barbecue, though a summer's day is always likely to be bracing rather than baking. Beaches fill up on summer bank holidays but remember, a crisp winter walk can be extra special when you've got the whole valley, beach or hillside to yourselves.
Try fish, fresh from river and ocean, local cheeses, leek soup, bara brith (a dried-fruit loaf), laver bread (made with seaweed), local lamb and black beef.
Outside Cardiff, you'll have to pre-book or find out if there's a decent local firm via your hotel.
As in the rest of the UK, a 12.5-15 per cent tip is expected in restaurants; sometimes it's included, sometimes not.
Bucket and spade. An audiobook of Under Milk Wood for the car. Umbrella, windcheater, woollies…
Wales has a Museum of Modern Art on Heol Penrallt in Machynlleth (+44 (0)1654 703355; www.momawales.org.uk) with a bar, cinema and live music as well as permanent and temporary modern art exhibits. Aberystwyth Arts Centre, on the university campus (+44 (0)1970 623232), is the country's biggest, with exhibitions, festivals, comedy, cinema and music.
The Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia's Cadair Idris are well-known and well-frequented; when the high season comes, clued-up walkers decamp to the far less tramped slopes of the Rhinnogs, in south Snowdonia (accessible from Barmouth), or the acres of peaceful moorland in the Begwyns, north of Clyro (not far from Hay-on-Wye).
Running along the border with England and down to the Brecon Beacons, Offa's Dyke is 168 miles of mediaeval rampart and ditch that offers beautiful views.
Among the star turns at the Hay Festival (famously described by Bill Clinton as 'the Woodstock of the mind') are some excellent free events, including interviews with poets and authors. And browsing the dozens of bookshops in Hay costs nothing at any time of year.
May Hay Festival, in Hay-on-Wye (www.hayfestival.com), sees great writers and poets converge to talk, read, drink and argue in border country. July World Bog-snorkelling Championships, Llantyrwyd Wells (+44 (0)1591 610666). August Brecon Jazz Festival (www.breconjazzfestival.co.uk), an international affair attracting big-name performers. The Green Man festival (www.thegreenmanfestival.co.uk) is a newly established and already much-loved folk music festival which has recently seen spectacular performances from Joanna Newsom and Bonnie Prince Billy. September Abergavenny Food Festival (www.abergavennyfoodfestival.com), which has been hailed as one of the best of its kind. November Mid-Wales Beer Festival (+44 (0)1591 610666). For more ideas, see our Welsh destination guides for Brecon Beacons, Cardigan Bay, Carmarthen Bay and Vale of Glamorgan, or check out our events guide, Smith 52.