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“Interesting residential”

Centre for Alternative Technology
Ranked #4 of 15 things to do in Machynlleth
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours
Owner description: The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) has been inspiring visitors about sustainable practice for over 40 years. With seven acres of hands-on displays, examples of environmentally responsible building, renewable energy, organic gardens and kids’ holiday activities, there is something for everyone at CAT. Follow CAT’s interactive Zero Carbon Britain Trail to discover how to live enjoyably in a world with reduced emissions. Or, winding up through managed oak woodland, the Quarry Trail opens up never-before-seen areas of CAT and breathtaking views of the Snowdonia National Park. On special evenings, the Quarry After Dark programme allows guests to experience CAT after the visitor centre has closed. This diverse programme of events boasts live music, talks, late night tours, film screenings and exhibitions. Nestled in a historic slate quarry CAT site is a little uneven in places and a lot of the displays are outdoors so please wear sensible footwear and waterproof clothing. During the winter months we close the Cliff Railway and some of the outdoor trails due to the unpredictable weather, please keep an eye on our website for updated information.
Useful Information: Activities for young children, Activities for older children, Wheelchair access, Food available for purchase
Reviewed 28 August 2018

I stayed at the eco-cabins as part of my summer residential through an organisation that hired the facilities but the staff members were great and really helpful, it was a lovely setting with breathtaking views of the Welsh hills as well as an informative visit... definitely inspired me! The cafe offered great vegan food, however, the cafe staff did not wear hair nets!

1  Thank Eisha T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
CAT-VC-Team, Guest Relations Manager at Centre for Alternative Technology, responded to this reviewResponded 4 September 2018

Hi Eisha,
A lovely review - thank you.
Regards
Rob

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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"mole"
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"the cliff"
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"vegetarian restaurant"
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"renewable energy"
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Reviewed 28 August 2018

Very disappointed. I was impressed with the website and the titles of the short courses they run here so was expecting somewhere really innovative and vibrant. I actually came all the way here from the South Coast and stayed overnight.

Part of it was my own fault, I had very high expectations, and somewhere in my head I had decided this was the Centre for Alternative Living – not Technology. But the focus here is very much technology, and the short courses and post graduate courses they now run. The visitors' centre is quite tired and a lot of the spaces are off limits unless you're on a course (like the tiny house they built in one night recently), or staff, like many of the intriguingly gated off wooded areas. Because I was staying I got to wander around WISE, but that kind of made it worse, because this is one of the most soulless places I've stayed in a long time.

The location is spectacular, a slate quarry on one side, a mountain, yes a mountain on the other. But if you want a nice view of the mountain you'll have to stand at the edge of the water funicular or just to the right hand side where there are a few picnic tables, otherwise it's either blocked from view or the view is marred by the centre itself. It reminds me of many hotels I've stayed in that say "set in 7 acres" when what they mean is "we have a 7 acre golf course and woe betide you if you get in the way of a golfer", here their 7 acres is primarily a building site. (I confess I didn't wander around the eco cabins - which may be nicer but I wasn't staying there.)

My big complaints are that the accommodation is well, horrible is a strong word, but bland doesn't do it justice, I honestly felt more like I was a prison cell than a bedroom. It's wood and white cotton, okay, but there is NO decoration whatsoever and no guest information explaining anything about the centre, its recycling or water use policies – just a note elsewhere saying "do a short course if you want to find out more". There are no comfortable chairs anywhere here, which if you suffer from back pain is a nightmare, I ended up making my own chair with my duvet and sleeping bag on the floor. The wall of the room is half glass and slides back, but I would have liked a window I could leave open at night. All of these sliding doors on the first floor, where I was staying, open onto the "rooftop terrace", which means the sound carries from any room and well, it's just a rough rooftop. The design is similar to a Chateau I stayed in near Bordeaux, where they've done it well, with views across the beautiful countryside. My view here, seriously, horrible.

I get the goal of the centre to be carbon neutral and to pressurize the government to make the UK carbon neutral – but this place is not there yet, it buys in 20% of energy (although that's renewable). (Another display also practically recommends you use gas hobs and ovens because they're more efficient – not adding that you can buy renewable electricity but there is no renewable gas!) I have been to Bhutan, a country which is carbon neutral and in some ways the hotels where I stayed were similar in design to these rooms, simple wood beds, wood walls – but they were gorgeous – full of local culture and vibrant, and the windows looked out over the spectacular countryside. This place has to understand that a house is not just housing a body, but a spirit and a mind too. If this place is supposed to be inspiring and teaching the new generation of architects how to build then I weep for them – how about embracing the incredible natural location – the views, instead of ignoring nature in this way. Perhaps they became so used to the views that they took them for granted? It's like the WISE building was designed to turn its back on nature, to shut it out, not enjoy it, like even a badly built ski chalet would do. Perhaps they could invite George Clarke back to help fix it.

I've stayed in lots of eco hotels, (which is a stupid expression because it doesn't mean anything) but I've learned more from most, if not all of them about recycling, reusing water etc. than I did here (and why are there just ordinary bins in the rooms, no notes on what to do with recycling?) hence my disappointment.

My other big problem with CAT (and I'm sorry, but I feel like I have to write this school report, because they NEED to do better if they are going to help move us forward), is that there is no big picture view here. What do I mean? They are looking at the technology without understanding what we actually need as human beings to be happy and healthy – case in point the bright green "safety" lighting in the hallway of the room (a completely wasteful space with sliding doors on something that's not a cupboard, that's not anything), that messes with those of us who like to sleep in complete darkness. And the lighting around the place at 4am, when yes I had to get up and go for a walk to feel like I could breathe, is ridiculous, is there any need for this much lighting (including huge night lights in the kitchens)? Technology is there to support our human needs, but if they don't understand them, what are they doing? And the other side is waste, the visitors' centre has lots of cookie cutter statements about carbon dioxide emissions, and nitrogen use by beans, but what about looking at the bigger picture of how much we are wasting; water, food, transport and especially housing and other types of shelter. It's all very well to look at building new and sustainably, but how about looking at reclaiming, restoring, rebuilding all the derelict spaces sitting empty, how about looking at our lifestyles and why so many people feel the need for second, third and holiday homes? How about looking at how we can use the "sharing economy" to share environmental as well as monetary costs?

Like the design of the WISE accommodation, the whole centre is looking inward, focusing so exclusively on practical technology that it, in my opinion, has become dissociated from teaching what we need right now to create balance with our environment. It has become so focused perhaps on being taken seriously (hey look, we can design and build boring accommodation and classrooms just as well as traditional builders), that it's lost its integrity, it’s forgotten that Mother Earth is what it's all about. Look up, look out and embrace life and if you can't do anything else please, stick a couple of plants on the "roof terrace".

3  Thank PearlEscapes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
CAT-VC-Team, Public Relations Manager at Centre for Alternative Technology, responded to this reviewResponded 4 September 2018

Hello,

Thank you for your review. I'm very sorry to hear that the centre didn't meet your expectation and the architectural decisions of our WISE building were also not to your taste.

We are extremely proud of beautiful Visitor Centre and we encourage visitors to take the walk up along the Quarry Trail to get a breathtaking panoramic view over the valley. Our Visitor Centre embraces many of the elements of sustainable living that you have referenced, including the importance of nature connection and the retrofitting existing structures and our short courses explore these sorts of areas in much more detail.

Hopefully you can visit us again soon and I hope you have a more enjoyable visit.

Many thanks,

Rob





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Reviewed 24 August 2018

Seen leaflets for CAT over the years and having visited, wish I'd been earlier. Large car park with easy access to the reception and you reach the site via a water balanced cliff railway which gives fabulous views of the Welsh countryside. The centre is all flat and there are mobility scooters to hire if needed. Each area has different things to see, explaining eco-friendly methods. There is a play area for children, cafe with plenty of seating area that serves gorgeous cakes and a large gift shop stocking many items from food to books, socks to bags and lots for children. With interactive things to try, a trip here is great for all ages.

Thank D W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
CAT-VC-Team, Public Relations Manager at Centre for Alternative Technology, responded to this reviewResponded 27 August 2018

Good morning,

Thanks for a wonderful comprehensive review of the things we love at CAT. Thanks for visiting!

Cheers,

Rob

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Reviewed 21 August 2018

All the staff were really great and enthusiastic. I found the site fairly interesting, and inspiring - although it's not exactly thrilling - but that's not what it's about. Excellent value for money. Amazing beautiful area of Wales..

Thank David T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 20 August 2018

1st visit to CAT. Took the guided tour led by James, who was very knowledgeable and presented the pros and cons of existing methods and more eco-friendly methods very well. The lecture theatre is a particularly impressive building.
Ate lunch in cafe - terrific food,
Should have spent much more time there - a further visit beckons!

Thank Martin C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
CAT-VC-Team, Public Relations Manager at Centre for Alternative Technology, responded to this reviewResponded 27 August 2018

Hi Martin,

Thanks for leaving us a review.

Great to hear you joined one of our tours. We are really proud of our knowledgeable guides! I'll be sure to pass this comment on to James.

Hopefully you took advantage of the free membership we are currently offering at the ticket office and can come back again within the year for free :)

Cheers

Rob

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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