With festival season fast approaching, what it is about certain festivals which draw people back year after year? We spoke to some regular attendees to get the ‘inside track’ on what makes their festival so special. We kick off the series in Wales, at the Gregynog Festival.

Gregynog Hall © Gregynog Festival
Gregynog Hall
© Gregynog Festival

What is it about Gregynog Festival that makes you return year after year?

Apart from the fact that the venues are so local to us and are interesting places to stage the artists, the quality of the musicians is always exceptional. The festival is always built around a well-researched theme and we learn so much from reading the festival programme, which is like a beautifully-illustrated text book in itself!

What tips would you offer would-be attendees about the best places to sit in the venue?

Tips re where to sit? At Gregynog itself, I prefer an aisle seat so I can stretch out a bit. It depends on the type of music, but I like to be maybe 4 or 5 rows back from a choir and the aisle seats allow us to hear a balanced sound. Other venues vary but I cannot think of any problems we've encountered.

What are the acoustics like?

Gregynog Music Room is small and intimate and this tends to be the case with most  of the festival venues; this is another reason these events are so special, the proximity to the artists and the feeling you get from not being in a huge auditorium.

Music Room © Gregynog Festival
Music Room
© Gregynog Festival

Where are the best places to eat before/ after the concert?

One of our favourite places has to be Bistro 7 in Welshpool. This is an informal restaurant where you can find real ale, a good wine list, coffee, and food for many tastes. The owner, Brian, is the chef and he uses great, fresh ingredients and still manages to give amazing value for money.

We also like Glansevern Hall near Berriew and the Lychgate Tea Rooms in Berriew itself. There is also The Nag’s Head at Garthmyl, which is gaining a strong reputation for fine dining.

Is there a dress code? What should I wear?

We have never found this to be particularly formal. It is certainly not posh frocks and suits! People seem to wear what they feel comfortable in, so I've seen chaps in shirts and ties and a nice jacket, and ladies in summer dresses or whatever befits the weather!

How far in advance is it best to book tickets? Any booking tips?

If you have favourite artists and want to sit in particular seats, it does make sense to book as early as possible. The venues are not concert halls and the musicians are so special, so book early 'to avoid disappointment', as they say!

The audience gathers... © Gregynog Festival
The audience gathers...
© Gregynog Festival

What other cultural activities are there to do in the region?

Powis Castle is a lovely National Trust attraction just outside Welshpool. There are fabulous walks all around the Mid Wales area as well as along the Border at places such as Stiperstones and Church Stretton in Shropshire. History abounds in places such as Montgomery Castle and Dolforwyn Castle. There is an interesting little art gallery, Oriel Davies in Newtown, which also has a fab cafe and gift shop. Another quirky place for art is the Andrew Logan Museum in Berriew. The Centre for Alternative Technology is not a million miles away near Machynlleth. Actually, there is loads, especially if you are mobile and are prepared to drive a few miles to explore.

What makes Gregynog different to all the other festivals?

As I've already hinted, Gregynog offers exceptional music at intimate venues and with outstanding value for money. I have recently spent more than twice the ticket price I have paid to hear a choir sing at Gregynog, in order to go to another event close by, which will be good but not given by World Class artists. Gregynog has maintained these qualities for years and seems to pride itself on being almost a well-kept secret! I know the curator has worked hard to secure funding over a long period of time, and it is her attention to detail and enormous dedication that keeps Gregynog at the top of the list for many touring artists who choose to relish its unique atmosphere. The Hall is set in beautiful grounds and there is tranquillity and the knowledge that so many brilliant musicians have strolled the gardens down the years; it's truly magical and uplifting.

Where is a good place to stay?

The Royal Oak Hotel in Welshpool or Lloyd's in Llanidloes. There are loads of interesting smaller places, depending on taste and budget, including lots of farm B&Bs with home-cooked produce and Welsh hospitality.

Read our preview of the 2015 Gregynog Festival here