Walking in Wales

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I have my own B&B & walking holiday business, Southdown B&B/White Horse Walking Holidays. Take a look here.

Over 20 years ago, my parents spent their first of several holidays walking in Mid-Wales. They often spoke warmly of Hillscape Holidays and once we had become 'walkers', it seemed an obvious place for us to visit. Do visit their website, it is extremely comprehensive and gives a very accurate portrayal of the holiday. So I won't go into too much detail about things you can read there.

1st July 2006

The holidays run from Sunday to Saturday so we decided to spend the Saturday night in Hay-on-Wye, somewhere we had wanted to visit for some time, mainly because of its reputation as a 'Book town'. It's very hard to get B&B for one night in such a popular place, so we ended up booking a dinner, B&B package at the Old Black Lion. On arrival we took a walk around the town and explored a few of the bookshops. We found one with new books at £1 each so stocked up there. We then hurried back to our room to watch England go out of the World Cup on penalties. One small consolation - at least we wouldn't have to worry about finding somewhere to watch the next match! (No TV where we were going). We cheered ourselves up with an excellent dinner.

 2nd July

We took a walk along the River Wye, and visited more bookshops, such as the one below - The Old Cinema Bookshop, which was vast (but luckily only open at that time for viewing so we were unable to be tempted to buy!) Then we drove the 60 miles or so to Aberystwyth, which was packed and hot (we were experiencing a freak heatwave for the duration of the trip). We finally found somewhere to park and had a look around the town before heading off for Blaen-y-ddôl, our home for the next 6 nights, in Pontrhydygroes (i.e. the middle of nowhere!)

It's a beautiful spot, well off the beaten track, and completely peaceful. We met our fellow guests for the week (3 of them, another couple having cancelled at the last minute). The others had all been here before, several times. We gave our hosts, Richard and Anne, some wooden puzzles that my Dad made for them. Dad introduced them to his puzzles many years ago and they have become a bit of a tradition. We had a lovely room (a tip, it's room 1 if you book!) with a beautifully fitted (new this year) bathroom. The other rooms have better views but this has the most space and definitely the best en-suite). Richard and Ann eat with their guests. They're vegetarian but you can have veg or non-veg food. And I must say, the food was excellent throughout our stay. Much of it is home grown and all home cooked. You can take your own booze if you wish - we took wine but saved it for 2 nights when we shared with the others, which was nice. After dinner you relax in the lounge and choose which walk you will do next day, and are provided with full details and a map. We had a terrific thunderstorm that night.

3rd July

No cooked breakfast this morning (eggs and cereal) as we awoke to a power cut! It came back just as we left for our walk. We had chosen walk 2, the Tynbedw forest path, which was 7½ miles. Walking in the forest for much of the time meant we kept a little cooler (it really was very hot). We're not used to walking in such hilly terrain so did find it took us a lot longer than walks of equivalent length at home. There's little opportunity for pub stops as the area is very isolated, so a packed lunch is always provided. It was a very pretty walk and a good introduction for us. After dinner it was puzzle time!

4th July

Our first chance to sample the cooked breakfast - the Welsh oatcakes are superb. Our walk for today was number 5, Brynafon at 8 miles. The first bit was steeper than yesterday, but gorgeous scenery. It really was a lovely walk, but there was a very steep hill for ¾mile near the end which nearly finished me off. I sat down on a tree stump, despite Martyn's warnings. When I got up I found that resin is like superglue and my trousers were glued to my bum and upper thighs. Not a pleasant experience, and it took quite some getting off - and my trousers will never be the same again. We only managed an average speed of 2 mph (good old GPS!) which is slow - but it was not only steep but also very hot. We had a brief thunderstorm and power cut once back but it only lasted half an hour or so., Was it to become a habit?

5th July

6 miles today, walk 7, the Ystwyth Gorge. The Ystwyth is the river running south of the house and this is a very pretty walk, a little was the same as yesterday but in reverse. We did come across a little civilisation as we walked through the local village where we stopped to support the shop. It was easier walking than yesterday and I felt a lot better when we got back than I had done the day before. It was lovely to be able to have a bath after each walk. Our room had a bath and a good shower.

 

 

6th July

Walk number 9 today. Hafod Waterfalls, 6 miles. These distances seem short compared to the days we walked on the Ridgeway, but it was much harder - i.e. lots of hills, which we're not used to, Wiltshire being comparatively flat, and much hotter. We did think we'd start with a shortish walk and build up but we soon realised that would probably kill us so had to be more realistic in our choices and reduce the distances! We had a short drive to our start, at Hafod and the walk took place mainly in the Hafod Estate. It was a slightly cooler day but still felt hot uphill. There were many waterfalls, mostly spectacular although with far less water than is usual due to the low rainfall. At the end of the walk we drove to the Llywernog silver and iron mine. It was a whistle-stop tour as it was getting late, but we were in time for the underground tour which was very interesting.

 

7th July

7½ miles, the Mynach Valley walk, number 17. It was a lot cooler today, which was quite a relief. We parked at Devil's Bridge and had a lovely walk and made much faster progress, which proved the heat had affected us. Even the climbs were easier. It was quite windy, especially when we reached the top of a steep climb to a breathtaking viewpoint. Very bracing and too cold to stop there for lunch, despite the comfort of a bench! But we found an even better one on the edge of the Hafod Estate - it had a table too. We had an amusing encounter with a herd of bullocks. There must have been 20 of them lined up and staring at us. We wondered if it would be safer to detour via a road below us but as soon as we moved towards them, they ram to safety around the next corner. This continued several times until they were virtually cornered by a gate and cattle grid. Fortunately they ran up a steep bank to escape us! They were beautiful young animals and we laughed at how intimidated we had felt at first. The rest of the walk saw us walking through hundreds of cowardly sheep. It cost £2.50 each to see the bridge and waterfalls. What we hadn't bargained for were the steps - 100 in a vertical drop and about 150 to get back up again. We were disappointed with it and found it to be very run down and positively dangerous in places. A waste of money, to be honest. We'd seen far nicer places and with no other people spoiling the view either. We had ice cream and a quick look at the steam train before our return.

 

We loved this place and may well go back one day - very many people do. Everything was excellent, it's great value and you eat really well and healthily. Unfortunately, all the afternoon cake meant I put on weight, despite all that slogging up hills! The heat did mean we walked less than we'd anticipated but it was good to see such a beautiful part of the UK. Richard and Anne provide an excellent 'product' for walkers and are to be commended for their attention to detail. There really is something for most levels of walkers (unless you really can't manage hills) and there are no navigation skills needed for the majority of the walks.

If you enjoyed reading this page, do read the Hillscape website and think about a holiday there. Perhaps I may see you there one day.

 

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