|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
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.