As we were over on the west side of the national park this year, I thought we’d share the things we did as a bit of inspiration to anyone else visiting this summer…
- Day 1 – Walk to Llyn Y Fan Fach
By the time we’d had a lazy morning, then found a supermarket to stock up for the week we only had the afternoon left. So a quick and easy stroll was in order to stretch our legs – we opted for the lovely Llyn Y Fan Fach reservoir walk. Under 2 miles each way if you stop when you reach the first reservoir (you can complete a spectacular 6 mile circular walk along the ridges if you have more time), it’s a wide path and an easy stroll up to a really pretty reservoir nestled under the jagged peaks. We visited when the 15yr old was just 7 – and told him that there was a man at the top selling tin trays to slide down on. He was horrified by the thought of the climb… but oh how he wanted to slide down that hill…
- Day 2 – Walking Glasfynydd Forest
Today was the husband’s birthday, and he wanted to do a really nice walk. So we started out from the car park for Glasfynydd Forest – just down the road from the Usk Reservoir turn – and equipped with a map we set off. Through the forest, out to the standing stone, back around the edge of the forest, back in through a truly magical stretch which was gloomy and silent except for the sunlight breaking through the dense pine forest to light the path and show us a fox cub standing on the track ahead. Out across a hideous squelchy bog of a field, diving back into the dense forest to try and find our path, then a long route back up through the forest to find the road which finally looped us back around to the car. In the evening, feeling like we’d earned it, we headed out to dinner. Our destination was the Castle Hotel in Llandovery – and it’s really REALLY good! Service was warm and friendly, and the food was magnificent. Six very happy (and very full) people…
- Day 3 – The Four Falls Walk at Ystradfelte
This one’s an old favourite of ours – the waterfalls really do make it worth the effort. The walking is tough in places with a lot of steep climbs – you’ll have power thighs by the end of the day! In particular, the path down to the final waterfall Sigwd yr Eira descends steeply down high steps and rough stones to the falls. But when you make it down there, it’s amazing. Take the time to just sit and watch – and then navigate carefully along the bank and follow the path behind the falls. It’s an incredible experience, and for the children it’s what makes the hike worth every groaning step of the climb back up.
- Day 4 – Dinefwr Park & Castle
Dinefwr is unusual for a National trust property in that it’s completely hands-on. There are no ropes banning access to rooms, no Please do Not Do That signs intimidating every area – each and every room is accessible and usable. And because of that it’s simply fantastic for the children. Below stairs is set up as the servants quarters, and you can wander in to the Butlers room and have a go at ironing a newspaper, try correctly folding a shirt or polishing boots in the laundry room, try on top hats and tails and understand what the Lord of the House would need on his breakfast tray. Upstairs, as well as the living areas laid out as sitting/dining room etc, there are rooms are laid out as a WWII military hospital – again you can try out everything, sitting in the wheelchairs, try on a gas mask or a uniform. There is a wonderful display talking about the trees in the park – the children flaked on benches to watch the mesmerising video while I wandered the room reading all about the park’s ancient trees. As if all that isn’t enough, after a picnic lunch we headed back into the grounds – we had the dog with us so I sat on a bench in absolute ear-buzzing quiet and nodded off enjoyed the peace, while the husband took the children around the wetlands Boardwalk, which they really loved. Then on again, across a stunning buttercup meadow, through an airy woodland and up the hill to the ruined castle at the top. Utterly perfect for an epic game of Block.
This visit has its own post coming shortly, but here’s a quick glimpse of the amazing time we had. It lashed down with rain all. day. long. we were soaked to the skin – but even so we had a glorious day, and saw so much. There’s a woodland walk to a waterfall which we’ve never discovered before, the dome was fading after its astounding Spring blooming but still had some amazing sights, and the gardens themselves were beautiful even as they dripped and splashed.
The weather was kind to us the following day – a cool clear day that was perfect for walking the highest peak in the Beacons, Pen Y Fan. We decided to use a different route this time, and began at the Storey Arms – this is a shorter sharper climb than our usual way along the old Roman Road, but the gasping burst of energy is reward very quickly with the astounding views from Corn Du, and a gently undulating down-up route across the summit to Pen y fan itself. Despite stopping for lunch at the top, we were still back to the car in time for triple scoops from Llanfaes Dairy in Brecon, and then back across country for some river swimming in our favourite valley before heading home. An utterly perfect last day.
Sadly we didn’t have time to fit in the other things on our To Do List – we’ll just have to come back next year:
Although that was officially our last day we were so reluctant to head home that we didn’t head South once our amazing holiday cottage was empty and the car all packed. Instead we headed slowly in a meandering fashion across the National Park back towards Talybont-on-Usk. As chance would have it, we arrived at the Star Inn (which we visited last year, and thought it might well be the most family-friendly pub in the Brecon Beacons) just about lunchtime – you’d almost have thought the map reader had planned it that way. *cough*. Well, it would have been rude not to, wouldn’t it? A typically huge and tasty lunch in their wonderful garden rounded off our week in the Brecon Beacons perfectly, and finally we had to say goodbye and find our way to a motorway…