Aside from a trip to Butlins at Phllheli (now gone) when I was a small child I’d never so much as set foot in Wales until this weekend. Now that I have done so though I can definitely say I’ll be going back; it’s beautiful!
It was a few months ago now that I received an email from GROUPON asking if I’d try their service. With an ambitious budget of £100 for a 2 day stay I then installed their iPhone app, set up alerts for “getaways”, and sat back while the offers started coming in.
I’ve been making a bit of a point this year of trying to visit as many of the UK’s National Parks as possible, the intention of which being to see what my own nation has to offer me (this being opposed to blowing far more money on a couple of weeks stay somewhere overseas). I’ve already hit the far more local Yorkshire Dales, Yorkshire Moors and the Peak District, and headed slightly further afield to the Highlands of Scotland for a summer break. Based on this, where better to head next than into our sister country Wales, to see what they have to offer? Luckily for me the perfect deal popped up; a 2 night stay with breakfast included at the Ty Newydd Country House Hotel, nestled right on the south border of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
The Brecon Beacons themselves turned out to be picture perfect; mountainous with changeable weather and suicidal sheep, this is a walkers’ paradise (oddly peppered with burger vans every 5 mile or so along the road-side). Brecon itself, a traditional town on the north of the Park formed our base for a day’s exploration – the cafes, small shops and cathedral making this a really good visit.
From there we headed off to Melin Talgarth Mill, a traditional flour mill sat on the river Ellwye. The people working here were thoroughly knowledgeable and we left as experts in flour making (or not), with a bag of whole wheat flour and a jar of local honey. The Mill is complete with a river-side cafe making this a perfect stop. Our final stop was Crickhowell, a traditional town with interesting shops including a bakery where we stopped to sample various cakes.
Determined to squeeze as much into our trip as possible we headed to both Swansea and Cardiff the next day. In Swansea we headed straight for the beach as was Mia’s request; I’m happy to say that clean sand combined with unseasonally blue skies meant we had a fantastic time (as an added bonus there were none of the tourist shops seen elsewhere). Our second stop in Swansea was the indoor market where we had laverbread (seaweed – hated by both Mia and Gosia) and hot fresh Welshcakes.
Our final stop of the day was Cardiff. Following the signs for city centre and spending seemingly years trying to get parked, we found ourselves in a pleasantly cosmopolitan pedestrianised shopping district. I can imagine us spending a full day here shopping near Christmas – I literally had to drag Gosia away, knowing we had a 4 hour drive ahead of us to get home.
For a man who has always headed to Scotland when in need of some natural countryside, Wales made a surprisingly good visit. There’s obviously far more to see and do in South Wales than I managed in our 2 day trip, but we’re already planning to head to the Pembrokeshire Coast for a couple of days next summer. The people were friendly and the food and drink was great (special mention for my new favourite cider, the smoky tasting Black Dragon).
Finally a little thank-you to GROUPON for providing us with this experience; their app and website is simple to use and is a great way of finding affordable getaways.