Yes you read that right. We actually stayed away! From Home. After 1 year, 1 month and 2 weeks (but who’s counting) we actually stayed away. And. It. Was. Brilliant.
When we’ve been allowed to in the past 12 months, we’ve done a massive amount of exploring where we live. Pembrokeshire. And we have loved that. The opportunity to revisit some of the great places on our doorstep but also some places we’ve overlooked that were almost under our noses.
Pembrokeshire really is an amazing place. A National Park with mountains, towns, a city(!) and a fantastic coastline to explore. There are some great walks and some very impressive castles. All of which we’ve really, really appreciated, maybe more than ever, during this very strange period.
Despite all of that we felt a strong desire to stay away from home. And we know we’re not the only ones. Just to be somewhere different. And just for a night. But also to see as much of Wales as we could in a couple of days. And we did.
Where we went
Everywhere! Not really but we wanted to. The purpose of this trip was to stay somewhere different but we also wanted to indulge in 2 days of touring Mid Wales. As much as we could cram in. This is what we did.
First stop, Aberaeron. And this was what it was like. Freezing. Proper pop your face out and get a headache kind of weather.
Still, we had coffee. And brownies and It was somewhere. Anywhere. Other than home.
This is a lovely place and we’ve been here in much better weather but today we were not at all bothered by that.
Florida for lunch
Yeah not THE Florida unfortunately. Strata Florida Abbey.
This medieval abbey, dating back to 1201, is the resting place for generations of welsh Princes of Wales. And we had it all to ourselves. Yes our very own Abbey. Well, that’s what we pretended for the time we were there.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions the visitors’ centre was closed. However the monument, looked after by CADW, is currently free to visit and is open from 30 March to 31st October.
This small market town in Ceredigion was the next stop on our journey. It has a little Market square at its centre where most of the shops and cafes are situated. There are also public conveniences which were a must before tackling the…………
Last time we took on this fantastic road our eldest was content to sit in the back of a Mini without a smartphone. Or a Nintendo. Happy just to gaze out of the window at the incredible views. Treasured memories of days gone by.
We clearly remember it was not so serene in the front of the car as we got towards the top of the pass. The snow got worse the higher we got (well it was February). And it just kept getting higher. Every time we thought we’d topped out there was another hill around the corner. We remember the huge relief as our little car skidded it’s way up the final few metres which we thought we might not manage.
Still we did have 1 packet of Wotsits and a can of Tango between us so we’d have probably been fine!!
We vowed then never to do this run outside of the summer months but the draw to see something like this right now was just too strong. Typically it had snowed at home the day before which prompted some knowing looks which only come from experience. But while there was some of the white stuff here this time too it wasn’t anywhere near as treacherous as our previous experience.
THE Telephone Box
This Telephone Kiosk is in the middle of nowhere. Like literally. There is nothing around here (although, incredibly, we did see the postman here). Perhaps that’s what prompted Ant and Dec to use it as a location for one of the adverts for last years’ I‘m a Celebrity Get me out of Here! Which was set in Gwrych Castle up the road.
Not to shatter any illusions but there isn’t actually a phone in here so don’t think you can rely on it when you have no signal here. And you will have no signal here. For quite a while.
But that is part of the beauty of this place. You really are off grid here. And you feel it. Along with the benefits that that brings.
While we’re on the subject of signal, SATNAV is great when it works. Out here not so much. So bring a map. You know, a proper paper one like this.
Soar Y Mynydd
To hammer that point home our next stop was Soar Y Mynydd (welsh for Zoar of the mountain) Chapel. This is the most remote chapel in Wales and dates back to 1822.
Funnily (or bizarrely) enough we did see another postman here.
As you near this Llyn (lake) the views from the road almost all the way down truly are breathtaking. We love to drink them in. As usual we found ourselves stopping every few hundred metres.
We didn’t stop for long at the lake itself. If you’re there at the right time you’ll see water from the lake running down the chute. It’s a bit of a spectacle and makes for a good photographic opportunity. Unfortunately this wasn’t one of those times but thankfully there are conveniences here. For which we are truly thankful
Cynghordy Viaduct is an impressive example of a railway viaduct with eighteen arches and is on the Heart of Wales railway line.
This was our final stop on day 1 before arriving at our place of rest (for the night). And what a place. See below
We’ve passed through many, many times and, apart from a comfort break or two we’ve never really stopped. So this time we took the opportunity to explore what this town has to offer.
Llandovery Castle dates back to the 12th century. It’s now a ruin but is still quite an imposing sight.
Near the castle is the very striking statute of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan who was executed as he was a supporter of Owain Glyndwr.
Llandovery also has plenty shops, independent and High Street as well as restaurants, public houses and Hotels.
Sugar Loaf railway station
This place fascinated us so we had to stop. A train station in the middle of nowhere. And it was immaculately kept. Electronic announcement boards and everything. The conversation was very much about who would get on or off here and why.
Oddly, while on the platform (in the middle of nowhere) we heard a rhythmic clanging of metal on metal. Being big fans of the Charles Dickens Ghost Story ‘The Signalman’ we didn’t hang about here for very long after that.
Much to our relief (and peace of mind), further up the road we did see a team of railway engineers!
The Elan Valley is as beautiful as it is big. And it is big. It took a massive part of the day to get around as much as we did. And even then we don’t think we covered it all. The main purpose was to visit the dams but the roads around here are pretty spectacular.
This seems to be an official tour route (we can see why) and we sort of followed it but that fell in with our pre planned map route. There were quite a few people doing the same thing as us and we couldn’t help wondering whether they are always as busy.
The first one we came to was Caban Coch before heading up to…
Garreg Ddu then crossing the bridge followed by a scenic forest drive brought us to…
Penygarreg as we climbed the hill towards the big one…
Craig Goch. In our opinion this is the most picturesque of them all.
Completed in 1904, this dam (along with the others above) supplies Birmingham with water.
All dammed out we headed home. Absolutely shattered. But with a warm glow, fuzzy feeling and huge smiles on our faces. After all, we’d done it. For the first time in a long time we actually stayed away.
Where we actually stayed away
In this great little place. It was just what we needed. A perfectly appointed little home from home.
As good as it looked on the outside it was the inside which blew us away. We could not believe how much room there was. A bit like the TARDIS. We didn’t get in each others way once. And there were 3 of us. You could easily stay 4 in here.
It was so, so quiet here too. And very private. We like that. Very much. Only the soothing sound of the stream to send us to sleep and beautiful birdsong to wake up to.
There’s so much more we could write about our stay at Riverside but that’s for another post.
Suffice to say that we’re seriously considering going back in the next couple of months. We think that says all you need to know.
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