Thursday, October 21, 2010

Brecon Beacons: Some like it desolate!

F rom Hay-on-Wye we made our way toward our next B&B. At this point I should mention that I had prepared a detailed itinerary which included all the contact information and complicated directions for all the places where we were staying. Then we forgot to print it out. Thankfully we had my husband's laptop with us and he had the file on there, so we had to pull that out and look everything up when needed!

Beili Helyg B&B

When I envisioned a place to stay near Brecon Beacons, I wanted something in a really tiny, remote place. I found a few options online, but one rose to the top pretty fast. I really wanted a place with a bathtub. I don't have one in my apartment and I miss baths so much, so I love to have one after a long day of wandering around on vacation. I wasn't sure from the website whether this place had them so I emailed them. The proprietor wrote back and said that they did not, and wrote, "If you need any help finding alternatives, just ask." I asked myself, is this guy so nice he's going to help me find a room with a competitor? Forget the bathtub! And booked it. (But swore to get a bathtub on the Cornwall leg of the trip.)

Anyway, we drove further and further from the highway down a single-lane road, and eventually found Beili Helyg up in a huge field. Our room was gorgeous and stocked with a new treat each day we were there. They also have a breakfast room with big Ordnance Survey maps on the wall (which I spent a lot of time staring at - how I love maps) and a fruit bowl and dishes you can use, and a great lounge with a fire in the fireplace every night, three couches, and a bookshelf full of books and games, including a lot of books about the area. Breakfast was also a really perfect size - not too big - and the sausages were amazing! Not only all this but they were SO helpful with personalized suggestions of where to go and what to do. We didn't take advantage of it, but you can also have dinner there. (One of our fellow guests did this - as we were leaving for the night we asked what he was having and he was clearly thrilled to report that he was going to have faggots & peas like it was the best thing in the whole world, and we had NO idea what that was....)

Hirwaun & Penderyn

After settling into our room and having a cup of tea, we set out to find a pub for dinner. The proprietor recommended a place in Hirwaun called Glancynon Inn and drew up a little map for us to find it, since it was a little complicated. The place didn't look particularly special but the food we had was actually really good, especially the desserts! The first night we had Merlyn & strawberry cheesecake and the second night, sticky toffee pudding. Neither of us had ever had that before and are now pretty sure it's the best thing ever. (Although my husband is reconsidering that fact since he discovered it contains dates.) Also, the first night, I am pretty sure there was a guy speaking half-English and half-Welsh with one of the staff. I was surprised we got a chance to hear Welsh in the wild, which I think is not so common!

After dinner we got in a bit of stargazing at the B&B since it was a clear night. The sky was almost as good as at my dad's house, but there is a little bit of light pollution on the horizons which I think was exacerbated by the mistiness. We saw a few falling stars! While we were out there, four bicyclists whizzed by on that tiny country road absolutely silently. Bad ass.

The next morning we stopped in the nearest town, Penderyn, to buy some whisky. We discovered that they make what is currently the only Welsh Whisky there. (It just now occurred to me that whisky is a really cool word.) It's the world's smallest whisky distillery! That's also where the Merlyn we had in our cheesecake comes from.

Ystradfellte & walking around!

Brecon Beacons Okt 10

We wanted to see some old rocks and found a walk that looked like it fit the bill in one of the books in the B&B lounge. In the morning we asked about it and they said it was nice (probably not as exciting as the waterfall walks that are more popular) and also pointed out an additional cool feature near there that we could add to our itinerary. We took their Ordnance Survey map with us.

We started in the tiny town of Ystradfellte, where we could park, and looked around there a little. It had a pub that didn't look open, an old church and churchyard, and a post office that also sold gum and candy and stuff.

The walk was listed as taking just 3 hours, but it took us more like 4.5 because we tend to meander and stop for EVERYTHING. Look, sheep! Look, moss! Look, a wizened tree! Look, a hole in the ground! Look, a pile of rocks! Look, according to the Ordnance Survey map that thing could be a cairn! Or...maybe the cairn is that thing! The maps are really just amazing. I've been reading Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island during and since the trip and related when he wrote:
"I am constantly impressed by the richness of detail on the OS 1:25,000 series. They include every wrinkle and divot on the landscape, every barn, milestone, wind pump, and tumulus . . . There's always some intriguing landmark just over the next contour line. You could spend your life moving from stone circle to Roman settlement (remains of) to ruined abbey and never see but a fraction of them even in a small area, particularly if, like me, you seldom actually find them."
I would love nothing more than to spend days and days with a stack of those maps looking for every gothic-font landmark noted on them!

Anyway, check out the photos to see what we saw on our walk! It was really beautiful in a very simple way. I was totally satisfied with it, and we saw almost nobody the whole time. The only major event was running into a hunting party (with about a zillion dogs) shooting pheasants. We waited for them to pass and they were actually shooting - in the other direction - but still, kind of unpleasant. Their dogs were cute, anyway. Afterward it was late afternoon and we were famished. The pub in Ystradfellte still showed no signs of life so we headed back toward Penderyn hoping for a convenience store or anything there, although we didn't remember having seen one earlier. On the way, we ran across a lay-by with a snack van parked in it. These things kept popping up in the most unlikely places, but we were thankful this time because we really needed some food. We ordered chips. They took forever and were nasty. Oops. Still, they did potentially spare us a lot of driving looking around for just a snack to tide us over until our next meal at Glancynon Inn. After dinner we sat around the warm lounge reading our books from Hay-on-Wye. Ahhh.

Song o' the Post!
Did you know that Los Campesinos! are Welsh? Okay, they formed in Wales. Still, that's cool.

Coming soon: We try not to fall off cliffs on the Gower peninsula!!


  1. is he allergic to dates?!

    ALSO: bill bryson. how do you feel about him? have you read other books? this is a really important question because i MAY have been considering sending you a book for christmas. but i'm not sure.

  2. He's not allergic, he just doesn't like most healthy things. Dates are a little too healthy. ;)

    I mostly like Bill Bryson although sometimes he gets a little too grumpy/dismissive toward the ends of his trips. I've read his Appalachian Trail book, his small-town-USA book (the one where he goes to P-town and is all I HATE SAND ARRRRGH), his Australia book, his memoir, and I think the Europe one.


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