With a few festive holiday days to spare, Mr Fletche and I decided not to spend them eating leftover cheese and scraping the bottom of the miniature Heroes barrel and booked a cottage getaway in Wales. Yes, Wales. In January.
With no particular location in mind, I did a quick Airbnb search using very basic filters and Wildernest was second or third on my search responses. It was Ty Twt which appeared but a quick search around found a smaller two person cottage on the same property – Cuddfan. Which means “hiding place” in Welsh. Perfect. I made contact with the hosts Hugh and Jude via Airbnb and we were all booked in. We took up our host’s offer of a home cooked meal delivered on arrival (£25 for two) and a breakfast basket filled with local produce (£16).
Wildernest is comprised of three – soon to be four – self contained properties as well as Hugh and Jude’s own home. The lodgings also have access to a communal Long Barn, with comfy sofas, a real fire, piano and football table, which makes this a great place for small groups to convene.
Wildernest is part of Blaengors, a former farm and spiritual retreat, and is now a haven for holidaymakers who want to get away from it all, but still have access to small towns and the coast within a 30 minute drive. We arrived on a Wednesday night – it’s in deepest darkest West Wales so be prepared for winding, narrow roads, definitely not for the faint-hearted or the nervous driver! Luckily Mr Fletche is neither. We pull into the driveway and follow Hugh’s clear email directions to find Cuddfan. We’re greeted by Jude, who leaves us to settle in.
We immediately fall in love with the cottage which will be our home for the next four nights. We enter into a small boot room, from which comes off a toilet and wetroom with a rainforest showerhead. The kitchen is small but has all the equipment you could wish for when self-catering including a combi microwave/oven, hob and dishwasher, and a bench-style dining table. Our breakfast basket has already been delivered, with bacon, eggs, bread, mushrooms, tomatoes, butter, muesli, jam and orange juice. We can’t wait until it’s morning and we can dig in. There are french doors leading out to a small rear patio.
From the kitchen, we enter the main living space, with its exposed A-Frame roof beams. There are more large french windows this time looking out onto the front of the property. Two armchairs (including one that I’m sure I’ve had my eye on from Ikea…) and cushioned bench seating, books, tourist leaflets and maps, a pack of cards and a DAB radio/ipod dock. There is no TV! Mr Fletche and I realise we will have to talk to each other for the next couple of days. There is however an excellent WiFi connection. We no longer have to talk to each other. There is also a log-burner, with logs, kindling, firelighters and matches provided. More on the log-burner later.
Up the open staircase (be careful in socked feet) we duck through the low-beamed entranceway to the crogloft, with its comfortable double bed. There are a couple of clothes rails and chair, one on each side of the room, and a couple of storage baskets but storage space is minimal so be aware when packing. Being built up in the roof means that even shorties like us have to walk hunched over unless right in the centre of the room.
Hugh and Jude – and an enthusiastic pooch – deliver our meal right to the kitchen table. We’ve opted for sausage, mash, onion gravy and seasonal veg, and lemon drizzle cake with raspberries and cream for dessert. For £25 we wouldn’t have eaten any better in a restaurant. This is a most welcome touch which means we don’t have to leave to pick up supplies, either for dinner or for tomorrow’s breakfast. In fact, we end up frying up our leftover mash and veg the next morning for a kind of bubble and squeak affair.
The next morning we are hoping to see the cottage and the rest of Wildernest in all its glory. Except it’s Wales, in January, ergo it is raining. We do meet our neighbours though. There is a chicken nestled up against our french windows, sheltering from the drizzle. Next time we look, there are two. Soon there are six chickens (a brood?) trying to peck their way into the cottage for shelter. The avian invasion doesn’t stop there though, as there is a gaggle of Embden geese approaching. We bravely pull on our wellies – after a hearty breakfast – and go out exploring the grounds. We discover the Airstream – one of Wildernest’s other three accommodations – and pronounce it a perfect place to stay in the summer.
As tempted as we were to stay in our cosy cottage all day, we braved the gloomy weather and winding roads to explore the local area. I haven’t visited Mid Wales for years so it was pretty much a whole new region to discover
Aberaeron is a small picturesque harbour town at the mouth of the Aeron river and is famous for its beautifully coloured Regency houses lining the quayside – not entirely unlike San Francisco’s Painted Ladies. There are cafes, pubs and restaurants aplenty to meet all budgets, with seafood and fish unsurprisingly being found in abundance.
Like Aberaeron, New Quay is a lively harbour town with a lovely sandy beach and plenty of places to eat and drink – many of which claim to be Dylan Thomas’ “favourite” establishment. Indeed, the famous poet and playwright did live in New Quay for a short while during World War II, although it has never been established exactly which was his favourite hostelry. The town is also home to a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins and many boat and sight-seeing trips embark from here.
Aberyswyth is a lively university town and seaside resort, with a more traditional seafront with a wide promenade, castle ruins, cliff railway and pier. You can find all your familiar high street shops here too, as well as thriving independent businesses . One of Aberyswyth’s big draws during the winter months is the spectacular murmurations as thousands of starlings return to roost under the Grand Pier just before sunset, creating a dramatic dance across the sky.
We didn’t get the opportunity to visit Devil’s Bridge this time around, as the walkways would have been far too wet and slippy to descend into the Rheidol Gorge, but I have memories of visiting as a child and would love to return soon to see the spectacular Mynach waterfalls and three stacked bridges.
Ceredigion Coastal Path
If you’re a walker, then you’re in luck as the Ceredigion Coastal path provides 65 miles of hikes, from Ynyslas in the north down to Cardigan in the south. There are picturesque seaside towns, dramatic cliffs and spectacular coves and bays along the way, and if you’re lucky you may even get to glimpse dolphins, seals and a whole host of marine birds. Of course you don’t have to walk the whole path; we found the paths on the cliffs between Llangrannog and Cwm Tydu to be extremely muddy and slippery so instead chose to drive between a few of the key points along the way. We will definitely return to complete more of the hike soon though.
We struggled with the log burner on night one. Fire-lighters, kindling, a slightly singed log and then nothing. We resigned ourselves to layering up with every item of clothing we’d brought with us, or lying on the bathroom floor where the underfloor heating was as it’s strongest. I resorted to putting a call out for fire-maintaining tips on Instagram, and watching endless YouTube videos. Eventually I found Mike Craft’s video (below) – and lo and behold, the Fletches made fire. An inverted v-shape of logs and use of cardboard turned out to be the key. Who knew? Well, Mike did obviously.
I’m almost reluctant to share the details as I want to keep Wildernest all to myself!
AirBnB Listing for Cuddfan: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/6241291
Address: Wildernest, Blaengors, Dihewyd, Lampeter, Ceredigion, Wales, SA48 7QR
I hope you’ve enjoyed taking this New Year trip to Wildernest with A Brummie Home and Abroad! Were we mad heading away (to Wales) in January? Are there any other hidden gems we should discover for a UK staycation in 2018?