“The term ‘hole-and-corner’ derives from an old English phrase meaning a secret place or a life lived away from the mainstream: somewhere you go to contemplate, create and be inspired.” (Hole&Corner Magazine)
If you’re interested in stargazing, the Brecon Beacons in Wales, since 2012 accredited as “International Dark Sky Reserve” with only little light pollution, are one of the best places on earth. However, our this year’s summer holiday seemed to be ill-starred and – starting with the end – due to serious health issues of him we had to interrupt our trip to Wales halfway and missed beautiful Pembrokeshire coast. That’s the sad news. But I don’t want to stick with those memories, but instead keep in mind the beautiful things we saw, learned, bought, ate, the nice people we met.
We were warmly welcomed when we arrived at the River Cafe in Glasbury-on-Wye late in the evening. Usually we’re not the holiday makers that look for common ground each year. But when we decided to have a closer look at some Welsh regions we’ve visited a few years ago, we finally came back to this place. It was and is (for us) the best choice: Friendly staff, a cozy room, a cafe/restaurant downstairs that serves good food (totally forgot to take pictures), beautifully laid at the river Wye and a perfect jumping-off point not only for the Wye Valley along the Welsh-English border, but also for the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Crossing the Brecon Canal, our first destination was the National Park Visitor Centre in Libanus, already in the middle of the park. Here we bought not only a precise map and a small hiking guide to the region, but we were also advised by the very helpful staff that supplied us with plenty of information and excused for the weather 😉
Anyway, we tried to conquer Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in South Wales… Being socialized mountainwise in the Alps the temptation to ridicule about a 886 m high “mountain” is irresistible. We had to learn the hard way that Brecon mountains and especially the weather changes shouldn’t be underrated – although British hikers obviously are more adapted to harsh rain and wind.
The Brecon Mountain Railway in contrast is a far more comfortable way to head into the mountains, although it comes with the cost of loud family gatherings and the inevitable railway nerds 😉
Our base town during the stay was Hay-on-Wye, the quirky ‘town of books’, that is undergoing a generation change in recent years. The 2008 established Globe at Hay with its Institute of Arts and Ideas that founded the philosophy and music festival “HowtheLightGetsIn” is one of the signs of this new times, shops like the Eighteen Rabbit Fair Trade Shop or the launch of The Keep Magazine – obviously inspired by magazines like Kinfolk, Hole&Corner, Ernest – are others.
And “Hay does vintage” as well. One of the places you can discover old treasures year-round is The Old Electric Shop – all sorts of vintage products are for sale there as well as hip magazines (see above), natural cosmetics, products of young creatives from the region. My haul was one of the beautiful pinafore aprons from Field&Found.
Through the Black Mountains one day trip led us along the river Wye, crossing the Welsh-English border several times ( Now we’re in Wales,… England, Wales, England again…), to Tintern Abbey, a former Cistercian abbey. The majestic ruins that preserve the skeleton of this medieval site allow to see the skies, a very impressing experience.
Thanks to Jane from the River Cafe we found The Boat Inn in little Redwood which is a bit hidden, but nevertheless (or therefore) with some fame, especially for their Real Ale collection – a quirky place with great views on the river and over the river to England (Wales, England, Wales, England,…)
Just around the corner from Glasbury lays the small village of Talgarth which gained some overregional attention when they in 2011 took part in the BBC TV programm “Village SOS”. With the help of the lottery fund and obviously a lot of enthusiastic volunteers they restored the old water mill in the village as a community enterprise.
Although it didn’t fully turned into a job wonder for Talgarth, as we learned on our guided tour, it seems like it had effects on the communal spirit of Talgarth and also leads some tourists (like us) to village and the mill. The adjacent bakery with cafe sells their awarded bread – not what you immediately associate with Britain. Of course we had to try it and we took some sandwiches with us before we headed once again deep into the Beacons.
First by car, then on foot we approached Llyn y Fan Fach. The way up to the lake and then the view when we’ve reached the lake: breathtaking, beautiful views, an amazing scenic landscape! Rolling green hills dotted with sheep, the steep cliffs of the Carmarthen Fans with “the magic lake” at their foot. Escarpments, shaped by primordial natural forces … Our holiday trip had come to its peak…