We are big fans of short weekend breaks in the UK, and our recent family holiday in Wales reminded us again why it’s so good to get out of town for a few days. We spent only two nights away, but returned to London feeling recharged and relaxed. Our two days in the countryside gave us all a chance to have a break from busy city life and we enjoyed just spending some time in each others’ company. What’s more, the children loved exploring somewhere new while managing to cram in a trip on a steam train in the Brecon Beacons as well as a visit to a castle too.
It was the perfect amount of time, although it did leave us wanting to return to Wales for more adventures. Our trip was organised thanks to Visit Wales who are running the #FindYourEpic campaign. We certainly had our share of adventure, and we’re already planning what we’ll do next time we manage to get to this beautiful part of the country again!
We left London on a Friday evening and drove to Merthyr Tydfil which is at the bottom of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Leaving London on a Friday after work might sound crazy, but the drive is only about three hours and even a closed road didn’t delay us for too long. The children went straight to sleep when we arrived and Tony and I had a glass of wine, glad we’d driven out of town on Friday so we could fit in a full day of exploring on Saturday.
We stayed in a beautiful studio apartment in a stunning Victorian townhouse – Studios at Glenthorne, in Merthyr Tydfil. We could have opted for Cardiff as a base, but we really wanted to be out of the city and so this was perfect, and right next to the national park. The house was built in the 1800s and for the last three years run as a guest house by the very lovely Claire – who Milin and Jasmin adored.
I loved the little touches and details that were everywhere you looked here – the frames around notepaper explaining parking or the wifi code, a lovely grandfather clock, fresh flowers, the surprise chocolates in the afternoon and the home-made Welsh cakes on arrival. (Jasmin and Tony made short work of these!) Our continental breakfast was a feast, and we loved the set-up of a studio apartment within a home. The house has its original features in tact, but is still modern and warm and welcoming. Our huge room had a bed and sofa bed, with a separate kitchen, complete with washing machine, and the shower was brilliant too.
I really can’t recommend Glenthorne highly enough and I hope we can go back. It was beautiful, spotless, brilliantly located, and we loved the personal touch. We ordered a takeaway on Saturday night and ate it happily with a bottle of Prosecco with the tele on, while the children slept. It really felt like a home away from home.
The highlight of our weekend was definitely a ride on the Brecon Mountain Railway. The station was only a few minutes’ drive from our guesthouse and at the foot of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Milin and Jasmin might be little (they’re four and two), but they’re not too little for adventures.
We arrived half an hour before our train was leaving and we’re so glad we did. At the station, you’re able to have a look around the engineer’s yard. Milin and Jasmin were fascinated by the engines in for repair and got to have a look close up at some of those being fixed. We saw the guard and driver getting our steam train ready and the children could barely believe their eyes and ears when it tooted and backed onto the platform.
Milin said it was just like being on the Island of Sodor and Jasmin agreed that this train looked like Thomas – but was of course the wrong colour. The ride itself was about an hour and half and seeing their little faces when we started moving absolutely made my weekend. That something as simple as a ride on a steam train made them so happy was the sweetest thing.
But, what a ride it was. With a glistening lake to the side of the track for much of the ride, and the snow-capped mountains of the Brecon Beacons in the distance, this wasn’t any forest train ride. In fact, it turned into an adventure when a fallen tree just before we reached the top of the track stopped us in our paths. As Milin said, it really was like a story from Thomas-land. We watched the guard investigate, but he decided his handsaw wouldn’t be able to clear the tracks and a chainsaw was needed. It was possibly the most exciting train ride the children have ever been on – and certainly beats the tube for adventure. We reversed all the way back, but not before a stop at a little station along the way for coffee and hot chocolates (and more Welsh cakes) and a little play at the play area.
After all the adventure, we relaxed in the afternoon at a beautiful country pub which looked out onto stunning views over the Brecon Beacons. We saw plenty of mountain bikers making the most of the dry and sunny spring day – and Tony and I were a teeny bit jealous. One day, when the children are a bit older, we’ll hopefully return and get some family riding done in this beautiful part of the country. What a backdrop for it.
We also saw lots of horse-riders and, again, what an amazing place to be riding. Our train ride and ramble to the pub was perfect for little legs, but one day I hope we can return and explore more on foot.
We spent Sunday morning at the incredibly impressive Cyfarthfa Park Lake – again just a couple of minutes drive or ten minutes walk from Glenthorne Studios. Cyfarthfa Castle was once a school but we busied ourselves imagining adventures of knights and dragons in its grounds. Milin and Jasmin were pretty impressed to be at a ‘real life’ castle, and its surrounding grounds, lake and playground made this the perfect spot for just hanging out. There’s a little cafe and museum here, but we were too early for them because of course the children didn’t sleep in.
No trip to Wales is complete for us without a stop at the Temple Bar Inn at Ewyas Harold. Our stop there this weekend rounded off a perfect couple of days. In front of the fire, we ate chocolate brownies and looked back at a wonderfully relaxing but adventurous trip. Getting out of London always does us good, and heading just a few hours up the road to the foot of the Brecon Beacons was amazing. It was a part of the country we’d never explored until now – and now we can’t wait to go back.
I’m linking up with Magic Moments over at The Olivers Madhouse because this weekend was one magic moment after the other!
*We were given train tickets and accommodation for the purpose of this post but all opinions are my own and this review is my honest opinion.