A Dapper Welsh Adventure

After last year’s cider fuelled glamping fest in Herefordshire as soon as we saw the fabulous Dapper Camping Club, north of Brecon, through Canopy & Stars we knew we had to visit. As a child I visited the area often on PGL holidays and wanted to return to show Hubs how beautiful Wales can be. This time we were in a bell tent, with a proper bed loaded with blankets and both a kitchen and bathroom all to ourselves. Anyone who has camped before knows this is a serious luxury! Everything on the site had been so well thought out from the decanter of complementary sherry, very much needed on cold Welsh nights, to the well-stocked larder of provisions, freshly made pesto and daily generous breakfast hamper. Oh and a porcelain leopard; naturally.  Dapper Camping Club is run by Jasper & Lucy who made lovely hosts and have deliberately styled the tents in a quirky, quintessentially British feel but using both vintage & modern furnishings.

The Brecon Beacons is the area for outdoor pursuits and while yes we intended to climb Pen-y-Fan the weather didn’t really allow it and the cold weather meant that the wild swimming we had planned was out of the question. We did however manage a visit to the National Park Visitor Centre , took a ride over Blorenge and a short walk to see the beautiful Henrhyd Waterfall. Sometimes on holiday I find it can take a while to totally switch off from the modern world. Here was a great place for it. Patchy phone signal and nowhere to charge our phones (Hubs’ HTC totally beat my iPhone in the battery power stakes!). We were more or less off grid. We took time to do the simple pleasures that modern life can sometimes steal away from you. One being able to catch up with a book or newspaper with no interruptions.

The Felin Fach Griffin is a fabulous pub less than a mile from Dapper Camping Club and has won many awards for its food. We had popped into The Felin Fach Griffin a few days beforehand for a warming drink then returned a few days later to sample some of their food. That evening Hubs drank Red Dragon beer from the Breconshire Brewery  and me a G&T made with Brecon Gin (hurrah somewhere that serves it properly with lime!). The food was truly delicious, and probably one of the best meals I’ve had a long time. That says a lot as my dish included broad bean pesto and I usually abide broad beans. I also discovered polenta chips. Where have these been my life?! We have a fabulous local pub here, but wish The Felin Fach Griffin was my local too. We will certainly return in the future, this time to stay overnight.

Just like the water in Burton on Trent making the best beer the underground glacial waters of the Brecon Beacons help to make the perfect wysgi (Welsh for whisky), Penderyn WhiskyThey produce only one cask of malted barley spirit a day that is then aged to produce a beautiful single malt whisky. We booked in for a tour and whisky tasting at Penderyn Distillery. Now I have a reputation for accidentally using some of Hubs’ fine whisky collection in baking which last year contributed on me making a Christmas pudding that rivalled Heston’s on price so it was a surprise that Hubs let me do the whisky tasting while he drove. After tasting two fine whiskies plus their delicious cream liqueur Merlyn it’s fair to say I was a bit giddy. What is great about Penderyn is that instead of tasters the drivers could take miniatures to taste at home instead. The wonderful Nessa, who hosted the tour, did a grand job of keeping the stag do, who seemed to be suffering from the night before, well in check. I did wonder what the party had been doing the previous day as a few of them were wearing questionable attire, stripy swim shorts & clashing plimsolls anyone? The Stag was also sporting quite an impressive black eye and wound to his head. I’m sure the Hen will have been proud.

The National Showcaves (Dan-yr-Ogof & cathedral caves) we visited were good if you ignore the slight holiday camp feel to the place. It was probably one of the most random places and the expensive place (£14 each) we visited over the week. It would be great if you could just pay to see the caves and not also having to pay to see the multitude of plastic dinosaurs and random talking sheep dog. Hay on Wye was also a place we visited. A haven for all antique and book enthusiasts. I lost a great deal of time in the second-hand bookshops, in particular the famous Richard Booth’s Bookshop, and came away with a very restrained 3 antique cookbooks. We also visited the beautiful Gliffaes, but that post is going to be a completely separate post.

We are members of the National Trust as there are many great places near us and it is great for picnics and walks during the weekend. While on holiday we’ve also found selected properties are great alternatives for service stations. They have toilets, great place to stretch your legs and the cafes always have good cake. At Dinefwr the café does a particularly good ginger cake. The Natural Trust is changing some of its properties. Gone are the stuffy rules in some places and in comes the chance to sit on the chairs, see rooms come to life. While visiting Dinefwr last week I was encouraged by the staff there to play a grand and beautiful Steinway piano. The first & last time I’ll probably be allowed to play one. I’m rubbish at playing from memory, but can sight read well so picked up some music that had been left on the piano. All was going well with me almost thinking I had slipped into a Jane Austin novel then bang; I realised how many people had stopped to listen to me playing. Cue stage fright and me quickly making my excuse to leave. Before visiting Dinefwr we made a trip to the National Botanic Garden of Wales. What a lovely place full of stunning plants and water features. Inside the central glass dome there was an interesting exhibition about Fungi. Yes I’m a Biology graduate plus geek through and through.

Oh goodness, we’re turning 30 and getting old before our time. Visiting National Trust properties, hunting antiques and books in Hay, taking time for Afternoon Tea and admiring gardens. The Brecon Beacons really is a beautiful part of the UK and I urge you to visit. Forget the fact it rains. How do you think Wales gets its lush pastures and tasty lamb?

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