Sugar-Loaf-Wales
My Own Back Yard

Brecon Beacons – Friend or Foe?

Our trip to Wales started as any other trip. Little did we know the challenges that we would face.

My motivation for this post is two-fold in its duplicity. I have seen comments from fellow bloggers on media posts regarding the glossing over and less honest approach to make a location more favourable in a review. I wanted to combat that with a post that show both sides of the coin. This post shows that there is always more than one way to look at something and in fact, that even an unfortunate day can be turned into something brighter with the right outlook.

Dusk was falling as we pulled into the secluded paddock where the Shepherds hut accommodation was awaiting to greet us. The host had kindly waited to show around and gave a tour of the facilities before presenting an extra gift of homemade bread and fresh eggs and leaving us to settle in. The hut and its surroundings were well set up in their Black mountains home, with all the amenities we could have asked for on our relaxing break. Feeling happy with our luxury camping situation, we ate the gourmet dinner of sausage sandwiches and settled in to a deep sleep, looking forward to the exploration day ahead of us.

Brecon-Beacons-Hut

Keen to get out into the country air the next morning, we set off early to conquer the nearby Sugar Loaf mountain. The Sugar Loaf (703m), so named due to its loaf tin-shaped dome and the most well-known of the Black Mountains sitting closely to The Skirrid with views of glacial lakes, waterfalls and river views among the summit sights. 

For practiced walkers, the uphill climb will set you back about an hour and a half or 2 hours at a more leisurely pace. But rest assured, your reward upon reaching the top is that akin to being on top of the world. Surrounded by mountain tops and dusky pink and purple heather with views of the River Usk and the neighbouring Abergavenny village far below, photographers walk to the dome edge for snaps whilst hikers enjoy well-earned picnic lunches, all sitting slightly awed by the beautiful panoramics. 

Sugar-Loaf-Heather

There are a few choices at this point as with any of the mountain peaks here. Trek ahead in to the park along one of the many hiking routes, turn back and head down to the starting point and home or as in our case, opt for a softer decline and into one of the villages scattered throughout the hills.

Heading down towards Abergavenny, we chanced upon the delightful Sugar Loaf Vineyards and made a pit-stop for a traditional tea and welsh cake lunch. The speed of daily life in this part of the world is pleasantly paced and as you wander along from place to place, you can’t help but let the relaxed lifestyle seep in. Without realizing your footsteps slow and your mind quietens. I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what a lot of us in the modern world would benefit from every now and again, a few days to settle in scenic surroundings, blissfully technology and tv free. 

Sugar-Loaf-Vineyards

After some time spent ambling down country lanes, we returned to our sanctuary with a barbecue feast and passed the evening roasting marshmallows and supping wine under the moonlit sky. It was in one word, the perfect end to our Welsh valley stay.

If you wish to find a happy, hazy review of a stay in the welsh Black Mountains, then read no further. It is a stunning setting for a very relaxing break. Though the first time we had tried an Airbnb accommodation, the hut was a fantastic place to stay and our hosts really had put thought into adding those extra touches that make a good stay into a great one. However…. this stay was not without its challenges which almost appeared to be personally aimed at times. So, without further ado, here is Take 2 of our stay, including the truth beneath the haze.

Take 2

Dusk was falling as we pulled into the secluded paddock where the Shepherds hut accommodation was awaiting to greet us. The accommodation had not been the easiest for us to find in its country lane location and the 4 hour car journey from our last location was starting to grate on us a little. The host had kindly waited to show around and gave a tour of the facilities before presenting an extra gift of homemade bread and fresh eggs and leaving us to settle in. The hut and its surroundings were well set up in their Black mountains home, with all the amenities we could have asked for on our relaxing break. Feeling happy with our luxury camping situation, we ate the gourmet dinner of sausage sandwiches and settled in to a deep sleep, looking forward to the exploration day ahead of us. 

Keen to get out into the country air the next morning, we set off early to conquer the nearby Sugar Loaf mountain. Something to be aware of on your walk through the Brecon Beacons National Park are peat bogs. While these are now scarce in the Brecon Beacons, path-side puddles are often deep and cleverly concealed with a peat-like covering making them difficult to detect. It was while we wandered the very first road and a step resulted in my foot disappearing completely from view into a knee-high puddle that I realized exactly how well these are hidden. Choosing to embrace my new fashionable look, we continued the journey even more determined to make it to the top.

Sugar-Loaf-Wales

The Sugar Loaf (703m), so named due to its loaf tin-shaped dome and the most well-known of the Black Mountains sitting closely to The Skirrid with views of glacial lakes, waterfalls and river views among the summit sights.  For practiced walkers, the uphill climb will set you back about an hour and a half or 2 hours at a more leisurely pace. Prepare for all weathers on your walk. The weather in the Beacons can change quickly and trust me, the swirl of cold rain hitting you square in the face as you trek to the top is something you want to avoid if possible. But rest assured, your reward upon reaching the top is that akin to being on top of the world. Surrounded by mountain tops and dusky pink and purple heather with views of the River Usk and Abergavenny village far below, photographers walk to the dome edge for snaps whilst hikers enjoy well-earned picnic lunches, all sitting slightly awed by the beautiful panoramics. 

There are a few choices at this point as with any of the mountain peaks here. Trek ahead in to the park along one of the many hiking routes, turn back and head down to the starting point and home or as in our case, opt for a softer decline and into one of the villages scattered throughout the hills.

Heading down towards Abergavenny, we chanced upon the delightful Sugar Loaf Vineyards and decided to make a pit-stop for a traditional tea and welsh cake lunch. Tours are available at the Vineyard with tour groups toasting for a selfie at the end. It was one of these groups that saw me fall first forwards into a field hole and then backwards onto the grass verge within a few steps, each with an involuntary cry, as they posed for their photo. Who needs wine when you have random walkers performing stunts like that for you? Being hand-led to the bottom of the hill, I fell into a chair by the stream to recover myself. The speed of daily life in this part of the world is pleasantly paced and as you wander along from place to place, you can’t help but let the relaxed lifestyle seep in. Without realizing your footsteps slow and your mind quietens. I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what a lot of us in the modern world would benefit from every now and again, a few days to settle in scenic surroundings, blissfully technology and tv free. 

After some time spent ambling down country lanes, (we might have been lost), we spotted the signs for our local pub. Encouraged by the thought of a well-earned drink we walked invigorated to find that the pub was not an all-day one and had closed ten minutes ago for the afternoon. Suddenly tired from several miles of walking, we opted to sit for a moment on the outdoor seating to rest. It was at the point of seating with hands around the arms of the chair that I felt a bussing and a sharp sting in my hand. A wasp hidden under the arm rail had decided to share its love with me. I felt so touched that the tears escaped from my eyes before I knew it. We moved on, walking the winding roads towards home. As the pain gradually eased I became aware of another sensation, a strange feeling of freedom around my torso area as I walked and talked and then I knew. Fortunately, although my bra had ripped I was well clothed and it was just another thing in the long list of strange occurrences in the day. 

Much as I had loved the quiet, wild and prettiness of the Welsh countryside, it appeared that it did not love me and I returned to our sanctuary, deflated but with a barbecue feast. We did watch the sun set and pass the evening roasting marshmallows and supping wine under the moonlit sky. With everything that had happened, it really was the perfect and redeemable end to our Welsh valley stay.

I hope you enjoyed this article. There were so many redeeming features to this trip, the lovely surroundings, the quiet, the gracious hosts we had and the fantastic accommodation, the company I shared, the comedy of it all, the alcohol. No matter how much you prepare, somethings you just can’t see coming, but there is no way this can let these put you off doing something you want to do. I mean to return to this lovely part of the world to try again next year, but this time with a sports bra… and wellies… and Ibuprofen.

I’m sure your stay in the Welsh countryside will not be as eventful as mine and if you have stayed in this area I would love to hear about your trip!  

 

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