Bored of your usual weekend routine and fancy an active mini-break without any airport drama? We sent Alice Rickard to Wales with her four legged friend, Truman, to see what it had to offer…
After a panicked supermarket sweep of Wholefoods, worried that I might not see any quinoa or kombucha for two whole days, I load up the car with snacks, activewear and my dog, Truman.
As a freelancer, I am lucky enough to leave London and hit the road running around 2pm to avoid the weekend traffic. I would highly recommend taking a half day if you don’t have said luxury. After three phone calls to friends, two kombuchas and a coffee stop along the M4, I find myself quite literally, in the middle of nowhere in 3 and a half hours.
Truman and I check into Rodell’s barn, a one bedroom self catering cottage boasting views of Black Mountain and of course miles of sheep filled fields. Feeling more relaxed thanks to the peacefulness of the area, but still unable to sit still for five minutes, I decide to take one of the many walks offered around the local area.
Later that evening, I am back in the car for a short drive to Abergavenny to pick up my husband, who had the luxury of getting the train down from Paddington. A much more civilised way to travel, but I would say a car is an absolute necessity once you are here.
Abergavenny is a small market town and community in Monmouthshire, promoted as the Gateway to Wales. A mixture of old and new, with a quaint high street to potter around before dinner. Four legged friend friendly, we eat at The Angel, a hotel situated in the middle of the town. We order homemade lemonades that are authentically served in large kilner jars with ladels. There are lots of vegan options here along with Welsh lamb for the meat lovers!
Woken up by the local sheep alarm clock, we slip into the comfort of gym kit and head down to Drovers Cycles, where you can hire either mountain or electric bicycles. If you are taking your canine friend with you, they can add a trailer to the back of your bike allowing you to venture a little further.
Drovers Cycles will transport you and your bikes to Brecon to start your route along the Monmouthshire & Brecon canal. The Mon & Brec is a true hidden gem, a haven for wildlife and a favourite with nature-lovers with plenty of Instagram-worthy pit stops along the way. The northern section forms part of the Taff Trail Long Distance Footpath, a 55 mile route that can be walked or cycled, starting at Brecon Basin and ending in Cardiff. There are various pubs along the route for rehydration stops, or a bite to eat.
If you have the energy to effectively do your own Welsh duathlon, there are quite literally hundreds of different hikes you can do throughout the national park. One of the most famous is Pen Y Fan – the highest peak in South Wales. At 886 metres above sea-level, it is also the highest British peak south of Cadair Idris in Snowdonia.
After all the exercise and fresh Brecon air, we are all (dog included), ready for our dinner. We headed to Groesffordd, which was advertised as a twenty minute drive. Arriving in under fifteen minutes, to a row of houses and a bus stop, I am convinced we’re lost, but hiding at the top of the hill, from said bus stop was a small pet friendly pub, The Three Horseshoes Inn. The London snob inside me is hesitant when ordering but I am completely proven wrong. It is one of the best pub meals I’ve had in a long time. I order the vegan option – salt baked celeriac with candied walnuts, fired kale and pickled wild mushrooms.
The only disappointment of the whole evening is that I am leaving tomorrow so do not have time to come back again.
We decide that as we basically did a form of a duathlon yesterday, we should get on the water this morning to make it an odd countryside triathlon. Cycling – tick. Hiking (it was too steep to run, well for me anyway) tick. It’s too cold for swimming so we opt for canoeing.
All three of us head to Hay-On-Wye, a town famed for its literary festival and largest second hand book store in the world! We are greeted by husband and wife business couple Aubrey and Claire, who offer both half day and full day tours down the River Wye at Want To Canoe. And the best bit of all, provided your dog has a life jacket, he can enjoy Wales from the water too.
Want To Canoe offers hourly, full day and overnight expeditions along the river. You can opt for either Guided Adventure or Canoe Hire from Glasbury to Whitney or challenge yourself on the sixteen-mile route from Hay to Byecross Farm.
After our tour of the farm we have a quick peruse around the marvel of this second hand book shop, which feels like you have stepped into a Harry Potter set. The store also does great lunches and afternoon tea, so a quick soup and a scone later, we hit the road, refreshed and revitalised ready for the week ahead.
A short stay at Rodell’s Barn starts from £224 and a week stay starts from £297, based on two people sharing. For more information or to make reservations, visit the Brecon Cottages website.
Bike hire with Drover Holidays costs £30 per person for a full day, or £20 per person for a half day. Please note, the free delivery of bikes is within 20 miles of base and subject to a minimum hire value of £50. For more information, visit the Drover Holidays website.
Canoeing with want to canoe? Costs £25 per person for a half day. For more information, visit the Canoehire website.