Following on from my social media posts about the trip Willow and I took to the Brecon Beacons I thought I would pop a blog on about the logistics of the journey . I would love to convince others to do the same, it really was a fantastic couple of days and best of all cost us very little. Less than £200 infact. Wales is a really great budget friendly destination as well as being super dog friendly.
Firstly I would like to say I did ask my sons to come with me but that was met with utter disgust. 'Why would we want to walk up mountains?' and 'Boring' being the answer. My husband would have come with me but the logistics with 2 elderly dogs and 2 sons who are not old enough to stay at home alone prevented that. I have wanted to walk Pen-y-Fan for years. Luckily I have a very understanding husband and the confidence to go for it so I did!
Finding a cottage took a little while as I left it so last minute but AirBnB came to the rescue and I booked Plum Tree Cottage in Ffawyddog near Crickhowell. Small but perfectly formed, it was ideal for Willow and I and very reasonably priced. You can find it here .
It proved to be exactly what we needed with lovely little extra touches such as Welsh Cakes, fresh bread, eggs and milk included. Lovely homemade compote and jams too. I loved the fresh wild flowers downstairs and sweet peas upstairs aswell.
I have been to Wales before and I know the weather is not always kind despite the forecast so I packed accordingly, waterproof coat for me, sturdy shoes and for Willow we took our soap as she is a roller (there is a lot of sheep poo in Wales) , Soothing Salve for sore patches, cuts, bites and stings, Walking on Sunshine Cologne for warding off flying insects. Plus her Soggy Doggy Towel (we needed it - read on!) and her harness, perfect for stopping launches at sheep plus the bright orange was a lifesaver for spotting her in the undergrowth. The variety of yummy treats was a necessity to keep her focused on me in the midst of all the smells!
The journey up was great, top tip... on a hot day use the toilets in the motorway services when travelling alone with your dog. You can park in the shade and they have CCTV so your dog will be safer with the windows open whilst nature calls!
We could not get in to our cottage until the afternoon so we had a little detour to the Four Waterfalls Walk. We parked up in Blaen y Glyn Isaf carpark (there are 2, we chose the lower and both are free to park) We walked out of the car park and then turned left and walked up the river path keeping it on our left, The further up you go the less defined the path is but it really is worth persevering.
We went further on up into the hills which were quite steep but the waterfalls on their own make a lovely walk for dogs and people.
Back to the cottage for the night after this. I think we were both tired and needed the rest.
The following morning we got up early and were at the car park, again free to park (sat-nav post code LD3 8NL) for Pen-y-Fan by 8am. Pen-y-Fan is the biggest mountain in South Wales at 886m. It is not an easy stroll by any stretch of the imagination but it is perfectly doable climb if you are reasonably fit and healthy. The route is very obvious and it is actually nicknamed 'the motorway' as it is such a busy track, and the path is very well worn.
It took us around an hour to get up, and the views at the top are STUNNING!
But here is my word of caution. It really is true what they say. The weather in Wales can change in the blink of an eye. We climbed in mostly sunshine and we took pictures at the top in sunshine BUT it was a cold wind at the top and within 5 minutes of heading back the rain came in and continued until we reached the bottom. We were absolutely drenched and I was very glad I had packed my waterproof coat and Willow's Soggy Doggy Towel.
Being very cold and wet it was straight back to the cottage after that. My best tips for this walk are take lots of water for you and the dog. There are streams but as it has been so dry there was very little on the top half of the mountain for Willow. Take a jumper, waterproof coat, trousers etc even if you think you will not need them. You probably will! The rain was not forecast for us this morning but we got it anyway! Dogs will need to be on leads, the sheep are everywhere! Take poo bags. This is unspoilt save the odd bottle and bag (there is always one isn't there!)
I know I will ache tomorrow, I already do to be honest but it was a great walk and I highly recommend it.
We popped in to Abergavenny in the afternoon for a spot of late lunch. Found a laid back little cafe in the side streets called The Trading Post where Willow was very welcome and she was given a dog biscuit as soon as soon as we went in. Service was fast and the food simple but tasty which we were happy with. Lunch sat on your own is not quite the same as with others so we were happy with this.
Back to the cottage for the remainder of the day for some writing and R and R. We were both shattered and in bed by 10pm! We know how to party eh!
The next day was our last, we had to be out of the cottage by 11am but left just after 10. I was keen to fit in one more walk before the long journey back to Dorset. I chose Sugar Loaf Mountain mainly because it was on the way home, it overlooks nearby Abergavenny and is accessed from a car park up a very steep, narrow winding road off the A40! Use postcode NP7 7LA for your sat-nav.
The walk to the top started off very leisurely, a gentle stroll through the heathland in fact but the last couple of hundred metres made up for that without a doubt but once again we were rewarded with stunning views.
We did manage to get a tad lost on the way back down and ended up at the wrong car park, it is deceiving once you are down on the slopes, there are ferns everywhere and lots of different paths so just be a little aware of where you are. Luckily there is only one road, so once you are back at the road you can't go far wrong really.
Would I do it again? Absolutely yes and I would encourage you to go for it if you can. Willow is young and fit and could cope with the walking well but there are plenty of other places to visit in the Brecon Beacons which are not quite as energetic if you still want the views but not the lengthy walks. The only warning I would give is that there are sheep everywhere. Willow could not go off lead at all in the places we visited but to be honest this was no problem at all and I certainly would not let it put me off.
Wales, we will be back!