Mountain walking– because nothing says British bank holiday like the great outdoors, torrential rain and zero visibility in the Brecon Beacons.
At the end of April you may remember the blissful false sense of summer we were all thrown into. 25 degree heat and endless skies of blue were enough to send the country into a frenzy of not only sun induced happiness but BBQs and beer gardens a plenty. Of course this particular weekend I spent on stage in a dark theatre so missed out on many of the merits of such climes but never fear, I thought, for next weekend is the bank holiday which means a whole extra day of fun in the sun.
Fast forward to said weekend which started with a day of hilarity spent paintballing with my family in Bristol. Knowing we would already be West Country way, Tom and I had booked a spontaneous visit to the Brecon Beacons; a beautiful part of Wales that would be perfectly suited to a couple of days away from the bright city lights.
We took the scenic route from Bristol, stopping off for a glimpse of Tintern Abbey which is less of an Abbey and more a historical shell of what was once an Abbey. It’s a beautiful spot in a picturesque village and turned out to be perfectly framed by blossom while we were there.
Our destination was Crickhowell. After parking at the tourist information centre and purchasing a couple of maps for walking routes we set off up Table Mountain. Despite the fact they were typed in Comic Sans, we were assured the maps had been written by a local walking expert so who were we to judge. The route was a varied yet relatively simple one that took us through farmland and up stream until we reached the peak around an hour later. The views of the villages below and surrounding mountain tops adjacent were wonderful. The wind chill? Less desirable.
After a walking lunch (food literally consumed while walking downhill) it was back to the warmth of our hotel for the night Glangrwyney Court. Naturally booking a hotel 3 days before a bank holiday weekend in walker central Wales didn’t allow for many options but we truly lucked out on discovering Glangrwyney. A tree lined driveway revealed the beautiful building and we were immediately provided with the warmest of welcomes by not only the staff but also the resident fluffiest of fluffy cats, Henry.
Suffice to say most of the next 16 hours is promptly spent trying to track down Henry at every opportunity.
Our room was blissful and came complete with roll top bath, super cosy bed and tranquil views. After a (sadly cat-less) wine in their lounge we walk to a nearby hamlet via boxes of honesty eggs and the sound of a rushing river to the most adorable of local pubs for dinner. It’s so relaxed and while the food is average the ambience compensates. A seat by the fire and a glass of red makes for a very happy evening indeed.
The next day, following a generous breakfast and plenty of fluffy cat strokes, we bid a sad farewell to Glangrwyney and drive back to Abergavenny to conquer our next mountain: The Sugar Loaf. Where we had been somewhat spared the day before weather wise the rain was well and truly welcoming us this time. Best of British, and all that jazz.
The route again was due to take around 3 hours and mainly involved a grassy terrain with some pretty tough
vertical uphill ascents. As we neared what we could only hope to be the top we looked to the view to realise there was none. Surrounded by clouds, wind and rain we persevered and finally made it to the peak.
As I’m documenting this with various terrible photos and wind chilled hands that can no longer operate a camera, I can only think of my friends in LA. My friends in LA who continue to make me wish I had their outdoor sun soaked lifestyle and who partially inspired a hiking trip such as this one. “I bet Runyon Canyon has never so much as seen a cloud,” I mentally seethe. I verbally declare that this is character building and I’m sure given the chance all my California girls would much rather be sliding down rocks in the pouring Welsh rain in a feeble attempt to not break an ankle or cause a mudslide. Why wear cute active wear when you could be covered in mud in a ski jacket? Right?
The day gets more eventful with one crucial wrong turn (the right turn we deem to have been lost in the clouds somewhere) adds a SUPERFUNEXTRAHOURANDAHALF onto our walk which is 90% entirely ridiculous uphill climb. The same uphill climb we drove up this morning that we both smugly enjoyed from the comfort of the MINI and commented on how we “wouldn’t want to be walking up here.”
I’m not even being dramatic when I say I hugged the car when we finally reached the peak and made it back to the car park.
Driving back to London feeling somewhat soggy and weathered we of course joined all the cars ever also trying to return to city life. There’s something satisfying about knowing we had spent a few days well away from the masses embracing all things nature. The Brecon Beacons are the perfect spot for such a getaway and I’m sure we’ll be back soon to take further advantage of this idyllic part of the world. From farm houses to winding streams, grazing sheep and endless valleys, Wales will always be worth it.
But I wouldn’t say no to a hiking holiday in LA either.