The dead-end track peters out in a long, lovely buttercup meadow fringed by patches of stream-latticed native woodland whilst the Cambrian Mountains encroach craggily behind: until recently, you would only get to gaze on such stunning snapshots from the esoteric Afon Gwesyn valley if you were one of the few in-the-know hikers on the route up to the gorge’s swimming holes and the undiscovered uplands beyond, but the setting is now yours for the night – or three. On this particular Mid Wales meadow, Welsh Glamping have constructed six lodgings – three hand-crafted cabins and three bell tents, mixed in a whole lot of love and made this once-bypassed cwm a destination in its own right.
Why we love it…
The bluebells stand out, ethereally dusting the valley sides of the approach and its swaddles of Scots pine, larch and oak woods. So too does the sloping sheep-grazed pasture which forms the glampsite, grassily merging into the ochre hills and enticing crags of the upper valley. Then there are those sights and sounds increasingly scarce in the UK countryside, yet constants in this undisturbed place: the casual circling of a red kite, the background chorus of cuckoo and woodpecker, the occasional flash of a red squirrel (Mid Wales is one of the last British bastions of red squirrels, and this is frontierland between the two species).
Fantastic innovative holiday spots have long been the staple of Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons. But Mid Wales (the big gap in-between) has only recently developed a reputation for cultivating them, so it is a pleasure to watch Welsh Glamping turn a tranquil valley into a place adventure-loving travellers can sleep over in, bolstering the region’s set of stellar lodgings as they go.
Owners Will and Sarah clearly have the rationale that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing extremely well, so despite the glampsite boasting beautiful natural assets, some delicate manmade touches also contribute to the charm.
As for the cabins, they are handmade with Douglas fir and larch by Will (who has his own sawmill!) and a local carpenter, still smelling so sharply fresh you slumber with the sensation your nose is buried in a pile of pine needles (well, minus the prickly feeling). They showcase exquisite handmade furniture including the rather singular king-size bed-cum-bunk bed, making this a great option for families, but there are umpteen other lovely furnishings fashioned on-site such as the bedside tables and framed old-fashioned Ordnance Survey wall-maps of the area. The Lotus Belle tents have their own allure too, leading right onto decking areas with the finest views of the valley in all its wooded, river-threaded winsomeness.
Welsh Glamping is so far from civilisation that the vibe could only ever be peaceful but there is an added element here – perhaps the knowledge that you a privy to a secret, the secret that this valley even exists and that on top of that, you are here, revelling in it. Will will likely engage you in conversation during your stay and offer insights into local walks and goings-on, so a friendly feel pervades through the site too. One half of Undiscovered Wales caught a finger rather nastily in a gate whilst here and Sarah was on hand immediately to dress the wound (she is a qualified A&E nurse which comes in handy for injuries out in the sticks).
There is a common code of respect that comes with the privilege of experiencing this place. Water comes from their own spring, for example, so you become conscious that this is not a resource to waste (you get twenty litres daily in the kitchen, which is sufficient for washing up and drinking, and can ask for more if required). There are other things to be mindful of: as the Cambrian Mountains have some of Britain’s darkest skies and the glampsite contributes to this by asking that main lights are turned off after 10pm. These, of course, are the kind of eco-friendly measures more and more places should be adopting if possible.
Some glampsites are of the ‘here’s the tent, get on with it’ mentality but Welsh Glamping is (thankfully, we think) the opposite. You’ve likely come a way to make it out here and Will shows you the ropes amicably yet comprehensively. He does a sterling job of making each guest feel special.
We stayed in one of the three cabins at the bottom of the meadow. Smelling fresh as the sap from a pinewood, these exult in finishing that only a skilled carpenter can achieve. Centre-stage is the chunky pine king-size bed-cum-bunk-bed, but observe the flushness of the silvery wood on the floor, the interior cladding, the exterior planks: just lovely.
There are three Lotus Belle tents at the top of the meadow, too, and these actually grab even better views of the valley, albeit with less interior space. Both cabins and tents have wood-burning stoves for those (rare, of course!) times when the cold and the wet come on strong, and raised wooden decks with colossal firepits and well-equipped kitchens in huts off to the side. Lying on your cabin bed, you are also gazing out through big french windows that frame big views of meadow and woods to greet you as you rise.
In each accommodation’s kitchen you have basic cooking condiments and a good stash of utensils, so what with the firepits outside it is – surely – barbecue time. Marshmallows are provided for families to toast and eggs can invariably be purchased (as can firewood and charcoal to fuel your fire). One of the things we loved most was the cattle troughs converted into herb gardens for guests to use if desired, so go ahead and season your firepit steak with mint-fresh rosemary and oregano. Whilst Llanwrtyd Wells and its small selection of eateries is close (a 15-minute drive) we recommend bringing enough food for your stay, because it enhances the experience if you enjoy it purely, simply, without the trappings of civilisation.
What’s here and nearby
Beyond the entertainment of the sauntering sheep or the woodpecker’s pretty percussion, Welsh Glamping have their own woodland relaxation area fetchingly finished in two circles of treestump seats and tables ideal for enjoying a morning coffee. Little ones will love the swing and hammock seat slung between trees, as well as the delightful handmade bug houses. A woodland nature trail is on the cards too, as is adding a hot tub to each accommodation.
But this is a huge property (185 acres!) sporting several rambles without any need to leave its borders. Laminated walk cards in each accommodation detail the round-the-property ramble (a couple of miles) which ascends onto the lonely hilltops and returns through an exquisite belt of bluebell wood. Even better is the hike up to the Afon Gwesyn’s secret swimming holes and waterfalls (also detailed on a walk card) and on up to the summit of Drygarn Fawr.
Then there is lovely Abergwesyn Common, grassy riverside shaded by impressive jagged crags, full of fine picnicking places and eventually pointing the way up the Devil’s Staircase on a brilliant road trip to Tregaron.
Down the valley six or seven miles is Llanwrtyd Wells, a candidate for the smallest town in Britain and capital of wacky sporting events like the Man Vs Horse Marathon (which thunders right through Welsh Glamping’s land) and, oddest of all, the world bog snorkelling championship.
NEXT ON THE JOURNEY: From Welsh Gamping, it’s a 4-mile hike up to Drygarn Fawr, the highest point in the southern Cambrian Mountains
At a glance
Snooze factor: 10*! We think this is probably the best night’s sleep we have ever had at a glampsite in Wales. The beds are so so comfortable and the silence is only broken by the odd sheep bleat.
Food Factor: 6 Having food laid on is not really the point here, but facilities for cooking the food are good. Little things like marshmallows being provided for families and eggs being available to buy are appreciated. The kitchens, whilst well-furnished, are small for washing up, but this is glamping, remember, not a self-catering cottage, and the whole point is that you get outside to cook if you can.
Eco-friendly factor: 10 There is a mighty low carbon footprint as cabin wood travelled all of about a kilometre from source to site and water comes from their own spring.
Location factor: 10 Delightful: the best of riverside, woodland, hills, mountains and therefore Mid Wales all-in-one.
Price: Cabins are £120/100 for a 2-/3-night stay. Lotus Belle tents are £90 per night for a 2-night minimum stay.