Watch our Wales road trip vlog and Captur review here.
After weeks – nay, months – of waiting, preparing, and a lot of frantic arranging on Jess’ part, the day finally came to zoom our Ginger Steed (otherwise known as the deeply handsome Renault Captur) around Wales.
The esteemed editor picked me up at my childhood home in Worcestershire, whence we were able to enjoy some seriously picturesque parts of the country on the way. First stop: Staunton, Gloucestershire, seated as close as physically possible to the Forest of Dean without requiring you to sleep in a tree.
Our home for the following two nights was The Buckstone House Coach House, a quirkily-shaped two-bedroom holiday home bursting with personality and charm. A quick trip to the local Lidl for supplies and we were settling in nicely, taking advantage of the tooled-up little kitchen and the plushly furnished lounge area. A quick walk around the village later and it was time to collapse on the ludicrously soft master bed, planning a busy following day.
Morning had us up and in our walking gear, taking with us one of the extremely useful Ordinance Survey maps found at the house. The Coach House is mere feet away from the edges of the wood, and we easily began our journey into the unknown.
Jess and I found ourselves slightly spooked when, only minutes into our trek, we came across a long knife jammed into a tree stump. Murderers? Cannibals? A makeshift sundial? Of course, my initial reaction was to grip its handle King Arthur-style, thus incriminating myself if it turned out to be a murder weapon, but there’s been no news on that front yet. Moving on.
The obvious choice was to make our way towards Symonds Yat; a perfect spot to stop, watch birds, and devour our little picnic. Thanks to Jess’ impressive map-reading abilities, we made it after much slippery shuffling up and down sodden hillocks, and congratulated ourselves with delicious cake from the nearly café. The view of the Wye Valley was, as ever, completely stunning; but as time drew on, we had to continue our walk.
The mud reached a point of wetness beyond which there was no return, and while Jess ended up daintily sliding down our path on her heels, I just gave up and went bum-first (I’d already fallen twice; it made no difference). If any other walkers noticed my filth-smeared rear, they chose not to mention it. Bless them.
For nearly eight ours we enjoyed an immensely satisfying walk, proud that neither of us was injured, or even particularly tired. Our victory was enjoyed at the pub just down the road from the Coach House – The White Horse – where we wound down with good-quality stodge and local drinks.
While we were sad to leave the beautiful Buckstone House Coach House, we were glad to get on the road for the next stop that awaited us.
We took a small detour so that I could introduce Jess to Hay-on-Wye, where we bought interesting international knick-knacks, competed to find the most obscure book title at the honestly stalls (we both won), and ate heartily at one of the many lovely cafés. Then came time to cross the border, finally, at which point the horizon seemed to cloud over with hills spotted by thousands of sheep, and the drive became a hell of a lot more interesting.
Our next stop was Afonwen, to stay at an incredible 17th century cottage called Ty Tabitha Wynne. The place was rebuilt by the owners – Fliss and Mike – with many original features lovingly restored and treasured. We were greeted with a loaf of bara brith and helpful little sticky notes scattered about the place with tips on how things in the cottage worked.
We spent our evening simply luxuriating in front of the wood burner in the cosy lounge, watching one of the great DVD’s available and sipping complementary wine. Feeling especially silly, we also filmed The Whisper Challenge, because what better setting to record in?
The next morning saw us walking into the nearby town of Caerwys, stopping along the way to photograph birds and seriously discuss ornithological hierarchy, Thranduil the Elven King fanfiction, and the concept of prescription cheese.
We were spooked again when we stumbled across what appeared to be an abandoned trout farm/water treatment plant, wherein resided an overly-friendly cat and a dead badger. Caerwys itself was almost eerily quiet, but the pub – The Piccadilly – served wonderful food, and we left with renewed energy.
It was on the way back to Ty Tabitha Wynne that we truly struck gold. After confirming that the worrisome sight of what appeared to be a real corpse lying in a patch of woodland was, in fact, a fully-dressed dummy (but why was it there? Why?), Jess and I stumbled across a collection of crumbling buildings. The kind of crumbling buildings that seem to be held together with one single dry stone at the apex of an archway, that are genuinely unsafe to step inside, and that are for some reason scattered with sheep skulls.
Of course, such a discovery forced us to stop and take a thousand and one photographs of the place, LARPing as we went, before returning to the cottage.
Ty Tabitha Wynne was even more difficult to leave than the first cottage, but time was pressing on and the Captur beckoned. Along the way to the next resting point, we had the pleasure of spying the sea as we approached Colwyn Bay, pausing for lunch at the lovely Bodnant Welsh Food Centre and sneaking in a little taste of The Evo Triangle.
Bodysgallen Hall was our next port of call, a National Trust hotel in Llandudno, filled with old-world opulence. After coffee and home-made biscuits at the window seat, it was time to go out and explore again. Thanks to the helpful advice of the hotel’s porter, we found out way to Ffrith Hill and the 64 foot obelisk thereon, battling brutally high winds to reach the top.
Then came a scramble back down before the light faded, a sophisticated three-course meal containing various unusual and delightful textures, and a relaxing Welsh whiskey at the bar gleefully listening to a nearby couple who were speaking exclusively in the country’s own language.
The following day’s drive would prove to be the longest of them all – over three hours – so we were determined to enjoy it. Gathering snacks from a garage, we hit the road again, pushing the Captur over hills and duel carriageways alike. Our appreciation for the landscape continued to border on the aggressive, and I was already beginning to feel a premature dread of having to go home again.
Before I could become downcast, we came to the glorious Llangoed Hall in Brecon. Sitting alone and illuminated by the sun amidst a patchwork of fields, the hotel felt immediately welcoming in a way that swish hotels often struggle to.
It’s spacious and luxurious, and the staff appear genuine in their friendliness and willingness to help. Our suite was spectacular, furnished in neutral blues and creams and boasting a four poster bed along with an almost excessive amount of seating, a dining area, desk, and complementary drinks.
As is our wont, we left almost immediately to explore the grounds, finding ourselves accosted by extremely friendly cows before trudging off to enjoy the river, climb trees, and lie around on the grass. We also discovered a hedge maze on our travels, chatted with the hotel’s ducks, and admired the many vegetable patches which supply the kitchen with organic produce.
Dinner at Llangoed Hall was incredible, with a relaxed atmosphere and attentive service. We spent the remainder of our time there wandering around the hotel, taking in the striking and unusual art collection, the many historical bits and pieces, and the beautiful décor.
Come morning we were desperately opposed to leaving, but after teasing the cows one last time and enjoying a full Welsh breakfast, we were off home with heads full of fantastic memories.
The Captur, while not necessarily ideal for such a hilly trip, proved damn good-looking, sturdy in high winds, spacious enough for two women who don’t know how to travel light, and certainly comfortable enough for a road trip.
So when’s the next one?