Unique Weekends in Wales - Cool Stays in the UK
Like so many parts of the UK, Wales has some amazing rural areas of outstanding natural beauty that are some of the most unique places to stay. Llandeilo was the setting for our unusual getaway.
You can always count on my husband to find us some unusual accommodation for a 'staycation'
This weekend FoG (Father Of Grom/The Hubby/The king of the '2 night family break UK') booked a magical mystery tour for the kids and me for 2 nights.
He told us nothing and batted away our questions like frickin Kane Williamson. Is it going to be cold? "can't say!" Does it have a kitchen? "Umm not sure!" - So I packed some incredible elixirs, some new-wave nibbles, our beloved toothbrushes and some vegan wellies and jumped onboard the magical mystery tour with all 8 fingers crossed.
Thankfully after just a swift 1-hour drive, we found ourselves in the heart of Wales, just to the West of the Brecon Beacons in Llandeilo, a small town in Carmarthenshire that sits along the picturesque Towy river and one of the best places to stay in Wales. We continued a few more miles north, up and out of the Towy valley, and passed through a village called Salem - (*nods to my fellow Stephen King fans) before arriving in absolutely blissful, rural nothingness and locating a handwritten sign in the hedgerow that read 'Pistyllgwyn.'
From which we ventured up a single track, gravel road radiantly lined with daffodils which led onto a private 22-acre nature reserve (featuring lakes, flower meadows, and huge oaks) we continued past the main house and farm buildings and finally came face to face with our quirky accommodation ...
A bright red, double-decker London Bus (decommissioned but supposedly still working.) It went by the name 'The Weache Bus' and had been converted by Wild Dragon Escapes, whom also offer it to rent as glamping in the UK with a two storey twist!
We parked up next to the bus stop (yes there is a bus stop sign next to the bus to give you that 'fully immersive public transport vibe') and unloaded our limited bags and belongings.
The converted bus comprises of :
Downstairs - Captains seat, hallway, galley kitchen (fridge, desktop oven with hotplates, farmhouse sink - everything you need to knock up a traditional Welsh Cawl), wood burner/stove, 'U' shaped sitting area, and dining table (really for 6/8 guests)
Upstairs - 2 bedrooms (1 x double, 2 x singles) and a bathroom which has a sink and a 'pee-loo' which is very much as it sounds - Pee's Welcome, Poops to be kept for the 'dunny' outside. (*Try telling a 5-year-old this when they still take some pees sitting down!)
Outside - The 'dunny' / compost toilet (of which the contents go on to feed the blueberries apparently (*no longer does she look at blueberries quite the same) and the alfresco shower. This gas-powered, hot shower was excellent with good pressure and held a great temperature. Eco-friendly and sustainable shampoos and soaps were also provided and of course we took our trusted eco-friendly, unbleached, bamboo toilet roll to be completely in tune with sustainable living. Also outside is a super handy picnic table and firepit. Wood and kindling for the firepit is sourced from a woodshed behind the bus where there is an honesty box for additional wood you may require during your stay.
*Apart from the robust outdoor instant gas shower all other water sources were just plumbed for cold water.
The overall finish and feel of the bus is in keeping with its location within the great outdoors. It is comfortable but rustic. Shabby but chic. And perfect in every way for a young family/couple with no preconceived ideas of what constitutes a 'weekend away' and who are looking for an adventure into the great outdoors. Almost as important as the bus is its location, and its location is absolutely sublime.
The private nature reserve is owned by Cliff and Sheila, who live on-site (but also far enough away from the bus to ensure you never feel as if you are lodging on someone else's land.) We did not meet our hosts until the last day of our trip - they were super friendly and easy to get along with and were always quick to respond via message or email if you had any queries or were looking for any local insight or advice.
The experience is quintessentially summarised by Cliff and Sheila's own words :
'There is no litter, no dog mess and no traffic. There are trees to climb, dens to make, and streams to play in. As you adventure around the land you can spot the owl boxes and will also hear the owls almost every night.
The nature reserve is not a tidy place, what is mess to adults can be prime real estate for wild animals or fun stuff for kids. In our long career as parents and foster-carers, we have found that children (and adults) tend to be happiest when they can make dens and play in the wild.'
The environment they have created means native wild animals and children can collectively sample some much-needed breathing space, a space free of harmful chemicals (the water is chlorine and fluoride-free and from their own spring.)
Things to consider :
The layout of the double decker bus is typical and expected - with the steep stairs (We have all missed a step on and nearly broke bones on, in Camden Town on a Friday night) may not be ideal for toddlers. Also, the galley kitchen needs to be passed through to get to the sitting space, so care needs to be taken with little hands on the oven and wood burner, and hot plates. That said - our youngest is 5 and we had no accidents or complaints for the entirety of our stay.
We booked this unique stay UK on airbnb and we went in late April and although the weather was splendid, we were warned well in advance that (due to lack of insulation and abundance of single glazed glass windows that the nights on the bus can be very cold. You are advised to bring your own bedding, but fitted sheets and additional blankets are in place for you to use not to mention all beds have these top-end Silentnight comfort-control, electric blankets. There are electric heaters in the bedrooms and the wood burner can be packed so that it stays alight overnight.
There are no washing machines or dryers for clothes (maybe an issue if you are staying for a prolonged period) but I believe there is a laundry in the main house where Keith and Sheila will wash and dry your clothes for a nominal charge.
Our two full days were largely spent romping around the nature reserve with the children. They loved the 'whomping willow' tree to climb (and fall out of), the numerous rope swings, awesome flying saucer tree swings and hammocks that were hidden throughout the wilderness. There is also a small lake (not big enough to boat on and not really for swimming in) but we woke up early and packed some vegan sausage sandwiches and had a lovely picnic on a bench that overlooks the lake.
There's heaps of wildlife to keep an eye out for and you are spoilt with the smaller birds, tits (father of grom included) and birds of prey that surround you. When we were there we were left some bird spotting guides and some handcrafted 'goonies-esque' maps for exploring the bounites of the sprawling site. Not too far from the bus, you will find 'MR IMP' a converted houseboat that sleeps two and you can also rent as unusual accommodation in Wales. *Makes a mental note to come back for an adult break for just for 2 ;-)
We did venture out to explore some of the sights that had been recommended to us. Due to lockdown restrictions, unfortunately, pubs and other attractions were closed for business while we were there but we did get out for a glorious day to see some of the beautiful market town of Llandeilo.
We headed out to Dinefwr Castle and Newtown house for the afternoon. Both of these excellent attractions are found a small walk apart, on the same Dinefwr Estate National Trust site. Another sterling reason to invest in a National Trust card - we use ours so much throughout our UK travels.
Dinefwr is a grade I listed castle that has breathtaking views over the River Tywi. The castle is a picture-perfect example of a castle sitting on top of a hill.
It is a 30-minute walk up the hill but is worth it for the bluebell woods which you pass through and to get to the top of the battlements and start living your best 'Game of Thrones' life you have been dreaming of (possibly with less death and incest) The vistas extend for miles down the Tywi valley with the silhouette of Dryslwyn Castle just visible on the horizon.
We made our way back down the hill and through the Dinefwr deer park, where we were quite literally walking side by side a 'rangale' of deer (yeah that's what one calls a herd of deer obviously) - we were caught between the emotional landscape of wonderment and terror. The deer park walk follows right up onto the back gardens of Newton house, a grade II listed country house.
Originally built as a Jacobean-styled house in the 1660's, changes were made in the 19th century in the Venetian Gothic Style. It was not open to investigate further (not that my little groms in any way wanted to) especially after learning that apparently, it is one of the most haunted houses in Wales noted in particular for its ghost of Walter the Butler, a former employee whose tobacco smoke purportedly wafts through the air!
We stopped briefly in Llandeilo town as we had heard great things about Heavenly Exquisite desserts for its chocolate and ice cream. Although we couldn't dine in, we were not disappointed with our ice creams - Mango sorbet (for the vegans) and straight edge Vanilla (for the non)
Other sites nearby that we didn't get to see but come highly recommended are - Carreg Cennen Castle, Aberglasney House & Gardens, and The National Botanic Garden of Wales. If you are looking for some coastal air and Welsh saltwater then the beautiful beaches of The Gower, Pembrokeshire, and Ceredigion are all just an hour away.
Quicker than we could say 'is tobacco really THAT addictive that Walter the Butler wishes to keep smoking it in the afterlife?' we were back in the trusty minivan and heading back through the Brecon Beacons on our voyage back home. All in all, it was a fleeting but timely trip away with the kids that was just what the doctor ordered. Weache bus was superbly quirky accommodation UK without breaking the bank.
To be away from devices at home (that being said, somewhat surprisingly the 4G signal was excellent at the nature reserve) we relished playing games, playing cards, telling stories (not any ghost ones as we were still trying to convince the kids that Walter the Butler wasn't real) and well.. just having ourselves.
Weache bus. Llandeilo. We salute you . And you can book it for yourself direct with Cliff and Shiela here for the cheapest way to stay with them. Let them know you came from 'Mother Of Grom' x