Ty Hafan Taff Trail Challenge 2015

West Wales Holiday Cottages team on the Taff Trail for Ty Hafan

On Sunday 6 September 2015, West Wales Holiday Cottages saddled up for Tŷ Hafan, cycling the 52 mile Taff Trail from Brecon through the Brecon Beacons to Cardiff.

We started off from wharf in Brecon and set off along the canal path.

Brecon canal

The first 8 miles were a gentle, fairly level warm-up through the beautiful Brecon Beacons scenery.

Valley in the Brecon Beacons

We reached the Talybont reservoir and crossed the dam.

Talybont reservoir

From that point, the trail climbed up… and up. For 7 miles!

The West Wales Holiday Cottages team cycling up the hill

It was a steady climb, steeper near the top but looking back the way we had come, it was worth it for the stunning view.

Looking down towards Talybont reservoir

There were many more glorious views from the trail – as well as a few more hills!

Pontsticill Reservoir

Pontsarn viaduct

But after 7 hours, 52 miles and only 1 puncture, we made it over the finish line at Blackweir Fields in Cardiff.

Our team at the finish line

The West Wales Holiday Cottages team of 4 riders (left to right: Matthew Witt, Dawn Falconer, Thomas Witt and David Witt) pedalled up the hills to raise money to help fund the vital work of Tŷ Hafan, the hospice for children in Wales. Thank you to everyone who supported us!

Why support Tŷ Hafan?

Tŷ Hafan gives comfort and care to life-limited children and their families, helping them make the most of the precious short time they have together. As well as providing a safe haven for children who are not expected to live to adulthood, Tŷ Hafan comforts and supports their parents and makes sure the needs of their brothers and sisters are never forgotten.

Thanks to generous donations from our kind supporters we have raised £1513 for Tŷ Hafan – so far! We would love to raise even more so please, can you spare a pound or two? Every penny you give will help provide comfort and care for life-limited children and their families.

Click to donate to Ty Hafan

Please donate online via our JustGiving page or by text:

How to donate by text to the West Wales Holiday Cottages JustGiving page

Donate by text (enter the amount you want to give)

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The Vestry – romantic hideaway for two

Perfectly placed for exploring the delights of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, The Vestry is a romantic little cottage, nestled in the beautiful Gwaun Valley.


Comfortably furnished with lots of delightful finishing touches, the cottage sleeps 2 plus a baby in 1 upstairs king size bedroom.


The open plan living, kitchen and dining area has everything you need for a relaxing stay.

NOR_1914aThe Gwaun Valley is on your doorstep;  miles of ancient and unspoiled woodland through which the River Gwaun makes its way to the coast at Fishguard.

-Exploring the beautiful beaches and scenery of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is a must with the coast only 3 miles away.


The famous Dyffryn Arms, where beer is still served by the jug straight from the barrel is a short walk from the cottage.

Check availability and prices for The Vestry or search for your ideal holiday cottage in North Pembrokeshire

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Ty Rhos Mair – Rosemary Cottage

Welcome to Ty Rhos Mair (Rosemary Cottage).  Just outside the popular seaside town of New Quay in Ceredigion the cottage sleeps 8 (plus cot), one dog welcome.


The pretty front entrance leads to a fully modernised, luxury family home with original Victorian features.


Curl up in front the fire in winter or sit in the large, private garden in Spring and Summer.


The cottage has 5 bedrooms including an en suite double bedroom on the ground floor.


Gather the family for meals in the spacious kitchen / diner.

DSC_7002aNew Quay is 2 miles away; enjoy the bustling harbour, eat fish and chips on the quay or take a Dolphin spotting boat trip.

new-quay-11JBaVisit some of the pretty seaside towns along Cardigan Bay or walk for miles along the Ceredigion Coast Path, you won’t run out of things to do!

mairCheck here for availability and prices.


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Guest review of Brynbanc Coach House

Guest review of Brynbanc Coach House: Stayed 16 – 20 May 2015

“First time we have ever stayed on a working farm. Loved the rural setting and it was perfectly placed for visits to the Preseli Hills and the beautiful Pembrokeshire beaches.

Exterior of Brynbanc Coach House

Lovely detached cottage with absolutely everything you need to feel at home. Warm, clean, spacious, well equipped  and with comfy beds and a woodburning stove if the evenings are chilly ( or even if they are not! )

Master bedroom at Brynbanc Coach House


Bedroom window view at Brynbanc Coach House


Living room with woodburning stove at Brynbanc Coach House

We even had a well stocked logstore bursting with seasoned logs outside our back door just for us.

Exterior of Brynbanc Coach House with log store

It was so nice to run our dog on the beautiful golden sands on the beach at Saundersfoot, climb the mountains where the magical bluestones of Carn Goedog are and then come home to watch the cows being milked and the piglets leaping about in delight in the fields, light our fire, cook our Welsh lamb steaks dinner and relax off. What more could you want?


Two of the pigs at Brynbanc Farm grazing in a field

Jo and Mike are the perfect hosts… there if you need anything but leave you to enjoy your time. We have had the best mini break ever staying here. Will definitely be coming back.

Thank you so much for your warm welcome and fabulous hospitality.”

After guests return home, we ask them for feedback on their cottage holiday in West Wales.  This feedback  for Brynbanc Coach House came in the same day I had, coincidentally, just been to visit Brynbanc Farm and taken a few photos so I included them here. Our grateful thanks to all the guests who provide feedback, we find it very helpful and love to read about your holidays!

If you would like to stay at Brynbanc Coach House you can book direct with the owner here. Or take a look at the other cottages at Brynbanc Farm.

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County Flowers of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire

During the year of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, a conservation charity, Plantlife International asked people of the UK to vote for a flower which they thought would best represent their county.  Two years later, each of the old counties of Wales has made their choices and the results were announced in 2004.

It is estimated that pollution, intensive farming and habitat loss are responsible for the loss of one species of plant in each county of the UK every two years.

By highlighting the increasing threats to native plant species, it is hoped that people will be encouraged to connect with the flowers in their area and help protect the plants in future.

Whorled Caraway - carum verticillatum is the flower of Carmarthenshire


Growing on the diminshing are of damp meadows known as rough (rhos) pastures, this is a member of the plant family Umbelliferae.  It is related to many other common species such as wayside plants Cow Parsley and Hogweed, both of which also display the umbrellas shaped flower clusters.  There are numerous vegetables and herbs which belong to this family such as carrot, parsnip, clery, fennel and angelica.  However, although Whorled Caraway is a relative of the culinary herb, Carum Carvi, Plantlife International states that the plant is not used in cookery or for medicinal purposes.

It grows up to 2ft in height and has small, pinkish white flowers during high summer and attracts a huge variety of pollinating insects.  The leaves are simple pinnate (like a feather: as stem with leaves arranged along it, opposite each other and from many circles around the stalk, making a ‘whorl’ shape.

Bog Rosemary - Andromeda polofolia is the county flower of Ceredigion

This is a small, shrubby plant which favours bog land such as Cors Fochno near Borth and Cors Caron near Tregaron.  It grows up to 1 foot high, often amongst sphagnum moss.


The leaves look very like the culinary herb, Rosemary, but are in fact poisonous.  They are glossy on top and white beneath.  The flowers are small pink urns, much like those of its relative, bell heather and the pollen is toxic.  It was named by the famous botanist, Linnaeus, who, for some reason thought that the plant resembled the Greek goddess, Andromeda.

Thrift – Armeria Maritima is the flower of Pembrokeshire

One of the most beautiful of the cliff tops, a  carpet of Sea Thrift can often be seen in April and May.  Its dusky pink flowers contrast delightfully with the white Sea Campion and bright yellow Gorse which are in flower at the same time.  The flower has many other names including Clustog Fair in Welsh – meaning Mary’s Pillow in reference to its cushion-like clumps of leaves.





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The Rebecca Riots

An interesting period of Welsh history which had a major impact is the four years of the The Rebecca Riots,  when men dressed as women and attacked toll gates in many areas of West Wales in the mid-19th Century.


Rebecca Riots artists depiction Illustrated London News 1843

Turnpike Trusts, made up of groups of businessmen, had been founded to maintain road systems across the country.  In order to fund the work, all road users were charged a fee when passing toll gates, which were set up at intervals along the routes controlled by the trusts.  Of course the temptation to overcharge was irresistible and by the end of the 1830s, the trusts had proliferated and set their tolls so high that they had a stranglehold on the rural communities. For example, there were 11 turnpike trusts around the town of Carmarthen and each had several gates. Imagine how angry people became when they had to pay each time they passed through a gate!

Provocation of the Poor

Not only did the tolls create an unfair method of extracting money from rural communities, they were just the final straw in a catalogue of injustices and misfortunes of these times:

  • Poor harvests
  • Levying of high rents by largely English-speaking landlords
  • Sudden increase in the population
  • Taxes levied to pay for building of workhouses following the Poor Law of 1834
  • tithes levied by the church.

By the end of the 1830s the struggling peasant population had become overwhelmed by the expense of moving cattle or essential materials like lime and animal food to and from market.

Eventually the general feeling of discontent erupted in an angry outburst in May 1839 when a group of men attacked a toll gate in Efailwen near Clynderwen in Carmarthenshire.

In much the same way as mob hysteria provokes riots in this day and age, groups of men from all over the counties of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire began to attack turnpike toll gates.

Why the cross-dressing?

Welsh men from rural communities were accustomed to taking the law into their own hands when they punished an offender by tying him to a ladder or wooden pole and parading him through the streets. This was called the ceffyl pren – the wooden horse. In order to disguise themselves during these episodes, men had the habit of dressing as women and blackening their faces.

Why Rebecca Riots?

It is thought that the rioters may have taken their name from Rebecca in the Book of Genesis who, when sent off to marry Isaac, receives a blessing from her relatives to the effect that her offspring should “possess the gates of those that hate them. As people at this time were familiar with the stories of the Bible, this is plausible although legend has it that one of the earliest rioters, Twm Carnabwth, borrowed clothes from a woman called Rebecca, thus inspiring the alliterative name!

Four years of rioting

The riots raged on for over four years, with toll gates regularly smashed or burned. Troops were brought in to combat the rioters, who also formed a 2,000 strong mob to ransack the town workhouse in Carmarthen.

In the autumn of 1843 a particularly violent demonstration caused the death of the elderly Sarah Williams, the gatekeeper at Hendy, following which popular support for the riots began to diminish, especially as some rioters had been imprisoned and several even transported to Australia.

All not in vain

Following a visit to Wales, a sympathetic report was produced by a journalist from The Times, Thomas Foster. It appears that this was instrumental in making public the true grievances of the Welsh tenant farmers and forcing the government to call a Commission of Enquiry. As a result, all the Turnpike Trusts within each county of Wales were amalgamated in 1844 and tolls on vital commodities were reduced by half.   One of these was lime – used to fertilise fields, it was an essential part of the rural economy; indeed the earliest riots took place on the lime roads leading inland from the coast.


 Aberystwyth Southgate Tollhouse, now at Museum of Welsh Life – Published by Aberdare Blog, Author: Darren Wyn Rees

50 years later, the last turnpike toll gate in Britain was removed from the Isle of Anglesey (Ynys Mon). The railways were influential in diminishing the power of turnpike trusts and the Local Government Act of 1888 gave road maintenance responsibility to County and Borough Councils.

To find out more about Welsh history visit the Cadw website or,  if you are staying in a Ceredigion holiday cottage  you could visit the National Library of Wales.

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Red Campion: wildflower of the West Wales hedgebanks

One of the most attractive features of West Wales is the network of lanes edged by high banks which support a wide variety of wild flowers. In recent years it has been a matter of policy on the part of some county councils to refrain from cutting the banks for as long as possible in order to preserve the wonderful displays of wild plants, many of which attract butterflies and bees to collect their nectar or birds such as the Goldfinch to feast on their seed.

For example in Pembrokeshire, a few roadside nature reserves have been identified by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales as they contain rare plants which should be allowed to seed.

Red Campion

Red Campion

Amongst these is the prolific Red Campion Silene dioica or Melandrium rubrum, which burgeons into life around April and continues to flower throughout the summer. It seems to take something of a knock by the mild winters which encourage grass to take over in its preferred habitats, but always looks beautiful in contrast with its companions, the White Stitchwort and Bluebell.

In my experience, the local strains of this plant are never red, but vary in their interpretation of pink. The flowers are about 2cm in diameter and have 5 deeply notched petals. The deep green leaves are described as opposite and decussate, and are between 3 and 8 cm long with a smooth edge.   One feature of the plant is that the stems and leaves are hairy and have a slight stickiness about them.

Ragged Robin

Ragged Robin

In the same family, Caryophyllaceae, is the rarer Ragged Robin, also known as Lychnis flos-cuculi. Its preferred habitat is wet meadows and pastures so it is flourishing in areas such as Cors Fochno in north Ceredigion. It is much like the Campion but has a very ragged appearance as if torn by the wind.

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Llyn Llech Owain Country Park near Cross Hands

Llyn Llech Owain Country Park is a 158-acre expanse of woods, heath and marsh near Cross Hands in Carmarthenshire with nature trails, wooden adventure playground, toddler playground, café and visitor centre. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and has a great wealth of interesting wildlife in its various habitats.

llyn-llech-owain-1VW-for-weThe centrepiece of the park is a large lake which was caused by falling slab according to myth. There is some dispute about which character named Owain was involved, but one version claims that it was Owain Lawgoch (Owain of the Red Hand ). He was a real-life soldier who led French mercenaries against the English in the Hundred Years’ War. For some reason, he was given the task of looking after a well on the mountain nearby. Each day, he was careful to replace the capping stone over the well after extracting water for himself and his horse but one fateful day he forgot and a torrent of water poured down the hillside, creating the lake: Llyn Lech Owain – the lake of Owain’s slab.

Thanks to Owain, there is now a wonderful peat bog around the lake with well-surfaced boardwalk paths allowing access for all to explore the area around the lake. There are rare plants such as bogbean, round leaved sundew and the royal fern. Dragonflies and Damselflies love to zoom around near the water and there are plenty of butterflies.

Birds which favour fresh water habitats are Moorhen, Mallard, Snipe, Reed Bunting, Pochard, Little Grebe, Swallow and House Martin.

The woodland consists mainly of a large area of coniferous forest planted back in the 1960s, but there is also some broadleaf woodland, so many varieties of birds are happy to make a home among the branches. Look out for Tits, Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Jay and Green Woodpecker. On the open heathland you might spot Buzzard, Kestrel or even some lizards if the weather tempts them out to bask on hot stones.

llyn-llech-owain-2VW resized

If you want a longer walk or cycle ride, there is a forest track around the park; if mountain biking is your thing, why not try the rough trail created for your benefit?

Signposted on the A476 from Crosshands to Llandeilo.  Regular bus services to Gorslas.

Llyn Llech Owain Country Park
Carmarthenshire, SA14 7NF
Phone: 01269 832229

The Llyn Llech Owain Country Park is a good place to visit when you are staying in one of our Carmarthenshire holiday cottages.


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Deck the Halls – Celyn ac Uchelwydd

Frutos del Acebo. Ilex aquifolium L.The wonderful Christmas Carol, Deck the Halls has a Welsh melody dating back to the sixteenth century from a winter carol, Nos Galan.  The English lyrics first appeared in 1862.

It is easy to see why there is a song to celebrate the ancient tradition of decorating the house with piles of Holly (Celyn) and Mistletoe (Uchelwydd).   Mistletoe is believed to be a sacred plant of the ancient Druids and protects the family from evil, while Holly is a symbol of eternal life.

In Norse mythology Mistletoe was a sign of love and friendship which may be where the custom of kissing under the Mistletoe comes from.  The name comes from the words mistel (meaning dung) and tan (twig or stick), basically ‘poo on a stick’ – very romantic indeed!

Dollarphotoclub_69454618---The Druids wore Holly in their hair, believing it to be a sacred plant and it has been used in teas to help cure measles and whooping-cough.  It is said that a sprig of Holly should be kept in a pocket all the time for protection against evil spirits.

In Wales the gruesome sounding custom of ‘holly-beating’ or ‘holming’ involved beating the arms or legs of young ladies until they bled.  In some places the tradition was for the last person out of bed in the morning to be beaten with holly sprigs.  Fortunately these customs died out long ago and we can simply enjoy the scent and beauty of Holly and Mistletoe in our houses over the festive season.

Dollarphotoclub_74604741---Happy Christmas and warm wishes for the New Year from all the team at West Wales Holiday Cottages – Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda




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Pubs around the end of the M4 and A48

OK so you’ve made it nearly as far as Pont Abraham and everyone is hungry but Motorway Services food just doesn’t appeal. Here is a list of pubs and cafés which are close to your route so you only have to make a slight detour to get a bite to eat.  They are listed in order so that the final pub listed is nearest to Carmarthen.

Places close by are Llanelli, Pontarddulais, Cross Hands.

All feature basic veggie dishes on the menu unless otherwise stated.

Please note that we take no responsibility for the quality of food served at these pubs and recommend that you phone in advance to reserve tables and check opening times etc.


End of M4

Pubs are listed in order as they occur from south to north.

If you are on your way towards Llandeilo via the A483 then there are a couple of options if you come off the M4 at Junction 48.

Location: Fforest near Pontarddulais; latlong 51.722776, -4.057111
Name: The Bird in Hand does not have its own website.   Tel:  01792 886651

Location:  Llanedi;   latlong 51.744248, -4.049132
Website:  http://tafarnyderi.co.uk     Tel:  01792 883318
Name:  Tafarn y Deri
Detail:  has a good menu with several original-looking veggie options. They cater for special diets on request.


The road starts off running from south to north until it reaches Cross Hands, where it starts to curve round to the north west.

Pubs to north or east are:

Location: Gorslas to north east of Cross Hands  latlong  51.804357, -4.074917
Website:   http://www.sabrain.com/phoenix   Tel: 01269 844438
Name:     Tafarn-y-Phoenix
Detail:     Brains Brewery pub. Has large beer garden and grass for kids to play on. Food served all day Mon to Sat; Sunday 12 to 8pm.   They have a few veggie options including dish of the day. Sunday roast available.

Location: Just off A476 to northeast of Cross Hands;  latlong 51.808717, -4.078443
Website:   http://www.dayoutwiththekids.co.uk/family-fun/Llyn_Llech_Owain_Country_Park/6201
Name:   Llyn Llech Owain Country Park
Detail:   Café open April – September 10am – 6pm daily. Free entry to the park but it’s £1.50 for parking.

Location: Carmel village on A476 to northeast of Cross Hands;  latlong 51.820034, -4.048802
Website: http://www.stagandpheasantcarmel.co.uk/   Tel:  01269 844000
Name: Stag and Pheasant
Detail: Does not seem to have veggie options. Open daily and serves Sunday lunch.

Pubs to the south or west are:

Location: Foelgastell just northwest of Cross Hands   latlong 51.811791, -4.108778
Website:   http://www.thesmithsarms.co.uk/  Tel: 01269 842 213
Name:     The Smiths Arms
Details:   Food served lunchtime and evening. Not good for veggies unless you want lasagne or tagine… or a cheese sandwich for lunch.

Location: Banc-y-Mansel on B4310 between Drefach and Porthyrhyd;  latlong 51.8104387,-4.1421373
Name:  Mansel Arms   Tel: 01267 275305
Detail: Listed as one of Camra pubs of Year but has no website of its own.

Location: Porthyrhyd on B4310;   latlong 51.822459, -4.149601
Website: http://www.theabadamarms.com/ Tel: 01267 275090
Name: Abadam Arms
Detail: Not open at lunchtime on weekdays. Eve 5-11pm. Weekends 12-11pm.

Location: Llanddarog on B4310;  latlong 51.828916, -4.174307
Website:  http://www.butchersofllanddarog.co.uk/    Tel:  01267 275330
Name:  Butcher’s Arms
Details: Closed Sunday and Monday. Open lunchtime and evenings other days. They apparently have a veggie menu of the day but there is no sample displayed on their website.

To ascertain whether pub is dog-friendly, please contact the owners or licensees.


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