Christmas Markets in West Wales

Christmas backgroundThe opportunity to visit some magnificent and historic properties, sort out the Christmas shopping and enjoy delicious local food and drink all at the same time, is one of the many reasons we love Wales.  The following Christmas markets, craft and food fairs will make finding the perfect present a pleasure.  Enjoy music and magical lighting, browse, meet friends and share some warm Welsh festive spirit.

bellPicton Castle annual Christmas Market is on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd November from 10.30am – £6.60 per person, under 15′s £4.00, under 5’s free.

With a fantastic range of stalls in the castle this is a magical way to start the season. The castle will be dressed for a Victorian Christmas, plus Santa’s Grotto, Maria’s Mediterranean Restaurant and lots more. Entry includes  a free glass of mulled wine.

picton-in-winter-500x374

Picton Castle

Our next destination will be Pembroke Castle where the doors are open into the evenings: 28th November, 10.00am – 8.00pm, 29th November 10.0am – 7.00pm and 30th November 10.00am – 4.00pm.  The castle will be decorated and lit to provide a magical atmosphere.  Entrance is free and the charge of £1 per child for Santa’s Grotto will be donated to the Paul Sartori Foundation.

-Llanerchaeron is hosting their Christmas Food and Craft Fair on 6th and 7th December, 11.00am – 4.00pm.  £4 per adult; NT members and children free.

This is the perfect way to get into the festive spirit with a visit to this wonderful Christmas Fair.  Choose a unique gift from over 70 stalls selling the very best of local food and crafts. The house will be decorated for Christmas, there will be a visit from Father Christmas and a treasure hunt for children.  ‘Out of town’ shopping at it’s very best!

Aberglasney is holding a Traditional Winter Fair on 30th November and 1st December, 9.30am – 3.30pm.  Wander through the mansion and grounds with stalls offering gifts, crafts, decorations, Welsh food and drink and lots, lots more.  Have your photo taken with Father Christmas and his reindeer!  It promises to be a wonderful weekend.  Normal admission rates apply.  Croeso Cynnes i Pawb/A Warm Welcome to you all.

Aberglasny gardens in the snow

Aberglasney Gardens

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Gwynfryn – Renovating a West Wales house

In this post, Norma and James, the owners of Gwynfryn in New Quay, Ceredigion, share their inspiring story of saving a traditional West Wales house from dereliction, bringing it back to life and carefully maintaining its original character.
front viewWe purchased Gwynfryn in New Quay in 2003.  I think the only reason we were able to buy it was because very few people were quite as foolhardy (or naive!).  The property was in a very sad state, having been uninhabited for at least 35 years.  The council had issued the owners with a notice to renovate the property or sell as it was a serious eye-sore and becoming a danger to the neighbouring properties.

We spent 12 months renovating it, doing everything other than the electrics and plumbing ourselves.

Back gardenIt took us 3 weeks to just clear a path to the back wall of the garden.  After all that work, it was nice to see that we had quite a good sea view from there.  James repaired or re-made every single window in the house; they were in a dreadful state.  The front bay windows had become detached from the house and were moving towards the road!  James spent approximately 3 months on the windows – although UPVC replacements would have taken 3 days, we still have no regrets, the soul of the house would have been gone forever.

James workingAnother nice surprise was finding a hand-painted original (1880) border under 13 layers of wallpaper.

Beds and piles of stuffWe used as many traditional materials throughout as we could and re-used as much as possible.  It made our day to find things like the right size window panel – in the attic!  We decorated the house using lime based paints, mixing each colour by hand ourselves.  It is much easier these days to buy these traditional paints in a range of colours, but 12 years ago this was the only option available to us.  Ty Mawr lime were a great help, they even featured our bathroom in their 2005 calendar.

Featured ImageAlthough we enjoyed the project, we were very glad to finish.  It gives us great pleasure now to be able to offer other people the chance to see all of the original features and to experience the very traditional character of the house.

Bathroom

For more information, photos, prices and availability take a look at Gwynfryn on our website.

There is plenty to do in New Quay and the surrounding area if you stay at Gwynfryn or any of our holiday cottages in New Quay, take a look at Things to in Cardigan Bay.

 

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Llechryd, the River Teifi & Cilgerran – a 2 hour circular walk

Llechryd Bridge

Llechryd Bridge

This is a lovely circular walk of about 2 hours from Llechryd in North Pembrokeshire,

The sky was blue as we set off from Llechryd Bridge for our walk along the River Teifi to Cilgerran.

Golden leaves underfoot

Golden leaves underfoot

The riverside path was golden with fallen leaves…

and then we came to the mud!  Slithering and sliding we  struggled on, the mud slowly climbing its way up our boots and legs!

The river was flowing quickly and the trees shone in the sunshine, their bark covered in a velvet sleeve of glowing green moss.

Velvety Moss

Velvety Moss

As we rounded the curve in the river we saw the castle ruins high above us at Cilgerran.  There are several sketches and a painting by Turner of Cilgerran Castle in the Tate’s Prints and Drawings Rooms, painted in about 1798.

Turner painted Cilgerran Castle

Turner painted Cilgerran Castle

In the summer months open air performances are held in the castle grounds, making for a spectacular setting and glorious views.  We have often spent wonderful evenings with a picnic watching plays and other entertainment.

After about 45 minutes we reached the car park beneath the castle where we had a brief breather before starting the climb up to the village along the lane.  The reward is a drink either at one of the village pubs, or even an ice cream at the village shop that greets the weary walker at the top!

A docile little dog? No – wildly territorial with a huge bark!

 

When we got our breath back, the walk continued along the small lanes before branching down to the sweetest little hamlet where this mischievous dog waited until we were walking alongside his house before barking madly at us and running up and down the garden.

We walked back to the car past The Smallest Museum in Wales.

A lovely walk to try when you’re staying in a Cardigan holiday cottage or North Pembrokeshire holiday cottage

 

 

 

 

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The Oystercatcher: a wading bird to see in West Wales

The Oystercatcher is the wading bird which you’re most likely to see on our West Wales coast – particularly around the mouth of estuaries such as the Teifi, Tywi and Dyfi.

The birds form huge flocks in winter and smaller groups in summer, and you’ll often hear them before they come into view making their typical screaming ‘peep’. Although their plumage is strikingly black and white, they sometimes look all-over dark if viewed against the light. They are about the size of a pigeon.

oystercatchers-flyingWOVThey do not breed in West Wales, but nest on the ground at inland sites. Chicks are extremely cute and emerge from the egg running and able to forage for their own food immediately.

Watch the birds come whizzing in towards a sandbank and you’ll see how they seem to fall in a jumble, running along the sand.

They argue amongst themselves and chase off other waders, piping and clamouring to establish dominance. They are not averse to stealing food from each other as well as other species – quite aggressive in their behaviour!

oystercatcher

The Oystercatcher’s bill is long, straight and bright orange – strong and powerful for prising open the shells of molluscs – particularly cockles and mussels. It also eats other invertebrates which it digs out of the mud but doesn’t eat oysters!

A remarkable fact about these birds is that they display resource polymorphism: the bills of individual birds develop differently, allowing them to attack their prey in different ways. Three types of feeder have been observed within the common Oystercatcher population:

1)   Stabbers – these get hold of a big mussel and stab at the join of the two shells to prise them apart.
2)   Hammerers – their bill is thicker and more robust. They lay the mussel on its side and smash into it.
3)   Tweezers – a fine, delicate bill ideally adapted to poking into sand for worms. Usually females.

This information is thanks to a fascinating report on the BBC Autumnwatch programme, which also provided the amazing fact that the Oystercatchers’ bills grow at a rate of up to 0.4mm each day – 3 times the speed of human fingernails. On top of that, they can even change their bill type within 10 days in order to adapt to new feeding grounds: a hammerer can become a stabber in just under 2 weeks!

So if you’ve got a good pair of binoculars and a fortnight to spend on the West Wales coast, you could be a witness to a flock of Oystercatchers changing their feeding technique…

To find out more about the birds you might see in West Wales,  take a look at our Birdwatching section. To choose a cottage for your birdwatching holiday, add your requirements to filter the full list of our holiday cottages in West Wales

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West Wales Holiday Cottages and the 2014 Pembrokeshire Tourism Awards

Clydey Cottages presented with Gold Award by David Witt of West Wales Holiday Cottages in the 2014 Pembrokeshire Tourism Awards

Clydey Cottages win Gold for Best Non-Serviced Accommodation in 2014 Pembrokeshire Tourism Awards

We were delighted to sponsor the award for Best Non-Serviced Accommodation in the 2014 Pembrokeshire Tourism Awards. It was a chance for us to help shine a spotlight on the very best of Pembrokeshire’s self-catering accommodation. This award is an excellent way to draw attention to the outstanding quality of holiday cottages in the area.

We donned our best bib and tucker to attend the awards ceremony at the Wolfscastle Country Hotel on 9 October 2014. David Witt, as our Senior Partner, presented the awards for the Best Non-Serviced Accommodation with the gold award going to Clydey Cottages and silver to both East Jordeston Cottages and Hayston Holiday Cottage; they are all very deserving winners.

If you take a look at the details for East Jordeston Cottages, you’ll see why they so richly deserved to win an award. Take a look at The Lodge, their newest cottage, it’s amazing!

We were pleased to see some of our other cottage owners accepting awards on the night, including the owners of Asheston Eco Barns who won silver in Best Access for the Disabled Visitor and the owners of Rock Cottage whose B&B won silver in Finest Pembrokeshire Breakfast. Our warmest congratulations to all the Pembrokeshire award winners.

Of course, on the big night, the greatest excitement for us was that West Wales Holiday Cottages won the Bronze Award for Best Customer Service Team: we were thrilled! We would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to all our customers – we know it is your kind support that brings us these awards and we are grateful that you are always so generous. Thank you!

West Wales Holiday Cottages team with bronze award for Best Customer Service Team in 2014 Pembrokeshire Tourism Awards

Our award-winning team! Dawn, Sarah, David, Matthew and Linda

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Out of Season – A Special Time in West Wales

A visit to West Wales has special attractions at different times of year. Out of season – in the autumn, winter and spring – many of them are connected with nature.

Out of season Wales

Does it rain all the time? Does it blow a gale every day? Will you be snowed in and not be able to get home? Not really likely is the answer to each. We don’t get much snow in West Wales, and even if there is wild and wintry weather, it comes with its particular kind of excitement.

Surfers will already be familiar with the delights of a rough sea as well as the possible dangers, but landlubbers can enjoy watching the waves crashing up against the cliffs enclosing a rocky cove or really blow the cobwebs away by going for a wild and windy walk across the beach or along the myriad country footpaths.

Blue sea and beachcombing

Icicles Above a Rushing StreamIn the calm after the storm you can enjoy the contrast of a sparkling blue sea stretching way into the distance from your vantage point on the coast path. Descend to the shore to indulge in some beachcombing amongst the exciting debris washed up by the high tides. If you happen to be visiting at a time of heavy frost, then there is the chance to see the most spectacular icicles and sheets of ice cracking across the curves of an estuary channel like water icing flowing down the sides of a cake: a photographer’s dream.

However you choose to spend your time out of doors, it’s always great to return to a cosy holiday cottage with wood burning stove or open fire or maybe just pile into one of the characterful pubs in the area where you can thaw out whilst sampling the local fare and ales.

Treasures of the low seasons

red-fungus-CUIn autumn after the last of the blackberries there is still the chance to encounter a huge variety of fungi on the verges, in the woods or on the pastures of West Wales. Of course you shouldn’t cook any up for supper unless you’re really sure, but you may be lucky enough to visit at a time when organised foraging expeditions are on offer in the area.

Many edible plants – including seaweeds – are to be found on our lanes and beaches, among them Pennywort (also known as Navelwort) and sorrel – growing in abundance on many verges of quiet country lanes. The best times to find these are spring and winter respectively.

The trees without leaves reveal their individual shapes and subtle colours, many with trunks cloaked in moss and twigs dripping with lichens.   You can see further into the distance in winter by peeking through to the other side of a wood or spinney rather than having your view blocked by the leaves.

gwaun-valley-5CU

Wildlife

Of course if there’s been some rain then the waterfalls are much more spectacular, although they can be a trial for salmon trying to swim upriver to spawn. You can see them making numerous attempts to advance up the River Teifi at the falls near Cenarth Bridge.

Between September and December, baby grey seals can be seen in the bays of West Wales. They are often to be seen lying alone on the stones – but don’t worry that they have been abandoned as the mother has to go off fishing in the sea and keeps a close eye on her pup.

seal & baby-1JB Featured Image copyThere are exciting bird-watching opportunities, as you may catch sight of flocks of migrating birds or an occasional rarity which has been blown off-course.   In colder weather, you can be lucky to spot flocks of redwings and fieldfares greedily devouring the berries on a holly tree; a group of long-tailed tits or many other small birds, waders and birds of prey.  See our Birds to see in Winter page.

One of the most marvellous winter treats is to be in just the right place at dusk. Near the Teifi marshes in Cardigan or the pier in Aberystwyth you can see great murmurations (flocks) of Starlings as they gather near their roosts, swooping and flowing in great spools like a pixelated cloud of dissolving ink.

Starlings at DuskDon’t forget that your dog will be welcome on many more beaches out of season so bring it along too! We have a wide range of dog friendly cottages for you to choose from. Many cottages are available for short breaks as well as longer stays out of season so you can grab a weekend away or take a midweek break. Choose from our full list of cottages in West Wales.

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2 mile circular walk from Nolton Haven, Pembrokeshire

When the sun is bright on an autumn morning it is time to put all else aside, grab the boots and a picnic and head to the coast.

We drove to Nolton Haven, nestling on the edge of the sand on St Bride’s Bay in Pembrokeshire and on the old Pilgrims Route to St Davids. The Haven was used by smugglers in the old days, ideally suited to them by the protection of the surrounding cliffs.

View of Nolton Haven beach and village from the coast path

The walk took us up past the Mariners Inn, turning right past the old chapel and following the lane up the hill.

We noticed the seaward wall of the chapel and couldn’t believe the effect the weather has had; we imagined birds and mice sheltering in the nooks and crannies.

weather-eroded wall

We wanted to turn onto the coastal path but the walk actually follows the lane for a further mile to Druidstone Haven (named after a Norman named Drue, not after a Druid!) where you will notice the Eco House; referred to by the locals as the Teletubby House (really named ‘Malator’ and owned by an MP).

The Eco House, Druidstone Bay

We took the footpath through the dunes towards the beach, and then turned right up the steps to the cliff path.

cliff steps

I  saw these little toadstools; do you know what they are? – there were many scattered clumps along with wild scabious.

Small fungi

We followed the coastal path back to Nolton Haven. What wonderful panoramic views stretching towards St Davids in the North.

View of the bay from the cliff path

This walk is only about 2 miles but there is some climb involved. It is half of a figure-of-eight, starting at the public car park behind The Mariners Inn. The idea was that, after our picnic, we would walk the second loop which leads to the old stone and brick ruins of the old colliery. However… arriving on the beach, lying on the sand with a picnic, enjoying our siesta in the sunshine, we felt too relaxed to carry on! Another day…

yacht sailing

Walk details

This walk was from a collection in a book by John Fenna called ‘Heritage Walks in Pembrokeshire’, ISBN 1-95058-574-1. It doesn’t seem to be in print anymore but if you can find a second-hand copy, it really is a lovely and easy-to-follow book.

Map: OS Landranger 157 St Davids & Haverfordwest: 860 186

Easy parking in the public car park, along with public toilets. The Mariners Inn serves food. Ice creams and cold drinks on sale just above the car park.

This walk – or the full figure of eight version – is a good one for taking in the views from the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path when staying in one of our holiday cottages in Nolton Haven.

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Apple Festival at Llanerchaeron National Trust Gardens

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis year’s wonderful weather has provided us with a bumper harvest of apples in West Wales, so there is to be an Apple Festival held at Llanerchaeron near Aberaeron in Ceredigion on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th October.

If you have apples from your own garden which you’d like to preserve, then you can take them along for apple pressing on Sunday and store the juice in your freezer for healthy drinks throughout the year. Of course you can also try your hand at making cider if that’s your favoured tipple.

The National Trust garden at Llanerchaeron has an amazing 52 apple varieties and over 75 apple trees, the oldest of which were planted around 170 years ago.

green apples on treeThroughout the weekend there will be:

  • exhibitions of apple varieties
  • cooking demonstrations
  • guided tours through the gardens
  • talks on the folklore of apples
  • games for children
  • Q&A sessions with the head gardener

Live music will add to the atmosphere and you can buy from food and craft stalls or visit the farm shop to purchase produce from the orchards.

Amongst the most appealing on show might be some of the Welsh apples rescued by the expert grower, Ian Sturrock.  Amongst these, the most famous, once referred to as “The World’s Rarest Apple” was discovered in 1998 on Bardsey Island off the tip of the Lleyn Peninsula.

The Bardsey Island apple might be a survivor from a monastic orchard. The old tree against Plas Bach house dates from the late 19th century. The apple is at its best around mid-September, so might have been chosen by Lord Newborough for its adaptability: as well as being a good eating apple, it cooks well to form a light puree which would certainly have made a good sauce for eating with roasted wildfowl.

apples-2WOVThe Diamond apple has a great depth of flavour, ripens early and does not keep, so is a great one for juicing. It is reputed to have been bred from seeds salvaged from fruit which floated ashore after the wreck of the American packet ship Diamond off Barmouth in 1825. It has been recently rescued by Ian Sturrock – 2006.

The Cox Cymraeg (Welsh Cox) escaped extinction a couple of times and is now propagated in North Wales close to the place it was originally grown. It’s very much like the normal Cox’s Orange Pippin but has several superior features, amongst them being that it’s disease resistant and that it needs only one other pollinator, making it easy  to grow.

A previous apple tasting session at Llanerchaeron rated the Nant Gwrtheyrn (Golden Russet) as one of the best eating apples. The fruit is crisp and juicy with a hint of fennel.   It’s good to grow as a partner to the Bardsey Island apple as it ripens later in the season and keeps well.
The original tree was found growing in the garden of the former quarry manager’s house at Nant Gwrtheyrn on the Llŷn (Lleyn) Peninsula.
Trwyn Mochyn (Anglesey Pig’s Snout) is a big green, heavy cropping cooking apple whose origins are the 1600s. You may find it is similar to Catshead or Grenadier as it cooks down to a lovely scented puree which doesn’t need much sugar.  Picked in early October, it keeps well in cool storage and can be used as an eater as the flavour mellows with age. The tree is very disease resistant.

Gwynfor Growers stocks these apple varieties if you’re interested in taking home a living souvenir of your holiday in West Wales.  They can be found near Pontgarreg, to the seaward side of the A487 coast road between New Quay and Llangrannog.

If you would like to attend this event at Llanerchaeron and need a place to stay, see our list of holiday cottages in Cardigan Bay.

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Sheep Dogs and Welsh Cakes: Welsh Museums Festival October 2014

Border Collie2014 is the year of the first ever Welsh Museums Festival, to be held from 4 – 12 October  at museums across Wales.  See below for those in the West Wales area.

Exhibitions, events and activities will include exclusive access to stores, talks, walks, trails, craft and art workshops.   Many of these are FREE of charge.

1. Meet the Mountain Day Trip

4 October 09:00-18:00
Minibus from Machynlleth to the Arenig Mountain in Snowdonia (or meet minibus at Arenig) for

  • walking tour with Gareth Roberts or
  • minibus tour with Keith Bowen

Numbers are limited. Contact Museum of Modern Art Wales for details and prices.

2. So, the world happens twice

Ceramics exhibition featuring work by 10 contemporary artists.

23 August – 2 November
Monday to Saturday 09:00-20:00; Sundays 12:00-20:00 FREE
Aberystwyth University Ceramics Gallery

Family friendly. Wheelchair access. Parking.

3. Llanerchaeron Events

a) Welsh Cake Trail  – 4 October 11:00-15:30
The idea is to help the cook to find the ingredients for making welsh cakes. The reward is then to eat some of the freshly baked results. Fresh butter is available for sale in the dairy if you’d like to make your own batch when you get home.

welsh-cakes-WOV

b) Traditional Sheepdog Demonstration 5 October – 12:00

All ages are welcome to observe the skills of Delyth, the farmer at this National Trust property, and her sheepdog, Glen, as they give a practical demonstration of herding and moving stock.
There is no extra charge for these events. You will just have to pay the normal admission rates of £3.60 for children up to 12 and £7.10 for adults. NT members FREE. Young children need to be accompanied by an adult.

See Llanerchaeron National Trust website for further details.

4. Display on the recent conservation of works

Tenby Museum and Art Gallery : 4 – 12 October 2014
A display will show the conservation processes which were recently applied to several works of art and a 16th century cannon, the finished results of which are also on show.

If you’re interested in attending these events, perhaps choose a self catering break in the respective areas:  Aberystwyth, the Aberaeron area, in the Cambrian Mountains or in South Pembrokeshire.

 

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How ‘Will’ completed Tŷ Hafan’s Half Taff Trail Challenge 2014

On our way

On our way to Merthyr Tydfil

Follow ‘Will’, the West Wales Holiday Cottages lucky mascot, (made by our very talented Linda) on his day out on the Tŷ Hafan Half Taff Trail Cycle Challenge 2014.

Will joined our team of 4 riders cycling 26 miles on Sunday 9 September 2014 from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff on the Taff Trail for Tŷ Hafan.

Tŷ Hafan, the Welsh children’s hospice provides comfort, care and support for life-limited children, young people and their families.

It relies on public support to help fund its work.

 

We're at the start - Rhydycar Leisure Centre in Merthyr Tydfil

We’re at the start – Rhydycar Leisure Centre in Merthyr Tydfil

Getting into position, ready for the off

Getting into position, ready for the off

Fell off before we'd even got to Check Point 1 but they had Wagon Wheels and Welsh cakes! So all good

We fell off before we’d even got here (Check Point 1) but they had Wagon Wheels and Welsh cakes! So all good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check Point 2 - lots of water for us to rehydrate

Check Point 2 – lots of water for us to rehydrate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Check Point, nearly there, not far to go now.

Last Check Point, nearly there, not far to go now

... and we did it!

… and we did it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A well deserved rest and cup of tea.

A well deserved rest and cup of tea.

Off to First Aid to patch up my wounds

Off to First Aid to patch up my wounds

Much better now

Much better now

 

Packed up and ready to go home

Packed up and ready to go home

Enjoying our after cycle snack of home made popcorn.

Enjoying our after cycle snack of home made popcorn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can’t believe how generously we have been supported: thanks to donations by many kind people we have raised over £1500 for Tŷ Hafan to date!

All of us would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to every single person who contributed.

If you would like to support the amazing work of Tŷ Hafan by sponsoring us, you can still do so on our JustGiving fundraising page.

 

 

 

 

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