3 Ways to Enjoy Autumn in West Wales

“October gave a party; The leaves by hundreds came – The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples, And leaves of every name. The Sunshine spread a carpet, And everything was grand, Miss Weather led the dancing, Professor Wind the band.” George Cooper

Autumn has arrived in West Wales and there are plenty of ways to enjoy the colours and peace of our beautiful countryside at this time of year. Here are just three: walk, cycle and drive.


If an energetic hike in the hills is your cup of tea, head to the Preseli Hills or the Brecon Beacons to enjoy panoramic views of the autumn landscape.

Rounded hills covered in gold and brown bracken and heather await you in The Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire National Park. The hills are dotted with ancient remains such as hill forts, burial sites and the Celtic Golden Road, a path that traverses the length of the Preselis.

Bedd Arthur in the Preseli Hills

Bedd Arthur

Walk to Bedd Arthur or Arthur’s Grave which sits on top of the Preseli ridge and overlooks the rocky outcrop of Carn Menyn, a site some suggest was a source of the bluestones used at Stonehenge.

Distant view of Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons

Brecon Beacons

The 520 square miles covered by the Brecon Beacons National Park includes Pen y Fan, the highest peak in southern Britain. The area has a rich history and is a paradise for anyone keen on outdoor activities.

Sunlight on the autumn leaves in The Arch Woods Walk in The Hafod Estate

The Hafod Estate in Autumn

Take a leisurely stroll through the Hafod Estate (Hafod Uchtryd), 12 miles south-east of Aberystwyth. Follow one or more of the 5 way-marked walks to enjoy the spectacular scenery and autumn colour.


Brechfa Forest in the heart of Carmarthenshire and The Cambrian Mountains offer some of the best mountain biking trails in Britain.

Mountain bking on the Brechfa Forest Mountain Bike Trail

Brechfa Forest Mountain Bike Trails

Looking for a hair-raising ride or a gentle pedal with the family? – take your pick from easy to severe mountain bike trails in Brechfa Forest. The specially designed trails follow the streams, valleys and rich forest landscape which is a haven for wildlife all year round.

The Cambrian Mountains offer a peaceful, rugged landscape where you can really ‘get away from it all’, cycling a wide range of terrain ranging including some of Britain’s best downhill riding, rugged off road routes and wild forests.

Mountain bike on a trail in the Cambrian Mountains

Cambrian Mountains


If a less strenuous way to experience the beautiful West Wales countryside is more your style, there are plenty of stunning routes on quiet roads. Try the mountain pass on the A4069 between Brynaman and Llandovery over gorgeous moorland. Take time to stop along the way to enjoy the view or get closer to the mountain ponies.

Car driving round the bends on the A4069 mountain pass in the Brecon Beacons

A4069 Mountain Pass – Brecon Beacons

Why not stay for a week in autumnal West Wales and explore its beauty in all three ways: walking, cycling and driving? To find the perfect place to stay, take a look at our fine selection of holiday cottages in West Wales.

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The Welsh Poppy

Welsh Poppy Meconopsis Cambrica is the County flower of Merioneth (Merionnydd).

The bushy plants of the Welsh poppy produce a thick clump of pretty, lacy foliage which is attractive in itself, even before the fragile, dancing flower heads begin to appear in June. The central pistil and stamens are prominent and their matt texture make an interesting contrast with the shiny petals surrounding them, attracting many pollinating bees and insects. Colour varies from light lemon yellow to a deep orange.


Family Controversy

Carl Linnaeus, the famous botanist and taxonomist (responsible for classification and naming of species), identified the plant as a poppy in 1753, naming it Papaver cambrica. Cambria is the Latin name for Wales, very similar to the Welsh name for our country, Cymru.

However, by 1814 further study led to this yellow poppy being reclassified by the French taxonomist, Louis Viguier as a new species, Meconopsis cambrica, (Mekon meaning ‘poppy’ in Greek). He thought it was related to the blue Himalayan poppy.

Recently, more rigorous research into DNA has led a team of European scientists to revert to the Linnaean conclusion. In 2012 The Daily Telegraph published a report on these new findings by Ken Thompson (plant biologist) in which he states that the Welsh Poppy is probably a Papaver after all and possibly not related to its Asiatic cousins, the Meconopsis in any way.

Where to see and How to grow

The Welsh poppy is happy almost anywhere, although it prefers well-drained soil. It is very happy in a shady corner and so works well in brightening up a darker area of your garden. It spreads freely in many gardens and is often found on verges and in walls or steps as an escapee.

Regular dead-heading allows prolonged flowering right into the end of summer and early autumn. Although they are perennial, the plants don’t live very long. However, they self-seed very effectively. If you want to cultivate them, it’s best to sow seed in pots (see specialist advice for the best way of doing this). Then let the mature plants spread seed into the surrounding earth. Next season you will have seedlings come up which will be best left to grow on without transplanting as the tap roots are fragile and do not much like to be dug up and moved. They will also be stronger than their pot-grown parents.

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Colours of West Wales

All the colours of the rainbow await you on a holiday in West Wales.

Pastel coloured seaside houses can be found in many of the villages and towns along the West Wales coast.  The historic town of Tenby is famous for its harbour and painted buildings.


The pretty harbour at Aberaeron in Ceredigion is surrounded by pastel painted Georgian buildings.


The Brecon Beacons National Park is a patchwork of  open fields, heather clad mountains and green forests.


Golden sands and crystal blue seas can be found along the coast of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.


In Spring the lush pastures and hills of the West Wales countryside positively glow with every imaginable shade of green.


Find your perfect country cottage and experience the colours of West Wales for yourself…….

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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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