Tag Archive for Brecon Beacons

Some Wonders of Wales

Wales is a beautiful country and definitely one worth a visit. I’m being completely and utterly biased here of course having lived here my entire life, but honestly, Wales is stunning. When I went travelling the first time on a three month trip, I was so excited to leave Wales and explore some of the world, I was sure that I wouldn’t miss it at all. But I did; I missed the green countryside, the vast mountains, the humdrum of Cardiff. It was strange, but the place I spent the longest in, New Zealand, reminded me so much of home. Maybe that’s why I loved it so much, a home away from home on the opposite end of the world. Similar weather, similar vast, green spaces and of course, the sheep. Lots and lots of sheep.

Living in Cardiff, I have access to lots of great places. I’m a 20 minute drive away from Cardiff city centre and a 40 minute drive from the Brecon Beacons. Not too shabby really. From city to country, I pretty much have it all. I mean come on, there’s an actual Castell Coch literally right on my doorstep.

I’m going to share with you some of my favourite places in South Wales. Not sure if anyone will care that greatly but hey, I’m feeling the need to write something and this was the best I could come up with.

Exploring Southerndown

Number 1 is Southerndown beach. A typical Welsh beach situated in Ogmore, near Bridgend and about a 40 minute drive from where I live. A pebble beach with satin seas, surrounded by steep, jagged cliffs, this is a beautiful place for a walk. You can walk along the cliff tops, taking in the view and listen to the waves crashing against the shoreline (possibly one of my favourite sounds ever). There’s even the remains of a castle, Dunraven Castle, which you can explore – what a great location for a castle, someone chose wisely there. I’m not sure why I love it here so much, but everytime I go, I just feel slightly more relaxed, like I’m blowing the cobwebs away.

southerndown, wales 2015-10-25 15.27.39

Pen Y Fan, Brecon Beacons

A second favourite of mine is Pen Y Fan. Situated in the Brecon Beacons, it is one of Wales’ highest peaks. The drive alone, is incredible. With panoramic views and winding roads, it’s definitely a sight to remember. The walk up Pen Y Fan is pretty memorable as well and it is always teeming with happy walkers and joggers. Hikers are very happy people who always smile and say “hello”; I always think that if everyone treated each other the way hikers treat each other, the world would be a much nicer place. The views from this mountain are stunning and stretch for miles. Never ending greenery, rolling hills and fresh water lakes, it’s just amazing when/if you get to the top and are able to take it all in.

pen y fan, brecon, walespen y fan, brecon, wales

pen y fan, brecon, wales

The Garth, Gwaelod-y-Garth

The Garth is a firm favourite of mine. A mountain, about ten minutes from where I live which overlooks the whole of Cardiff – from Cardiff Bay to the Millenium Stadium and even a cheeky spot of Flat Holme and Steep Holme. Whilst these views might not be quite as magnificent as from Pen y Fan, the Garth is a place which I love to go. It’s a relatively gentle mountain and not too steep a climb and there’s plenty of points along the way where you can sit down and appreciate the view. Located just outside of Cardiff, near Pentrych and Gwaelod-y-Garth, this is the perfect place to come for an outer city experience.

Sidenote: this mountain also played a lead role in a film starring Hugh Grant!

Garth, Cardiff 2015-04-05 15.47.57

Wales, the land of castles

Now, Wales is known for its castles. Its glorious and grand castles, full of vibrant history and interesting stories. I mean, there’s even one in Cardiff City Centre, standing grand amongst the modern shops and busy commuters.

Whilst Wales is full of beautiful castles, one of my favourites has got to be Castell Coch. A castle which is conveniently located on my doorstep. Okay, so not quite on my doorstep but I’m pretty sure I can see it from my house. Hiding amongst the trees, peeping out over the village of Tongwynlais and very much visable from the majority of surrounding roads, this is a 19th century castle with a rich history. Now an interesting tourist destination, you can wander around the inside and learn about its former occupants.

There’s also some great walks to be had around this area – beautiful woods and even a small tea rooms to reward yourself with afterwards.

So there you have it. A few of my favourite places in my home country. This of course, is only a small part of what’s on offer – there is so much more going on in the rest of Wales. Snowdonia, in North Wales, is definitely a place I would like to explore. Having been there once on a Geography school trip which consisted of studying rocks and then getting drunk in the accommodation, I didn’t see or appreciate as much as I would’ve liked. There’s all sorts up there now – even a zipwire – the longest in Europe – soaring across the mountain, I’m sure offering some pretty surreal views. Now that’s one for the bucket list…

Whilst the world is huge and there’s a lot to explore, sometimes taking a look around your home country is a good substitute for curing that travel bug. What’s your favourite places in your home city?

Jaunty up Pen y Fan

Swanning around Europe for three weeks made me want to get out of my city and experience more of Wales’ beauty. So me and my fellow interrailer hit the road and headed for the Brecon Beacons, a mountain range just outside of Cardiff in order to walk up Pen y Fan. Driving along, we were able to preview some of the incredible views – rolling mountains and fresh greenery stretching out in front of us broken up by gorgeous reservoirs tucked in amongst the hills. Upon arrival, we parked up, packed our bags with water and snacks (of course) and made our way over to the mountain in front of us.

Feeling confident and prepared, we began our ascent. However, as we made our way up, we began to doubt our hasty decision to start climbing up the first mountain we came across. We stopped, turned around, and saw on the opposite side of the road, Pen y Fan and a very easily accessible walkers path which ran in a massive circle around the mountain. Okay. Smooth. We trudged back down the random hill we had just climbed, shook ourselves off, pretended it didn’t happen, and started again. I honestly don’t know how we made it around Europe in one piece.

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Okay. This is going okay. I can do this. I puffed as the path began to spiral into a gentle slope up the mountain. Okay. Yeah. This is fine. I huffed as the gentle slope turned into a steep ascent. Okay. Maybe it’s time for a quick break. I stood and surveyed my surroundings, spotting the delicate reservoirs in the distance and the expanse of mountain range around me. Pretty impressive.

The path dipped down into a small lake and it was at this point where my ankle started to burn with the familiar pain of a blister. I took of my walking boot, shoved a couple plasters on it and picked up what I thought were the rements of the plaster packaging but was in fact sheep poo. Yep. I just picked up poop. Life can only get better. I dipped my fingers into the nearby water and shook myself off again. And then subsequently stepped into a muddy marsh, my boot oozed down with squelchy mud. Great. I am not a country girl, obviously.2014-09-09 16.20.42

My friend strode on ahead, leaving me lagging behind with burning thighs, streaming nose and dangerously close to passing out. I really should invest more in this whole exercise thing. I stopped again in order to get a few snaps of the landscape and to you know, learn to breathe normally again, and took in the world around me.  Simply breathtaking – being a city girl and being mid-way up a mountain with only fresh land, blue skies and rolling hills around me. I was basically alone by now, my friend was so far ahead she was just a small dot on the horizon. I tried to catch up, I honestly did but my legs are not equipped for that kind of strenuous exercise. And then a jogger ran past me, casually jogging like he hadn’t a care in the world, smiling at me and saying “hey”. Seriously?  Jogging? Up a mountain? No.

Limping on my blistered feet and breathing heavily, the summit was in sight. My friend sitting there all smug and happy and eating some snacks. I was nearly there! Too bad there was still a massive steep rocky ascent for me to get up.

It’s worth it once you get to the top! Passer-bys laughed as they leisurely walked past me as they made their way down. Shut up.

Finally, what felt like seven hours later, I made it to the summit. And it was amazing. You could see for miles, miles and miles of open land and fresh air, making the passer-bys right. It is definitely worth it. 2014-09-09 15.24.54 2014-09-09 16.04.56 2014-09-09 16.03.17

 

We ate our picnic, enjoying the view and appreciating Wales’ beauty. As we made our descent back down Pen y Fan, we realised that going down was definitely a lot more boring. As a guy bounded down the hill, running without a care in the world, jumping over rocks, flinging himself down the mountain and generally looking like he was having a damn good time, I was tempted to join in and get down faster but then I realised that I would almost definitely face plant the ground. So I didn’t.

I hit the bottom, sweaty, thirsty, red-faced, hobbling on blistered feet and with sheep poo rements on my hands but I still felt rather victorious. Never again though, mind.

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Pen y Fan and the Brecon Beacons are worth a visit, showcasing Wales’ best qualities – stunning panoramics, rolling mountains, fresh, green land and lots and lots of sheep. And sheep poop. Do not. Pick up. The poop.