The Cynghordy viaduct on the Heart of Wales line

The Cynghordy viaduct on the Heart of Wales line

Following on from being featured as one of Greentraveller.co.uk’s best rural places to visit near a train station, it was high-time to demonstrate how easy it is. While we only have 8 trains a day (and 4 on Sundays, which is why it’s so peaceful around here) it’s possible, with a bit of planning, to have a fab rural holiday without a car. Cynghordy station is just a short walk from the front door.

So here are five days out to get you started:

Sight seeing and shopping in Llandeilo
The magnificent Dinefwr Castle with its amazing views, along with Newton House and the Deer Park, all managed by the National Trust is a 1.5 mile walk (30 mins) from Llandeilo station. The second half of that walk is through the beautiful deer park and takes in some of the loveliest countryside in the area. The NT cafe at Newton House is very good but then if you walked back down into the centre of Llandeilo you would find lots of good places to eat, along with lots of little boutique shops for poking around in. And you’d still have time for a quick early supper before getting the last train back to Cynghordy.
Journey time 30 mins each way. Time between trains: 2 or 7 hours.
Depart 11:20. Return 19:16
If you just fancy a putter around the town for a couple of hours, then get the 14:15 home.

A shopping and lunch stop in Llandovery
We are just 10 mins away from our nearest town where you’ll find lots of little independent shops including a fab greengrocers & healthfood store called Iecyd Da (their facebook page), a butchers, a wonderful delicatessen and a large co-op on the outskirts. There are lots of great pubs and cafes – The Castle and The Old Printing Office are two of our favourites. There is also a ruined castle and a really nice kid’s playground next to it.
Journey time 10 mins each way. Time between trains: 3 hours.
Departing train 11:20 Return train 14:35
OR shopping and an early supper:
Departing train 16:26 Return train 19:38

A walk in the woods nr Sugar Loaf
Right opposite the station at Sugar Loaf Halt, just 9 mins from Cynghordy, is Esgair Dafydd, a vast expanse of open forestry land with hill climbs and many trails to discover on foot or bike. You’ll have 5 hours in which to explore the many trails. If you’re feeling intrepid, climb to the top of Garn Wen (510 metres above sea level) and take a fab view of 3 counties. Go on a nice day or wear proper outdoor clothing – and take a picnic. (If the weather turns, you’re close enough for us to rescue you by car – if you can find a mobile signal!) It is possible to walk to Sugar Loaf Mountain but does entail walking a half a mile section along a very busy road, you would actually be safer doing that by bike.
Journey time 9 mins each way. Time between trains: 5 hours.
Depart 10:45 Return 16:19 (Alternatively, if you want a bit of a shorter treck and can get back to Sugar Loaf Halt by 14:55, you can go on to the next stop at Llanwrtyd for a swift half before catching the 16:10 home again.)
Or if you want to take advantage of Summer evenings:
Depart 14:46 Return 20:16

Pop to the ‘corner shop’ in Llanwrtyd Wells
If you just need a pint of milk and a breath of fresh air, a relatively quick return trip to the UK’s smallest town might be just the thing. You’ll find all the basics at the Spar and have a chance to admire the pretty town and river before catching the return train.
Journey time 14 mins each way. Time between trains: 1 hr + 10 mins.
Depart 14:46 Return16:10

A visit to Llandrindod Wells
Locally known as ‘Llandod’, this pretty little Victorian spa town is a popular day out for locals and tourists alike. A vist to the Rock Park and a walk around the boating lake are a must. There is a cafe by the lake, but our favourite is near the station – the Herb Garden Cafe which at our last visit still sourced great local food and catered for all kinds of dietary requirements. And there is a Co-op, Tesco and an Aldi all very close to the station so good for a stock-up shop on the way home.
Journey time 45-50 mins. Time between trains: 4 or 8 hours.
Depart 10:45 Return 15:35 or 19:31
Or
Depart 14:46 Return 19:31

There are lots more trips you can do including having a grand day out as far afield as Swansea Bay or the medieval town of Shrewsbury. Have a look at the Heart of Wales timetable for more ideas and we are always happy to help you work the timings out.

NB: The above times are not applicable for Sundays. I’m still working on those.

Delighted to find out that the award-winning travel guide, greentraveller.co.uk, have featured us as one of their ten great places to stay near train stations. Lots of people can’t quite believe that you can have a rural holiday in Wales and use public transport and yet – here we are – on the beautiful Heart of Wales line. (And we even have a shopping trolley for you to borrow that you can bump up the track to Cynghordy station when you want to stock up on groceries. It’s decorated in a trendy cow-hide print – so we call it ‘The Moo’. Original I know.)

Photo: Michael Whiteside

Winter Sunset in Cynghordy

News travels fast here in the Brân and Tywi Valleys – which doesn’t necessarily mean it gets passed on accurately. The joke goes that if you tell your neighbour in Rhandir-Mwyn that you’ve got a cold, two hours later you’ll get a call from a friend in Llandeilo who’s heard you’re dying of flu. There’s truth in the joke; towns and villages are strung like beads on a necklace alongside the wild Tywi river, but vital gossip and chat help bridge the gaps and hold the community together.

Our village of Cynghordy sits on a tributary of the Tywi known as the Brân. That’s Welsh for “crow” or “raven” and Wikipedia thinks that’s a reference to the dark colour of the water.  Anybody who’s come here for a birdwatching holiday would disagree: there are plenty of corvids to be seen in the valley. Welsh legend even has a character called Brân, a giant king famous for (among other things) owning a magic cauldron and turning his body into a bridge to help his warriors cross a river. Apparently after being mortally wounded in battle, Brân asked his soldiers to cut off his head – the disembodied head then continued to talk and was such entertaining company that eighty years passed without anybody noticing!

It’s been heartening to have had such a warm welcome to this valley. Maybe some of the goodwill is because we’ve embarked on trying to learn Welsh, although there is a long way to go before I’m fluent. Neighbours help me practice when I bump into them, though the proper chatting still has to happen in English! Best of all is the culture of sharing, which helps to build a sense of community and reciprocity. Our best swap so far was getting rid of a piece of farm machinery and getting a big load of well rotted cow manure in return. My neighbour was able to fix his harrower and I grew big fat squashes in my greenhouse.

Guests who’ve had a cottage holiday here often talk about the peace and quiet, the birds, the beautiful scenery. But I worry that they never really manage to scratch the surface of how lovely this place is. They might get an inkling when the guard kindly holds the train for a moment or two while they sprint up the platform. To truly put down roots, you also need to be part of the community, sharing news and swapping eggs for jam (or manure for farm machinery). When a friend in Llandeilo rings to ask how your pneumonia is progressing, that’s when you know this is your home.

A couple of the neighbours

There’s an old joke about a primary school teacher arriving at a rural school from the city and endeavouring to bond with her class. Paying heed to the adage ‘start with what they know’, she pinned a picture of a sheep up on the wall and asked, “Can anyone tell me what this is?”.

For a while there was a sort of whispering and conferring but none of the children actually said anything.

“Come on!” said the teacher, “Surely you must know?”

One of the kids shyly raised their hand and said, “Well, we’re not sure Miss, but we think is it’s a Texel/Blackface cross but there’s probably quite of bit of Cheviot in there too.”

Most of the sheep around us are Badger Face Welsh Mountain, an ancient and sturdy breed that copes well with rough pasture and tough upland conditions. We occasionally get them wandering in – they are always on the look out for tastier grub. And around Easter, having the lambs so close is a real joy.

However it was at Christmas, our first Christmas Eve here in fact, that a white-face ewe ambled her way into our garden. The first job was to shoo her into the paddock, where she would have shelter and could earn her keep by keeping the grass down. The second job was to work out where on earth she had come from. We rang round the village however the neighbours didn’t have any idea but they found the whole thing very amusing.

The ewe passed a contented Christmas munching the grass in our paddock. On Boxing Day, the mystery was solved when a landrover hoved into view and a chap emerged, swiftly caught the ewe and deposited her into the back of the vehicle. Turned out she’d wandered 10 miles away from home and came from a farm on the other side of Llandovery. How did she get here? Wander through the town in the midst of last-minute Christmas shoppers? Catch a bus? Or simply hitch a ride on Santa’s sleigh?

City-dwellers might be wondering how the owner found out about our unexpected visitor. But when you’ve lived here for a while, you get used to news travelling very fast along the valley.

mixture of fruit in a pan including plums and blackberriesOne of the perks of living in the countryside: space to grow your own fruit.  This autumn we picked about six kilos of homegrown plums, damsons, blackberries and strawberries. As summer faded into autumn, I made a batch of “hedgerow jelly”. Spooning the boiling jam into jars always feels like bottling a little piece of summer to store for the dark days ahead.

Now that the dark days are definitely here, it’s time to open a jar and enjoy it. Chutneys, jams and jellies are just made for midwinter feasting. A very happy Winter Solstice to everybody who’s celebrating it today.

cover of magazine with Christmas puddingThe latest issue of Welsh Country magazine  has a short feature about Seren Loft. They were interested in the fact that we have an artist’s studio on site, complete with easels, large sink and canvases. The magazine will be available until the end of December, or you can read the piece online (scroll down to read) .

Lofft y Seren

Enjoy a quiet retreat in beautiful Llofft y Seren (or ‘Star Loft’ in Welsh). This charming one-bedroomed holiday cottage is a barn conversion with an artist’s studio, has views of upland pasture, and is in walking distance of Cynghordy Railway Station on the sleepy Heart of Wales line.  Nestled between the Brecon Beacons and the Cambrian Mountains – this is a gorgeous location for walking, nature trails, cycling and fishing as well as being an excellent base for visiting the many tourist attractions in this part of West Wales. You can find out more about this beautiful place in Explore the Area.

We are offer a free welcome hamper to our guests.

We are welcoming to all, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender guests.

Explore wonderful cycle trails around Crychan Forest

The combination of stunning scenery and good transport links makes Seren Loft the perfect place for your next cycling holiday. The Tour of Britain came past on its way to Caerphilly, and European cycling champion Matthew Page trains in the area, so you’ll be in good company – but it’s also perfect for more leisurely rides in some of the most beautiful countryside you’ll ever see.

Discount for cyclists

We’re currently offering a 10% discount on next year’s bookings for paid-up members of local cycling groups. So far we’ve only offered the discount to groups we’ve heard about, within reasonable travelling distance of West Wales. To tell us about a cycling group we haven’t contacted yet, please get in touch.

Getting here

We’re just 400 yards away from Cynghordy station, which is on the bike-friendly, scenic Heart of Wales line. Bringing your bike on the train shouldn’t be a problem (although it is a good idea to double-check at busy times). If there are lots of bikes, sometimes the train manager will even help to put them in order of destination, to make it easier for you when you’re getting off.

The fastest trains will get you here from Cardiff in 2hrs 44mins, from Oxford in just over 5 hours and from Birmingham in just under 4 hours.

Bike storage

There’s a lockable storage area just below the cottage with room to comfortably store four adult bikes (six at a push).

Cycling routes

The stunning views of Crychan Forest are about a mile and a half from our front door. Maps are available for seven different cycling trails of varying lengths. The trails are well signposted and most of them link up with each other if you feel like a longer ride. The forest is tucked between the Brecon Beacons and the Cambrian Mountains and the views of the surrounding mountains are breathtaking.

Cycle hire

Not bringing your own bike? You can pre-book a bike from Towy Valley Cycles and get it delivered to Seren Loft in time for your arrival. (Children’s bikes and various sizes of adult bike are available, including one adult bike suitable for heights of around 5ft.) Ring 07576 431960 or email towyvalleycycles@yahoo.com.

Local cycling museum

Check out Penny Farthings, Boneshakers and other historical bikes at the National Cycle Collection, a museum based in Llandridnod Wells (a few train stops away). It’s a must-see if you’re into your cycling history – where else will you get to see an oil-fuelled bike lamp alongside memorabilia from the 1948 Olympic Games?

Tips

The cycle track near the station can be bumpy, so you might want to dismount for 100 yards or so – unless of course you’ve got a mountain bike that’s up to the challenge!

We are always happy to offer lifts if it makes your stay at Seren Loft easier.

Any questions about booking a cycling holiday here? Just email enquiries@serenloft.co.uk.

Llofft y Seren

We’re offering a 10% discount to people who attend the Oxford Geek Nights, have spoken at a Geek Night or are signed up to the Geek Nights mailing list. Just use the code OXGEEKS13 when you book.

Why should Oxford Geeks go to Seren Loft?

You can reach us without a car.  Yes, you read that right. This holiday cottage is set in beautiful Welsh countryside, but it’s also just a few minutes’ walk from a train station. You can do Oxford to Cynghordy station in just over five hours. (There will be gorgeous scenery for the last 90 minutes or so.)

It’s a perfect space for creative work. Need to get away and work on a project? Whether it’s coding, design or a tricky UX problem, here you can tackle it in guaranteed peace and quiet. And yes, we have free wi-fi.

dipper

One of the locals – a dipper by the River Bran, Cynghordy

It’s great for wildlife photography. You can see plenty of wildlife without even stirring from the cottage. Here’s our list of what we’ve seen so far. Or head to Crychan Forest, about a mile and a half way, for views of the Brecon Beacons and Cambrian Mountains.

It’s great for other outdoorsy activities. Cycle through Crychan Forest, go fishing in the Usk reservoir, try wild swimming (at your own risk, of course) or simply enjoy a walk.

There are cool things to see. Like the only known Roman gold mines in the whole of Britain, or the quirky National Cycle Collection, or one of the 12th-century castles in the Tywi Valley. Check out our Explore the Area page for more details.

The cottage sleeps three adults maximum (with room for a cot as well) so it’s not a place for group coding retreats. But it’s just the right size for one, two or three adults to enjoy a holiday.

Ready to book?

You can book either by filling in the webform on the booking page or emailing enquiries@serenloft.co.uk. To get the 10% discount, use the code OXGEEKS13 either in your email or in the “Anything else you need to ask/tell us?” section of the webform. Then we will be in touch about payment.

If you want to pay by credit card, you can use the online booking system on our Holiday Lettings page to pay a deposit. We’ll sort out the discount code later and the balance will be due 4 weeks before your holiday starts.

Any questions about booking a holiday here? Just email enquiries@serenloft.co.uk. We are welcoming to all, including LGBTQ guests.

The Cynghordy viaduct on the Heart of Wales line

It’s not often you find a holiday cottage near a station in such a rural location. Llofft y Seren is less than 5 minutes walk from Cynghordy station on the Heart of Wales line. The line is known as one of the loveliest in the UK, travelling through beautiful scenery and connects with the railway network at Swansea, Llanelli, Craven Arms and Shrewsbury.

This location enjoys all the benefits of being connected to the rail network, but none of the disadvantages – there are only eight trains at day so you get to enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside.

Llofft y Seren is stocked with lots of little extras from bath soak and laundry liquid to a free welcome hamper, so that guests can travel light and not have to worry about handling shopping bags as well as luggage. All you have to do is pack your bag, catch a train away from the noise of the city and when you step on to the platform at Cynghordy, you’ll be welcomed by the sight sheep grazing in the fields, the sounds of birds in the trees and perhaps catch a glimpse of Red Kites soaring overhead.

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