I have a tee shirt with the inscription “Up a mountain, down a beer” which, for me, describes a perfect day out but there are variations.
Emma and Neil, who stayed in our Sugar Loaf cottage in early autumn, downed a Welsh whisky before going up the highest mountain in South Wales. While on another day they went up a mountain before downing a particularly excellent cider.
And in between there was time for Emma to have a relaxing shiatsu.
Let’s start with the whisky because on a wet day in Wales it is a great option to take a distillery tour. Yes they do make whisky in Wales!
There are a variety of options at Penderyn, where you’ll learn about the process that makes this award-winning tipple. You’ll see the mill, mash tun, copper pot stills before ending up in the tasting bar. They also make the excellent Brecon Gin. Down a whisky, down a gin, climb a mountain.
If you want to make a day of it you are not far from the village of Ystradfellte where you can link up with the Four Waterfalls Walk on the Afon (River) Mellte. Alternatively, you can start at Pontneddfechan. north of Neath, on one of the most popular walks on the western side of the Brecon Beacons and see even more waterfalls.
There’s one that’s like an old Tarzan movie where you can walk behind the tumbling veil of cascading water.
It was actually too wet even for Emma and Neil when they visited to venture out but the next day they made up for it by climbing Pen-y-Fan.
Most people will tackle the highest mountain in South Wales from Storey Arms or from the car park just below it. These are the popular tourist routes which are very well marked but often crowded with fellow walkers, so I recommended a less used route from the Brecon side of the mountain, Cefn Cwm Llwch.
It is a steep but clear climb and you will have the ridge pretty much to yourself until you do the short scramble over rocks to emerge onto the top and discover a ridiculously large number of people already there.
The summit is 886m and the views are stunning if there is visibility. Please bear in mind it is a proper mountain and you need to respect it by checking weather conditions and having the right clothes, boots, and equipment. There’s a reason the army train across the Brecon Beacons. It can be harsh but if you are prepared and choose the right day then it is a magical landscape.
I had recommended they cut across to the next mountain, Cribyn, and descend down that ridge back to the car park but they decided to retrace their steps and got down tired but safe and with that sense of satisfaction when you reach a challenging summit.
The next day they went to watch the new James Bond movie in Cwmbran and then Emma had a shiatsu session with host John who is a fellow of the Shiatsu Society having qualified last century!
In simple terms its acupuncture with predominately finger and thumb touch instead of needles. What does it do? Ask Emma:
“John’s Shiatsu session was just what I needed. Having had a stressful year I needed to decompress and relax my thoughts. John was able to refocus me back to what was important and release some energy blocks. I hadn’t felt so relaxed in a very long time. I felt as light as a feather and the internal thunder clouds had gone.”
On their last full day I joined them on a walk up the Sugar Loaf but first we visited the magnificent LLanthony Priory for lunch. It is a wonderous spot which I highly recommend for a visit. The little cellar bar does a reasonable menu and they sell my favourite draught cider, Robinson’s. There is something special sitting in the ruins, eating a good lunch washed down by a pint and overlooked on both sides by the steep sides of two of the Black Mountains. Offa’s Dyke runs along the top of the most easternly with England on the other side.
The last time Emma and Neil visited they stayed in the Skirrid and climbed the mountain of the same name. This time they were in the Sugar Loaf so, of course, they climbed the Sugar Loaf. I took them up the less popular route from the Forest Coal Pits car park. There’s a great bit of moor you cross before the final ascent with three ponds which my dog Smudge loved. There are plenty of skylarks and the occasional grouse to spot while a red kite flew overhead.
We finished off with supper at the Hunter’s Moon in Llangattock Lingoed. The Friday night crowd were in and there was a lively and very welcoming atmosphere as we downed more pints of Robinson’s cider and ate a very hearty meal.
It was the end to a perfect day. Up a mountain, down a cider.
There’s talk of a return visit with them staying in the Blorenge and walking up the mountain of the same name. It has a fascinating industrial history.
I have a very special pub to introduce them to afterwards – it‘s called the Goose and Cuckoo, above Llanover, but that is for another blog……
There’s Welsh whisky in the jar oh for Neil on his tour of the Pendeyrn distillery
The waterfall walks in the western Brecon Beacons
Walk behind a waterfall just like Tarzan and Jane
On top of Pen-y-fan, the highest mountain in South Wales
Llanthony Priory is a hidden away gem with a cellar bar
Here’s to you Mr Robinson, we love your cider more than you can know
Emma and Neil make it to the top of the Sugar Loaf. Just the Blorenge to go!