REAL PEOPLE PROVIDING REAL HELP IN REAL TIME: Home At First helps all its travelers complete the steps necessary to officially enter, efficiently move about, and properly return home from their international destinations. If conditions change during your travels, our support staff remains on-call to answer your questions & provide any assistance needed.




  • NW Wales: Conwy Castle with old and new road bridges. Photo copyright Home At First.
    13th century Conwy Castle — a World Heritage Site on the North Wales coast — viewed from between its two road bridges, including the architecturally matching Thomas Telford bridge.


Discover Wales, Britain’s Best-Kept Secret

Much more than superb scenery, hearty food, and legendary castles.
          Probably the most overlooked British travel destination, Wales offers some of the best food in the U.K. as well as its own distinct music, art, history, and language. Rarely noted is the superb variety of unspoiled scenery of Wales, including three distinct regions worthy of national park status, the highest mountains south of Scotland, and cozy, undiscovered villages.
          Wales is wedged between England and the sea. A Celtic nation, Wales became a bastion of ancient Britons who retreated into the rugged, mystical mountains and vales of the Welsh landscape to defend against invasions of Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Normans. Because of this history many Welsh are both nationalistic and culturally separatist. 
          Today the Welsh variety of Gaelic is alive and growing while most other Gaelic languages are disappearing. Welsh cuisine, custom, religion, music, and mentality all can be said to be more than just dialectical versions of their English, Scottish and Irish relatives, and each is maintained with the prideful caring due national treasures.

Wales may be Britain’s best-kept secret. Wales welcomes discovery, and your independent exploration is the key.

Home At First’s WALES, BRITAIN’S BEST-KEPT SECRET Travel Program in a Nutshell:

Full-Package Destination: 

Includes trans-atlantic flights, cottage or apartment lodgings, & rental car.
Ground-only & Lodging-only options available.
Combinable with Home At First destinations
throughout Britain, Ireland, Continental Europe, Iceland,
and Scandinavia.

Itinerary Character:

1-Week in

Explore Wales independently by rental car from your own vacation cottage or apartment. Discover Britain’s Best-Kept Secret in your own traditional village or town and by touring the regional countryside. 

Lodging Types:

Weekly Cottage & Apartment Rentals

Choose Locations in two regions of Wales: Mid-Wales and in Northwest Wales (Snowdonia). Lodgings are in/near traditional towns & villages near restaurants, shops, & services.

On-Site Costs:
Food & Activities


Living high or modestly is very possible throughout Wales. The best way to stick to a limited budget is to use your cottage’s well-equipped kitchen to prepare some meals.

Overall Trip Costs: 


Excellent Value, thanks to Home At First’s
low Full-Package prices.

with many Home At First Continental,
Scandinavian & UK destinations.

Language Spoken Everywhere:


Expect English from everyone. However, expect to hear Welsh in some of the regions you visit, perhaps especially in rural NW Wales.

Non-Stop Flight Length from North America

6.5+ hrs from East Coast
9+ hrs from West Coast

North American flights arrive at London (LHR) & Manchester (MAN). Driving from LHR to Mid-Wales requires about 3hrs. Driving from MAN to NW Wales: 2.25hrs.

Family Friendly?


Kids love the activities, the castles, the animals, and the little trains, but may not like a steady diet of  museums, galleries, and historical sites. Happily, it’s possible to do many different things every day including numerous adventure parks.

Foodie Friendly?


Traditional Welsh food is farm fresh or catch of the day. Welsh restaurants come in all flavors: French, Italian, Asian, West Indian, Chinese, Japanese, American, as well as English favorites: tea, fish & chips, scones, cakes, and meat pies.

Very Walkable

The Welsh network of walking & hiking paths is extensive, with walks of all lengths and challenge, including some of Britain’s most difficult climbs. Books, maps, and apps are available for planning your walks and taking with you on the trails.


Touring scenic Wales.
Strolling through villages and along canal towpaths.
Hiking National Parks.
Exploring castles.
Golf: parkland & links.
Museums and galleries.
Riding steam railways — there are 12 or more!
Going to the beach. 
Shopping & Eating!

The Best Times to Go:

April, through October, and at Christmas. Wales is at its busiest at festival times and during the peak visitor months of July & August when the best-known villages & tourist attractions draw crowds especially on weekends. A cozy Christmas in a Welsh cottage is unforgettable!


Discovering Wales, Britain’s Best-Kept Secret — Independent Travel with Quality Vacation Apartments.

First — Request a Free Trip Proposal

Contact Home At First. Tell us about your travel dream of discovering Wales, Britain’s Best-Kept Secret. We will tell you about getting there, where we stay (you’ll love our authentic Welsh cottages & locations!), and how best to get around (by rental car, and occasionally by riding great little trains, and by walking in the striking landscape).

— Tell us how many people will be with you, and their ages.
— Tell us when you would like to travel, and for how long.
— Tell us if you would like to combine a visit to Wales with a visit to another part of Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland, or to any Home At First destination in Continental Europe (Paris Italy, or Switzerland), Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden), or even to Iceland.
— Ask for a Free Trip Proposal with Cost Estimate.


Car touring is the best way to explore Wales, Britain's best-kept secret. Photo Cymru Wales - Crown Copyright.

Car touring is the best way to DISCOVER Wales, Britain’s best-kept secret.

Second — We Design Your Dream Trip for You

We prepare a proposed itinerary & cost estimate with all the lodgings & transportation you need to discover Wales, Britain’s Best-Kept Secret, independently using a quality vacation cottage. We send our individualized itinerary proposal to you via email and/or postal mail.
 You review our proposal; accept it, reject it, or revise it until we have it just right for you. It is, after all, your dream trip, to be done the way you wish.
 Once accepted, we request an initial payment by check along with your signed acceptance.
We begin putting your plans in place, securing your LODGINGS, FLIGHT RESERVATIONS & TICKETS, RENTAL CAR VOUCHERS and/or any TRAIN TICKETS required. Most Home At First Wales: Britain’s Best-Kept Secret guests arrive by air at London’s Heathrow or Gatwick Airports; many others come from elsewhere in the British Isles or from locations in Europe by air.
 Payment in full is due 90 days prior to departure, or when you are ready to lock in your included airfares, whichever comes first.

Third — Departure Day Finally Arrives

All travel documents for your trip — including our exclusive “Wales Activity Guide” — will be sent to you by 30 days prior to your trip departure date.
You follow our driving directions for your transfer from your arrival point to your Welsh cottage, where you will be met at a pre-set time by your lodging’s host, who will show you the cottage, explain its workings, see to your comfort, and let you get some rest.
Have a nap. If you have not already done so, get some groceries for your kitchen. Make supper or go out for a meal. The fun begins now as you begin to discover Wales, Britain’s best-kept secret independently from your authentic Welsh cottage home.

NW Wales: Conwy — The Smallest House in Britain. Photo copyright Home At First.


Where to find Wales, Britain’s Best-Kept Secret



Quality Lodgings: Finding Britain’s best-kept secret begins with a choice of cottages and townhouse apartments in two rural regions of Wales: Mid-Wales & Northwest Wales. All lodging locations are near shops, restaurants, cafés, and other services. All lodgings come with hosts on-site or on-call during your stay for questions, suggestions, problems, or emergencies.
-trip Flights: Our airline experts plan your round-trip flights to Britain from your home airport. Full-package prices include round-trip fares based on flights from New York (JFK) or Newark (EWR) to London (LHR or LGW) or to Manchester (MAN). Flights from/to all other airports available for fare supplements or reductions.
Car Rental (for rural destinations): Quality rental cars right for the size of your party. Pick-up your car at your arrival airport and drive to your Welsh cottage. Return the car to the same airport one week later prior to flight departure from Britain. Arrivals to airports other than London or Manchester or at Irish Sea ferry ports (Holyhead or Fishguard in Wales; Liverpool in England) can have rental cars arranged, usually for a supplemental price. Picking-up a rental car at one location and dropping at a different location usually incurs a supplemental fee.

NW Wales: Dolbadarn Castle, Llanberis Pass, & Mt. Snowdon. Photo © Hawlfraint y Goron / © Crown copyright (2019) Cymru Wales.


• Our ‘Wales Activity Guide’ Keyed for Your Welsh Destination: Includes suggestions for touring, walking, restaurants, pubs, shopping, museums, galleries, castles & prehistoric sites, train excursions, golf, day-trips throughout your Welsh home region and beyond, and much more.
Extend Your Vacation Options: Add a week (or more) at your current Welsh lodging, or try a different Welsh region. Drive to other parts of  Britain to experience any of our many locations in England (including London),  and/or Scotland. Take the passenger ferry or fly across the Irish Sea to experience Home At First‘s Ireland. Longer flights bring you to Home At First locations in Europe: Paris, Italy, Switzerland, or Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden). Or, add a convenient stopover visit to Iceland on your way to/from Wales. Home At First will handle all the arrangements: transportation between destinations, lodging at your extension destinations, and appropriate ground transportation at all your destinations. All Home At First destinations come with English-speaking hosting, and you receive a guidebook keyed for exploring each of your destinations.






Mid-Wales: Hay-on-Wye bookshops. Photo copyright Home At First.






  Home At First‘s Mid-Wales cottages are in the midst of superb scenery between the mountains of Brecon Beacons National Park and the English border. Nearby is scenic wilderness inviting discovery on foot, on horseback, or by car. Search for King Arthur and Merlin here. Cross the border into England to visit Shakespeare country and the Cotswolds  easy days away. Another secret: the Welsh may be the friendliest people in Britain.

  Home At First’s Mid-Wales cottages are within the Brecon Beacons National Park, in the midst of superb scenery to the north and the south of the Black Mountains, in & near the town of Hay-on-Wye (to the north, on the Wye River & the English border) and Crickhowell (to the south in the Usk River valley between the sizeable town Abergavenny and regional center of Brecon). The nearby Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons National Park are scenic Welsh wilderness playgrounds ideal for exploration on foot, on horseback or by car.

  Welsh cakes, Cardiff (the Welsh capital city),  quirky, nostalgic steam passenger trains, medieval castles, splendid mountains, valleys full of fairies & witches, prehistoric monuments, Dylan Thomas‘s simply poetic boatshed cabin, open-air markets full of Welsh crafts, coal tipples & iron works from the early industrial age, coastal resorts well-known & anonymous, ancient Celtic traditions, golf at classic seaside links & challenging parkland courses, and the mysteries of King Arthur  & Merlin all draw you to Wales. On the English side of the border Bath, Stratford-on-Avon, the Cotswolds, and Ironbridge, Shropshire, all are within reach as day trips.

Mid-Wales: Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal. Photo copyright Home At First.


 There is much more to do in Mid-Wales:
 Trace family roots, especially if your family name is Davies, Williams, Jones, Lewis, or Morgan. 
Attend a rugby match or football (soccer) game.
Mountainbike on dedicated, bike routes.
 Explore dozens of castles. especially Caerphilly, biggest in Wales.
Shop for woolens, specialty foods, & crafts.
Walk a portion of the towpath along the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal. Stop at a canal-side pub for lunch.
Visit open-air markets in local towns.
Enjoy traditional Welsh music in a local pub, festival, church, or concert hall.
Attend food festivals, music festivals, the Hay Festival, or regional eisteddfods.




conwy & gwynedd counties

NW Wales: Betwys y Coed railway station plaza. Photo copyright Home At First.


northwest WALES 



  Home At First‘s Northwest Wales cottages are in or near Snowdonia National Park, where Britain’s highest mountains south of Scotland rise sharply from the sea. Snowdonia’s folded landscape offers rugged hiking, expansive beaches, great little steam trains, challenging seaside golf courses, impregnable medieval castles, and friendly villages with unpronounceable names.

  Home At First’s cottages in Northwest Wales are in the midst of superb scenery and ancient history, in & near the ruggedly handsome town of Betws-y-Coed, at the northern edge of Snowdonia National Park, a scenic wilderness ideal for exploration on foot, on a mountainbike, on horseback, or by car. Our cottages have all the comforts of home, and are perfectly located as bases for day trips into the national park, and throughout northern & northwestern Wales.

  Home At First’s Northwestern Wales cottages are surrounded by the superb scenery of Snowdonia National Park, a scenic Welsh wilderness with Britain’s highest mountains south of Scotland, topped by Mt. Snowdon at 1085m (3,560′) above sea level. The northwestern corner of Wales rises sharply from the sea. Its folded landscape is home to great mountains with great hiking, expansive beaches, challenging inland and seaside golf courses, impregnable medieval castles, and friendly villages with unpronounceable names.

Ffestiniog Steam Train departing Porthmadog for Blaenau Ffestiniog. Photo copyright Home At First.


  The “great little trains of Wales” reach into the heights of Snowdonia, into the misty vales of legend and myth, into tortured landscapes of slate and coal. Little trains aren’t the only big surprises in Britain’s smallest country — Wales is proof that good things come in little packages. 

  Northwestern Wales has had a long and often contentious history with invaders from the east and from the sea. The Welsh and the English built great fortified castles here. Eventually, the English monarchy honored the Welsh by naming their crown heirs Princes of Wales. Four great 13th century English castles at Caernarfon, Conwy, Beaumaris, and Harlech stand today along the coastal perimeter of northwest Wales have been designated a combined World Heritage Site.

  The coast of North & Northwest Wales offers a lot more than world-class castles. Nearly every coastal community features a beach or some seaside activities: surfing, sailing, diving, fishing, and links golf. Britons still flock to traditional Victorian North Wales cold-water sea resorts at Llandudno, Rhos-on-Sea, Colwyn Bay, and Rhyl as well as to campgrounds and that curious British institution of “holiday camps” that are scattered along the Northwest Wales coast south of Caernarfon. Numerous golf courses occupy prime links land along the coasts of Conwy and Gwynedd. The best of these — including Royal St. David’s in Harlech, Nefyn & District G.C. on the Llyn Peninsula, and Maesdu G.C. between Conwy & Llandudno — rank among the best courses in Wales.

Quality Welsh Lodgings: Home Bases for Finding Wales, Britain’s Best-Kept Secret.

Minimum lodging time is 7 nights for rural destinations. Weekly occupancy period typically begins Friday or Saturday.

  Pictured above is Crows Nest Cottage, a classic 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom Home At First Welsh cottage in Clyro village 2-minutes drive from the town of Hay-on-Wye in Mid-Wales on the English border. The village shop and pub/restaurant are 1-2 minutes walk from the cottage. Full details in the next section.

Home At First’s Welsh cottages and apartments range in size — from studios to 4-bedrooms — sleeping anywhere from 1 person to 8 persons. Lodgings vary in location from rural towns and villages to farm country settings. All of our Welsh lodgings meet high standards for cleanliness and are comfortable, interesting, safe, well-equipped, convenient bases for exploring their locale or region. Rural lodgings come with hosts on-site or close-by, who meet you when you arrive and are available throughout your stay. Most rural lodgings have usable outdoor space — balconies, patios, or terraces — ideal for snacking, light meals, or relaxing during fine weather.

Care & Cleanliness: Cottages & apartments are thoroughly cleaned prior to your arrival, but are not maid-serviced during your stay.

Nearly all lodgings are equipped with laundry machines. Accommodations are non-smoking. Most do not permit pets. Basic starter kitchen and bathroom supplies are provided.

Well-Equipped: As with lodgings at any Home At First destination, our Welsh cottages and apartments have, as a minimum, bedrooms, private bathrooms, living and dining areas/rooms, and well-equipped kitchens. Some multiple-bedroom accommodations come with multiple bathrooms, often en suite with the bedrooms. Some few studio apartments or smaller cottages have open-plan living-dining-sleeping space and/or kitchenettes without ovens. Bed and bath linens and a hair-dryer are provided. Flat-screen cable TVs and free internet WiFi are almost universal.

Sample Wales Lodgings & Locations

  Shown and described below is a selection of popular Home At First lodgings at three varied locations in Wales. They are shown here as representative examples of different sizes and capacities of lodgings we provide our guests. While the full range of our available Welsh lodgings and locations to choose from is extensive, the standard of accommodations quality and personalized hosting is the same regardless of apartment or location. Any of these authentic Welsh cottage apartments makes an ideal base from which to find Wales, Britain’s best-kept secret.

NOTE — FOR BEST VIEWING: each of the following apartment descriptions begins with a slide show. These slide shows do not advance automatically. You can move from slide to slide (forward or reverse) by clicking on the direction arrows below each slide. To see any slide in large format on a PC, “right click” on the selected slide and click on the “Open image in new tab” (Chrome) or “View Background Image” (Firefox). 



  • Clyro by Hay-on-Wye: Crows Nest Cottage's family triple bedroom. Photo copyright Home At First.
    Crows Nest Cottage sleeps up to 5 persons in a triple bedroom and a twin bedroom. This is the family triple bedroom.


In the village of Clyro, 3 minutes drive to Hay-on-Wye.

CROWS NEST COTTAGE: Home At First‘s Crows Nest Cottage is a two-bedroom, two-story cottage that sleeps up to 5 persons comfortably in traditional Welsh country style. The ground floor has a mud room by the entrance for boots and packs. A large refrigerator/freezer is set in the pantry between the small, well-equipped kitchen and the spacious livingroom/dining room, which has an operating fireplace and a flat-screen TV. 
       Upstairs are two bedrooms — one with a double bedroom and a single bed, and one with twin beds. Along the hall between the bedrooms is the bathroom  with a tub/shower.
       Private parking for one guest car is by the cottage. The owner/hosts live next door in their large, historic home. They take an active interest in their guests and are happy to talk about their region of Wales and make recommendations for activities, restaurants, day-trips, and shopping. 

THE VILLAGE OF CLYRO: Clyro — population under 800 persons — is small enough to seem  another sleepy Welsh place where nothing happens, and nothing ever has happened. But the village of Clyro has some surprises in store for visitors. 
       At first glance Clyro has late-medieval origins, based on the first historic mention of the parish church, St. Michael and All Angels, around which the village is circles. But Clyro once had its own castle (built in the 12 century?), and 1,000 years earlier its own Roman fort. 
       But it is the village church, the aforementioned St. Michaels, that has earned Clyro fame and notoriety far greater than its size would normally warrant. In the 1700s Clyro was visited several times by Methodism founder John Wesley, whose sermons there helped introduce the Nonconformist faith to Wales, spearheading a major religious & cultural movement in the country, one that still resonates today. A century later Francis Kilvert, the Anglican curate of St. Michaels, began writing diaries detailing rural life in Victorian Wales and England. Published just prior to World War II, Selections from the Diary of Rev. Francis Kilvert, became a popular wartime read for a populace nostalgic for simpler times. Kilvert’s subsequent popularity resulted in the region of eastern Mid-Wales and western Hereford often being referred to as “Kilvert Country”.
       Located a minute’s walk from the church, Home At First‘s Crows Nest Cottage bore witness to Wesley’s visits and Kilvert’s tenure. The property is walled and the house is built of stone with four prominent chimneys. Formerly the village vicarage (but not Kilvert’s residence) the cottage gets its name from the several large crows nests that occupy the treetops along the back of the property. Outside the cottage door you will likely hear crows cawing, but rarely the sound of automobiles. 

THE COTTAGE’S SETTING:  Set near the village center, its setting is quiet, open and nearly traffic-free, as the Clyro is 200 yards removed from the A438 main trunk road which connects the Brecon Beacons with the M6 motorway near Tewksbury, England, on the western edge of the Cotswolds. Clyro has a small village shop and post office, and a classic pub/restaurant at the historic Baskerville Arms Hotel. Clyro is 1½ miles (3min drive) from Hay-on-Wye, the important Mid-Wales market town on the English border. Hay offers shops, a supermarket, several pubs and restaurant, a medieval castle ruin, and more than twenty bookshops — most selling used books — the feature that gives the town international fame and draws tens of thousands each May/June to the Hay Festival that President Bill Clinton called the “Woodstock of the mind”.
       Clyro is at the northeastern corer of Brecon Beacons National Park. South and west of Clyro & Hay-on-Wye Wales rises with two mountain ranges (the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons), a region of challenging hills, wild, whitewater rivers, and delicious scenery, with few villages to interrupt the wilderness. Two other towns of size are in the National Park region. About 30min drive southwest is the market town of Brecon near the center of the National Park. Some 45min drive south leads to the large town of Abergavenny on the park’s eastern edge.

The junction of major Mid-Wales touring routes not far from Clyro.

ACTIVITIES & TOURING: Clyro and vicinity offer much to do: horseback riding, walking & hiking, kayaking, cycling, horseback riding, and golf lead the list. Many guests choose Clyro for their holiday because of its central location. As a touring base, Clyro offers excellent day-trip coverage of much of Wales plus western England as far as  Shakespeare country and the northern Cotswolds. Here’s a partial list of driveable destinations:

London Heathrow Airport: 3-3½ hrs. SE
• Manchester Airport: 3 hrs. NE
Aberystwyth on the west coast: 1¾ hrs. NW
Builth Wells Golf Club: 30 min. NW
Chirk Castle & Llangollen canal viaduct & steam railway: 2 hrs. N
Stratford-on-Avon (Shakespeare’s town): 1¾ hrs. E
Chipping Campden, northern Cotswolds: 1¾ hrs. E
Bath Spa, England: 2 hrs. SE
Tintern Abbey (romantic medieval ruin): 80 min. SE
Abergavenny (large town, east edge of Brecon Beacons): 45 min. SE
Monmouthshire Golf Club: 55 min. SE
Celtic Manor Resort Golf Club: 80 min. SE
Crickhowell (town btw the high Beacons & Black Mts.): 35 min. S
Blaenavon World Heritage town (early Industrial Age): 1 hr. S
Caerphilly Castle: 75 min. S
Cardiff Castle: 85 min. S
Brecon Mountain steam tourist railway: 50 min. SW
Brecon (market town in central Brecon Beacons N.P.): 25 min. SW

 Regardless of whether you stay close to home or choose to day-trip far and wide, Clyro is a friendly, happy, and welcoming Welsh village to return to, to dine in, to stroll around, and to find some of Britain’s best-kept secrets.


IN BETWS-y-COED, conwy
 snowdonia national park


  • Llugwy Bridge Cottage: rear approach above cottage and Betwys-y-Coed main street. Photo courtesy the owners.
    Llugwy Bridge Cottage: rear approach above cottage and Betwys-y-Coed's main street.


In the Snowdonia National Park gateway village of Betwys-y-Coed.

LLUGWY BRIDGE COTTAGE: Located in the center of the Northwest Wales village of Betwys-y-Coed, Home At First‘s Llugwy Bridge Cottage sits behind a row of stone shops lining the main street. Built in the 18th century, the thick-walled, whitewashed, two-story cottage is one of the town’s oldest houses. The cottage — which is the right size for 2-persons up to 5-person families — is near its namesake road bridge carrying the B5106 across the rushing Llugwy River
       Access to the cottage is from above and behind the cottage by means of about twenty descending, uncovered steps. Inside the cottage six steps lead to the upper floor and four steps down to the ground floor. With so many steps, this cottage is not the best for guests with limited mobility.
       Upstairs is an upholstered living room with working wood-burning stove set inside the original Inglenook fireplace and a flat-screen TV.  The kitchen — equipped with electric oven, range, refrigerator/freezer, microwave, & washing machine — has a built-in dining area. 
       Downstairs on the ground floor are 3 bedrooms — 2 double bedrooms & 1 single — and the cottage’s bathroom, equipped with tub/shower.
       Inside, the cottage is warmed with gas central heat and connected to the world with free WIFI. Outside the cottage is a private, enclosed garden terrace with chair and tables perfect for outdoor dining in fine weather. Parking is on-street or in one of village pay-to-park lots. A two-minute walk from the cottage leads to the main street shops, restaurants, cafés, and services of downtown Betwys-y-Coed. 

BETWYS-Y-COED may have begun in the 13th century as a place involved in lead mining. However, it wasn’t until 1815, when the noted British civil engineer Thomas Telford constructed the “Waterloo Bridge” across the River Conwy to carry the A5 trunk road — the primary mail route between London and Holyhead, Wales, for the ferries to Ireland — that Betwys became a growing village easily reached from afar. The A5 — the Holyhead Road — is the main street of Betwys-y-Coed, and the main street of Snowdonia National Park. Betwys is the eastern gateway to the park. The A5 follows the River Llugwy west to Capel Curig then northwest over a pass before descending to Bangor, the Menai Strait, and Anglesey. Telford’s 1826 Menai bridge — a great British engineering landmark — daringly still suspends the A5 high across the Menai Strait.
       Betwys is laid out along the A5, following River Conwy north and the Llugwy River west with the town center in the flats between the rivers. Numerous stores, hotels, B&Bs, cafés, and restaurants crowd this area, as do 3 parking lots, the train station, and the golf course.
      Betwys is mid-way along the Conwy Valley Line secondary branch. Betwys train station sees passenger trains 4-6 times a day (about every three hours) north to Llandudno Junction (by Conwy) and south to Blaenau Ffestiniog. The Conwy Valley Railway Museum, which operates a miniature steam railway, is opposite the Betwys-y-Coed station.   
       West of Betwys the Llugwy is wild, with sections of rapids, especially the dramatic Swallow Falls two miles west of town. Similarly, the River Conwy follows a scenic, twisting route from its headwaters east of Blaenau Ffestiniog, especially 2-3 miles southeast of Betwys where the scenery takes on a mystical Welsh aspect in places like Fairy Glen, Fairy Falls, Rhaeadr Y Graig Lwyd waterfall, and the “Roman Bridge” and vestigial Roman road at the remote hamlet of Penmachno.

Betwys-y-Coed: Footbridge at Swallow Falls. Photo copyright Home At First.


ACTIVITIES & TOURING: There is much to do in Northwest Wales: walking & hiking, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, mountaineering, riding tourist passenger railways, exploring medieval castles, and playing golf lead the list. As a touring base, Northwest Wales offers great landscapes (high mountains rising from the seacoast), great density of historic sites (especially medieval castles), and undiscovered villages that have preserved rich Welsh heritage, food, and language. Here’s a partial list of driveable destinations:

London Heathrow Airport: 4½ hrs. SE
Manchester Airport: 2 hrs. ENE
Ffestiniog steam tourist railway: 20 min. (car) or 26 min. (rail) SW
Zip World Slate Caverns adventure park, Blaenau Ffestiniog: 20 min. SW
Portmeirion Italianate village: 40 min. SW
Harlech (for Harlech Castle & Royal St David’s Golf Club): 45 min. SW
• Talyllyn Railway steam tourist trains: 85 min. SSW
Porthmadog — Welsh Highland Railway station: 40 min. SW
Bala Lake steam tourist railway: 50 min. SSE
National White Water Centre — rafting & canyoning: 35 min. SSE
Llangollen Railway Station — steam heritage railway: 1 hr. E
Pontcysyllte Canal Aqueduct — amazing World Heritage Site: 1 hr. E
Ruthin: historic town with half-timbered buildings, craft center: 40 min. E
Chester medieval walled city: 85 min. E
Llandudno Victorian seaside resort town: 40 min. (car); 63 min. (rail) N
Conwy World Heritage Castle & town: 40 min. (car); or 60 min. (rail) N
Maesdu Golf Club links: 35 min (car); or 60 min. (rail) N
Menai Suspension Bridge, Menai Strait: 40 min. NW
Beaumaris World Heritage Castle, Beaumaris, Anglesey: 45 min. NW
Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goche, Anglesey — longest British railway station name: 40 min. NW
Holyhead, Anglesey — ferry port for Dublin, Ireland: 60 min. NW
Caernarfon Castle World Heritage Site: 45 min. WNW
Caernarfon — Welsh Highland Railway station: 45 min. WNW
Pen-y-Pass car park for Mt Snowdon trailhead access: 20 min. W
Llanberis: for Llanberis Lake Rwy, Snowdon Mt. Rwy, & Dolbadarn Castle: 30 min. W
Castell Cricieth, Cricieth on Ceredigion Bay: 50 min. WSW
Nefyn & District Golf Club links, Llyn Peninsula: 80 min. WSW

 Regardless of whether you stay close to home or choose to day-trip far and wide, Betwys-y-Coed is a friendly, happy, and welcoming Welsh village to return to, to dine in, to stroll around, and to find some of Britain’s best-kept secrets.


IN llangattock, powys
 brecon beacons national park


  • Llangattock: Usk Valley Townhouse - exterior. Photo copyright Home At First.
    Usk Valley Townhouse (blue door) is a classic Welsh townhouse in a traditional & charming Mid-Wales village.

usk valley townhouse

In Llangattock village across River Usk from Crickhowell, between the high Black Mountains & the higher Brecon Beacons.

USK VALLEY TOWNHOUSE: This handsome, well-equipped, 2-bedroom townhouse sleeps four in comfort. Located on a narrow side street in Llangattock village, this charming stone house was formerly an inn (pub) with a notorious innkeeper. But that sordid chapter ended 150 years ago. Today, Llangattock is a quiet, peaceful satellite of the busy town of Crickhowell across the River Usk a mile to the northeast.
       Upstairs, the two-story lodging has two bedrooms with garden views — one with a king-size bed, and one with twin beds — and the bathroom with tub/shower.
       Downstairs, comfortable, overstuffed furniture enhances the sunken living room (working wood stove; flat-screen TV). A modern, fully-equipped kitchen (gas range, electric oven, microwave, fridge, freezer, dishwasher, & clothes washer) opens onto a large dining room that seats up to 8 persons. The kitchen’s back door opens to the enclosed garden, where a table for four invites breakfast or dinner during fine weather.
       The lodging has free WIFI, and decent cell phone reception. Walled off-street parking is about fifty yards from the townhouse’s front door.

THE VILLAGE OF LLANGATTOCK: Llangattock — population under 700 persons — is classically Welsh: prim, tidy, modest, and quiet. The village occupies a broad space in the Usk Valley extending from the southwestern bank of the River Usk gradually uphill to the historic Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal. The lower part of the village — where Usk Valley Townhouse is located — is the older portion, and dates at least from the early Middle Ages. The tower of St. Catwg’s Church — 100 yards from Usk Valley Townhouse — was built during the reign of King Stephen (1135-54), grandson of William the Conqueror.  St. Catwg himself may have been Llangattock’s first recorded resident when he established a cell here early in the 6th century. Many legends are tied to Catwg, including associations with King Arthur and the Holy Grail.
       Llangattock has a neighborhood pub/restaurant (The Horse Shoe Inn) a couple of minutes walk from the Usk Valley Townhouse, and two fancier restaurants: the posh 16th century Old Rectory Country Hotel (also near the Usk Valley Townhouse), and the snazzy Vine Tree, an updated 19th century coaching inn along the River Usk near the Crickhowell bridge. Several more restaurants, a fine local grocery, a convenience store, and numerous other shops and services are a mile away from Llangattock, across the bridge in Crickhowell.

Llangattock village with Crickhowell. Photo Philip Halling Llangattock Church CC BY-SA 2.0.


THE LOCATION:  The Usk Valley at Llangattock separates the two primary mountain ranges of Mid-Wales. Rising quickly south and west of the village are the foothills of the Brecon Beacons, with the Llangattock Mountain elevating 400m (a quarter-mile) up the Llangattock Escarpment to the Llangattock Plateau. Across the River Usk, the land elevates again, as the Black Mountains ascend north of Crickhowell as high as 800m (2,625′). The Usk Valley separates these two ranges of mountains from Abergavenny 7.5 miles SE of Llangattock), to Brecon 15.25 miles NW of Llangattock.
       Abergavenny is a large market town and the southeastern gateway to Mid-Wales and the Brecon Beacons. Just 15min by car from Llangattock, Abergavenny offers major regional services: shopping centers, supermarkets, a hospital, even a train station. Abergavenny is also the access point for  motorways to South Wales (including Cardiff), the Welsh Marches (borderlands with England, including the Wye Valley), and across the broad Severn River to England (Bristol, Bath, and the Southern Cotswolds).
       Brecon is a the regional market town in the center of Brecon Beacons National Park, and as rural in character as Abergavenny is urbane. Like Abergavenny, Brecon has a noted food culture, with good restaurants and an annual food festival. Its covered market hall is open 5 days a week and regularly hosts farmers’ markets and craft fairs. But the big attractions are the highest mountains of the Beacons which begin their climbs just south of Brecon. Because the town draws many visitors for hiking, and other outdoor activities, it has several specialty shops and outfitters.
       South of the Brecon Beacons Mid-Wales ends and South Wales begins. In this region a series of parallel north-south valleys (“The Valleys”) have played an oversized role in the history of Wales. It was here in the 18th and 19th centuries that iron and coal deposits combined with relatively short transportation routes created one of the earliest centers of the Industrial Revolution. Great wealth was mined, processed, and transported in this region, but with the wealth came many of the ills of industrialization: poverty, disease, and civil strife. The historic and social legacy of The Valleys can be experienced at Blaenavon where a World Heritage Centre, the Big Pit Coal Museum, the Blaenavon Ironworks, and the Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway tourist line provide an excellent, albeit somewhat sanitized, overview.

ACTIVITIES & TOURING: Llangattock, Crickhowell, and vicinity offer much to do: horseback riding, walking & hiking, kayaking, mountain biking & road cycling, and golf lead the list. Visitors find Llangattock & Crickhowell centrally located: ideal for scenic and cultural touring. As a touring base, Llangattock offers excellent day-trip coverage of much of Mid-Wales and South Wales, plus western England including Bristol, Bath, and the Cotswolds. Here’s a partial list of driveable destinations:

London Heathrow Airport: 2¾ hrs. ESE
• Manchester Airport: 3 hrs. NNE
St David’s, Pembrokeshire, on the west coast: 2½ hrs. W
Burton-on-the-Water, Cotswolds, England: 1¾ hrs. E
Bath Spa, England: 1½ hrs. SE
Tintern Abbey, Wye Valley (romantic medieval ruin): 50 min. SE
Raglan Castle (impressive medieval ruin): 25 min. SE
Abergavenny (large town, east edge of Brecon Beacons): 16 min. ESE
Monmouthshire Golf Club: 20 min. SE
Celtic Manor Resort Golf Club: 40 min. SSE
Hay-on-Wye (NE gateway town to Brecon Beacons N.P.): 38 min. N
Blaenavon World Heritage town (early Industrial Age): 25 min. SSE
Caerphilly Castle: 50 min. SSW
Cardiff Castle: 55 min. S
Royal Porthcawl Golf Club (#1 links in Wales): 80 min. SW
Brecon Mountain steam tourist railway: 25 min. SW
Brecon (market town in central Brecon Beacons N.P.): 25 min. NW

  Regardless of whether you stay close to home or choose to day-trip far and wide, Llangattock & Crickhowell are friendly, happy, and welcoming Welsh hometowns to return to, to dine in, to stroll around, and to find some of Britain’s best-kept secrets.


herefordshire, england


  • Hay-on-Wye: Wye River Farm Cottage Apt. - Bathroom with power-shower. Photo courtesy the owners.
    Both Wye River Farm Cottage apartments have bathrooms with power-showers.

wye river farm COTTAGE apartmentS

On the English side of the  River Wye 1km — 2min by car; 13min walking — north of Hay-on-Wye Wales.

WYE RIVER FARM COTTAGE APARTMENTS are two stylish, one-bedroom apartments in a converted two-story barn: one on the ground floor; one on the upper floor. Each apartment sleeps 1-2 persons comfortably in contemporary style. Both apartments have king beds, tiled bathrooms with showers, kitchens well-equipped with electric oven & range, microwave, fridge/freezer, dishwasher, and clothes washer/dryer. Private parking is by the cottage. Free WIFI is included. Cell reception is admittedly somewhat “iffy”. Neither apartment accepts pets or permits smoking. The owner/hosts live next door in their large farmhouse. They take an active interest in their guests and are happy to make recommendations for activities, restaurants, day-trips, and shopping. 
       The ground floor apartment is accessed through a front door. The living room includes a wood-burning stove and flat-screen TV. French doors from the living room open onto a private furnished patio with BBQ.
       The upper floor apartment is accessed by an uncovered flight of stone stairs that lead to the entry door and the furnished patio/terrace with BBQ. Whenever necessary, heat is supplied by electric heaters.  

THE COTTAGE’S SETTING:  Wales is not all mountains, valleys, seacoasts, and mining & manufacturing. Wales is still remarkably agricultural, and its arable land is a patchwork of small, family farms. Dairy, sheep, and beef cattle are the focus of the agricultural economy, with organic farming a growing segment of Welsh agronomy. As it meanders across Mid-Wales and western England, the Wye River basin is largely agricultural country on both sides of the border.
      Home At First’s Wye River Farm Cottage is situated on a small farm in a pretty setting on the banks of the Wye River on the English side of the border one kilometer outside of Hay-on-Wye. The farm raises organic produce, sheep, and free-range ducks & chickens for eggs. Guests can purchase fresh farm produce from their hosts, if they wish. The nearest grocery store is on the way to Hay, a 1-minute drive or 6-minute walk. The nearest restaurants are in Hay, 2-minutes by car or 12-minutes walk along the riverside trail. En route you cross the border into Wales.

It's easy to get lost in the maze of alleys in Hay-on-Wye. Visit Wales Photo - Crown Copyright Licencing Agreement.

Getting lost in the maze of alleys is part of the fun of visiting Hay-on-Wye.

HAY-ON-WYE: Hay-on-Wye (or, just Hay) — population about  1,600 persons — is a small town with an outsized history. Its first recorded mention coincided with the arrival of the Normans shortly after The Conquest. Its strategic placement where the Black Mountains descend to the River Wye at the Wales-England border made Hay a logical setting for a castle, or two. The Normans never missed an opportunity to build castles, and two separate fortresses were built in Hay as early as 1070. Whatever remains of one now lies buried under a parking lot along the river. But significant remains of the other castle —  including what might be the original 1070 AD tower, the oldest in Wales — still dominate the southern leg of the triangular town of Hay-on-Wye. The other two sides of Hay’s triangle are water barriers: the Wye forms the left leg, and the right leg is Dulas Brook — the border with England for about 5 miles southeast. 
       With water barriers on two sides of the town and a fortress blocking the only land approach, Hay was hemmed in and well defended. It needed to be. From the arrival of the Normans through the War of the Roses — some 400 years — battles ebbed and flowed in and around Hay, as Welsh fought Normans, Barons fought each other, and, finally, Lancastrians fought Yorkists. At least once (1231) Hay was burned and rebuilt. Today, Hay, still built on a meandering street plan of a fortified medieval village, has some 150 listed historic buildings, including Hay Castle and numerous market buildings dating from the 17th to 19th centuries. Visitors find Hay easy to become lost in despite its small size.
       In the 20th century Hay became “the town of books”, with many of the shops inside the village triangle being taken over by booksellers. In 1977, one of these, Richard Booth, sought to bring attention to Hay-on-Wye by declaring independence from the United Kingdom and establishing the Kingdom of Hay with himself as king. The stunt went viral, and the world flocked to Hay. The town’s eccentric focus on books and reading caught the public fancy. Two major annual festivals were established for spring. The HowTheLightGetsIn festival of philosophy and music happens each May. The literary-cum-all-things-intellectual Hay Festival draws participants from all over the world for two weeks at the cusp of each May/June. After he attended, President Bill Clinton called the Hay Festival famously called the “Woodstock of the mind”.
       Hay-on-Wye is at the northeastern corner of Brecon Beacons National Park. South and west of Hay-on-Wye rise two mountain ranges (the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons), a region of challenging hills, wild, whitewater rivers, and delicious scenery, with few villages to interrupt the wilderness. Two other towns of size are in the National Park region. About 30min drive southwest is the market town of Brecon near the center of the National Park. Some 45min drive south leads to the large town of Abergavenny on the park’s eastern edge.

ACTIVITIES & TOURING: There is much to do around Hay-on-Wye: horseback riding, walking & hiking, kayaking, cycling, horseback riding, and golf lead the list. Many guests choose Hay for their holiday because of its border-straddling location offering excellent day-trip touring across much of Wales plus western England as far as  Shakespeare country and the northern Cotswolds. Here’s a partial list of driveable destinations:

London Heathrow Airport: 3-3½ hrs. SE
• Manchester Airport: 3 hrs. NE
Aberystwyth on the west coast: 1¾ hrs. NW
Builth Wells Golf Club: 30 min. NW
Chirk Castle & Llangollen canal viaduct & steam railway: 2 hrs. N
Stratford-on-Avon (Shakespeare’s town): 1¾ hrs. E
Chipping Campden, northern Cotswolds: 1¾ hrs. E
Bath Spa, England: 2 hrs. SE
Tintern Abbey (romantic medieval ruin): 80 min. SE
Abergavenny (large town, east edge of Brecon Beacons): 45 min. SE
Monmouthshire Golf Club: 55 min. SE
Celtic Manor Resort Golf Club: 80 min. SE
Crickhowell (town btw the high Beacons & Black Mts.): 35 min. S
Blaenavon World Heritage town (early Industrial Age): 1 hr. S
Caerphilly Castle: 75 min. S
Cardiff Castle: 85 min. S
Brecon Mountain steam tourist railway: 50 min. SW
Brecon (market town in central Brecon Beacons N.P.): 25 min. SW

 Regardless of whether you stay close to home or choose to day-trip far and wide, Hay is a friendly, happy, and welcoming village to return to, to dine in, to stroll around, and to find some of Britain’s best-kept secrets.


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