The weekend: It’s your choice whether you prefer a dreamy wander around North Wales’ romantic countryside, or a punishing hike up some of the UK’s most challenging mountains. The rest of this weekend will be spent recharging by a crackling log fire and getting to grips with the local beers in a nearby pub.
WHERE? South Wales may be pretty, but it’s been done to death. Dioni, owned by farmer Gwion Llwyd, is bringing North Wales to the John Lewis classes via picture-perfect self-catering accommodation.
THE COTTAGE: We stayed in Cwmain, a remote farmhouse down a rocky track near the town of Bala (it was navigable in our hatchback but we’d advise a 4×4). Having shunned the prospect of a hike up Snowdon, an hour’s drive away, we spent the morning exploring the local countryside, coming face-to-face with curious (but friendly) herds of sheep and cows. Later, we drove into Bala to stock up on Welsh Cakes and bara brith, then whiled away the afternoon watching rugby and trading good-natured jibes with the locals in the Bull’s Head pub. We finished the day with a hearty dinner of leg of roast Welsh lamb from TJ Roberts & Son, Bala’s butcher, followed by a nightcap by the fire. Though the cottage had Wifi, we didn’t go near a smartphone all weekend. A proper rural retreat.
THE FOOD: The following day we headed to Tyddyn Llan, just outside Llandrillo, a Michelin-starred restaurant in an 18th century house set in manicured gardens and just half an hour’s drive from Bala. While its usual prices are pretty standard for Michelin fare, it also offers a set menu on Sunday lunchtimes. The only challenge is choosing between the 200 wines on its menu…
ASK ABOUT: Bala is best known for the four mile-long Llyn Tegid lake, once Wales’ largest body of water. Bala Adventure and Watersports, based on the northern shore of the cigar-shaped lake, offers kayaking, rowing and windsurfing. If you’re feeling adventurous, ask about its climbing, abseiling and mountain biking expeditions.
AND AFTER THAT: Explore further afield. Abersoch, an hour and a half away by car, has become a distinctly upmarket enclave in recent years, with high-end restaurants and boutique hotels. Although Peak Abersoch may already have arrived: one beach hut in the town sold for more than £100,000 this summer.
SLEEPING: Cwmain sleeps 10 (including bunk beds for two kids), although Dioni offers self-catering accommodation around North Wales for every sized group, from ultra-chic yurts for two, to enormous barn conversions, which come complete with hot tubs.
NEED TO KNOW: Cwmain is available to rent from £650 – book at dioni.co.uk. Sunday lunch at Tyddyn Llan costs £25 for two courses, or £30 for three (not including wine). Make a reservation at tyddynllan.co.uk, or by calling 01490 440264. Bala Adventure and Watersports offers a half-day of kayaking from £40. Visit balawatersports.co.uk or call 01678 521059.