The strange thing about planning a round the world Gap Year is that it has also given me and even greater appreciation of what’s pretty much on my doorstep and made me realise there is also so much of the U.K that I haven’t seen. I am hoping to rectify some of that in the not too distant future, however one thing I have also discovered over the last few years is that holidaying in the U.K. is SO expensive. I can have two weeks in America for less than I can hire a cottage in the Cotswolds for a week, it crazy.
However this week we are venturing down to visit my parents who live in Builth Wells, in mid-Wales (it has to be done 😇) but we are going to take in a couple of extra stops both going to and fro, to break up the long journey for Cameron, there is only so many times I can listen to “are we nearly there yet?” in one day without losing the will to live! So thought we would do a little diary blog along the way:
DAY 1: BRISTOL
What the satnav told us was going to be a 2.5hr drive to Bristol actually turned into 4hrs with a stop and some traffic delays, but nothing too major and whilst we had a few “are we nearly there yet?” from Cameron, there were not quite so many as in previous journeys.
We arrived in good time to spend a lovely afternoon together at Bristol Zoo and gardens however and the sun was shining without being uncomfortably hot. We have been here once before so pretty much knew what to expect. The parking was free but admission for 1 adult and 1 child was £38.00 (without the optional extra for go-ape style tree top adventure, which looks like lots of fun but still a little advance for Cameron).
The Zoo is fairly mainly home to smaller animals, monkeys, gorillas, meer cats, penguins etc, but they do also have two male lions and whilst i am not a massive fans of animals in captivity, especially larger species. the lions are truly a majestic site and I appreciate there is no where else that children in particular see them so close up. Nevertheless to see one of them just pacing up and down is a painful reminder of their drastically reduced space.
All that said Cameron had a fantastic day, but forget the animals the highlight for him was this small ride on train ‘Santa Fe Express’ which he remembered from last time and made a bee line for the 2nd we walked through the gates.
The evening was spent at the Bristol Royal Marriot Hotel. An older building but pleasant accommodation. The only downside being £16 a night to park in the underground car park!!!! I honestly don’t remember seeing that on booking.com or I would have stayed at the Holiday Inn up the road where we have stayed several times before (I just fancied a bit of a change). We didn’t get chance to take advantage of their swimming pool as we arrived quite late and were both pretty tired and hungry by then and as usual I had a mountain of emails awaiting me. I keep forgetting that I still have to do work during this GAP year, albeit remotely!
DAY 2: BRECON MOUNTAIN RAILWAY
Anyone who knows my son Cameron will know he is completely obsessed with steam engines so many of our travels tend to revolve around trains, this holiday being no exception. Cameron was awake bright and early this morning and having shared a bed with him in Bristol last night I awoke to a very excited little voice in my ear saying “Mummy wake up, its Brecon Mountain Railway day and I don’t want to miss it” So we were up showered, had breakfast and were on the road. I realised half way that I hadn’t checked the train times but we arrived at the station at around 12noon to learn that the next train left at around 12.15pm so I couldn’t have timed it better.
Admission for 1 adult and 1 child for the train was £20.50 and the whole trip lasted around 90s including two stops. The scenery was nice but I wouldn’t go as far as saying spectacular and the train was very crowded due to school holidays. Never the less we both enjoyed our day and Cameron had already pre-packed his outfit in advance!
Today was also Cameron’s first proper go at Vlogging. Yes we know this video might not quite to up to many travel bloggers standards but we are both learning and making memories which is far more important to us.
That evening was spent at Penrhadw Farm Guest House which was only around 10 minutes drive from the railway. We found Penrhadw Farm via booking.com, however they also have their own website: www.penrhadwfarm.co.uk
The farm offer either Bed & Breakfast or Cottage rentals, we were only staying the one night we opted for the B&B in the main house. The house could definitely do with some modernisation, but it still kept its oldie worldly character and charm and was spotlessly clean.
Day 3: Heading to Builth Wells
From Penrhadw Farm we made our way across the Brecon Beacons to Builth Well (with substantial time and mileage added on to the journey for a road closure, however it was worth it for the views:
It’s great to see Mum & Dad but unfortunately they have become increasingly housebound living in such a remote area, and since Dad finally had to give up driving at the start of this year. I thought it would be a nice idea to take them out for a chinese, but no sooner had i got Dad out of the car then he took a tumble backwards and ended up in the road, between my car and the pavement. Thankfully no serious damage done this time but old age seriously SUCKS 😢.
That night we checked into The Three Wells Hotel, just outside Llandrindod Wells in Powys and I have written a separate blog on this: https://mumstravelblog.com/category/travel-reviews/
Three Wells Hotel, Howey
Day 4 -6
Night 4 away and checked into our 4th hotel which was The Metropole Hotel and Spa in the victorian town of Llandrindod Wells. It is a gorgeous hotel but also carries a high price tag (£438 for 3 nights). It is a wonderful place to stay but in all honesty when we are spending most of the day with Mum & Dad a few miles away and just need somewhere to rest our head at the end of the day it is a bit pricey, however the place we had originally booked in to let us down at the last minute due to a double booking and this was one of the few decent places available. We have a huge big family room however and I can’t fault it in anyway, well perhaps other than no air con in the bedroom which is very much needed in current heat wave. This is not un-common in British Hotels though and especially the older ones as we so rarely actually have a heat wave!!
If you are looking for a busy family activity holiday then Mid-Wales truly is the place for you, but in particular for families with slightly older children & teenagers. There is hiking, climbing, canoeing, horse riding to name just a few.
For us however, this break was to spend a few precious days with my parents before we set off on our own longer travels and following Dad’s fall on the first night we were there the rest of our time with them has pretty much been around the house together, although I did get Cameron out to play at the locals indoor play centre ‘Quakers’ for an afternoon which he loved..and he slept well that night too!
I have also got my Mum an Iphone and TRIED to drag her into the 21st Century by teaching her whatsapp, facetime, facebook etc so she can be more interactive on following our travels, but she is 80 bless her so I am not holding my breath.
DAY 7: Swindon
This was the day we said our goodbyes to my parents and headed down to Swindon, the absolute highlight of the holiday for a steam train obsessed 6yr old was a visit to t ‘Steam’ – The Museum of The Great Western Railway which he absolutely LOVED and I must admit I actually enjoyed it much more than I expected to as well. I felt the admission price was very reasonable at just £16 for the two of us.
For anyone with an interest in steam trains then this is a must, we saw many happy ‘little boys’ (young & old!) there. The museum houses many full size engines on display and the history geek within me discovered loads of interesting displays and artefacts relating to the original factory where the engines were made and the history of the Great Western Railway.
A brilliant afternoon and a wonderful way to end our little break away. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Swindon that night and then 7 nights and 5 hotels later it was time to return home. We have a couple of weeks back in sunny sussex now…next stop Dublin.