We don’t walk enough!
Sure, we walk to after school activities, from our car into work, to the park occasionally and, on a few bleary eyed Monday mornings you may have even spotted us running to the school gates, but in general we live in a stunning part of the country with beautiful fields, woods and hills just minutes from our doorstep.
We seem too caught up in our day to day hustle and bustle to take a minute and appreciate the beauty all around us.
With this in mind we took a short weekend trip to one of our favourite pockets of the world: the Brecon Beacons in Wales.
Three days of beauty, nature and quality family time with no screens. Yes, you read that right. No screens – I even surprise myself writing that!
Have a watch of our video (below) and check out our full itinerary on this page. We’ve included links to maps – and other stuff – for you to click on.
Day One: Henrhyd Waterfalls
1mile – 20mins there, 20mins back
Our trip started out with a quick 2.5 hour drive to our hotel in Ebbw Vale in South Wales.
The kids slept most of the drive and we didn’t even need to resort to ear splitting car songs to pass the time.
The highlight of this road trip is the beautiful Severn Bridge separating Wales from England – it’s a visual marker that you’re going from one world to another.
We stayed at a modest Premier Inn, which you always know is clean, reliable and well priced, but the best part about this particular Premier Inn is that directly next to it is a Brewers Fayre pub – more on why this is important later.
We made a quick stop at the Festival Park retail outlet, a three minute drive from our hotel, for a quick lunch and some new walking boots (did I mention we don’t do much walking?!)
Plus, I wasn’t going to argue with David when he told me I needed a new pair of boots. “Yes dear, if you say so,” I replied with a wry smile.
So, once we looked the part we headed off to our first stop, Henrhyd Waterfalls, which was about 40 mins away.
How to get a 6-year-old adventurer up for his first hike? Inform him the Batcave (yep, the actual one from The Dark Knight Rises) is just beyond those trees…and watch him go!
We decided to save the mountain for the next day, just in case we realised we were out of our depth early on.
The waterfall trek was a great starter hike and a magnificent adventure in its’ own right. A gorgeous, winding and moderately steep path guides you over wooden bridges and bubbling brooks to a stunning waterfall within 20 minutes.
Be warned: it was definitely not buggy friendly but with a firm grip on both of the children’s hands we all walked there without any meltdowns or accidents.
Your first view of Henrhyd Falls feels as though you’ve hit the jackpot but being able to cross behind the actual waterfall was an extra special memory that we’ll never forget.
The deafening noise of the waterfall made it feel as though we were in a blockbuster ourselves!!
The only thing I would have done differently here is bring a picnic as it was much more scenic to eat here rather than at an outlet shopping centre!
Tired and happy from a great first day we went for an early dinner at the pub next to our hotel.
Now, this pub may seem like any ordinary chain pub with decent food and affordable prices but with one big difference to anyone who’s ever dined with children: THERE IS A SOFT PLAY INSIDE THE PUB!!!
This meant that we were able to eat in peace and actually have a conversation without the need to hire a babysitter.
The quiet meal, after a long walk, was probably one of the best parts of the trip – I’m not even joking!!
Day 2: Pen-y-Fan
4 miles – Two hours there, One hour back
After munching down an all-you-can-eat breakfast, we now had the energy to tackle the biggest mountain in the south of the UK.
Pen-y-Fan rises 2,907 feet (886m) into the sky but it’s very much a “beginners” climb during the spring/summer.
I froze a large bladder of water (camelbak) that attaches to a big straw which pokes out of your rucksack. This meant we were able to sip cold water during the hike. We may have shared some germs but it beat carrying a bunch of water bottles.
It took around 50mins to drive to the base of Pen-y-Fan but it didn’t feel like that as there’s some stunning scenery to enjoy.
We easily found parking and filmed our “before” shots (watch the video for THE best intro to one of our vlogs ever).
The excitement of starting up the mountain made the early part of the climb easy but after encouraging breaks, snacks and lunch, Samantha was “done” after one hour – and one mile!
She got onto David’s back and Dylan was on foot, with mummy’s burden being to keep the inspiration and hydration flowing freely for all.
Half way up the mountain David’s back was still holding strong but Dylan started to flag.
Going into it we told ourselves we had no problem making it halfway and turning around – it was meant to be fun after all – but while taking a break we saw a lovely group of people trudge past us literally carrying a man in a wheelchair.
It was one of his goals to make it to the top, and his friends and family were determined to make that happen for him.
We all looked at each other and even Dylan thought if he can do it so can we!!! Shout out to that guy – what an inspiration?!
Part of the way up Dylan hit another wall when we saw an obelisk dedicated to a little boy named Tommy Jones just one year older then Dylan, who got lost on the mountain and lost his life there. Pen Y Fan is beautiful and manageable but not to be underrated. We also found that the SAS use trails along the mountain on its hottest days weighed down with all their gear as a training exercise. This inspired Dylan once again and after 10 minutes of convincing and almost quitting he declared “come on then. Let’s just do it!” And off he went ahead of us!!!
It was a sweet sweet victory when we made it to the top and got our picture at the peak. We made it! An out of shape family with two little kids made it to the top of a mountain as a team. What an accomplishment!
As excited as we were to make it to the top we had totally underestimated the journey back down. What must go up must come down. And our four year old little trooper was not impressed with this inevitability. With lots of breaks and promises of a hot dog and ice cream at the bottom we made it!
Our pack mule Daddy made it in good spirits surprisingly until he realised that when Sammy said she “needed a wee” it meant she’d already done one… all down his back. His positively seemed to fly away in the wind after this point as well. We made it back to the bottom and got our promises hot dogs and ice creams and had a lovely wade in the ice cold streams. You may even find our carrier still sat there if you choose to go yourselves! *face palm emoji* Please can we all take a moment of silence here. RIP trusty carrier. You served us well.
Exhausted and hungry we headed back to the hotel for showers and a lovely long meal and run around in the soft play until we crashed in our bed. With kids being kids they somehow still had energy to play for hours happily in the soft play while David and I had a proper date night and a 3 course meal with drinks at a great price. As the hotel and activities we chose were so cheap we didn’t mind treating ourselves to whatever we wanted on the menu, after all, we earned it.
Day 3: Super-tubing
After our big adventures and a drive awaiting us we knew we needed something a bit lower key to fill our day. We found a place that did tubing, like a big slide on an inner tube down a hill, minutes from our hotel at the same Festival Park Retail Outlet. We were able to all have a go for a reasonable price but often there are Groupons available so be sure to check this out first. Although our legs were tired from the days before we had a great time taking turns speeding and spinning down the mountain before our drive home.
We managed to get away with a memorable weekend trip for the 4 of us with meals, hotels and activities for under £300. Not even including the priceless memories and relaxing quality time spent together far away from the normal stressors of everyday life. What started off as a daunting feet I wasn’t sure we would complete because a proud achievement we accomplished as a family. This little trip is one of my favourite hidden gems of England and Wales and if you have a few days to replicate it yourselves we’d love to see your pictures and hear your stories. You may even see us there as I’m inspired to try it again, this time with three kids in tow!