Short Stay – North Wales

For those readers who don’t live in the UK, Wales is known far and wide for it’s absolutely beautiful scenery – rolling green hills, old stone walls, and bright white sheep dotted throughout the landscape. It is one of my favourite places to visit and was the location that my boyfriend Martin decided to take me 2 years ago for a surprise weekend away.

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North Wales from the car

A friend of ours owns a small cottage in a tiny village called Rowen, in deepest, darkest North Wales – and this was to be our hideaway for a long weekend. Arriving in the village late on a Friday evening (in the dark) we could not fully appreciate how different our surroundings were to the life we lead in London. By daylight we realised that it was one of the smallest villages we had ever seen, with only one village shop and one pub. I counted no more than 35 houses at a glance and the village was beautifully positioned in the Conwy valley, at the base of the Carneddau mountains.

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The Ty Gwyn Hotel in Rowen

The cottage itself was stunning – built from Welsh stone it was very small but wonderfully decorated – with a large, open-plan downstairs (kitchen, living room) and a bedroom that was placed up a ladder on a mezzanine floor.  There was underfloor heating (which was very useful in November!) and an ornate fireplace. I was in love with it!

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The cottage

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View from the cottage into the valley

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Fireplace

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Mezzanine bedroom

The next morning we went out bright and early to explore the local town of Conwy – a coastal town which still has walls and a castle dating back to the late 1200’s. It was a windy but bright day, so we decided to go straight up to the castle along the old town walls. The views are fantastic from the top and you can see straight into the town and the harbour area. You could really imagine the 1200’s and what it must have been like to be defending the town from the towers and walls.

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Conwy castle

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View from a turret

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Conwy town

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The harbour

After pretending to be soldiers for while we got hungry and thirsty – down in the town we decided to partake in a little local culture and went to watch a Wales rugby game in a harbour-side pub. It was a brilliant atmosphere being amongst the locals who were very passionate about their rugby! Following this we wondered up the main high street and stopped in a little cafe, where we ordered a sandwich and soup combo, which filled us nicely. There are lots of independent shops in Conwy to browse around, which makes a nice change from London!

Back in Rowen we decided to visit the local pub that evening and it was immediately clear that the owners and locals know that you aren’t a regular resident in the village. They weren’t rude at all, but you do get a few curious glances and inquisitive looks! We enjoyed our drinks and wandered back up the hill to the cottage, basking in the lack of street lights and enjoying the clear, starry night sky.

The next day we decided to hike down to the Conwy falls, which is a waterfall on the Conwy River. We stopped at a 1930’s built white building called the Conwy Falls Cafe, which acts as a gateway to 9 acres of native forest and a easy walk down to the falls. The walk was scenic and fun, even in the rain! The cafe serves lovely cakes and treats and we stopped to enjoy a warm drink after the outdoor activity (http://www.conwyfalls.com/).

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Conwy Falls Cafe

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Testing the raincoat

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The falls

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Me and Martin

North Wales is well worth a visit if you’re in the UK – we were disappointed that we didn’t have the opportunity to take our bikes because the hills and valleys would have been perfect for riding. Apparently the area is well known amongst mountain bikers, so if you’re looking for some thrill action, try the area. It is also a perfect place to stay if you are thinking of visiting the Snowdonia National Park.

We shall be visiting the area again later this year when we plan to climb Mount Snowdon with some friends and trying out the longest and fastest zip line in Europe! http://www.zipworld.co.uk/ I am sure there will be blog post following that visit (if I make it down in one piece!)

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Zip line!

Short stay – Chorleywood Tree House

For my 30th birthday present my lovely other-half showed exactly why I love him by appealing to my love of the unusual. He arranged for us to go for a weekend stay in a tree house in the glorious Chiltern countryside. Located on North Hill Farm in Chorleywood, a small village in Hertfordshire, this family- run business encompasses a number of unique accommodation options – the main lodge-style guest house, a yurt, a shepherd’s hut, and a beautiful tree house, where we were to lay our heads for two nights back in August.

Treehouse at Chorleywood

Treehouse at Chorleywood

From the front door down to the rope bridge

Down the rope bridge

Hidden away in the trees

Hidden away in the trees

Now I could start telling you how we’d truly escaped from the busy city into the countryside, when in reality it was only just outside of the M25 – But there isn’t anything further from London life than a tree house! Placed 5 metres up from the ground, the tree house sits sturdy with access via a wooden staircase and a slightly bouncy rope bridge! The outside follows you inside, as almost everything you see is made of hand-carved wood; from the shelving, to the light fixture, to the seat on the outside veranda, and even the bathroom window! The walls are simple chipboard, however this lends to the overall rustic feel of the place – especially as the owners have painted murals of trees throughout.

Inside the treehouse

Inside the tree house

Bathroom window - placed in an old tree stump

Bathroom window

But just because it was rustic didn’t mean we went without home comforts – there was a flat-screen TV with DVD player and a selection of DVDs (which I am sure would have come in handy if the weather turned bad – my favourite being Run, Fat Boy Run). A small bathroom on the side of the room had a fully functioning toilet with sink, complete with drinkable water. The owners also provided a fridge and all cutlery and crockery that we could possibly need. To add to the experience, every morning we received a  basket of breakfast at the front door, with cereals, hot toast and pastries, fresh milk and juices (included in the price). Breakfast in bed, in a tree house – I challenge you to find something more unique!

Breakfast delivered to the door

Breakfast delivered to the door

Amenities - TV, DVD and Fridge

TV, DVD and Fridge

The huge bed faced two glass sliding doors, which lead out onto the veranda with a magnificent view across the Chess Valley. A highlight of the trip for me was laying in bed in the morning (a unique experience in itself), with the sliding doors open, listening to the wind in the trees and the horses in the field below. Absolute escapism bliss!

Absolute bliss - The view from the tree house bed

Absolute bliss – The view from the tree house bed

One question I hear you ask – where is the shower? Now this might be one small factor that might test the hardiest of outdoors people! The hot-water shower is actually on the veranda, in the open air, with a shower curtain and some thin fencing! The water rolls off onto the grass below which is one way to ensure you keep the place private! The owners will show you another bathroom that is available in the main lodge, but we decided to brave the outdoors to its fullest – maybe if you want to go part-way you can wear a swimsuit!

The outdoor shower - are you brave enough?

The outdoor shower – are you brave enough?

The Chilterns is an area of outstanding natural beauty and consists of beautiful wildlife, chalk streams, farmland, and some ancient landscapes dating back to the Bronze Age. We spent hours walking and biking in the area’s numerous paths and lanes, stopping at some very nice local pubs. Our recommendations would include The Gate in Chorleywood for dinner – a modern gastro-pub with reasonably priced meals and good ales on tap (which pleased the boy!). For a nice stop-off on a walk, try The Cock Inn at Sarratt, where you have an old-fashioned, low-ceiling pub with friendly staff and a large beer garden. These are just some of the places we visited on our weekend but there are numerous other places to see in the area – so why not get away for a weekend and try a tree house?

For 2 nights in the tree house at Chorleywood over a weekend it is £200 with breakfast included – mid-week rates are slightly lower (prices correct as of August 2013). 

Would you like the idea of a tree house weekend? And more importantly, would you brave the outdoor shower??