A Winter Weekend in West Wales
I'd been itching to stay in an Under the Thatch property for years. Their philosophy of preserving and re-appropriating traditional Welsh (and now Europe-wide) cottages into unique holiday homes is immensely appealing. Where possible they strive to restore and conserve buildings which might otherwise fall into disrepair, and a happy by-product of this is that the properties are often quirky and interesting in both style and location.
A last minute decision to take a weekend away resulted in us booking Bryncyn, a minimal, modernist secluded hillside cottage complete with woodburner and hot-tub. Its bold statement architecture has featured in several publications including World of Interiors. Most importantly, it's dog-friendly, so Olive could come too.
The following is taken from the Under the Thatch website:
Note the cottage has a minimalist, concrete interior that won't suit everyone as it can feel 'austere' in Winter. Bring a jumper!
And they're not kidding. We visited in the depths of winter fully prepared with extra woollies, blankets and thermals, thoroughly relishing the prospect of a weekend snuggled up in front of the fire without a TV or any internet connection whatsoever. The one thing we did forget however was a box of matches and there were none in the cottage so the first night turned out to be pretty bleak (exacerbated by the lack of corkscrew - gah!)
Full of British resolve not to let this dampen our spirits, we decided to head outside to the hot tub, but alas try as we might we couldn't get the spectacular enormous glazed patio door to open. When the heating timed off and the wind started howling outside, faced with the lack of fire and wine, we decided to cut our losses and head up the quaint spiralling stairs to bed.
Thankfully the simple, cosy bedroom was comfortable and inviting, and it was strangely reassuring to hear the cottage creak and rattle as it protected us from the elements.
The next morning came bright and breezy so we headed out for a walk. Bryncyn is superbly placed for exploring this corner of Carmarthenshire, and another time I'll go into more depth about our day trips during the weekend to local dairy Caws Cenarth, the National Wool Museum, and the waterfalls at Cenarth.
Evidently cottage owner Dorian had received our previous nights' plea for matches and corkscrew and on our return that day we found he'd kindly and discretely delivered both.
Once the log burner was roaring and wine flowing, the atmosphere in the cottage improved immeasurably.
The Simple Things in one hand, a glass of Nobilo in the other and a warm, snoozy hound on my lap, the scene was starting to become less comedy of errors and more sickening lifestyle blog. Aaaaand unclench.
The equipment in the kitchen was basic, but this was made clear prior to our visit and Phil is used to camp cooking with far fewer facilities, so it didn't pose too much of a problem.
The kitchen itself is architecturally very interesting, being a concrete minimalist extension on a traditional cottage. I imagine in the summer it would be really quite idyllic with the full-width door slid right back creating an outside-inside space with the garden terrace where the hot tub is situated. But even in winter there is something rather magical about enjoying a cedar hot tub under the stars in near-zero temperatures. (We couldn't find an outside light so no photos unfortunately!)
I loathe clutter and while this stark interior might not be for everyone, I found it most calming.
Bryncyn being so minimal with hard floors throughout and few soft furnishings is ideal for dogs, although the outside grounds are not at all enclosed. This wouldn't pose a problem for those with obedient dogs possessing excellent recall, as the quiet country road is quite some way down the lane. But should you be blessed with a selectively deaf scent-hound with a penchant for exploration, it can be a chore to have to accompany every outdoor comfort break in the middle of winter.
Enclosed gardens don't tend to be a standard feature of holiday lets generally though and we were not given the impression it would be the case here either. A bit more obedience training required...
Bryncyn made for an interesting, unusual, well-located base for a break away. Our primary intentions for the weekend were to unplug, unwind and enjoy a slower pace for a couple of days, and that's precisely what we were able to do here. After the initial hiccups (we never did get that door to open) we relaxed into a weekend of reading, scrabble-playing, dog walking, wine drinking and local sight-seeing - just what we needed to recharge. We're certainly looking forward to our next Under the Thatch adventure.