An escape to Westbrook Court, a characterful farmhouse B&B on the tip of the Brecon Beacons which makes the perfect cosy base from which to explore the glorious hills and bookish villages of the Black Mountains.
The land where England borders Wales above the River Severn is a wonderful place. There’s the wide river Wye, begging to be canoed down. There are tall hills, snow-capped in winter, to roam on. There are secret, quiet valleys, the handsome towns of Monmouth and Brecon and the charming, book-mad Hay-On-Wye, where little shops groan under the weight of printed stories. This is the perfect place to go exploring of a weekend, and Westbrook Court, a bed and breakfast tucked amongst rolling hills and farms a few miles from Hay, makes a brilliant base from which to explore.
After meeting Chris (and getting to cuddle the family’s utterly gorgeous new puppy, Idris, who is also on hand to welcome guests in style), we unpacked in our lovely timber suite, one of five designed by Kari. Inside a feeling of light and space pervades. The ground floor serves as a living room full of vintage treasures and bright up-cycled pieces – a tin chest, a lampshade festooned with feathers – whist upstairs is a mezzanine bedroom with a big skylight for gazing at the stars from bed. And there’s also a heavenly claw-footed bath, perfect for a soak after a tramp on the Welsh hills.
On weekends guests eat in the farmhouse’s lovely dining room, but week days are just as much of a treat – a heaving breakfast hamper is delivered to your door, full of goodies to unpack and feast upon on the little terrace. It doesn’t get more local than meat from Geraldine at Gibbons butchers, jam from Tam of Tams Jams and a hot cup of Black Mountain Roast.
We headed first to Hay-on-Wye to wander into the myriad bookshops (my favourite is Murder and Mayhem, with its Hound of the Baskervilles illustration below the window and a healthy selection of Agatha Christies), curio shops and cafes. The castle’s grounds were completely empty and rather spooky, but the honesty shelves around town full of second hand books are a delight to rummage through, and for the princely sum of 50p I purchased the inspiring tome below.
The next day we took Chris’s sage advice and drove up winding green roads to Hay Bluff and strode up the steep side of the hill to the top, where the wind buffeted our hair about as we sat and looked out and the fields and hills below, an incredible view which makes you feel you’re gazing out over all of Britain. Then we hightailed it down again, changed into running gear and went for a run along the grassy track below the Bluff.
24 hours here is simply not enough. We could have explored Llanthony Priory, or cycled over the Gospel Pass, or walked amongst waterfalls in the Brecon Beacons. Kari and Chris clearly in love with the place they call home and are full of helpful suggestions for things to do. They recommended places to eat in Hay and showed us how to drive to the Bluff, and can also help with kayaking trips, foraging courses, festivals or even a running or cycling session with a personal trainer.
Or you could, of course, simply take it easy in their cosy, friendly home. But you should probably go now before Idris gets any bigger.
STAY THERE: Westbrook Court offer midweek stays from £80 per suite per night.