Llanerch is a lovely cottage with a great view across the valley to the Berwyn mountains. It’s wonderfully secluded, at the end of a private road and with no other people within a half-mile radius. The front garden has a raised lawn for sitting out on when the weather is fine, and there’s cherry blossom in the spring and a quiet area shaded by deciduous trees if North Wales ever sees a heatwave. Rabbits and mice sneak out when you’re not looking, and there were tree creepers, willow warblers, and swallows arriving when we visited in April. We had one partially clouded night in which the stars were visible, and the light pollution in the area is so low that I would imagine this is a great place to go star gazing if you can guarantee a cloudless night.
The area itself is very attractive for walkers. You can walk straight out from the house, either behind it into the hills or down into the valley and then along the river or over to the hills on the other side. You are also within an hour’s drive of Snowdon, and closer to home there are numerous mountainous hikes you can do around the Bala area. The sparseness of the landscape – we hardly met a soul in a week of walking in April – is fabulous if you want to be away from other people. You can also walk on the roads without encountering any traffic. Off the roads, public rights of way are not well-signposted, however, so you need good map-reading skills (and also dog-calming skills, as the farmers don’t appear to show the same control over their dogs as they expect walkers to exert over their own). You also need exceptionally waterproof footwear, particularly if you are not visiting in the summer, as once you start climbing you will encounter endless marshland.
The house has been tastefully renovated, with exposed beams, Velux windows that allow the upstairs rooms to get light when the sun has moved to the back of the house, and a great bathroom with an adjacent balcony to sit out on when it is warm. There’s a wonderful free-standing bath that is big enough for two people, while downstairs there is a shower room with another toilet and bidet. The house can sleep six, but the twin bedroom at the end is accessed through the second double bedroom, so the occupants of each would need to be reasonably well acquainted. The cooking and eating facilities were generally good, but let down by an ageing saucepan-set whose non-stick coating was peeling off in a rather repellent way. (The owner says she has ordered stainless steel replacements for these, which is a good idea.) I always take a chopping knife with me when I go on a self-catering holiday, but apart from that the selection of knives was good, the range and quality of crockery and dishes was more than adequate, and we were able to make some nice meals. The kitchen has tiled flooring, which out of the summer months makes it very cold, so you should bring slippers or a pair of shoes for wearing indoors if you’re not expecting warm weather.
Next to the kitchen is a large living room. Though it has a nice view of the garden, it’s also the gloomiest room in the house. From Spring to Autumn the heating is set to come on for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening, and the rest of the time visitors are invited to use the wood-burners in the living room and the kitchen. This is sensible in principle, but in practice it requires a good supply of appropriately sized and fully seasoned logs, which we didn’t have. Some of the logs seemed purely decorative, as they were too big to fit into the wood-burners. Those that did fit didn’t burn fast enough to create an ember-bed, so in the end, despite our own lengthy experience using our wood-burners at home, we could do little more than create charcoal for a week.
Both the house and the grounds have a lot of warning notices up, which, combined with some of the material on the website and the requirement to pay a security deposit, does convey a certain air of unfriendliness. Some of this will be driven by legal requirements (for example, the house has its own water supply, and every tap has the rather alarming message ‘not drinking water’ above it, to make clear that you cannot sue the owner if you fall ill from drinking it). The notices are also part of the cost of staying somewhere so private and secluded, as the owner clearly wants to make sure that if visitors are to be left alone there then they must treat the property with respect.
There are a few things to be aware of before booking a holiday in Llanerch. The first is the long, steep and untarmacked road up to the property. The surface of the track is loose and uneven, and if you have an underpowered car with a low chassis or are weighed down with people and luggage, you may struggle to get up there safely. We drove up once to unload our stuff, but the wheel-spins, stalling engine, and worrying groans from the undercarriage, deterred us from trying it again, so after that we left the car (a Hyundai i10) at the bottom of the hill. This still meant doing the hill on foot, however, and when we left it took three separate journeys by two people to get all our belongings and holiday rubbish back down the hill.
The second thing is that you should think twice about staying in Llanerch if there are more than two of you with bad backs. The mattresses in the twin bedroom are firm and comfortable, but the two double beds are like inflatable mattresses with slow punctures. They need replacing.
As the owner highlights, the internet connection in the property is weak and intermittent, which means you shouldn’t expect to be able to use it for streaming. There is a TV in the living room with a Sky satellite service, but only the basic channels are available. If you need indoor visual entertainment, you should bring DVDs with you. I also wonder whether the owner could investigate the possibility of allowing visitors to set up extra subscriptions to Sky services for the duration of their stay. There may be some way of enabling pay-per-view channels, with payment then deducted from the deposit at the end of the stay.
The area round Llanerch is a big pheasant breeding and shooting area, which means the birds are constant footpath and roadside companions. There’s something delightful about this, but also rather macabre. You’ll see fox carcasses strung up on gate posts to deter further predation, farmers in balaclavas racing around in motorised buggies, and Countryside Alliance posters defending shooting as a way of life. If you find killing animals fun, this might be an extra attraction for staying at Llanerch during the shooting season. If not, it’s an unsettling reminder of the skewed relation between the urban and rural economies, and of the price we currently have to pay to enjoy a countryside that has not been turned into a heritage park.
Amazing and homely cottage with very helpful hosts. You feel really on top of the mountains with stunning views and so much to do nearby. We will be back!
This is a charming, comfortable, warm, thoughtfully presented, well equipped property that it was a pleasure to return to each day after visiting the beautiful countryside that surrounds it. Good sized rooms which are nicely furnished and the convenience of two bathrooms offering the choice of a shower or a bath. Excellent views, plus peace, tranquility and an abundance of wildlife. The garden is well maintained and overall the grounds are tidy and organised. The owner, who was most considerate and friendly, met us on our arrival to give some helpful information about the place itself and the local amenities. Other than that we experienced complete privacy knowing that we could make contact easily should there be any problems. We thoroughly enjoyed our holiday and would gladly re-book. Many thanks!
Beautiful cottage and perfect location. Had the most relaxing weekend. Only wish we had booked for longer!
The cottage was secluded and very quiet. A brilliant way to relax away from the crowds. Had all the facilities you needed for a weeks holiday
Grounds dog safe ( should have taken our lab)
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