When we first decided to stay in the Welsh hills in a cabin with no internet and no phone signal, I must admit I felt a tinge of apprehension. I love my phone, and no internet is just medieval to me. I can’t usually go half an hour without my phone and a good internet connection, so I was sure this would be tough. But to truly get away from it all, to disconnect and relax in a way we rarely do these days, you have to go off the grid.
Wales is a beautiful country with its own language, culture, traditions, food, and history, and so it really does feel like you’ve escaped your regular life and arrived somewhere completely different. Wales also has rolling hills to get lost in and valley towns and villages to explore. It turned out I loved this unique getaway more than my phone, and here’s why.
1. A Quirky Cabin
Llanthony Castaway is a repurposed old railway carriage, relocated to a hillside on a traditional working farm near Abergavenny in Wales. The carriage is compact, but it’s by no means basic. It’s been beautifully renovated and has everything you need for a night or two’s escape to the country. It kind of still feels like you are in a railway carriage. There’s no mistaking the shape of the carriage, and as you walk from the kitchen area to the bathroom you realize this was actually two carriages. I love trains, so I loved staying in this carriage cabin.
There’s a small patio, accessed by concealed sliding patio doors, and a fire pit and barbeque with a tree stump for a table and two camping chairs. There are plenty of logs for the fire and for the wood burner inside the cabin if it gets cold. It’s a bit like camping, but with a quirky and comfortable cabin instead of a tent!
I found the use of space in the cabin to be particularly clever. It only sleeps two people and space is at a minimum, but everything has been thought of and every available space is used to its optimum. I slept incredibly that night, and I found a sense of peace and calm in that cabin that I haven’t experienced in years.
You’ll be given instructions on how to find the cabin ahead of your visit. Save these to your phone and study them, as before you reach the farm, you’ll lose phone signal and internet. These instructions include the code to open the key box, which you’ll definitely need!
2. Sheep For Neighbors
It’s quite likely you won’t see another soul while you’re staying at Llanthony Castaway, though the farmhouse is nearby if you need anything. Instead, the fields at either side of the cabin are full of sheep, and these sheep will be your neighbors during your stay. There’s no TV or radio in the cabin, so you get used to the sounds of the sheep pretty quickly.
There’s a lovely walk to a ruined priory that takes you through this field of sheep. The first time we went through, they were a little bit spooked and all ran down to one corner, away from us. It was quite a sight to see, and I worried that we’d disturbed them, but on our way back they’d accepted us and realized we were no threat, and they just went about their business.
- Remember to close the gates as you enter and leave the field, so no sheep wander off and get lost.
- Watch out as you walk through the sheep fields. The sheep won’t bother you, but watch your step as you can easily stand in something the sheep have left behind!
3. Llanthony Priory
Llanthony Priory dates back to the year 1100, so it’s pretty old. Only a ruin is left now, but it’s still very impressive, and there are information plaques here and there that tell you what the rooms once were. This is a stunning old ruin that’s free to enter at any time.
In 1799 some of the buildings were converted into a house, and this is now The Abbey Hotel, which looks as if it literally grows out of the ruined priory! There’s a car park right next to it, with washrooms and a handy boot cleaner outside.
You can stay as long as you want and have a good walk around, but don’t climb on any of the old walls. This is an ancient ruin that can be easily damaged.
4. A Foodie Pilgrimage
There’s a pub near the cabin, only a few minutes’ walk away, which serves food and is very welcoming. But for something really special, drive 20 minutes from the cabin and you’ll come to a foodie place of pilgrimage, The Walnut Tree.
It’s not often you eat somewhere where the food is so good it’s a true dining experience, but at The Walnut Tree, you really do get that. This Michelin-starred restaurant has been here since the 1960s and has built up a loyal group of regulars. We visited on a Saturday lunchtime, and it was full of locals and those who, like us, had made a special journey to find out what the fuss is all about. The fuss is all about the food. I had planned on only having a light lunch, but one bite of the appetizers that were brought to our table and I soon changed my mind! This is a very popular dining spot in this area, so if you want to visit, book ahead.
If you’re using a GPS to get to The Walnut Tree, be prepared to be given the runaround. The Walnut Tree is on the main road, but you can easily miss it, and the postcode in your GPS will take you up a couple of country lanes instead. This has been such a problem, when you reach those country lanes, you’ll see signs saying, “Not this way for The Walnut Tree.”
5. A Stay In Town
We spent our second night in Abergavenny town center at The Angel Hotel. It was the perfect contrast to our night in the cabin, as this central grand hotel has every modern amenity you can imagine and is about as far away from “off-grid” as you can get. The hotel was built in 1829 as a posting inn, which was an inn where mail coaches could change horses, allowing them to continue with their postal routes quickly and efficiently. It’s now a smart hotel in town with a reputation for excellence.
Abergavenny is a small town with a charming high street of shops and independent cafes. It’s a very friendly town, and if you need any help with directions or suggestions, everyone is happy to help.
There are some very narrow, bendy roads in this part of Wales. We’re used to driving along country lanes that are only wide enough for one car, but we’d never seen lanes quite this narrow. You can’t see what’s coming around the bends, and there are few passing points on the road.