EVER wandered what the difference is between a full Welsh breakfast and a full English breakfast? Well, the Welsh version comes with a side dish of live singing.
That was our experience, anyway, when we spent the weekend with Stephen and Lynne Groves at their B&B in the small market town of Talgarth, ‘’the jewel of the Black Mountains’’.
Stephen, you see, is a second tenor with the world renowned Pendyrus Male Voice Choir, and one of their CDs was playing while he was cooking up our breakfasts.
As he served my delicious full Welsh, I asked if he could make the music ‘surround sound’ and he duly obliged with a few verses of the popular Welsh song Myfanwy.
We had been invited to stay at Old Radnor Barn to celebrate the inaugural National B&B Day on March 24.
According to organisers, ‘’the essence of the British B&B is a warm personalised welcome, a great breakfast cooked to order, the hosts’ invaluable local knowledge and the stories they are able to tell’’.
And this is epitomised by Old Radnor Barn, where Stephen and Lynne are friendly, generous with their time and clearly take a great pride in their accommodation and service.
They’ll make you a freshly prepared pizza in their wood-fired oven, wash and dry your clothes, do pick-ups and drop-offs from travel hubs, and even do some babysitting (for a fee, of course).
Breakfast time was one of many highlights of our short stay.
Our children, Cerys, aged seven, and Owen, three, had been really looking forward to it because the Groves had promised that they could collect the eggs from their chicken coop.
Raising the lid of the nest box, they discovered ten eggs, including two with a blue tinge laid by the pair of long-necked Indian Runner ducks, which we were all excited to try.
Cerys and Owen had earlier been invited to feed the chickens and Lynne kindly cleaned and wrapped the shells for them to do a ‘show and tell’ on their return to school / pre-school.
There were plenty of other options at breakfast time, including a cooked vegetarian, a wide Continental choice, Welsh rarebit, omelettes with a choice of fillings and scrambled eggs with or without smoked salmon.
The bread, preserves and pickles are all home made, and the fruit and vegetables come from the garden when in season. All the meat comes from a family-run butchers in Crickhowell, 12 miles away.
Dating back nearly 300 years, Old Radnor Barn belonged to a medieval hall house and was formerly an overnight resting place for stallions travelling to stud from Talgarth’s long gone railway station.
It was restored by Stephen and Lynne between 1998 and 2002.
Our first floor family room (one king size bed, two singles, plus a sofa bed) had been recently, and tastefully, furnished. It contained everything you need for a comfortable stay and the en suite was pretty plush.
When the sun is out guests can take advantage of the lovely garden, which has tables and chairs, sunbeds, a barbecue and a shaded arbor. Come nightfall a tree is lit by solar light bulbs.
But even in unfavourable weather the garden has a trick up its sleeve, for there’s a hot tub and a red cedar wood sauna, which can be booked exclusively or on a shared basis.
A short walk away, in the heart of the small town, is a fully restored 18th century working flour mill, powered by the flow of the River Ellywe.
Abandoned in 1946, Talgarth Mill was reborn in 2011 after volunteers successfully applied for a £400,000 Lottery grant, as featured on The BBC series Village SOS.
We were given an entertaining little tour by one of the friendly volunteers who allowed our children to grind some corn and take the flour home (another ‘show and tell’).
Created as part of the restoration, The Bakers’ Table cafe uses flour from the mill in its home made bread and was named Best Cafe in the 2015 National Tourism Awards for Wales.
Further up the Ellywe, we found the dramatic 30ft waterfall and pond known as Pwyll-y-Wrach (meaning ‘Witches Pond’) where, legend has it, suspected broomstick botherers would be dunked.
Also within walking distance is the 13th century Bronllys Castle, built on an earlier motte. A narrow staircase took us to the top of the round tower for views over Talgarth and the Black Mountains beyond.
Talgarth is mid way between the towns of Hay on Wye and Brecon and is within the Brecon Beacons National Park, which means there no shortage of things to keep you occupied in the vicinity.
Opportunities exist for most outdoor activities including walking, climbing, cycling, mountain-biking, pot-holing, horse riding, gliding, hand-gliding, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, sailing and windsurfing.
Hay, of course, is famous for its second hand book shops and its literary/arts festival (late May early June) while the cathedral town of Brecon has a popular Jazz Festival (August).
Brecon is also the starting point for the Taff Trail and the northern-most point of the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, where you can enjoy a leisurely cruise or a gentle towpath walk.
Talgarth itself is one of the national park’s five designated cycle hubs with the five routes – suitable for both beginners and the more experienced – all starting within 50 metres of Old Radnor Barn.
The town also has a Walking Festival, this year over the spring bank holiday, with 29 organised walks, graded ‘‘easy’’ to ‘‘strenuous’’, with a focus on the Black Mountains on its doorstep
On our return home, the children used the magnetic letters on our fridge to spell out ‘‘best holiday ever’’.
Which, considering we were only away one night, speaks volumes for Talgarth, Old Radnor Barn in particular and perhaps the rejuvenated B&B industry as a whole.
Rooms at Old Radnor Barn start at £80 per night, with an extra £20 charge for use of the hot tub and sauna. You can book by calling 01874 712102 or 077969 53904 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. See www.oldradnorbarn.com
Newspaper article here