Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Even when the literary Hay Festival isn’t happening, secondhand bookshops fill the town of Hay-on-Wye—worth a stop if you’re in this part of Wales.
And then, after a day of browsing, you can relax at The Drawing Room, a “restaurant with rooms” about thirty minutes out of town. This is a lovely three-room inn with friendly proprietors who oversee every detail and prepare breakfasts and dinners using local ingredients. (I first read about it in this Travel and Leisure article about country inns in Wales.) Here’s what breakfast looked like:
A couple of hours north (and a world away) is the bizarre Italianate fantasy village of Portmeirion, on the coast of Snowdonia—also worth a visit, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it. The place is all façade and no content (the buildings house gift shops and snack bars, for the most part), but the architectural fragments are nice to photograph and it’s a pleasant enough place to stroll around. There’s a hotel on the grounds, and the setting on the estuary (especially at low tide) is magnificent. It’s a nice change of pace from all the grey stone towns and sheep farms in the rest of Wales.
To see the grey stone architecture, green hills, and sheep, take a hike through the Elan Valley. (See a list of more great British walks/hikes here.)
Finally, not in Wales, but right over the border in England, is the Small Breeds Farm Park and Owl Centre. I went for the small breeds but stayed for the owls, which are amazing in their variety. Baby owls are born on the farm every few days, apparently, so you can see them at all stages. You can also, unexpectedly, stroke several specimens.