We went to stay The Welsh House - one of 3 painstakingly restored traditional farmworkers' cottages set in the beautiful natural landscapes of south Wales...
We had arrived in the middle of the night; turning off the country lane and bumping along a stony track, grasses brushing the sides of the car. 'This can't be right', we thought. But then suddenly the headlights lit up a patch of whitewash wall through the trees. We stopped the car and tentatively stepped out into the darkness. Following a gap in the trees with our phone torches, there it emerged: an absolutely perfect country cottage, with a warm light glowing in a window.
The owner of The Welsh House, Dorian Bowen, knew that we'd be driving down from London late on the Friday evening, so he had left the door unlocked and a light on inside to make our arrival as easy as possible.
We pushed open the ancient door and stepped onto the flagstone hallway, and suddenly found ourselves standing in the past. Dorian painstakingly restored the cottage after it had been left to ruin, paying attention to every detail to ensure it remained as genuine a tribute as possible to the time it would’ve been built – 1755.
The warm aroma of an open log fire lingered. The light was coming from a small bulb under a low-hanging tin shade in the sitting room. There was a deep inglenook fireplace with an old range and the walls were hung with household objects more usually seen in museums than homes. It was cosy and inviting with antique dark wood furniture and a small couch covered with a red Welsh wool blanket.
On the other side of the hall was the tiny parlour. Above the fireplace there was an old blurry photograph of a family. Fresh flowers were in a ceramic vase on the table, and tin plates lined a dresser. A pair of riding boots stood beside a grandfather clock. The overall feel was that we'd stumbled into the 18th century and the cottage’s residents had just stepped out.
There was another doorway beyond the parlour so we fumbled about for the lights. They illuminated a large, fully fitted kitchen. Dorian had converted the cow shed that would be traditionally attached to a Welsh house into a space that could accommodate modern-day conveniences. They simply wouldn’t have worked in the cottage’s original living spaces.
Now it was time to discover our bedroom. We went up the squeaking wooden staircase. A wrought iron bedframe, a lamp glowing each side. And at one end of the room, there was another bed behind a wooden partition, as if in its own cosy cabin.
We couldn't wait to immerse ourselves in our surroundings. That night it was pitch black once we turned out the lights and curious noises kept us guessing as to their origin. Next thing I knew, I was woken by the sun radiating through the skylight window. I couldn't wait to patter down the stairs and see where we were in the daylight. The slate floor was surprisingly warm underfoot – Dorian must have installed surreptitious underfloor heating! I scurried excitedly though each room, and the view from each window was alive with flowers, trees, fields and crisp blue sky. I’m going to like it here, I thought!
That weekend it was hard to peel ourselves away from the Welsh House to go exploring, but there’s so much to see and do here that we managed it. Set right in the heart of Carmarthenshire, we could easily reach castles, gardens, coast and hills in less than an hour’s drive in any direction.
But every night, we found ourselves eagerly heading back, stocking up on supplies from local delis and farmshops so that we could eat in the lovely cottage kitchen. One night we took our wine out onto the field beside the cottage and watched the dipping sun blaze across the sky. As the stars came out, we were sure we could spot the Milky Way.
Then it was time to go in and light a real fire in the old range and simply sit and stare at the flames dancing. With the lights dimmed and with the atmospheric furnishings of the cottage all around, it could’ve been a night in the 18th century for all we knew. And I suppose that’s exactly what Dorian had in mind.
The Welsh House is available to book all year round. All words and photos: Rachel Ricks.