I think I’ve actually found it: the perfect holiday cottage for a relaxing short break on the Llŷn.
How often do you daydream about taking a breather from life? A few days away from the laptop, a hopeful thought that this could be arranged to happen in a place with absolutely no mobile phone coverage, a good hit of fresh air, some lovely walks and the time and space to just be.
As life becomes ever busier it seems like our holiday ambitions do the inverse. A lack of fuss and frenetics is what so many of us crave. And a comfy bed, inspiring view, with a cosy little pub within walking distance too, if possible.
It was this desire to have a few days’ proper rest and escape that had me clicking through Dioni’s portfolio of cottages earlier this summer, searching for the perfect holiday cottage to suit me, my daughter and couple of friends for a short getaway.
This is, of course, where holiday therapy actually starts. Going through the keyhole on some of the most beautiful holiday retreats in the UK is a pretty effective way to switch off and relax.
In terms of narrowing our search, we already had our target in mind: the Llŷn Peninsula. It’s a place we had all visited a few times on day trips from Snowdonia, but had never properly explored. It was time, we agreed, for that to change.
The Llŷn has always appealed. Craggy and wild, yet cosy and quiet. Pleasingly solid whitewashed cottages, lots of. Cliffs. Castles. Sheep and cows. Winding country lanes with high sandy banks which seem to run in crazy snaking double-backs across the landscape. Mountains and fields. Pots of honey and fresh eggs sold at garden gates. A kind of old-fashioned vibe which makes you feel like you might have just stepped back a few decades in time. In a good, non-Brexity kind of a way. The perfect holiday cottage for our relaxing short break felt tantalisingly close.
A lovely rural holiday cottage on the Llŷn
After some enjoyable to-ing and fro-ing, cutting and pasting our cottage shortlist on Facebook messenger, we found what seemed like an ideal holiday cottage for our party of four (two mums, and two teenage daughters).
Hafod Dwyfach is a super-cute converted barn in the middle of the Llŷn countryside not far from Criccieth. Three lovely bedrooms, a large bright and spacious living space, an enclosed garden and accepting of pets. Oh yes, we brought two dogs with us too.
Despite its rural setting (it is on a very quiet single track road surrounded by farmland) Hafod D was not a chore to find based on the directions supplied by Dioni (actually the Sat Nav worked the whole way too). We pulled up to a five-bar garden gate which opened onto a crunchy gravel driveway, with plenty of room to park two cars. In the field next door curious cows chewed the cud and blinked what we can only imagine was a quiet bovine welcome. It felt peaceful and very nice.
Key duly collected from the key box, the front door opened straight into the open plan living space. And right there in front of us was the most lovely hamper, vase of flowers and welcome message. Barabrith, Welsh cakes, marmalade and bread – all local produce and enjoyed with a good cup of tea (tea bags also supplied). There was even milk from a local farm in the fridge.
This is a cottage which radiates a kind of serene grace and calm. It is both bright and welcoming yet seriously cosy and comfortable. Each of the three bedrooms feels like a wonderful little sanctuary – one large double, a single and a twin, the twin and double with fab little en suites. Bed linen is crisp, pillows are generous, and the carpets are deep and luxurious. The kind of rooms which call you to early nights. And long, lazy mornings.
I should point out too, that despite my ultimate holiday fantasy, this cottage does have very good Wifi and a mobile phone signal too. I suppose I could always just turn my tech off…
A holiday cottage near a pub on the Llŷn
We all have our own set of priorities. And for us, it was fairly important to be close to a good pub. Walking distance by preference. Isn’t one of the joys of being on holiday that everyone gets a break from kitchen chores too?
Luckily, The Goat Inn – maybe 20 minutes’ walk from the cottage tops – is a fab place to eat and served us very well (we all opted for the fish & chips on the night we visited – highly recommended!!).
Oh, and we can recommend their gin menu too. There is a large pub garden if you want to do like we did and enjoy an evening sundowner al fresco. One word of warning – word has definitely got round that The Goat is pretty good. It was really busy, even on a Wednesday night, so book in advance if you want to be sure of your table. You’ll find copies of the pub menus in the information folder at the cottage.
Things to do right on the doorstep
This is rural Llŷn countryside, so in all honesty (for me this is a plus) you are not going to find too many organised ‘activities’ right on the doorstep – not literally speaking at least.
But what you will find, and what I loved, is the network of quiet country lanes that are ideal running tracks if you fancy a quick few miles to kick start your day (my few really is a few – four miles is plenty and there’s a suitable loop right out of the front door, check google maps for details). This route would work equally well for a loop on bikes, or walking, too.
Exploring the lanes is a treat in itself. Totally peaceful (bar the odd passing farmer), and with lots of busy birdlife going on in the wings. Grazing sheep look genuinely curious – you get the impression they don’t see too many passing folk. When we visited the high sandy banks were stuffed full of foxgloves and dog violets. The brambles and blackthorn were plentiful too – this will be great foraging territory for autumn blackberries and sloes.
Our favourite days out on the Llŷn
There are plenty of places where you can read about wonderful places to visit on the Llŷn, including this Dioni blog on Criccieth, and this one on Abersoch. But here are some of our favourite take-aways from our stay.
The Ty Coch Inn really is the best pub in the world. Right on the beachfront at Porthdinllaen, it serves great Welsh ales, decent wine, fab food – the ploughman’s lunch is amazing, as is the mackerel paté platter – to the sound of gently lapping waves on a beautiful sandy bay. Hard to imagine a better place to be at any time of the day. If you want to eat, go between 12 and 4pm. Around 40 minutes’ drive from the house but absolutely worth the trip.
Trefor beach cliffs offer serious drama and great seabird spotting – we saw loads of cormorants on the day we visited. Park at Trefor beach and follow a circular route along the tops of the cliffs (families with small children might want to keep them on a tight rein as the drop is sheer). Get a great salty blast from the Irish Sea and breathe in the blustery romance of it all. Bring your binoculars if you have some. Check out the information boards in the car park for the best route to follow. Around 30 minutes’ drive from the house.
Criccieth is one of our favourite seaside towns ever. A fabulously brooding 13th century castle is the big draw, but take the time to check out some lovely little galleries, gift shops, tea shops and antiques. Buy your ice creams from Cadwaladers AND Cariad Gelato so you can argue about which is the best. You’ll need several return visits. A 10 minute drive from the house.
Portmeirion. Well what a revelation this place was. We took along the doubting teenagers under a small amount of quiet duress – they really weren’t convinced it was for them. BUT! Clough Williams-Ellis’s Italianate folly village blew us all away. This place is an Instagram teenager’s dream – everywhere you look is another perfectly coloured, perfectly framed piece of the most beautiful architectural absurdity. It’s a wonderful place to wander and wonder. We enjoyed a delicious lunch on the sunny terrace of the Portmeirion Hotel, and loved pottering around the various book, pottery and gift shops. If you go, don’t miss the walk down to the beach. Fabulous views across the wide sandy Dwyryd Estuary. The unexpected highlight of the holiday. Around 30 minutes’ drive from the house.
In summary – our rating
Hafod Dwyfach you did it. Our party of four rates you as firm 5 star. We had the most restful, relaxing holiday in the most perfect setting. We finally explored the Llŷn. We couldn’t have asked for a better welcome or a nicer place to stay. A return trip is on the cards.
By Louise Mcwatt of Surf Snowdonia.
To see more beautiful cottages on the Llyn Peninsula click here… Top 5 holiday cottages on the Llyn Peninsula.