A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited on a South Wales glamping adventure and so I spent three days At Hidden Valley Hurts in the Wye Valley.
Hidden Valley Yurts and Lake House is a stunning hidden gem located within 80 acres of secluded forestry in Llanishen, Monmouthshire. The wonderful glamping site is home to 5 authentic Mongolian luxury yurts, decorated with hand-painted Mongolian wood furniture that adds masses of character to the beautifully designed architecture.
The land is rich with a mix of ancient woodland full of history, alongside beautiful wildflowers that decorate the location, not forgetting the calming stream that runs through the forests and past the Yurts. Wildlife such as deer, foxes, and highland cows also roam the spacious valley in harmony.
1. THE GLAMPING YURTS
I stayed in Yurt One with two fellow bloggers during the week-long retreat.
The yurt was very spacious, with enough room to fit five adults comfortably along with all their possessions. Each glamping yurt has hand painted woodwork, decorated with floral designs as explained by Hidden Valley owner Mike. The attention to detail was superb. Each Yurt has a double bed, a single hand painted wooden bed (nicknamed the Princess bed) and a number of chairs that turn into a sleep space.
The rooms also included small hand painted tables equipped with lanterns and tea lights which alongside the wood burner created a cozy, warm atmosphere. The owner’s event went as far as providing fleece ponchos for the colder nights, boxes for dirty wellies, torches and fresh flowers provided by local flower farm Far Hill Flowers.
The list is endless – the amount of love and attention Hidden Valley Yurts has put into their accommodation truly makes the site unique and unmissable.
2. WHAT TO BRING FOR A GREAT GLAM CAMPING EXPERIENCE
In regards to sleeping arrangements. You need to take bedding (duvet and covers, sheets and pillowcases) – but a sleeping bag is perfectly fine. You’re also advised to bring your own towel and toiletries, but previous guests have left a number of used shower goodies if you do forget.
Fortunately, Yurt One at Hidden Valley came with its very own kitchen, beautifully made by Hidden Valley’s very own woodworker Rory.
I am certainly impressed by the craftsmanship that went into making our kitchen, and all the facilities included! I was preparing myself for the bare basics, but we were given a large fridge freezer, oven, kettle, toaster, coffee machine and all the cutlery you could wish for.
The accommodation also has a communal area which includes a kitchen, bathrooms and a large decked area full of tables and chairs for everyone to enjoy their dinners and socialize together. Each yurt comes with its own numbered fridge and plenty of storage cupboards.
Again, the kitchen provides everything you could need and more – even a bread maker and dishwasher! There were also fresh herbs that you could help yourself to during your stay.
Don’t worry if you forget breakfast, there are chickens on site that lay eggs every day and you’re allowed to take what you need.
The fridge and freezer were full of goodies from local businesses for the event, thank you to The Forest Deli and Brooke’s Dairy for our wonderful arrangement of cheeses and ice cream. They went down a treat even in the pouring down rain. Very satisfying to eat strawberries and ice cream sitting next to our log burner.
The bathroom and toilet facilities were the best I have ever used at a camping/glamping spot (and some hotels too!) There were two toilets, real toilets with sturdy seats and a good flush. A shower and also a bath! This would be perfect for those with little ones who love to get grubby before heading to sleep. In addition to the toilets in the communal area – between Yurt One and Two were two compost toilets, which again were the best I have ever seen.
All the shared facilities are cleaned and restored every day around midday by Mike which meant we wouldn’t ever be short of anything.
The yurts are perfect for everybody, families, friends or even for a hen do.
Mike, the owner of Hidden Valley Yurts was nice enough to take us on tour of his land. The woodland was full of homemade swings, a number of waterfalls and hidden trails. Giving us a brief history of the owners of Hidden Valley, the natural conservation of the woodlands and how it came to be in his hands.
4. THINGS TO DO IN THE LOCAL AREA
If you fancy something other than relaxing in the yurts around a glorious campfire there are many activities you can attend around the local area.
4.1. Forest of Dean & Wye Valley Tour Guides
On our second day at Hidden Valley Yurts, we were invited to walk The Wye River with Jon from the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Tour guides. Jon took us on a guided walk and talk around the Wye Valley. We started our walk near the back of Best Western Royal George Hotel in Tintern, Chepstow.
Tintern is a quaint village on the west bank of the River Wye in Monmouthshire. Much of the River Wye forms the border between England’s Forest of Dean and Wales’ Wye Valley.
We headed North along the main road following the natural bed of the River Wye before reaching a small, secluded church along the public walk path. St Michael’s Church was built by Romans when they came to Wales over 2000 years ago but by the 7th century the Christian community established and the church was reclaimed.
4.2. The Old Station
We followed the path alongside the church across a number of fields running parallel to the River, taking the starts on the left-hand side up to The Old Station.
The Old Station is exactly what it sounds like, a restored Victorian railway station. Aside from a visitor center and an award-winning café that serves hot drinks, cakes, and even ice creams.
The station is also home to three fully restored rail carriages which visitors can enter and find more information on things to do and see in the area, historical background information and a small gift shop. Before reaching the railway station you are greeted by 6 handcrafted wooden sculptures of historical figures linked to Tintern’s ancient past. The two most recent being Geoffrey of Monmouth and King Arthur of Silures.
Next, we crossed a small bridge that took us over The River Wye and into Gloucestershire, arriving at the Forest of Dean. We headed into Brockweir, a small village about a mile east from Tintern. We stopped for a look around Brockweir Moravian Church in the heart of the village. Known for being one of the most lawless places in the country, the Duke of Beaufort decided to request for the Moravian Church to be erected and bring peace to the area.
The rain poured from start to finish so our guide took us through the estimate two and a half hour walk swiftly, our finishing point was the stunning Tintern Abbey – One of my favorite Welsh landmarks.
4.3. The Anchor Inn
After finishing our walk, we were welcomed into an award-winning free house called The Anchor Inn, located just opposite the Abbey with a fantastic view of the historic site.
The Anchor Inn provides locally sourced fresh food that is cooked on site and has something for everyone. We were greeted with a selection of cakes (my personal favorite being the freshly made Red Velvet Cake). These cakes also included a gluten-free and Vegan selection, all served alongside our individual teapots.
We were lucky enough to spend a few hours with Inspire2Adventure on an organized gorge scrambling trip. Insire2Adventure is an outdoor activity provider who put on a number of fun days out for everyone. Whether you’re a family, stag/hen do or even school and work trips – they have something to offer for all ages. Inspire2Adventure offer activities in The Forest of Dean, Wye Valley, and Abergavenny. If you’re looking for something fun to do which is provided within mother nature then look no further.
We met the team at the local community center in Abergavenny, just on the outskirts of the Brecon Beacons; where we were provided with water-resistant t-shirts/jackets, helmets and harness to ensure we were able to take part in the activity safely.
Before attending the activity, we were advised to wear trainers or walking boots and comfortable but suitable bottoms such as joggers or yoga pants which wouldn’t hold onto moisture or become heavy and some spare clothes to wear on the way home.
After our briefing, we made our way through the streets and hills of the small village and slowly, one by one heading over the rocks and into the water. To start, our two guildsmen advised us to try and walk over the rocks to enable our feet would stay dry.
This was easier said than done and within seconds we all had wet toes and started to tread through the water instead. The rocks underneath were very slippery due to the algae from the trees above which meant as a team we had to advise each other about the safest routes along our course.
4.5. Waterfall Climbing
Once we finished zigzagging along the first section of the gorge we were met by our first obstacle. This involved ducking under a small ledge until we found ourselves in a small thigh-deep pool before facing a waterfall climb. We were through our rope and asked to attach the loop to our carabiner and find our first foot and hand holes, as guided by our instructors.
I struggled at first as my arms are not the strongest but was advised to push with my legs which made the journey up the waterfall a lot easier with help from the team. With such a large group we expected to have to wait around – and those waits were very cold! A lot of little dances to keep warm helped but we managed to make it through with a smile on our faces.
After another short walk up the gorge, we headed to the most challenging, but my favorite waterfall of the course. One instructor headed to the top of the waterfall to secure our rope while the other explained the best possible way to reach the top. Throwing rocks to show us designated areas to place our hands and feet.
He knew the spaces like the back of his hand which made me us feel like we were in capable hands. After arriving at the foot of the waterfall, stood waist deep in a crater our rope was thrown down and once again fastened.
Following our previous instructions, we’d climb our way up the fall – only a few managing to dodge the small ledge halfway up (good thing we were given helmets). Once at the top you could see the distance we had traveled up the course as this took us around an hour and a half to reach the point.
Our last obstacle was the tunnel. A long, straight pitch-black tunnel that was potentially used for mining before but no longer in use. We were given the option to try and walk along a ridge to reach the tunnel or a swim to reach a short waterfall at the entrance. I opted for the swim as the rest of me had already become wet.
Thankfully, due to the lack of sunlight in the tunnel the stone floor wasn’t able to develop a slippy, algae covered floor which meant we could walk more comfortably. At least if you walked on the left-hand side as there was a grove in the center which was uneven.
We followed suit one by one through the dark tunnel and made our way along by feeling the holes in the wall and taking advice from those at the front of any changes to the path.
At the end of the tunnel, we ended our last short ascent to the finish line. We were able to look over the top of the valley to see just how high we climbed. The gorge walk didn’t seem to elevate as much as we thought so it was a big shock to see how far we’d come from the village car park we started in.
Overall the gorge scrambling experience was a great activity. The staff were professional and made us feel at ease. Communicating as a team to ensure we finish the walk in once piece really brought us together and we also had a good few laughs along the way. I would highly recommend this activity to adrenaline junkies and anybody who just wants to get out and have some fun during their stay in South Wales. I’d also advise taking a few extra layers, or even a wetsuit if you are able to as it can get cold waiting around.
4.6. Infamous Catering
Want to make your stay a little bit easier? Rather than prepping and cooking a meal in the small kitchen areas – why not hire a chef to cook at the Hidden Valley Yurts instead?
On my last day at the Yurts, the other bloggers and I were treated to a wonderful vegan feast thanks to Barney at Infamous Catering.
Barney had prepped our starters ready for when we arrived back from our gorge scrambling event. Being greeted by homemade wild garlic and gorgonzola dip served on Melba toast was enough to get my taste buds watering. They were served as canapes alongside poppadom, mango chutney and a number of homemade, locally sourced toppings.
If that wasn’t enough, Barney went on to prepare a Vegan main course. Combining a creamy lentil dahl, cauliflower and chickpea curry alongside coconut rice. There was a real punch of flavor alongside a hint of spice which tasted so amazing. Everybody had seconds and plenty left over for lunch the next day.
To finish it all off, we were presented with a delicious chocolate and peanut butter cheesecake made from leftovers found in barney’s cupboards, (and his wife’s peanut butter). The base was made using peanut butter, coconut flour, and maple syrup, with chocolate mousse topping being made from vegan crème cheese, melted chocolate, orange blossom and vanilla.
Barney also offered cooking lessons, if you’re staying in a large group I would highly recommend learning how to make your own meals out of natural ingredients you can find yourself in the wild.
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