Best places to see Bluebells in Wales
People often wonder where are the best places to see bluebells in Wales – well here at Old Oak Barn we have our own 40 acre Allt Cwmpalis which visitors can roam freely. It is a semi natural ancient woodland we have been managing for 30 years and provides a haven for birds, wildlife, flora and fauna. These are all typical scenes I took myself with my iphone in early May in our bluebell woods here at Old Oak Barn in 2016.
This particular shot below was taken in a small patch of clearfell which has been replanted with cherry, which if you look carefully you can see are growing well.
We are so fortunate to be able to see this beautiful sight every year and for those planning a visit in early May the photos below show other scenes taken in the woods in 2016. The swing which hangs off the old oak is much loved by children and adults!
But if while staying here you would like to visit other locations which have bluebells then we can suggest a visit to the following :-
- Skomer One of the best places to see bluebells in Wales – plus of course the puffins and other sea birds.
- Castle Woods at Dinefwr near Llandeilo.
- Aberglasney a very special place with some beautiful gardens.
- Dinas Nature reserve for those who love birds especially.
- Colby which is only half an hour away.
- Springwoods at The National Botanic Gardens of Wales near Carmarthen
Sometimes there are guided walks for those who love a Bluebell Walk which if you were staying at Old Oak Barn in the first week of May would be ideal. The link will take you to the day planned for Skomer on 8 May which is probably the best week in the whole year to visit the island. Currently we still have some availability early May! From 1 May for a 4 night break. There are lots of videos on youtube which can prepare you for the amazing scenery in May – Yvonne Stanley posted this one of the Skomer Bluebells for example.
Fairy House in Wales
Recently we came across this little Fairy House in the woods near the barn. It appeared overnight as if by magic! The old tree stump makes a perfect location I think you’ll agree.
The ladder leads up to a little room in which who knows who lives. I see a green gnome stands guard at the top of the ladder.
If you look inside you may be lucky and find a little treat …. provided the woodland mice haven’t got there first. Look at the lovely mossy carpet! These look like Smartie Men to me!
If you have any ideas of what we could add to the woodlands here at Old Oak Barn to encourage more fairy life to pay us a visit please let me know!
National Botanic Gardens Wales
These short clips of the National Botanic Gardens Wales near Carmarthenshire say it all! We really love the wonderful gardens which are less than half an hour from Old Oak Barn. Excellent value throughout the year, there is always something going on at weekends too. Admission prices can be found here.
Visitors always speak positively of the attraction and during the holidays there are extra events put on for children which are always popular. The recent upgrading of the playground has especially been appreciated and the Butterfly House too of course is a fantastic addition. Read some recent reviews here.
The big thing at the moment of course are the fabulous displays of snowdrops which are worth a visit this month. Next weekend is infact Snowdrop Weekend and it is expected that they will be at their best. However, here at Old Oak Barn we are now fully booked until 10 February when we do have a short weekend break available. If interested please contact me for more details.
Airbnb – Carmarthen
Airbnb promises that “unforgettable trips start with Airbnb!”. Here at Old Oak Barn we like to think we help all our visitors make lasting and unforgettable memories of their stay with us – be it just for a few nights, a week or longer. Old Oak Barn, like many other self catering accommodation providers, got listed on Airbnb a while ago but we have always welcomed visitors from all over the world who seem to want what we are offering. If you are looking on Airbnb for Carmarthen you may well stumble across some interesting out of the way properties, tree houses, yurts, caravans and camp sites even. This area of Carmarthenshire now includes over a hundred properties listed on the popular website. If you would like ot stay with us you can book through Airbnb or come direct using contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07787148884
The Airbnb platform is huge worldwide – did you know that Paris is the city with the highest number of lets? That airbnb now has accommodation in 191 countries and in 57,000 cities! Also that Airbnb’s summer reach is 353 times what it was five years ago.
This graph shows just how massive its growth has been recently!
We can see the positives for visitors and for hosts. Reviews form a big part of its success and people who use Airbnb know that all reviews are genuine. From a hosts perspective it is a positive thing to be able to review a visitor. And from a visitors perspective it is accepted that its almost a duty to write an open and honest appraisal of your stay. Not all our visitors do infact write a review but we encourage ALL to write something … even if its warts and all! Afterall there is always room for improvement. The success of Airbnb is I think because of the trust inherent in users – they know that reviews are genuine! So to sum up …
- Reviews are moderated by Airbnb
- Reviews only come from actual guests and hosts (as opposed to TripAdvisor)
- Reviews only appear once both sides have had their say
- Reviews are featured prominently and feature real people
- There is also private way of giving feedback to the hosts which I have used once or twice!
Toddler Friendly Breaks
Toddler friendly breaks are very popular at our lovely holiday let in Carmarthenshire. Here at Old Oak Barn we have always welcomed children of all ages – and out of the school holidays we often have little ones staying. Parents often tell us that their toddlers and babies sleep very well in the barn – I think its because of the high ceilings and great ventilation!
We supply suitable age related toys, puzzles and games. We have an activity mat for babies as well as changing mats, cots, high chairs, baby bath and a potty! We have two of each in case twins arrive! Being a twin myself I know how important it is to be well catered for!
Lots of toddler friendly Brio and Duplo
If you would like to know more on where to go or on what to do with your little ones while staying here please visit our website pages specifically written to provide lots of relevant information. You will find the link at the top of this page. Children will enjoy feeding the chickens and collecting the eggs – my chickens are very tame and love to be talked to.
Old Oak Barn Garden in Carmarthenshire
The county of Carmarthenshire is famous for its wonderful public gardens and we are fortunate to have The National Botanic Gardens of Wales on our doorstep. Aberglasney is only half an hour away too and Colby Gardens less than 30 minutes. I have always loved gardening although will be the first to admit that I rarely plan things here at Old Oak Barn. Rather the gardens just evolve. For 40 years now I have been growing flowers and vegetables 30 years of which have been here at Cwmpalis. Although initially it was a 20/80 split with veggies being the main things grown, more recently and in the last 10 years the emphasis has been more on growing flowers. By this I mean growing from seeds I have collected or been given from friends or from cuttings. I grow perennials too and since developing the new bed at the bottom of the front lawn by the farmhouse I can see their value. I tend not to have colour themes but instead go for vibrant colours everywhere. If someone was to ask my favourites I would have to say roses, sweetpeas, cosmos, jasmine and poppies, all of which thrive here at Cwmpalis.
My Garden in Carmarthenshire at Old Oak Barn
I am fortunate to have great backdrops to the garden from many angles. On the left you can see the approach to the farm and holiday cottage which hints at the sheltered valley we live in. in 2015 I bought a wonderful 12 by 9 wooden greenhouse which is proving a big success. One cucumber plant this summer has produced over 150 cucumbers!
We always arrange cut flowers in the barn for visitors who have come to expect this extra touch. It is always possible to find something of beauty to display in the barn! When we have a glut of vegetables we often offload onto visitors free of charge.
We recommend a visit to the Carmarthen Museum. On the outskirts of Carmarthen in Abergwili you will find The Museum of Carmarthen which has 11 galleries which together take you through 50,000 years of local history. I visited it the other day and was fascinated by many of the exhibits. The building itself used to be where the Bishop of St Davids lived (1542-1974) and interestingly it was also where the New Testament was first translated into Welsh many years ago in October 1567.
To the left is the interior of the chapel with its splendid wooden ceiling. There are also many costumes on display including uniforms of Carmarthenshire Yeomanry Cavalry, an Officer’s Coat, Trumpeters headress and other historical items.
In particular there are some great paintings of important local people involved in the setting up of the Circular School movement along with Gruffydd Jones in the 18th century which of course happened to be near St Clears. Below is a painting of Madame Bevan. She married Arthur Bevan MP for Carmarthen Borough in 1721 and was a wealthy woman who gave generously to charities. The painting of her has been in the Carmarthen Museum since 1998.
Below is a photo of a reconstructed interior of a school as it would have looked in the 19th century which is when many of the small village schools were opened in this part of Wales. It is sad to think many have now closed but inevitable in many ways.
Open all year (closed over the Christmas period)
Tues – Sat: 10am – 4.30pm
Cost: Free entry
The Carmarthen Museum is only 5 minutes from the centre of town and 20 minutes from Old Oak Barn. All photos in this blog were taken by myself with permission of Museum staff – many thanks! I appreciate being allowed to use them.
TRIP ADVISOR – Carmarthen Holiday Cottage
This year Trip Advisor has given us as a Carmarthen Holiday Cottage another excellent certificate! Last year in 2015 we received a Certificate of Excellence rating from Trip Advisor and this year Old Oak Barn has been awarded the Excellent rating once again.
We are very pleased and quite surprised! For a small business we have to demonstrate very high standards and customer satisfaction. Next year in 2017 we will have to get even more reviews I understand. Seeing as some of our visitors do not leave reviews we are thrilled even to be recognised for a second time. I am not quite sure how they add up the reviews or even when they make calculations but the award is generally given out in May.
Visitors leave some amazing comments!
“We have now been to the old oak barn 5 or 6 times. We keep being drawn back to this tranquil spot as it is SO idyllic. Absolutely everything suits us perfectly…the barn itself is beautifully designed and kitted out and perfect for the 4 of us, we love sitting out on the patio on a warm summer’s evening.” stayed in May 2016
“Old Oak barn is a fantastic hideaway. Set in a beautiful valley, with the back drop of Jerry’s wood. The bird life will keep you busy for days. Charlotte was a generous and welcoming host. Helping us get onto Skomer for another great day out” stayed 2016 in April
“Wow!!! What can I say….except beautiful beautiful beautiful….if you are looking for anywhere to stay in Carnarthen then look no further than Old Oak Barn….beautiful setting, beautiful renovated barn and Charlotte & Jerry were very welcoming we will definitely be visiting again” earlier in 2016
We want to thank our visitors most sincerely for leaving reviews – I know its not everyone’s cup of tea to leave a review even though many like reading them! Trip Advisor have strict guidelines for posting reviews and although we are in the section which makes it sound as if we may be a B and B or a speciality lodging I urge potential visitors to take a peep for some genuine and very generous comments.
Constable Oriel Parc Pembrokeshire
For a few months more and until September this year John Constable’s “Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831” is on display at Oriel Parc in St David’s Pembrokeshire. Oriel y Parc will be the third of six venues across the UK to display this important ‘six footer’ which was recently purchased with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Manton Foundation, the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation) and Tate Members.
Constable famously wrote “Painting is but another word for feeling” and standing in front of the huge work last week I was struck by the level of detail, mood and movement within the painting created by unusual application and flecking of paint. This painting had a huge impact at the time it was unveiled and came in for a lot of criticism too! Hard to imagine!
John Constable was born and brought up in what is now known as “Constable Country” in East Bergholt in Suffolk. His father was a prosperous corn merchant but it is said that John Constable wanted to be an artist from a very young age. He sounds an extraordinary man, a unique artist and there are many famous quotes we know and love today – “We see nothing truly until we understand it” and “There is nothing ugly; I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may, – light, shade, and perpective will always make it beautiful” spring to mind.
The various themes within the painting include “Weather” “Politics” “Religion” “Emotional Landscape”
Oriel Parc is easily found on the left as you enter St Davids from Solva.
March to October
Visitor Centre: 9.30am – 5pm daily
Gallery: 10am – 4pm daily
Off the northern tip of St Bride’s Bay in the very west of Pembrokeshire you will find Ramsey Island which is owned by RSPB. The best way to see it is to get a boat trip either around the island which is what we did last week or spend the day on the island exploring on foot. Voyages of Discovery a local long established family business is a good choice to plan your adventure! The boats are all well maintained and the staff professional and knowledgeable paying attention to your safety at all times. Ramsey Island has some of the finest cliff scenery in Wales.
Launching from St Justinian’s you will have the opportunity to see the new lifeboat station which we are told will open in 2017. The old one is for sale apparently for a cool half a million pounds! It will no doubt need a lot more than that to turn it into a house – but what a setting for anyone who does!
The trip around Ramsey Island was breathtaking – the RIB seats up to 12 people and was very comfortable. The two guys from Voyages of Discovery knew a lot about the island – its history – birdlife – archaeological rock formations – flora and fauna – and of course about its resident seal population. We saw oyster catchers, guiellemots, razor bills, choughs, gulls, and I caught sight of the resident peregrine falcon too. There are also just a few deer left on the island too.
Atlantic Grey Seals breed on Ramsey and many visitors to Old Oak Barn enjoy a ride around the island to see them. Check out this video to see a glimpse of the beautiful island – do visit if you can – we think you will have a “whale” of a time!
National Botanic Gardens Wales
Situated less than 30 minutes from Old Oak Barn is Carmarthenshire’s pride and joy! We LOVE the gardens and visit often and there is always something new to enjoy. The Gardens of Wales as they are also known will amaze you not only because of the variety of plants to see but also because of the wonderful setting within the natural landscape. Open every day from 10 in the morning. The National Botanic Gardens of Wales are currently working on lots of new restoration projects – please see their website for more details.
Did you know that the National Botanic Gardens Wales :-
- are the most visited garden in Wales – over 2.5 million visitors so far
- have been recognised as the most influential landscape scheme in Wales over the last 75 years by the Landscape Institute
- have been voted ‘No 1 Garden to Visit in Wales’ by BBC Gardeners’ World
- have been voted the number 1 ‘Wonder of Wales’, ‘Most Romantic Garden’, ‘Best Children’s Garden’ & ‘Best Afternoon Tea’ by the Western Mail
- have been voted ‘Visitors Favourite’ by Carmarthenshire Tourism Association
- have been awarded the 2016 Gold Accolade by Visit Wales
This year the needs of the very youngest visitors have been further met with the addition of a straw bale maze, improved play areas plus willow walks and magical woodland play areas. During holiday times there are always extra activities put on for children inside or out. Do take your little ones to the Gardens as they will love it there.
If you feel like a Bluebell Holiday this Spring/early Summer then come and stay at Old Oak Barn.
At the moment we have a 3 night break from Tuesday 10 May after the Spring Bank Holiday so please get in touch if you would like to see our glorious show in the 40 acre woods here on the farm in Carmarthenshire.
Bluebells are everyone’s favourite and when at the peak the smell is fantastic too! If you prefer we can even drive you around the woods to see them in our 4 x 4. The areas of clear fell which have been recently replanted often put on a magnificent display as the dormant bulbs sense the light again and bloom once more.
Traditional Upholstery Course
Across the fields from Old Oak Barn you will find the long established Traditional Upholstery Course run by Liz Marks. Set in old farm buildings the course attracts those keen to learn the traditional way of upholstering from all over the world. Sometimes they choose to stay with us here at Old Oak Barn. I am reliably told that this is one of the best courses in the country with tutors paying great attention to detail to get things right. The course can lead to accreditation if that is what people are aiming for. There are courses to suit everyone, from one week duration to longer Diploma or AMUSF accredited courses. When I talk to those who are on the course which runs from a Monday through to a Friday most weeks of the year I am struck by how much they enjoy the course but all do say patience is needed. And I am in awe at some of the pieces of furniture which are transformed during their stay in Wales.
So have a look at The Traditional Upholstery Course website for lots of ideas and information and give us a shout if you would like to stay. You can virtually see the workshop across the fields and I am sure if on a sunny day you look across the valley from there you will see our sheep and Greylags too!
Phone Liz on 01994 232124 – she will answer all your questions and is on hand to book you in to a course! Judging by the reactions of those we have met who have done the course, some for several weeks, it is very well led and organised with expert tuition too. With only 5 on the course at any one time you will get lots of personal attention.
The famous Pottery near Carmarthen has been lovingly creating fine pottery for nearly 40 years in this part of the world. Their pottery is awesone! Our visitors love Gwili Pottery!
Each piece is unique and everything is hand thrown by a very skilled and imaginative team. Each piece is hand painted too. I love their strong vibrant colours and while staying at Old Oak Barn it is lots of fun to go to the pottery which is only about 6 miles north of Carmarthen.Very easy to find being just off the main Lampeter road going north out of town.
Opening hours are as follows :-
9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday
11am to 3pm Sunday
Adddress: Pontarsais, Carmarthen, SA32 7DU
Tel: 01267 253449
Visitors are very welcome to watch the potter at work and to chat informally with the painters too.
Gwili Pottery also undertakes commissions and their wonderful ceramics are exported all over the world as well as being on sale locally.
Work is now on display in Carmarthen town centre at the new craft shop and gallery called Elephants and Bananas.
Watch this short video which although 5 years old now still shows off Gwili Pottery well.
Bird Watching Carmarthenshire
If you are a bird lover then come and stay at Old Oak Barn which is a paradise for those who want to go bird watching in Carmarthenshire.
We have so many different breeds who visit the valley – some stay all year like the wagtails and some just appear for a few months like the chiff chaff, house martin and swallow in the summer. Some like field fare pass through on their way north or south! Whatever time you are here there is always something to watch and listen out for. Our formal bird count identified nearly 50 different species – taken on 31 March and 1 April a few years ago.
Some of our favourites who reside here most of the year include the following:-
Several places within an hour or so offer guided bird watching walks at certain times of the year. For example Dinefwr Castle which is owned by the Wildlife Trust and managed by Cadw organises several events which enable beginners to identify birdsong and to recognise different birds seen during the walks. Phone 01558824512 for the next bird watching walk or dawn chorus morning walk as it is sometimes called. Or you could pop down to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust site near Llanelli for the Dawn Chorus Walk on 30 April which starts at 6.00 a.m. I am planning to give this a go!