A 3 day HF self-guided holiday at a choice of location came as an unexpected, yet quite exciting prize experience when I received the good news!
It was something neither I or my husband had ever participated in before. For it’s beautiful scenery in the Snowdonia National Park area, we selected Dolserau Hall, near Dolgellau in Wales. A ‘valley of peace and beauty’ were the words described by Quaker George Fox, specifically to Dolgellau when he first visited Wales in 1657.
We chose the end of June, hoping the weather would be favourable.
Upon arrival at Dolserau, we were served with afternoon tea and scones along with
other new arrivals that day. We were booked into Room 3 on the second floor which was spacious and had a nice view, apart from the rather rusty looking fire escape steps nearby. Assistance is available for carrying luggage if required.
Bedrooms all have their individual layout and character in this historic, Victorian house adjacent to a converted coach house where guests can also be booked in. Our room had a TV with a digital radio, hair dryer and tea facilities. Two comfortable armchairs were great to place strategically in front of the patio style windows and gaze out across the valley and the sheep.
The public rooms downstairs include a lounge with an open fire and a spacious dining room. A licensed bar is open throughout your stay. A boot and drying room is available, especially useful on wet days. Although there is WiFi, reception can be patchy because of the area.
The amazing thing with this type of holiday is that they are full board. Local produce is used wherever possible and there is a wide choice for breakfast. Dinner is the highlight of the day, where walks and various other conversations can take place. We were self-guided walkers, but a high percentage of guests do the guided walks. Picnics are made available for lunchtimes to take with you on your walk. Lists are made available the night before where you can order the type of sandwich you would like and then help yourself to a selection of other ‘picnic goodies’ which you can put in a provided, brown paper bag. You also select your choice of evening meal which obviously helps the chef! Vegetarian options are available for all meals and gluten free diets are catered for.
A wide variety of walks are available. For us, we were able to select from a series of lamented cards, bearing instructions which we could borrow and then return.
The first day, being a Sunday, we went into Dolgellau to Mass and had a look around the town before setting out on the moderate ‘Precipice Walk’ – a 3 mile circular walk on some rough terrain which takes around 2 hours. This circular walk doesn’t follow a public footpath, but a private walk over a beautiful part of the Nannau estate, which dates back to the 12th century. The public have been able to use this walk by the estate since 1890 as long as they observe the country code and follow the indicated route. This Walk is one of the famous attractions of Dolgellau as it passes through an interesting variety of habitats which include deciduous woodland, meadows, and lakeside. Sadly, it was cloudy but dry when we did the walk, so missed the sharpness and light colour which would have made a great difference, especially for photographs.
After our evening meal on the Sunday, we had an interesting talk by the Manager of Dolserau about it’s history, entitled ‘Tales from Dolserau Hall.’ In brief, the house was built in 1864 by Charles Edwards, a captain for the Merionethshire Rife Corps. For a time he was the sheriff of Merionethshire and played a prominent role in the politics of the time. He was often at odds with the Nannaus – both families seeking control.
The original house is said to have burnt down and the foundations can still be found in a nearby field. Despite research, there seems to be hardly any reference to the facts at the time!
There are 3 panes of stained glass coats of arms as you enter the Hall. The first depicts, ‘Always faithful. Munro Clan, fathers’ side of the family.’ Second pane is the Charles Edwards family crest. And the third – ‘Walking with difficulty along the tough path. Horsburgh clan, mothers’ side?’
Later history –
• 1957 started selling off the surrounding land and houses (dispute over land)
• 1957 became a school for boys
• 1972 Dolgellau Home for the elderly
• 1988 first opened as a hotel
• 2011 bought by HF Holidays
There was a Dolserau Halt – a railway passing from Ruabon to Barmouth. The platform edge was made of timber and was situated on the north side of the line. It had a timber shelter and a name-board with the suffix “FOR THE TORRENT WALK” (another popular walk nearby). Open in 1935, but it closed in 1951.
On our last full day we revisited Dolgellau then took a long route (via car) to Barmouth, lying on the estuary of the River Mawddach and Cardigan Bay where the mountains meet the sea.
Arriving back later to Dolserau, we then did the ‘Torrent Walk’ which runs about 1.5 miles each way along the Afon Clywedog river. The lowest point is 150 feet and the highest 500 feet. Created by the Richards family of the Caerynwch estate in the 1800s, it has proved a popular walk with locals and visitors since Victorian times. It was designed and engineered by Thomas Payne, who was also responsible for Porthmadog’s embankment known as ‘The Cob.’
Dinner on our last evening was amazing – a ‘Taste of Wales.’ A number of Welsh courses to taste and enjoy. A wonderful experience which was enjoyed by all!
We had an amazing 3 days trying something quite different and I can understand why many guests return again and again. Some had been on the European HF holidays, but overall, it seemed that most guests, both couples and singles, enjoyed the localities in the UK, especially from the accommodation side of things. Leaders have great expertise and are dedicated to what they do with enthusiasm and love of the outdoors.