For many, solo travel sounds like a daunting and daring thing to do. The thought of being alone in a strange and unknown city, not knowing the language or anyone can easily deter a lot of people from taking that step. For those who have tried, you will agree with me that the experience is phenomenal. You get the usual travel cliches of finding yourself, getting out of your comfort zone and meeting friendly souls – but for me, it is all about being with yourself, having some quality me-time and simply just winding down.
Working daily in an office with no personal space and cramming yourself in the tube to get to your destination all feels like it is all up against your face. A couple of days alone can work a real treat – letting you freshen up, clear your mind and contemplate a little. Of course, there is no such thing as travelling alone because you will never be alone alone. You will meet a few others while out and about in this new foreign place.
With my other half living on the other side of the world, these little weekend trips away (Tallinn and Riga) are just too far for her. What started out as quick getaway trips has now turned into something I do at least once a year. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy traveling with others, but every so often some time by yourself will work wonders and get you back in a great state for work!
For those who want to take a smaller step towards a long weekend alone in a foreign state, try going on a little solo trip to the countryside or for those in London, head to South Wales for some food and nature. After that initial shock to the system, you will soon be making that longer trip to some remote part of the world all by yourself.
A reason why South Wales is such an ideal spot is due to its distance to London. Within a few hours of driving, you will reach incredible mountains for hiking, great forests for long walks, amazing scenery for drives and cosy little towns. A perfect combination of nature, comfort and relaxation.
Pen y Fan
Pen y Fan stands at 2,864 ft and is the highest peak in South Wales. The best place to start this trek up is from the Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre (LD3 8NL). This allows you direct access and straight up what locals call the ‘Motorway‘, all the way up to the first peak (Corn Du) and then to Pen Y Fan. This is a steep climb and took me around 2.5 to 3 hours to climb both peaks and back down.
On my way up, I met another hiker from North Wales, and we chatted all the way about work, travels and awesome places to go to next. These are those rare opportunites to meet someone new and have a nice genuine conversation, while struggling up a large mountain! But without chatting with him, I would not have heard about his stories on hiking and volunteering in Nepal!
The trek was quite an effort but the views at the top were just incredible. You essentially walk up along the ridge of the mountain, with ever expanding greenery on both sides and you can see for miles. Once the fog clears, it was just beuatiful. So much green and so much distance. It was definitely worth the hike just to see the views up there!
A word of warning: the weather up these mountains can change quite quickly, so come prepared and be ready. I first attempted to do the circular walk which consisted of 3-4 different peaks. This was a much longer walk and I got stuck in the fog and fully drenched and freezing before I even reached the first peak! I had to turn back and sit in the car for a while to warm up. So be prepared and dress accordingly.
After a long hike, you will be looking forward to a nice cosy bed for the night. Brecon is pretty much the capital of the Brecon Beacon area. A small cute little town perfect for a night’s stay. I found a very nice little Airbnb just in the centre by the main street. A very cosy room with a super comfortable bed and a great shower. The breakfast lay was also incredible and delicious!
My host works in the local catering industry, so she recommended me a spot for dinner at The Felin Fach Griffith, just outside Brecon. The food was scrumptious with ingredients from local Welsh farms. A three course menu costs around £29 and has a great selection of dishes. I had some sort of salad for a starter and a delicious lamb served with asparagus. And of course a nice cheese board to the end the evening. It is such a cosy little pub with such fine food! Don’t forget to bring a little book for the evening, eating alone is quite scary at first but it is easy to get use to. A book and great food usually helps!
Brecon National Park Visitor Centre
The national park is a great place for those who wish to go for an after dinner walk. It offers decent views across the fields and some very nice little strolls to do after dinner. Perfect way to end a long day out!
The Black Mountain Road
Known as one of the best roads to drive on in the UK, I was not going to come all this way and not give it a cruise! Starting from Llandovery, I drive from north to south along the A4069 and ended in Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen. It was perfectly understandable to see why this drive is so popular! The 20 mile trip includes going down country lanes and then up a little hill via incredible amounts of proper bends and turns, before reaching the top for an incredible view of the land. The ride was quite fun, something I never thought I would enjoy with so much turns and bends!
Sgwd Yr Eira Waterfall
My final stop before heading back to London was to see a waterfall. I parked at the Cwm Porth Car Park Waterfall Centre, got myself a map and embarked on a 1.5 – 2 hour mini walk in the dense forest. You will need your walking boots here as the rain can make the trail quite muddy but the forest itself is a nice path that allows you to stop at a few waterfall points.
The main attraction was the Sgwd Yr Eira Waterfall, right at the far end of the trail. After a long flight of stairs down, you will come face to face with a nice cascading waterfall. A careful climb along the edge of the waters and you can actually go behind the waterfall and check out the views from there. It was my first time behind the curtains of the water and it was pretty cool!
On the way back to the carpark, I bumped into a few people who sat next to me at dinner the night before. They were all working in London and came for a long weekend getaway as well. Unsurprisingly, the first question they asked me was whether I was travelling alone! It might feel strange to admit that you are, but after a weekend to yourself full of alone time, thinking and being with your thoughts, in the back of your mind you will know how awesome it was to get away and spending some time with yourself.
All in all
South Wales was simply just beautiful, full of incredible nature and great people and food. It is not only the perfect weekend getaway (also good for couples and groups) but also an ideal place for a weekend alone to explore and relax. Hopefully I have influenced and encouraged some people to start thinking and planning their first solo trip after this post! More solo travelling posts to come after this, stay tuned! 🙂