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Review of Old Rectory Barn, Abergavenny, Brecon Beacons

Reviews
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Posted by Nick Stewart at 11:48 on Friday 13 July 2012

Old Rectory Barn is a 5 star, luxury self-catering converted barn in a quiet south-eastern corner of Brecon Beacons National Park. It is run by Hilary and Graham Lipscombe who restored the barn in 2007 with both comfort and the environment in mind. Hilary is a Brecon Beacons National Park Ambassador which means she is a font of local knowledge about the special qualities of the area.

>> For availability and booking, see our full listing for Old Rectory Barn

Old Rectory Barn was converted in 2007 with both comfort and the environment in mind. Photo: Andy HixOld Rectory Barn was converted in 2007 with both comfort and the environment in mind. Photo: Andy Hix

The Rooms
Old Rectory Barn offers flexible accommodation, available as one large property that sleeps up to ten guests or as two independent cottages – the Loft and Stables – for two separate smaller groups of six and four respectively. The four rooms are finished to a high standard, contemporary in feel with simple, clean lines offset pleasantly by retaining enough of the traditional features of the old building such as oak beams. There is a delightful patio area and grassy garden space for sitting and eating or relaxing with views of local landscape features, Gilwern Hill and the Blorenge. 
I stayed in the Stables which is the slightly smaller of the two standalone cottages and comprises a carpeted, double room ensuite room with large shower cubicle, as well as a twin room of similar size, styling and facility. Both rooms in the Stables enjoy countryside views with doors that open up to access a terrace from which breakfast can be taken whilst enjoying views of Gilwern Hill and the Blorenge.  
As a standalone cottage, The Loft is slightly larger than the Stables and sleeps six people over two rooms – a double room with an additional single bed as well as a pull out; and a twin room. There are neutral carpets, painted light wooden furniture in a shabby chic style, high ceilings with velux windows and a small balcony window overlooking the garden fields. The Loft windows offered views of the Sugar (less visible in the summer when the trees are in leaf) and the bathroom has a bath with overhead shower.
Both The Stables and The Loft have open plan living areas, with  enough space to prepare and cook whilst enjoying the company of others. A three piece suite as well as a small LCD TV with basic Sky if you really need to watch TV brings it together! I noticed that there was an information pack containing a wealth of information about the local area to help us enjoy our stay, green cleaning products in the cupboards and interestingly local toiletries in the bathroom from the village of Myddfai – winner of BBC and Big Lottery Fund’s televised Village SOS initiative.

The Rooms
Old Rectory Barn offers has flexible accommodation, available as one large property that sleeps up to ten guests or as two independent cottages – the Loft and Stables – for two separate smaller groups of six and four respectively. The rooms are finished to a high standard, contemporary in feel with simple, clean lines offset pleasantly by retaining enough of the traditional features of the old building such as oak beams. There is a delightful patio area and grassy garden space for sitting and eating or relaxing, with views of Gilwern Hill – a 441m high Site of Special Scientific interest -and its prominent neighbour, the Blorenge, which overlooks the valley of the River Usk. At 561m its summit plateau is a keen launch site for paragliders.

Views over beautiful countryside from the Loft window. Photo: Andy HixViews over beautiful countryside from the Loft window. Photo: Andy Hix

I stayed in the Stables which is the slightly smaller of the two standalone cottages and comprises a carpeted, double room plus ensuite with large shower cubicle, as well as a twin room of similar size, styling and facility. Both rooms in the Stables enjoy countryside views with doors that open up to access a terrace from which breakfast can be taken whilst enjoying views of Gilwern Hill and the Blorenge.  

Rooms in Old Rectory Barn are contemporary in feel, elegant and comfortable. Photo: Andy HixRooms in Old Rectory Barn are contemporary in feel, elegant and comfortable. Photo: Andy HixAs a standalone cottage, The Loft is slightly larger than the Stables and sleeps six people over two rooms – a double room with an additional single bed as well as a pull out; and a twin room. The rooms are carpeted, with lightly painted wooden furniture in a shabby chic style, high ceilings with velux windows and a small balcony window overlooking the garden and fields. The Loft windows offer views of the Sugar Loaf (less visible in the summer when the trees are in leaf) and the bathroom has a bath with overhead shower.

Old Rectory Barn has light and spacious open plan kitchen/diner and living areas. Photo: Andy hixOld Rectory Barn has light and spacious open plan kitchen/diner and living areas. Photo: Andy hix

Looking out at the garden and fields from The Loft balcony. Photo: Andy HixLooking out at the garden and fields from The Loft balcony. Photo: Andy HixBoth The Stables and The Loft have open plan living areas, with enough space to prepare and cook whilst enjoying the company of others. A three piece suite as well as a small LCD TV with Freeview if you really need to watch TV brings it together! I was pleased to see that there was an information pack containing a wealth of information about the local area such as walks you can do from the front door to help you enjoy your stay, green cleaning products in the cupboards and interestingly local toiletries in the bathroom from the village of Myddfai – winner of BBC and Big Lottery Fund’s televised Village SOS initiative.

The bathrooms have toiletries from local brand, 'Made in Myddfai'. Photo: Andy HixThe bathrooms have toiletries from local brand, 'Made in Myddfai'. Photo: Andy Hix

The Food
Old Rectory Barn is self-catering accommodation however, on arrival you’ll receive a welcome hamper with items such as cheeses from Blaenavon, Welsh butter, locally baked bread, free-range eggs from Crickhowell, Calon Wen organic milk and organic apple juice. There are a number of places to eat in nearby village Gilwern, such as The Beaufort Arms. For those seeking a finer dining experience, Abergavenny is known as a bit of a foodie heaven with chef Stephen Terry’s restaurant The Hardwick and The Walnut Tree offering gastronomic delights.

Activities'
There is plenty to do in this peaceful south-eastern corner of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The landscape offers some great walking and cycling opportunities from the front door including the local industrial heritage trails to Clydach Gorge and the old ironworks ruins.

Old Rectory Barn is situated near the village of Gilwern which has the Brecon to Monmouth Canal running through it and you can walk or cycle along its banks. Taking a circular walk out over the top of nearby hill Blorenge rewards walkers with lovely views of the town of Abergavenny and other mountains in the vicinity such as the Sugarloaf. The Blorenge is also the local hotspot for paragliding for the more intrepid and there are horseriding and caving opportunities in the area too.

What Makes Old Rectory Barn Green
Old Rectory Barn has attained a Gold rating with the Green Tourism Business Scheme. Because of this and more – including the knowledge they have about the local landscape which they pass on to their visitors – Old Rectory Barn has also been recognised by the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority as one of their key ‘Sustainable Tourism Champions’. See below for the Greentraveller video guide to this inspirational business.

Old Rectory Barn had a rainwater harvesting system installed when it was being renovated, the building is well insulated and they make use of solar-thermal panels. A hamper of local food is provided for guests when they arrive and recycling is made easy with facilities provided. The owners encourage wildlife such as planting wildflower verges and placing nest boxes in the trees, which all adds to the experience of staying there.

Getting there
The nearest train station is Abergavenny which is no more than 15 minutes away in a taxi although by prior arrangement, Hilary and Graham are very willing to collect their guests from the station. 

Top Tip
For advice on where to go, what to do and see – ask Hilary. As a Brecon Beacons National Park Ambassador, she is very knowledgeable about the area and was very helpful in helping me plan my day of exploring. A good recommendation was to stroll up to the nearby 12 century church of St Elli which has one of the oldest bells in Wales and a circle of ancient yews. Hilary and Graham can contact the warden in advance to get hold of the key if you want to have a look around.

Verdict
A lovely self-catering property restored with comfort in mind and finished to a high standard reflecting its Visit Wales 5 star-rating. Old Rectory Barn’s garden is delightful meaning a lazy day sitting outside reading a book in peace is as appealing as heading out into the hills. The location in a quieter corner of the Brecon Beacons National Park whilst being close to Abergavenny and therefore very accessible is a plus. The blend of wonderful countryside with the legacy of some interesting industrial heritage sites and stories makes for a distinctive mix.

People come to stay at Old Rectory Barn because it’s in a quiet, lesser known corner of the Brecon Beacons National Park with wonderful views of the landscape from all rooms and an array of activities to try in the surrounding area. Hilary and Graham are delightful hosts who embody the very essence of hospitality – and dogs are very welcome!

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