Review of Seren Loft, Mid-Wales
Barn conversion and artist studio in the valleys of Mid Wales, within a spit of the station so it is a great place to go for a car-free break.
>> For contact and booking, see our full listing of Seren Loft
The translations of English to Welsh on the road signs suddenly flip as you travel from the Black Mountains to the Black Mountain – where previously you have been asked to “Slow: Araf” suddenly the instruction is to: “Araf: Slow”. This is Wales where Welsh is the first language and English is spoken but not as a preference for 60% of the (admittedly aging) population.
Once you have wound your way through the rolling hills of the Brecon Beacons and the Cambrian Mountains, five miles north of Llandovery, to Seren Loft (Llofft y Seren - "star loft" in Welsh) - in the village of Cynghordy nestled in the valley the first thing you notice is the sound of running water competing with the birdsong. The Rooms:Ingrid has set up the carefully thought out Seren Loft – converting a barn into a lovely one bedroom, self-catering flat with a secret stair down through the vaulted ceiling of the studio, with huge double height doors opening up to allow the natural light to flood in. Although close to her home, it is very secluded in feel, yet convenient if you need to ask Ingrid a question or some advice about the local area. The attention to detail is thorough, with all the soft furnishing coming from a local artist (Contrary Mary) who has been commissioned specially to ensure everything looks just right: Ingrid has an artist’s eye and a very light touch in all that she has done here.
This is a perfect haven for the little greentraveller – everything you would need for your family holiday is already here, so you could literally pack a toothbrush and some clean pants, tuck the baby under your arm and jump on a train. Ingrid can pick you up from the station (to save the wheels of your suitcase) and drive you the few hundred yards to your holiday. High chair, cot, everything your family could possibly need is here already, just waiting for your arrival. Equally the entire place can be converted to assist anyone with mobility issues; with handrails and other aids for the bathroom easily fitted. All you have to do is ask.
The loft itself has been kitted out with everything you could possibly need for a self catering stay: a large open plan kitchen dining room that flows into a sitting area replete with a wood burner, an alcove with a day bed (just begging for you to flop down and crack open your book) and a writing nook with a desk and inspirational quote: “writing is the geometry of the soul”. Theses have been written here, Ingrid told me proudly, and it is surely only a matter of time before someone settles down and pens a novel. The bedroom is a haven of comfort and charm, with a staircase leading down to the studio to further inspire the artist in you.
The site of a former professional nursery, the garden still boasts a huge functional greenhouse from where Ingrid grows on her seedlings to stock her kitchen garden. There is an orchard in the garden and a stream runs behind it. Ingrid will always share the fruits of her labour if she has anything spare! A complimentary hamper is awaiting your arrival so you don’t need to juggle shopping bags as well as the baby on your arrival, and packed lunches and afternoon teas can be ordered during your stay. Welsh and Carmarthenshire seasonal produce sourced from Llandovery grocers, bakers, butchers, the local Co-op, can be ordered on-line and delivered by a local growers group, The Organic Fresh Food Company. Gluten-free herself, Ingrid is super sensitive to dietary needs and requirements and will happily assist even the most attention seeking in their search for dietary harmony and she can provide a hamper for the vegan, wheat-free or the omnivore just as easily.
You could spend a whole week here accessing the local offerings on the train, travelling The Heart of Wales Line. It connects Swansea to Shrewsbury and gives you access to many smaller stations that make great start points for jolly days out. Try leaping off at Llandrindod Wells, Llandovery or Llandeilo. From Llandeilo, on Tuesday and Thursday in the summer you can get the Towy Valley Explorer which will take you to Dinefwr Castle, Aberglasney Gardens, The National Botanic Gardens of Wales and Dryswlyn Castle. You can find out about the bus here.
Tywi Tours do a wonderful range of minibus tours around the area and will pick you up from Seren Loft. If you are minded to visit the local RSPB centre and see the red kite feeding station, Ingrid is happy to coordinate a lift for you and drop you there and collect you, combining your holiday with her errands. There is a local bike hire company which delivers bikes to hire. If you feel so inclined, why not pop to the local roman gold mines and take part in an underground tour (perfect for those slightly less clement days. Ahem.)
The floor throughout the loft is reclaimed oak, the furniture is all vintage where the fire regulations allow, there is even a shopping trolley for you to trundle off with and bring back your gatherings from the local food and produce markets. The whole barn is wrapped in a celotex blanket of insulation and the wood for the burner is from a local source and all free. There are plans to install a biomass boiler.
Ingrid is hoping to establish a permaculture forest garden – carefully managed it will actually encourage a diversity of fauna and flora to add to the already impressive list of indigenous species found there.
How to get there via public transport:
It couldn’t be easier. Seren Loft is 500 yards – about a 5 minute stroll - from Cynghordy station on the Heart of Wales line. Known as one of the loveliest in the whole of the UK, the train line travels through beautiful scenery and connects with the railway network at Swansea, Llanelli, Craven Arms and Shrewsbury. At Seren Loft, you can enjoy all the benefits of being connected to the rail network, but none of the disadvantages – there are only eight trains at day so you get to enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside.
Bring your paint brush. Actually, Ingrid would lend you one, so just bring your inspiration! To have a whole artist’s studio at your finger tips is surely too much to resist. There is a canvas set up and waiting on an easel for you to daub and create a lasting masterpiece. Ingrid is unofficial artist in residence, and may well be prevailed upon to share some of her genius if you ask her nicely.
Perfect for a car-free holiday. Especially set up for little greentravellers, book your train ticket and head to Wales. You will want for nothing and enjoy your hosts warmth and enthusiasm, the peace and quiet and artistic licence to be creative.
>> For contact and booking, see our full listing of Seren Loft
See the photos from Lucy's visit on our Pinterest board for Seren Loft
Posted by Lucy Symons