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Review and Video of The Drovers Rest, Powys, Mid-Wales

Posted by at 12:35 on Thursday 27 June 2013

Lucy Symons stays at a fabulously restful and cwtch restaurant with rooms in the Victorian spa town of Llanwrtyd Wells, Mid Wales.

>> For contact details and availability, see our full listing for The Drovers Rest

The Drovers Rest Photo: Lucy SymonsThe Drovers Rest Photo: Lucy Symons

The Setting
Right at the intersection of the town of Llanwrtyd Wells where the main streets meet and cross the river is The Drovers Rest - really a restaurant with rooms.  It is like stepping in to your auntie’s wonderfully eclectic house, replete with local knick knackery and overstuffed armchairs just begging you to plop down in to them.  Dating from 1620, the building was one of the first in the town - built with an undercroft, it was a stopping place for the drovers whose animals stayed downstairs at night - 14 miles was considered the distance a drover can go in a day so as they herded their sheep, geese or cows on the road to london, this was a natural resting point. Llanwrtyd Wells was then a healing destination in the 19th Century, there are still big Victorian houses incongruously popping up in the countryside - built in the days when the wells of natural springs variously labled: “sulphur”, “magnesium” and “iron” - were famed for purification of the bodies.    Throughout the ages the Drovers Rest has been variously a newsagent and greengrocer. ... "It's got a very cwtch feel" Peter explained and at my blank face he illucidated:  “Cwtch” is Welsh for a safe place or a cuddle.

Watch our Greentraveller Video on The Drovers Rest:

The Rooms
Really, The Drovers Rest is a restaurant with a few rooms (three to be precise).  There is a double with an en suite, and two twin rooms with access to bathrooms.  All decorated tastefully and with everything you need for a comfy night.  But you're not here just to spend the night, really, are you?  If you are a greedy mare, like me, you are here because of the food...Comfy bedroom at The Drovers Rest Photo: Lucy SymonsComfy bedroom at The Drovers Rest Photo: Lucy Symons

The Food
The Chef, Peter, is marvellous.  Enthusiastic and involved in the community, he was an incomer arriving aged 8, but going to the local school and being a member of the local council for the past eighteen years, and the Mayor more than once (he didn’t get his MBE for nothing), has embedded him in to the community possibly as much as does running the restaurant and few room above. 

Glorious hills of Llanwrtyd Wells Photo: Lucy SymonsGlorious hills of Llanwrtyd Wells Photo: Lucy SymonsSent on a lovely walk to get my appetite up, I looped through the village and over the fields following a well marked footpath, watching the gorgeous river trickling over the rocks, listening to nothing more than the sound of the water, lambs and birdsong, and everyone I passed had a friendly word.  Especially the village Bog Snorkelling champ - four years in a  row- who told me that Gordon Green who invented bog snorkelling (over a few beers in the Neuadd Arms) had stood back and watched everyone else perfect his jolly jape since the first World Bog Snorkelling Championships in 1985 and had only recently actually had a go himself.  "Why would you snorkel in a bog?" I asked gently and Everest was sited - "Because it is there" swiftly followed by:  "Because I can."  Ah ha.  All clear now then, as clear as, well, mud...

Delicious grub at The Drovers Rest Photo: Lucy SymonsDelicious grub at The Drovers Rest Photo: Lucy SymonsSo.. back to supper - amazing fresh local produce in season was presented in various creative guises.  Peter is a chef first and foremost and is certainly at home in a kitchen - I am without a doubt a greedy mare, but I am also a problem as I have a food related disease which Peter took in his stride, not even blinking and cleverly making me feel at ease by laughingly telling me about all the other (far worse...) attention seekers he deals with every day.  He takes it as a challenge, in a good way.  The vegetarians at the table next to me were waxing eloquent - never have they tasted such delish grub.  Three choices!  For vegetarians! And not a baked potato amongst them...  they chortled with glee. (Peter’s veggie friends help him produce the food and also taste the vegetarian menus).

The waitress is a delightfully earnest sixth former, all loose limbs and enthusiasm.  "mango with Sham... sham... umm" (shows me the specials written in the chef's handwriting) "Chambord..." I whispered.  Obviously not a child of the eighties, awash with sex on the beach.

Breakfast is included - local welsh produce, bacon, sausages, eggs, cereals, yoghurt, fruit and amazing home made breads and jams.

The Activities
The Drovers runs various outdoor pursuits in conjunction with Red Kite Tours:  cycling for a week or a day, up mountains and across the moorlands.  Peter can arrange for your rental bike to be delivered and for guided tours for both bike riding, walking or running. There is a bike store, a wash down area and drying rooms available. 

Pony Trekking started in Llanwrtyd Wells in the 1950s  and still offers peaceful hacking through the countryside for varying abilities.    Did you fancy going downstream in a bath tub?  Perhaps taking a little jaunt in a bike/catamaran hybrid?  (an “Akwacat”, since you ask...) or perhaps a corricle is more your speed?  Extreme and weird sports seem to be quiet normal here - did I fancy the mountain bike chariot races because they were short a team member if I thought I was hard enough?  (A half barrel on wheelbarrow wheels attached to bikes... to celebrate the Roman something-or-another - any excuse...)

Cookery School kitchen at The Drovers Rest Photo: Lucy SymonsCookery School kitchen at The Drovers Rest Photo: Lucy SymonsBut I can’t discuss activities without mentioning the most important activity of all: The J&R Cooking School.   Peter and his sister, Paulette, have teamed up to offer a variety of themed one day courses from “Dinner Party” (learn how to cook 3 starters, 3 main courses and then 2 puddings) to “Big Welsh Game” via “Basic Family Favourites”. Peter also hosts vintage tea parties to show off his vintage crockery.  It’s no wonder Peter is so involved in the "Taste Town" steering group. Peter obviously enjoys teaching and you can see that he is happy to share his enthusiasm, support his staff and the wider community.

The Green
This wonderful, historic property has been converted in to a restaurant with rooms and a cookery school below in the old croft.  It has been upgrded as sympathetically and as responsbily as possible, with triple glazed windows but little change to the building and its character.  All food offered is as local as much as possible and through the council Peter promotes 20 allotments provided by the local farmer.

How to get there by public transport
Come to the local station, Llanwrtyd, about a quarter of a mile away and Peter will pick you up.  The local gardening club supports the station, decorating it throughout, making it a lovely destination. 

Top Tip
Pitch up on a Tuesday in time for for lunch - Peter hosts a fixed menu lunch for the community and won't turn you away if you are here. Try to be here for one of the cooking school weekends...  you can learn a whole dinner party menu, or take a pastry course or perfect the finer art of vegetarian cooking if you prefer. You could make a whole weekend of it, taking a drawing class or turning your hand to flower arranging and then have lunch – or perhaps ask about the guided bike ride where a picnic lunch can be brought out to meet you.  With chilled wine. 

The cwtch snug at The Drovers Rest Photo: Lucy SymonsThe cwtch snug at The Drovers Rest Photo: Lucy SymonsVerdict
Peter is a wonder - unobtrusive but caring.  Interested in his guests and his own place in the history of the area - he takes his role as Town Councillor and a member of the community seriously ... Visiting with him, you get a sense that this is a man who has found his true metier and is deeply satisfied when he feeds you well and ensures you have a good nights sleep. Growing up with both parents in hospitality and sharing the responsibility for the restaurant with his sister, the Patisserie chef, and his nephew, this is a true family affair and very very cwtch indeed.The river Ifron at The Drovers Rest Photo: Lucy SymonsThe river Ifron at The Drovers Rest Photo: Lucy Symons>> For contact details and availability, see our full listing for The Drovers Rest

>> The Drovers Rest is featured in our Greentraveller Guide to Mid Wales.

Posted by Lucy Symons


Blogs posts categorised as 'Reviews' have been written with the support of one or more of the following: accommodation owner, activity provider, operator, equipment supplier, tourist board, protected landscape authority or other destination-focussed authority. The reviewer retains full editorial control of the work, which has been written in the reviewer's own words based on their experience of the accommodation, activity, equipment or destination.

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