I don’t usually tend to write about hen dos I go on, as I prefer to concentrate on having fun and embarrassing the bride-to-be, rather than worrying about having to take photos and remember top tips to pass on. (And let’s face it, while I can just about persuade Mr A not to dump any bags until I’ve taken photos of all of the rooms, it’s probably not good hen do etiquette to do the same to 16 other girls!) But every once in a while you stay in a place that is so magical that you can’t help but write about it.
Our destination for the weekend was Foel Ortho or, to give it its full name, Foel Ortho Farmhouse, Bunkhouse, Treehouse, Spa and Follies. As the title suggests, this is definitely an accommodation option which offers so much more than just a bed for the night.
One of my favourite things about travelling is finding quirky places to stay in, whether that’s a wigwam in Arizona on our US road trip or a traditional grasshouse in Japan, and Foel Ortho in Hirnant, Penybontfawr, definitely fits the bill. Lovingly restored over the last 40 odd years by owners Eddie and Jenny, the Welsh farmhouse is a rabbit warren of rooms, linked by narrow staircases and low-ceilinged passages. There was even a secret bedroom hidden behind a bookcase, which felt like it was straight from the pages of a Famous Five book.
The farmhouse sleeps up to 17 in a variety of different rooms and sleeping options, from cabin beds and bunks, to single and doubles. With its oak beams and cosy furniture, Foel Ortho is very much a ‘home’. Everything isn’t brand new, but it’s well-loved and cosy. The kitchen is used to being filled with people cooking and laughing together, the large dining table has clearly seen many a celebration and the large sofas are perfect for curling up in at the end of a long day.
Another added bonus (which comes at an additional cost) is the spa area, which includes a hot tub and sauna. The hot tub has large windows which open up to overlook the gorgeous Welsh scenery which surrounds the farmhouse and we were blessed by the weather gods because, despite a predicted three days of rain, the sun shone for most of our stay.
Outside the farmhouse, the garden is another secret world, with every twist and turn revealing follies (described on the Foel Ortho website as “A building without a practical purpose”), quirky sculptures and even a hidden chess set at the top of the garden. (Just be warned if you have children, you will need to keep an eye on them!)
But for us the absolute icing on the cake was Eddie and Jenny themselves. Sometimes when you rent places to stay you won’t see the owners during the entire process, but Eddie and Jenny live right next door to the farmhouse and were on hand to answer any questions and make recommendations of nearby places to visit. Their love for the home and the life they have created was so evident and after we discovered they are musicians, with a wealth of amazing stories about their younger days, we persuaded them to play a ‘secret gig’ for us, which totally fitted in with the festival theme of our friend’s hen do. They immediately agreed and all 16 of us crammed into their living room, where Jenny got on the grand piano and Eddie picked up his bass and we basically had the time of our lives.
Wherever I travel it is the characters I meet along the way who make a place and Eddie and Jenny perfectly summed up everything which was special about their home. The time, effort and love which have been put into the farmhouse were evident in the way in which they talked about their home. It really was a magical stay and we couldn’t have asked for anything more for the bride-to-be.
The farmhouse sleeps up to 17 people, the bunkhouse up to 12 and the treehouse two people. For more information visit www.farmhouseinwales.com