Last night as we sat in the restaurant shovelling a particularly good biriyani into our chops we decided that we’d preempt our desire for a room tomorrow night and called a place in Pandy that kept cropping up in our searches called the Lancaster Arms. Turned out she couldn’t have us on account of the fact she’d arranged to go out that night but she gave us the phone number for “a woman who lives up the hill” called Mary. Mary could indeed take us so that’s where we were aiming for today.
I’m not sure what to make of this trail yet. It’s fine, it’s not unenjoyable and quite frankly I’m just overjoyed that it’s such a lovely, clear path. At one point my heart sank when I saw the fingerpost directing us through a wheat field, Somerset has ruined me, but there was an obvious and clear path right through it. Oh my gosh, it was glorious! Plus there are the National Trail acorns directing us through every turn and gate. It’s so well waymarked you never have to get your phone out unless you have a burning desire to tell Instagram exactly what you’re up to.
But it’s a plod. Yesterday was a woodland plod, today was a farmland plod. There are a few hills to drag yourself up to remind you you’re alive via the medium of burning in your calf muscles but mostly you can just zone out and get on with it. The views got better today too but there’s generally a direct correlation between the quantity of hills and the quality of the eyehole fodder.
A highlight of today though was White Castle which is a ruin, and I do so love a ruin. You know when a castle just castles so fucking well? Like it’s got round towers and a moat and dragon? Okay maybe not the dragon, but all of those other things remain and before it became a ruin it would have had a porthcullis and a drawbridge. The castle was primed and ready for action but it never actually came under attack. We just chilled there for half an hour, taking it all in.
We did also cop a load of penis too. We walked through some orchards and a sign greeted us advising us that this stretch was sometimes used by naturists but it was no one’s intention to shock or offend. We joked that no one would be out today on account of the risk of burning their todger but as soon as we walked through the gate a bloke dived behind the nearest apple tree, apologising profusely. We told him not to worry, we’d read the sign so he popped out for a chat and I tried desperately to maintain eye contact.
We’d been lucky with the weather today, it was meant to be pissing down all day but it was a scorcher in parts, I had to put suncream on because I felt like a hundred tiny goblins were setting about me with blowtorches. As we got closer to Pandy though, the ominous clouds started to circle us. We picked up the pace to a slightly more rapid hobble but I didn’t think we were going to outrun this.
About half a mile out we stopped to put waterproof jackets on and cover our bags for the home straight, then lightning filled the sky before thunder rumbled. Five second gap. That’s fine, that’s still far away. That happened a few more times as we made our way through the fields, eventually lurching through a gate to see Mary, our host for the night, waving at us from her car. Amazing! We bundled into the car and no sooner had she pulled away when the rain came down. It was fucking biblical too, roads flooded on the short drive to her house.
Mary is 85 years old, drives like there’s no one else on the road and is, as described by the barmaid at the pub, “mad as a box of frogs”. She’s amazing! She talks non-stop, often veering off on a tangent, and she greets inanimate objects. “Hello, house!” We adored her straight away. She got us settled in, made us a brew, booked us a table at the Skiffid Inn then dropped us off there with instructions to call her when we were ready.
The Skiffid Inn is an experience in itself. Reputedly Wales’ oldest pub, they say there was a small cell upstairs and a courtroom. Prisoners were tried and condemned then hanged from the beam at the bottom of the stairs which they say still has the rope marks. There’s no hard proof of this, it’s all hearsay passed down through generations, but they say around 180 people were hanged here and it’s very haunted. We got chatting to a couple staying here and they said the weirdest thing is, when the pub shuts they all go home, no one stays on site, so they were the only ones in the pub. No ghostly spectors appeared which is kind of disappointing.
We had some food and a couple of pints then called Mary to fetch us. She pulled over to show us a nice view of the fiery skyball before we got back to hers where she insisted we watch the rest of the show from her conservatory. The views were astounding.
She told us she’s learned to appreciate how amazing is it through her guests or she’d be indifferent to it. She’s lived here or near to here her whole life. I’d call Mary’s a homestay. She’s been hosting people for 50 years, she’s very good at it, and she’s absolutely made this trail for us already and it’s only day two.
Trefynwy (Monmouth), Sir Fynwy (Monmouthshire) to Pandy, Sir Fynwy (Monmouthshire), Wales
Stayed at: Mary’s. You can call her on 01873 890204 and if she’s got space she’ll pick you up from the trail and drop you back off the next day.
Useful shit to know…
- Monmouth is packed full of amenities including toilets and shops. The One Stop isn’t very well stocked though, your best bet is Waitrose.
- The Hogshead pub is on the trail but you need to call them 01600 780410 or 07971 234136 to see if they’re open.
- Hunter’s Moon in Llangattock Lingoed opens from 12pm til 11pm every day (12.30pm on Sundays) according to the mighty Google.
- Aside from these pubs there are no other amenities or shops. You do cross one stream you can access to filter water from but there’s fuck all else.
- Lancaster Arms is no longer a pub, just a B&B in Pandy and you can call them on 01873 890699. They’re bang on the trail.
- Or just call Mary on 01873 890204. She’ll pick you up from the Lancaster Arms. She’ll drop you at the Skiffid Inn for dinner and fetch you when you’re done, and feed you until you hurt at breakfast. Then she’ll drop you back off at the Lancaster Arms with sandwiches. The only downside is, she couldn’t get her head around Tarrant’s dairy intolerance and she has no idea how to feed a vegan.