The day we’d been waiting for had finally arrived. The bags were (badly) packed (we’ll get to that later), the drinks were frozen ready for a car journey in the heatwave and little Lady Madison was set up ready for a long weekend without us.
Bundling last-minute items into the car and entering the postcode into the SAT NAV, our smiles were uncontrollable as we knew we were just 5 short hours from being away from it all, and that was a great thought.
We were off to Wales for one reason only: to celebrate my uncle Jeremy’s 70th birthday, but little did we know it would actually turn into more of a retreat for us too. Not really knowing what to expect, as we’d only previously been sent on an email containing the time, date and place, we arrived completely unprepared, in the wrong place.
Sam and I arrived in Wales at 12pm, with an aim to turn up at the Manor House that my family had rented out for the weekend at 2-3pm. As the email had previously stated, there would be a Galaxy parked outside early with balloons to mark which road to go down. There wasn’t, and we got lost – as did everyone else, which they told us after eventually turning up!
It took over an hour to find the exact location of the Manor House. Mid-way through following the SAT NAV on our phone, we lost GPRS and had no map to refer to. We had no 3G or mobile network connection at all – so it was simply a case of elimination. We explored the rural area, enjoying the sunshine and accidentally stubbled across the well-hidden treasure we’d been searching for…
Pulling into the large gravelled car park, we couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw how big the place was. Pen Ithon isn’t a manor house that can be looked-up easily online, and as far as I know it isn’t actually up and running. Luckily a family member is in contact with the new owners and managed to book it up for the amazing weekend that we ended up having.
No one else was there at this stage and as it wasn’t a hotel or B&B set-up, I wasn’t keen on knocking on the door and simply inviting myself in, so we parked up and went for a walk in the thick forest surrounding the house.
Upon our return, we were still the only ones there! We plotted up in the car to smoke a cigarette, and that’s when the caretaker came over to introduce himself and offer us a drink. He lead us in through the back and told us to help ourselves, pointing towards the ancient kitchen that came complete with 14+ hobs, a gigantic plate rack and endless workspace.
Next Sam asked if we could have a look around, and of course Alan (the caretaker) welcomed this, telling us that only the loft was off-bounds. He added that the chef would be arriving any minute with her little helper, which happens to be her daughter.
Sam and I decided to start our tour at the front door, seeing as this wasn’t the first thing we saw when we walked in. The house has not yet been renovated and therefore is packed with history and culture dating back 200 years. Each room we opened provided a new surprise and no matter how much you looked, there’s no way you’d notice everything the house contains. It’s full of ornaments, book cases, photo albums, portraits and vintage furniture. In fact, everything found in the house is authentic and vintage.
Once we’d had enough of touring the house, we decided to make use of the pitch and put that surrounds the grounds. Even after a few hours gaming, still no one had arrived – we wouldn’t believe our luck – we had the entire place to ourselves!
It wasn’t long before the place started to fill up, though, as by 7.30pm pretty much everyone had arrived, the drinks were flowing and we had been called in for a homemade buffet style dinner.
After dinner everyone got a chance to stretch their legs a little and say a proper hello. The children all got together and played nicely using the table tennis table, rugby balls and hoola hoops provided. A few of the adults had a game of darts, while everyone else sat on the large steps outside catching the last of the sun’s rays.
Dessert went down a treat before going to bed, but I must admit being in such a historically rich place did make me feel slightly strange and stopped me from getting to sleep for a while. The pictures are creepy and stuffed animals aren’t the greatest company. With separate beds pushed together, I felt alone in a house that was full up with my family… but I soon got over it.
“Tomorrow will be amazing”, I muttered to myself and Sam before dozing off into a deep, deep sleep…
Find out if it was by coming back tomorrow for part 2, which contains more on my stay at Pen Ithon in Wales.