Alex and Jaffa visit The Star Bunkhouse in Bwlch in The Brecon Beacons National Park.

Alex and Jaffa visit The Star Bunkhouse in Bwlch in The Brecon Beacons National Park.

For the next Alex and Jaffa adventure we were invited to stay at The Star Bunkhouse in  Bwlch in The Brecon Beacons National Park by hosts Emma and Peter Harrison.

We packed the car early on Saturday morning and set off.  We left early as we had found a walk to go on with a rambler group.  If you Google ‘rambler groups walk finder’ and put in the postcode or village where you are staying  it will tell you where local led walks are.

As we were in the rally car, we  had to stop at Hopwood  Park Services on the M42 to refill.  It’s a great place to stop as there are public footpaths that take you directly out across the fields. But it was early morning and still dark so we couldn’t go far, just far enough to give Jaffa a little run.

As I was running early , I came off the M5 at Worcester and headed across the A and B roads passing Hereford and the surrounding beautiful countryside just as the dawn broke.

bike hub at talybont on usk community centre
Bike hub at Talybont on Usk community centre

We arrived in Talybont on Usk, at the Village Hall Community Hub,  where the walk was starting.   We were an hour early which gave me time to have a look around. They have a water powered generator, a community orchard and a walk going from one orchard to another around the village. There’s also a bike Hub and cleaning station, a toilet for 10p and a changing room and shower for £1 for 5 minutes  (for walkers, footballers and cyclists), an electric charging point for cars and a public car park.The walk was being lead by Peter and Jenny from The Forest of Dean Ramblers.  Due to the terrible wind bringing ice and snow, nicknamed ‘The Beast from the East’, there were only six of us on the walk plus Max, another dog, a friend for Jaffa.

The beast from the east near Talybont on Usk
The beast from the east near Talybont on Usk

The first bit of the walk followed a poet’s trail.  The famous poet, Henry Vaughan was born in 1621 near Talybont on and the trail followed a circular route dotted with poems on boards for you to read.

Poet trail at Talybont on Usk

Poet trail at Talybont on Usk

We joined an old railway line where the poet’s trail went back down to the village, but we left it here and followed the old railway line up into the hills. There were lovely views of the reservoir down below and the snow capped hills in the distance.   On the railway line we were protected from the prevailing weather by trees and the embankment and there was a nice gentle climb up the hill.

View of the reservoir by Talybont on Usk
Jaffa cleans his paws by the reservoir near Talybont on Usk

We left the railway line to follow a lane to the next summit.  We were going to climb to the very top of the hill but because of the wind and the freezing temperature our leaders decided to take us around the hill along the low summit bridleway and through a farm with cows and lovely views into another steep valley below. We then headed to the far side of the hill and made our way down off the hill through meadows of sheep suckling lambs and birds of prey hovering above.  We were heading for the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal in the valley below.  On arriving at the canal we stopped for a packed lunch and enjoyed this peaceful watery setting.

Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal
Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal

After lunch we had a nice easy stroll back along the towpath for 4 miles, passing farms, sheep with lambs and alpacas or were they llamas? (Can you tell the difference?) At the Ashford tunnel  there was no room for a towpath so we had to walk over the top and to our surprise found a heron nesting site.

Ashford Tunnel on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal
Ashford Tunnel on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal

On arriving back in the village we passed lime kilns. At the end of the walk we had a choice of 3 pubs, but we choose a cafe.  It wasn’t dog friendly so we sat outside on a bench and had a very nice chocolate cake with clotted cream.

Walking near Talybont on Usk

I can recommend this walk.  It is nice and easy. If you don’t want to climb you can wander along the tow path or walk around the reservoir.  There are so many choices as to where to walk.

It was a 3 miles drive from Taly Bont on Usk  to The Star Bunkhouse which provides dog friendly accommodation.  We were welcomed by the owner Emma, who showed us around.  There were lots of little things to make a stay there easier, like a basket in the kitchen for your food and a marker pen to label your provisions. The bunkhouse has been done up to show off the old architecture while installing modern facilities such as the shower block with underfloor heating.
Star Bunkhouse kitchen

We were left to settle in.  There was a nice desk and table in the room and a folder with local contacts and Emma provided some books with ideas for walks on the Sunday. After a rest we went to the pub opposite.  Emma did recommend booking in at the pub when she sent me the booking confirmation e mail, but I decided to risk it and just turn up. It was so busy that they couldn’t give me any food, not even to take away or a sandwich.  So plan B was to go back to the bunkhouse and heat up a tin of beans.  I ate in the self catering kitchen with some other guests who were on a walking weekend. They left to go to the pub and I stayed on and met another group and Jaffa and I had a nice cuddle with a Labrador!

star bunkhouse lounge

I decided to turn in for the night nice and early as I had got up very early.  I was a bit worried that I would hear the main road outside, but it was not a problem and I slept like a log, that is until Jaffa woke me up just after 8!

We then discovered a lovely wintry scene.  Deep snow and a blizzard! I had a lovely warm shower and the shower block was nice and warm too. I packed up, had a quick walk around the village and headed to Brecon for a brunch breakfast.  Alas I should have self catering my breakfast at the bunkhouse as even after looking for an hour we couldn’t find a dog friendly pub or cafe in Brecon that served breakfast, but we did have a nice walk watching a tractor rescue lorries and cars stranded in the snow.

I decided to start on our journey home,  looking  for a dog friendly place for breakfast  en route. We ended up in Monmouth at the Robin Hood Inn; dog friendly, nice atmosphere and they served a great big breakfast.  I spent a lovely couple of hours chatting to locals and staff and had a great time.

the robin hood dog friendly pub
The Robin Hood dog friendly pub

We then had a quick stroll along the river before we continued with our journey home.  We took the back roads passing lovely snowy scenes; old fashioned gypsy caravan horses and pretty churches topped with snow.

We stopped again to have a quick walk along the River Severn which was flooded in places and before we knew it, home was in sight and it was end of another great weekend  of adventure.

Star Bunkhouse recommends the following eatery’s in Brecon which welcome dogs.  The Wellington Hotel in Brecon town centre, is dog friendly and serves breakfast to non-residents.  It is open 07:30-10:00 Mon-Fri & 08:30-10:30 Sat-Sun.  The Bank Bar & Kitchen and Brecon Tap are also dog friendly and serve lunch & dinner.

Find out more about the Dog Friendly accommodation in the Independent Hostels network or take a look at our map of accommodation in the Brecon Beacons.

About Alex Russel

Alex and his dog Jaffa are great fans of Independent Hostels. They use them to get away for walking weekends whenever they can.