Local cycle routes (& the all-important cafe stops)

Granary Cottage is a great base for both for mountain bikers and for roadies. Last weekend Sam and I took to the roads for a bit of an explore. On recent visits we have stuck to our old faithful route, the “Llanthony Lap” but this time we thought it was time to venture further afield. Dorstone’s location near the Brecons but not actually in them does give us the best of both worlds – you can choose to go for the big climbs or you can choose the kinder rolly ones and just enjoy the great views of the Brecons. Having said that, those ‘rolly’ ones can still pack a punch – there’s a 25%’er out of Dorstone to Arthur’s Stone!

Ras de Cymru

Ras de Cymru coming through near Glasbury

See the links below for our routes (and I’ve included the Llanthony Lap too).

The Back and Beyond of Hay on Wye http://ridewithgps.com/routes/5459956
60km, 650m of climbing. Some good long flats on decent surface. Great views of the Brecons. Great river crossings.

Herefordshire Rollies http://ridewithgps.com/routes/5297737
58km, 850m of climbing. Some steep sections! Whitney Toll Bridge is 10p for cyclists to cross – we genuinely didn’t know and cycled on through, no one chased us!

The Llanthony Lap http://ridewithgps.com/routes/5218761
70km, 1000m of climbing
This is an awesome route either way around. Llanthony Priory is a must-see and has a great little pub in the old cellar – check opening times before you go.

While out in the wonderful isolation of the Powys/Herefordshire countryside, it’s still good to know where you can stop for refreshment. I haven’t tried and tested all these places but they were all open and looking lively when we past them (July 2014):

The River Cafe, Glasbury 
The Honey Cafe, Bronllys
The Wye Knot Stop
Whitney Farm Shop
Whitney Toll Bridge – tea and coffee and snacks available

A few snaps from our rides:

Rave review just in!

Our best review yet! Email received 14.05.14 from a happy holidaymaker:

We have had an amazing few days in Dorstone.  The cottage was beautiful.  You have obviously put a lot of thought into presentation and contents of the cottage.  That thought shines through in the exceptional level of comfort and cosiness offered to holidaymakers. There was nothing that you hadn’t covered – everything we needed was there plus a couple of things that we didn’t know we needed but after our stay at Granary have gone to the top of the our ‘home’ wish list.  We were particularly taken with the Velux window in the bedroom ceiling.  We decided to leave the blind up enabling us to drop off to sleep watching the stars and wake up gently to gradual daylight – bliss.

The area is beautiful offering so many different things to see and do.  Everyone that we came across in the village was very friendly.  The DFR certainly merits a special mention.  Apart from the weekend when it is closed we breakfasted at the DFR every morning and can especially recommend ‘Bacon Butty Friday’.  They also offered a comprehensive tourist information service very much personalised to our interests.

Continuing on a food theme The Pandy Inn was our restaurant of choice for three of our six nights.  After you had mentioned it in our telephone conversation I had a look at their sample menu on line and eating there certainly lived up to expectation.

We have had a really fabulous time and would like to say a big thank you for making our stay such a 5 * holiday

SB Harrogate

Golf Clubs near Dorstone

Kington (18 Hole)
01544 23034 http://www.kingtongolf.co.uk/
HR5 approx   9  miles

Brecon (9 Hole)
01874 622004 http://brecongolfclub.co.uk/
LD3 8PA approx. 18 miles

Builth Wells (18 Hole)
01982 553296 http://www.builthwellsgolf.co.uk/
LD2 3NF approx. 19 miles

Cradoc (18 Hole)
01874 623658 http://www.cradoc.co.uk/
LD3 9LP approx. 20 miles

Rhosgoch Golf & Leisure
01497 851251 http://www.rhosgoch-golf.co.uk/
LD2 3JY approx. 20 miles

The Lone Tree

On Good Friday, in glorious sunshine, we managed to walk to the lone tree which is visible from our kitchen window. There is a footpath most of the way there, but not the last bit, so we had to take an unclassified track and inevitably came across a farmer on a massive tractor that could travel at 45 mph (or very close) with a 10 foot harrow on the back and wheels the size of hay stacks. “What you doing here?” he inquired after turning off the roar of the ten thousand hp engine that powered his machine. “Just out for a stroll” I replied “Following the footpath sign at the bottom of the hill”. There had indeed been a FP sign pointing straight up the track we were on but, having both a 2.5 inch per mile OS map and my hand held GPS hidden in my bag, I knew exactly where we were and that the FP sign was incorrectly placed. “Whare you going then?” he ventured, not to be helpful, but to get us to change direction. “Over the hill into the Wye Valley…” I explained. “Then you need to turn around and go up that path, which will take you to the footpath”. “Oh, thank you so much” I said and off he and the harrow trundled away. We did indeed follow his instructions, back down the track a little way, and up the other track but, once out of sight, we ducked down and edged along the line of trees to the top of the hill, where my GPS indicated a 90 degree turn would take us to the Lone Tree field. There was a good path alongside the woods to our right and some ploughed fields to our left. Suddenly I saw an enormous rabbit but, of course, it wasn’t a rabbit, it was a hare; it was standing on its back legs about 50 yards away looking ready for a boxing match. He turned his head, saw us, and took off.

We were now close to our objective field and, as we approached, we realised that we were on one of those top-of-the-world points where you could look right around 360 degrees and see a great distance in all directions. To the south across two valleys, the sharp contour of Hay Bluff stuck out and you could follow the horizon all the way to the Black Hill and Cat’s Back with, even further away, the cliffs of Red Darren along the top of which runs Offa’s Dyke. To the south we could see up and down the Wye Valley with the Welsh hills disappearing in the far distance all the way to the Elan Valley; downstream was Hereford and the Malvern Hills some 10 miles beyond.

One more gate to go through and we were alongside our sacred tree. More scrubby than it looks from the kitchen window with an untidy pile of rocks underneath but, nevertheless, it was The Tree and, standing in front of it, we could pretend to be able to see our kitchen window. In fact it was not easy to see more than the smudge of housing that is Dorstone village; even the church tower was none to clear! No need to linger, photos taken (as attached), we set off westward and downward along side the woodland fence which, I noticed had grown from an ordinary 4 or 5 feet high to some 10 feet high of close mesh. Was this to prevent Billy the Boxer Hare from leaping over? Certainly not one for us to jump until I realised that, unless climbed over it, we would have to walk a long way down the valley ahead and then up again to reach the path we needed. There was no barbed wire involved, we had little difficulty deciding that it was a far better thing to climb its dizzy height and over, rather than dropping some 300 feet on foot and up a similar amount to get home. Once over, we were in a battle zone – a former forest now chopped down and logged by giant cranes and bulldozers with deeply rutted tracks to negotiate before we reached the solid path shown on my map. We walked on and soon escaped the desolation into the open farmland of Dorstone Hill – near to where there is an archaeological dig seeking early Herefordshire man. The road then appeared and took us down the 25% slope to Dorstone past some deer in the woods. I managed a very welcome pint of Butty Bach in the Pandy Inn with Magdalena before reaching the cottage.

Andy Connor, April 2014

The Bridge Inn, Michaelchurch Escley


The Bridge Inn is in Michaelchurch Escley, about 8 miles from Dorstone. As the name suggests, it’s by a river, so in summer it’s lovely setting if the weather is kind enough to allow sitting outside. Inside it feels cosy with it’s low ceilings, hop-covered beams and impressive stone fireplace. It also feels cosy as people tend to gather around the small bar to choose from the local ales on tap (Butty Bach included).

I am always impressed by the food at the Bridge, not least because it emerges from the tiniest kitchen imaginable. It is currently run by a local chap and his Colombian wife and the menu reflects this: some ‘traditional pub’ items with lovely local meats, alongside some more worldly adventurous items. The menu changes, but the last thing I had there was the “Singapore Sling” – a wonderful fish and shellfish Asian-inspired dish. Others round the table had meat pies, special-looking stews and even lobster.

As much as I love this pub, there is one small practical issue – that of the actual bridge! On New Years Eve we drove to the pub and left the car there overnight. Returning the next day to collect the car, we found the river had risen so much to make the bridge impassable!  (The only way out of the car park is via this bridge.) We sat it out and the water subsided over a few hours – it was still worth the trouble just to experience to Singapore Sling.