2019 marks the ‘Year of Discovery’ in Wales and visitors from around the world are being invited to celebrate the stunning scenery, natural landscapes and historic sites that make this country so unique.
I grew up just across the Welsh border but it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve discovered the sheer beauty and diversity of Wales for myself. So I was thrilled to be invited to explore a completely different side to South Wales with Love The Valleys – from the back of a fat bike.
Fat-biking with Porthcawl Bike & Surf Hire
What on Earth is a fat bike, I hear you ask? Well, I had no idea either until I rocked up at Porthcawl Bike & Surf Hire on a sunny Sunday morning and was handed a shiny-looking mountain bike with the FATTEST tyres I’d ever seen… absolutely perfect for gliding along the sand dunes, which stretch along the stunning South Wales coastline.
Porthcawl Bike & Surf Hire is located in the beach-town of Porthcawl, slap-bang in the middle of Cardiff and Swansea. The company operates out of Coney Surf; a funky little beach cafe with surfboards on the walls and the smell of fresh coffee lingering in the air. They have a wide range of equipment for hire – as well as fat-bikes, you can try your hand at paddle-boarding, kayaking or surfing from just £10 a day.
Once we’d taken our giant wheels for a practice spin around the car-park, we headed straight down to the beach-front, not wanting to miss a minute of low tide.
Setting off from Sandy Bay (also known as Coney Beach), we soon found ourselves gliding over the sand like it was the most natural thing in the world. Because of its sheltered location and wide stretches of sand, Sandy Bay is a mecca for cyclists, surfers, swimmers, joggers and dog-walkers – especially on a sunny day.
We soon reached Old Trecco Bay Lighthouse – the perfect place to stop and admire the views of the Bristol Channel and back towards the Devon coastline. Just opposite the lighthouse, we discovered some of the best sand dunes in the area – hilly enough to get the adrenaline pumping and to put those fat tyres to the test.
Just further along from the lighthouse, we arrived at the ruggedly beautiful Newton Bay Beach, located on the edge of Trecco Bay Holiday Park. I found myself stopping every couple of minutes to take photos of the beautiful black rocks, sweeping coastline and quaint holiday cottages reflecting in the water. The beach itself is a dog’s paradise and ideal for families, with endless rock-pools to explore.
Annnnd relax… at Woodlands Bistro
By now, our stomachs were growling, so we circled back to Sandy Bay to drop our bikes off, before making the 20-minute drive through daffodil-lined country lanes to Woodlands Bistro, Tondu House Farm.
Set within 37 acres of natural woodland and wild meadows, this rustic woodland retreat is a real hidden gem, perched on the edge of the peaceful Llynfi Valley.
What makes this place so unique is the genuine passion and good-will behind it. Set up as a social enterprise (The STEER Enterprise Academy), Tondu House Farm is finding ways to help the community through supportive employment and volunteering opportunities, including within its restaurant and training kitchen. The site is also home to a Men’s Shed, helping to reduce isolation, and a brand new forest school for children with learning disabilities, currently under construction.
Tracey, the general manager, welcomed us as though we were old friends and gave us a tour of the grounds before we sat down to eat. This included a peek inside their gorgeous bunk house, which offers residential accommodation to vulnerable people and is also available for public hire through Airbnb, as well as a tour around the idyllic sensory and walled gardens.
Our final stop was the Woodlands Bistro itself – a charmingly rustic little restaurant and cafe with twinkling fairy lights and shabby-chic country decor. We were served up a hearty Sunday roast, with all the trimmings, followed by the most delicious home-made Belgian chocolate pudding with ice cream – exactly what the doctor ordered, after an active morning on the dunes.
I left South Wales, having discovered many more reasons to fall in love with this beautiful country and am already planning my return later this Spring (this time with the pup in tow!)
Part-Time Passport is all about exploring more of the world, starting from your own backyard, and this day summed that up perfectly: adventure, adrenaline and relaxation, all in one… and right on my doorstep.
*This experience was gifted by Love the Valleys – all opinions and views expressed are my own.