LEGENDARY GETAWAYS | TRAVEL FEATURE
Annie Bishop looks into the stunning boutique cabins popping up around Wales to celebrate the Year Of Legends.
As 2017’s Year Of Legends kicks off, those who love getting into the thick of things are in for a real treat. The idea behind the imitative is to celebrate the best Wales has to offer, from epic sweeping landscapes to homegrown talent and everything in between. Courtesy of Epic Retreats, a boutique hotel will quite literally be popping up in three different secret locations around the country, showcasing stunning, unhindered views of the surrounding countryside for a lucky 200 guests – talk about being at one with nature.
With eight unique cabins designed by international architects, by no means is this your bog-standard glamping experience. Discard the sleeping bags and call off the search for the dry shampoo, because each cabin is designed to encompass everything there is to be celebrated about Wales. Inspired by Welsh legends, mythology, and the rich tales from its past, the cabins use the finest materials the country has to offer to keep visitors nestled in the lap of luxury. Whether it be sleeping in a cabin the shape of a traditional Welsh hat, peering out at the world from the eye of a dragon, or relishing in the tales of King Arthur, each individual space is guaranteed to rejuvenate a passion for Welsh tourism.
Encouraging guests to experience the great outdoors in an entirely new way, not only will visitors be spending the night in the middle of an area of outstanding natural beauty, but there’s a full programme of events to treat themselves to throughout their stay. Activities on offer include sea fishing and beer tasting among many others. Afterwards, guests can return to dig into a locally sourced meal rustled up by a top Welsh chef; luxurious adventure travel at its very best.
According to medieval legend, King Arthur and his knights took refuge in a cave whilst travelling through the wild Welsh country one night – which is said to have never been discovered again. Now to some this may sound just a little spooky, what with a mysterious disappearing cave and all, but not to Miller Kendrick Architects, designers of the first bespoke cabin.
Arthur’s Cave is inspired by this tale, incorporating locally sourced sheep’s wool for thermal insulation, intricately shaped interior walls, and a full width sliding door offering beautiful views of its secret location. Complete with a fireplace and plush furnishings, this pop-up themed to perfection is a cave that you certainly wouldn’t mind bedding down in for the night.
Although unusually shaped, the Rural Office For Architecture’s offering takes a historical approach, basing its design on the shape of the tall black hats worn by the local militia during France’s failed attempt of an invasion through Fishguard in 1797. As legend has it, Welsh ladies flocked to watch as the traditionally-clad militia in their startling scarlet tunics gave the French, who weren’t expecting such a large turnout, quite a fright!
Guests can expect to kick back on a king-sized bed in the upper floor of the hat after an eventful day taking in their surroundings, and can spend the rest of the evening stargazing through its domed roof, or maybe taking in some light reading into the history of their abode for the night.
Cabin In The Woods
Unlike the movie of the same name, this Cabin In The Woods is no horror story. Drawing its inspiration from the poem Cad Goddeu, which refers to the traditional story where enchanter Gwydion animates the trees of the surrounding forest to fight as his army, this unit is designed to give an impression of movement and being in perfect harmony with nature.
Built from raw materials from local areas, including Welsh timber, slate, steel and leather, its feature chimney will keep travellers nice and toasty as the morning light peeking in from the box window above wakes sleepy heads naturally from their slumber. Not to worry, the surrounding trees will hopefully be staying put for the duration of the stay.
Of course it wouldn’t be a celebration of Welsh heritage without a few dragons in the midst of things, the first of which is a pod modelled on a sleeping dragon’s eye, perfectly shaped and constructed using walls covered in recycled plastic that resemble dragon scales. Bunking down for the night with unparalleled views of Wales in all its glory, the idea of great beasts residing in the rolling hills around you suddenly becomes a lot more believable.
Complete with a wet room and stove, cooking up a storm in the eye of a sleeping dragon is surely on the top of everyone’s bucket lists this year.
Barton Willmore’s take focuses on a different part of the body; this vertical two-storey, three-pronged structure evokes a dragon’s foot. Using Welsh steel and Celtic knotwork, the cabin is heavily influenced by the nation’s industrial past and incorporates panoramic glazing on each level so you can catch all angles.
For anyone who enjoyed a visit or two to Big Pit during their school days, How About Studio’s tribute to Wales’s mining industry will be a real kick in the nostalgic feels. You simply can’t think of Wales without referencing mining, a legacy that spans generations and influenced landscapes across the country, making the ability to incorporate both an important part of local history and a little bit of novelty into this structure is a real architectural success.
Guests are invited to enter by crawling through a small tunnel where they are guided by the glowing light of the main space to welcome them inside for the night; from here they’ll be rewarded for their efforts by large windows displaying spectacularly scenic views. With further tunnels and steep climbs throughout, only hardened adventurers need apply.
It’s often said that travellers visiting Cadair Idris that rest their head for a kip under the night’s sky awaken as madmen or poets, and just by looking up to the sky at night in the middle of the Welsh countryside, it’s not at all hard to see why. Having the highest percentage of sky designated as an International Dark Sky area, Wales is one of the most outstanding places to stargaze, making the SKYHUT one of the most special of all the spaces on offer.
With a fully retractable roof, guests can lay back and gaze at the skies to their heart’s content, and if you wake with a sudden penchant for a metaphor here and there, you’ll know why.
The slate industry in Wales has been prominent since the Roman period, and is an important part of the nation’s history, making this cabin built of – and on – slate a testament to one of the country’s most in-demand natural materials. A single room with an adjoining bathroom, this cosy little space will provide the perfect base for exploring the wilderness on its doorstep.
Epic Retreats. Dates and locations will be announced via mailing list. Info: www.epicretreats.wales