A family holiday in Wales with Sara Cox
The campaign began on the sofa. I wanted to holiday in West Wales, but my husband wasn’t convinced. Who would win? I went on Twitter and put it to a public vote. I’ve always felt an affinity with Wales, and it’s a place I’ve wanted to explore more. After a Radio One event in Cardiff the council declared me an “honorary Welsh citizen” as I kept talking on the air about what a great city it is. But other than a handful of trips, I’d never holidayed in Wales – just seen the lush greenery whizz by the car windows. So, the debate raged for… well, minutes, to be honest. The Twitter votes were overwhelming, and I convinced my darling husband that a week in Pembrokeshire would be fabulous – and thankfully, it was. Hurrah!
The newest member of our family is Beano, a Maltese terrier. He is basically my fourth child and so he has to be included in holidays whenever possible. We found to our delight that Wales is extremely dog-friendly, from our doggie welcome pack at our gorgeous cottage in Boncath to all those pubs with boards outside proclaiming “Dogs Welcome”. On our first afternoon we popped to Poppit Sands, a 10-minute drive away from our Boncath base, and were amazed by the huge gorgeous sandy beach that was equally split – left for no dogs, right for dogs. Four-legged friends of every size and shape were allowed off the lead (a miracle to me in peak season) to gallop about the sand. All the dog owners were very responsible, plus the beach is so vast that the poodles had oodles of space and the terriers couldn’t have been merrier. A visit to Folly Farm was another highlight. We had the giraffe experience and fed a beautiful male called Zulu. It’s unforgettable. We also spent a brilliant couple of hours at the undercover vintage funfair, which we absolutely loved. I introduced my eldest (who loves rides so much we’ve nicknamed her Lolacoaster) to my teen favourite, the Waltzer, and the little ones loved the merry-go-rounds. All in all, a fabulous day out.
Giraffe at Folly Farm
Each day we’d visit somewhere new but always enjoyed returning to Fron Fawr, a little cluster of pretty cottages set in stunning countryside reached by a private lane, meaning all three kids loved the independence of being able to wander freely around the grounds to the swings and sandpit, or to kick a ball about in the huge garden. Its sister site is the award-winning Clydey Cottages nearby where we could swim in the gorgeous pool or pet the donkeys and rabbits.
Jacqui and Dewi are the owners and were really helpful in suggesting places to visit, including Dyfed Riding Centre. I’ve ridden all my life, and Lola has been having lessons for about eight months, but Isaac, my seven-year-old, had never ridden before. Yet Ninou (who runs the school alongside husband Terrance) took us on an unforgettable hack that was equally enjoyable for us all – no mean feat! Lola and I had a few canters; looking back over my shoulder at my daughter’s beaming smile as she cantered along behind me was such a proud moment, I’m filling up as I write!
There’s definitely an animal theme running through our Welsh adventure and that continued through to our final day in Wales: a trip to New Quay to go on a SeaMor boat trip to spot dolphins. Our luck was in as a female dolphin and her calf swam around the boat, just a couple of metres away. The kids were completely over the moon. It was so special to see their eyes light up as they clung to the boat, splashed by spray and watching out for wildlife. It couldn’t be further removed from gawping slackjawed at a glowing screen, something every parent battles against. On board we had a fascinating chat about the history of the coastline from the captain and two marine biologists who talked us through the contents of the lobster pots we pulled up.
Sara Cox by BBC/ Damien Fry
We were sad to pack up and leave Wales but vowed to return – I’ve promised my mum we’ll take her to Boncath one day soon. I’ll treat her to fish and chips from the famous Bowen’s in St Dogmaels and we’ll scoff them in the shadow of the ruins of St Dogmaels Abbey.
I’ll never forget the feeling of space in Wales and how, as you drive through winding country roads, you’re always only minutes away from the trees dropping away to reveal a stunning view of rolling green hills. I’m glad I persuaded my husband to try Wales and so is he.
To slightly misquote Arnie, we’ll be back.