We spent two nights at Raven’s Retreat at the back end of December 2018 and were lucky enough to bring in the 2019 New Year in very relaxing style. Located in Montgomeryshire in the centre of Wales, next to our very own private stream and woodland, the air could not have been fresher or more peaceful – just what we were looking for after travelling down from our urbanised dwelling.
Quick navigation through the review
- Hut build and external features
- Hut internal features
- Things to do nearby
Raven’s Retreat is located in the beautifully remote setting of Llawryglyn, mid-Wales. The nearest small town is Llanidloes, a popular and pleasant place around 5 miles from the hut. Being very remote, a car is more or less essential here. The nearest bus routes are 6 miles away and the nearest train station is in Caersws, around 7 miles away.
Venturing a bit further afield, if you travel north-west from the hut for around 20 miles, you’ll hit the southern end of Snowdonia National Park. Travel eastwards and you’ll eventually hit the sandy beaches of east coast Wales. The beach at Ynyslas is a 30-mile journey, taking around 45 minutes with a few small roads to negotiate, but well worth the visit.
Raven’s Retreat hut build and external features
Raven’s Retreat, named after the energetic dog Raven, is a self-made shepherd’s hut, built by the fair hands of Roger, one of the hosts alongside Sue, after purchasing a kit from Blackdown Shepherd Hut. Completed in 2016, the hut offers all the amenities and build quality for a very comfortable stay.
The timber frame of the hut is clad with corrugated sheets to the give the finish of the traditional iron used by Shepherd’s originally. The curved roof is made from corrugated sheeting to make the place fully waterproof.
The hut has two doors, the main timber stable door at the front complete with nine mini-rectangular windows (as seen in the image) and a second stable door at the right-hand end with one singular narrow window. Both doors are stable doors, where the bottom half may remain shut whilst the top half can be swung open – ideal for keeping an eye on dogs.
The hut has two windows. There is a main double window next to the front entrance and also a smaller slit window on the left-hand side above the bed space. In line with traditional style, the mini-home is set on a cast iron chassis and four cast iron wheels.
With there being two doors, there is a solid wood veranda wrapping around the hut providing some very useful space for muddy boots, umbrellas, a fold down table and even a dog bowl. The veranda also provides access to a separate shower and toilet area, a matter of two steps from the side door, which is all fully covered so you won’t get wet if the heavens are open.
The en-suite(ish) bathroom area offers a Separett Villa compost toilet, which is completely odourless, a small shower where taller people will have to crouch slightly, a small sink and a mini-bathroom cabinet.
There are also two big floodlights outside the hut, which provide plenty of light when going to the toilet during the night or letting the dog out at the front area to use the toilet itself. Around the back of the hut, where you initially enter via a big swing gate, there are a couple of big trees and plenty of room for two cars.
Internal features of Raven’s Retreat
- Pull out double bed
- Foldable table and chairs
- Log burner
- Small electric heater
- Cupboard storage space
- Electric stove
- Hair dryer
- Essentials – towels, soap, bed sheets, pillows, toilet paper
- Smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, first aid kit
The inside of the hut is finished with wood panelling to give a nice, clean finish. In between the outside corrugated sheets and wood panelling is a layer of sheep wool insulation, meaning the hut stays lovely and warm once the log burner is fired up, which really does heat the place up quickly. There’s also a little heater you can switch on for some heat if you haven’t got the patience/time to start up a fire. It takes a little while to notice the heater, but it does the job.
Beside the log burner are plenty of logs, smaller kindling sticks, fire-starters and a trigger gas lighter. There is also a fire guard, which is particular useful for babies, young children and inquisitive dogs.
At one end of the hut is the seating area with plenty of cushions, which doubles up as a pull-out double bed. Although folding out to form quite a thin mattress, we both slept absolutely fine both nights, so no complaints there. There are also plenty of cushions and extra blankets if you’re the type to get a little chilly. Above the seated area are two shelves with a number of books to peruse, including I believe, two fiction books from the host Sue Whitehead.
Just next to the seating area is a fold out, wheelable table. There were two dining chairs in the hut that we actually moved to create a little more space. Then when needed we rolled the table over to the seating area and used this to eat. The flooring throughout is all polished wood, which makes for easy cleaning. There are also several rugs and mats all, usefully, with non-slip grips underneath.
Related Post: 14 Top Tips To Create a Dog Friendly Shepherd’s Hut
The Wifi connection is great and very reliable. This is very useful because there is no mobile signal whatsoever. We didn’t need to use the Wifi too much apart from loading directions via google maps and, I have to admit, streaming quite a few episodes on Netflix during our chill out time. No buffering or slow connection issues at all – top marks.
The kitchen area has a small fridge with a mini-freezer for a few ice cubes, a sink, toaster, kettle and plug in hob, which is kept in one of the cupboards. There are also various plates, mugs, cutlery and a drawer full of leaflets and information for you to browse through. Milk was initially provided, which was a nice addition, as were the free dog biscuits for the pooch.
For me, the kitchen area would have benefitted from a couple of larger glasses (for a nice gin and tonic), a couple of pint glasses for a few fine ales I’d brought along, and a cafetière for a necessary morning luxury and afternoon brew – good I’d planned ahead and brought my own cafetière.
The hosts are passionate about sustainability, as are we, so it was good to hear encouragement to keep plastic recyclables to one side, which would be collected at the end of the stay. I would go one step forward and perhaps provide a small bin for food waste.
As mentioned, the bathroom is separate to the main hut in its own mini-annex. This is no negative aspect by any means as it’s literally two steps from the side door, all fully covered. It also means if you need a night-time visit to the bathroom, you get to hear the calming trickle of the stream.
The compostable toilet is totally odourless and toilet paper is provided. The shower is small in height, so if you’re over 6”, you’ll definitely have to crouch when getting cleaned, but the hot water can get very hot so you won’t have to have a cold shower. Shower gel and shampoo is provided and there’s a little cabinet with customary essentials. There’s also a small window to give you a look to the back of the hut when brushing your teeth at the sink. As an added bonus, there’s a heated towel rail (with towels provided) meaning it’s not too chilly in there even during the night.
The hut couldn’t be more idyllically located – it really is a little tucked up hideaway. Accessed via a narrow single-track road off the main road where the owners are handily located on the corner, the hut’s black finish comes into vision out of the greenery of the trees. To the one side is a burbling stream, which immediately sets you at ease when you step outside – you just want to take a deep, lung-filling breath and exhale with a smile – and to the other side is a large Woodland Trust wood, almost private to the hut aside from one or two local dog walkers you might spot.
As well as the sound of the running stream, the only other audible noise was the very pleasant birdsong – bliss.
Immediately in front of the hut is a large, stoned garden area, complete with pizza oven, BBQ, table and chairs. As we visited the hut at the end of a chilly December, we didn’t get to use these outside facilities.
Very importantly, the whole area to the front and back is completely dog proof, meaning you can rest easy that there won’t be any sneaky escapes. This was a big consideration for us with a highly inquisitive four-month-old cocker spaniel puppy to contend with. No escapes, great success.
Things to do near by
On our first evening we decided to do a 45-minute round walk through the woodland as recommended by our hosts. This walk is perfect as the start and finish could not be closer to the hut and virtually on the door step.
We must have missed the correct pathway to turn back on as we ventured more uphill than back on ourselves – it’s likely that we were in awe of the landscape and beautiful scenery and the fact our puppy was loving being off the lead exploring the trees, bushes, spongy moss, long grass and mud!
After enjoying a leisurely start to the day and very pleasant breakfast hamper as prepared by our hosts (£6-8 per person), we headed to the coast with Ynyslas beach in our sites. We used Google maps to get there but it’s a fairly simple 45-minute drive away. We spent a good two hours at the beach where there were plenty of dogs, walkers and families enjoying the last day of 2018. The extensive beach was an ideal spot for our puppy to let off some steam and interactive with many of his fellow, friendly canines. Ynyslas also has a terrific expanse of sand dunes, which were great to explore.
We headed back to the hut via Llanidloes, where we’d been recommended a dog-friendly pub to stop by at, The Red Lion Hotel. The pub was fairly quiet with old-school décor (which was good) and some well-worn ruby red leather sofas. On tap were two regular, local beers – Brains Rev James and Wye Valley Butty Bach. I tried the latter ale, which was a nice drop.
On our final morning before heading home, we took a trip to Hafren Forest, around 10-15 minutes drive away. This was a really pleasant visit and we were delighted we’d made the trip. There is a nice sized car park and plenty of walking routes to take depending on time and abilities, all nicely highlighted on an information board. We decided to do the Severn Break its Neck route, which takes you to the impressive waterfall cascades. This was a 45 minute, mile and a half round walk and we did not see a single person as we strolled round – this was New Year’s day so likely to be busier at other times.
This is a fantastic walk with the initial stream, waterfall and forest providing beautiful vistas. Towards the end of the walk, it felt like we were in a magically forest such was the quietness and very spongy, moss covered forest flooring.
At £65 a night (at the time of writing) Raven’s Retreat presents great value for money if you’re looking for peace, relaxation and a bit of down-time. We personally booked through Airbnb, but it’s possible to book directly through Sue and Roger (the owners) via dogdaysholidays.com, or through any of the major booking websites, including quirkyaccom.com and booking.com.
There were a couple of additional costs for us, such as £10 for the dog and £12 for the hamper for two of us, which did actually provide a few bites to eat into for the second morning.
Communication with the owners
Sue and Roger came across as splendid people. Extremely friendly and laid-back, they’ll make you feel at home as soon as you pick up the keys. After an introductory chit-chat and meeting of the famous dog Raven, we were taken down to the hut (about 150-200m down the road) and given a quick whistle stop tour.
During our stay we were left completely alone to enjoy the hut but provided contact details in case we needed to get in touch. As we ordered a breakfast hamper, this was brought down and left outside as discussed. Before we arrived, email communications were very speedy with Sue helping to clear up a few queries and giving a few requested recommendations.
Overall, our trip to Raven’s Retreat couldn’t have been more welcomed and we’d encourage anyone to do the same.