Review: Black Mountain Escapes, Llangadog

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I am wrapped inside a reassuringly heavy towelling robe, inhaling silence. Until dusk, birds in neighbouring fields called intermittently, but they have now retreated into the unseasonably cold late April night settling around the valley. I am in a former stable, parts of which date back to the 17th century. I have driven for less than 90 minutes to arrive here and I am worlds away from home.

I’m at Gablebach, a bijou, luxury renovation in my favourite corner of Carmarthenshire. The village of Llangadog rests beneath Mynydd Du – the Black Mountain – at the most westerly tip of Bannau Brycheiniog, and the lovely town of Llandovery is a few miles north. I’ve long been forming a plan to move west, and in the night silence of the Tywi Valley I think I’ve found my place.

Log burner in Welsh cottage

Black Mountain Escapes is the creation of Ruth Mayes and her partner Eirion, a couple passionate about the landscape and its sustainability. There are two holiday cottages, this converted stable and groom’s loft, and Y Golchdy, believed to be the old laundry room and which translates as ‘the wash house’. Gablebach is perfect for a couple or a family of three, but it’s also proving the most wonderful refuge for one – particularly when that one is in need of more than a little rest and recovery.

Cakes at Gablebach

Generosity and thoughtfulness is everywhere, from the slabs of homemade Victoria sponge and chocolate gateau encased in a cake stand on the kitchen counter to the china dish of foil-wrapped mint cremes at the bedside. The sitting room fire is prepared and ready to strike into life, and a bottle of something sparkly is cooling in the fridge. Complete with rosy apples sitting in a sculpted wooden bowl, it’s as heartening a welcome as I’ve ever experienced.

Gablebach Black Mountain Escapes

On the very fringe of Llangadog and overlooking the village green, Gablebach is tucked into a private courtyard cleverly allowing far-reaching views out, but no public gaze in. The stone-flagged sitting room is spacious yet cosy and the kitchen is delicious, warmed by an Aga and equipped with evocative vintage accessories. A large corner pantry reveals tea, coffee, jams and biscuits, and an old recipe book on a stand inspires guests to emulate Ruth’s mouthwatering baking. 

Gablebach bedroom

The upper floor opens into a stylish boudoir, in which every piece of antique furniture seems to hold its own stories. I love the little bureau lined with Agatha Christie novels and topped with an old typewriter, while a plush window armchair bathes in evening light. The piece de resistance is an astonishing French 1920s bed which, aided by the room’s heavy curtains, envelopes me in pitch-black 10-hour sleeps. 

Copper slipper bath

Through another door is a quaint single room with vintage power shower, and both bedrooms access a Jack-and-Jill bathroom with more antique furnishings and a stunning copper slipper bath. I make the most of the nourishing scented bath foam after a long trail run, soaking tired limbs and losing myself in verdant views from the discreet window. In terms of that rest and recovery, it’s pure bliss.

Motte and bailey castle

Ruth and Eirion themselves live on this land, in a red brick Edwardian villa above Gablebach and in the shade of a Cadw-listed motte. I’ve never yet met anyone who has a motte in their garden, and as Ruth shows me around, with rabbits scurrying out of our path, it’s clear she sees herself as custodian rather than owner. The motte is astonishing, with ancient, gnarly trees extending at hopeful angles towards the light and bluebells circling the ditch. We peek inside Y Golchdy, with its original brick fireplace and comfortable cabin bed, and although it’s smaller than Gablebach, it’s no less perfectly formed or furnished.  

Writing retreat

It feels quite a privilege to be a guest at Black Mountain Escapes. My own little cottage back home is more than 150 years old, but this is a whole different time zone; a deliberately-curated step back to slower, gentler times. I wasn’t meant to be here alone this weekend, but that’s how life goes and in two fireside evenings I read all of David Nicholls’ beautiful You Are Here (I saw it in The Works and it had a peep-hole map inside the front cover). I decide I’m Marnie, only 10 years older and with a garden. While she retreats to the Lakes in the best kind of company, I retreat to Llangadog in the best kind of solitude – and that restorative sound of silence.

View from the second bedroom

I stayed as a guest of Ruth and Eirion in April 2024. You can find out more at and on Instagram @blackmountainescapes.

Bec n' Beacons, Get Outside, Reviews, Wales, Where to stay, Writing

Luxury holiday cottage

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