We stayed at Llanthony Priory Hotel at the weekend, in the top room of the tower. I have wanted to stay there ever since visiting the place as a kid, and it lived up to expectations. The room was at the top of a flight of spiral stairs, and had a fourposter bed (which must have been taken up there in bits and reassembled at the top). You had to lie on the floor to look out of the window, but it looked out over the ruins of the priory. I read Hilary Llewellyn-Williams' poem about it as we lay looking out over it. The priory is situated in the Honddu valley, which can be reached by turning off the A465 at Llanfihangel Crucornau. The road twists and turns along the valley, with the hills lifting ever higher either side, until eventually you reach the priory. I had booked the weekend as a Valentine surprise for my husband, so he didn't know where he was going until he saw the sign for the priory (I may have mentioned it once or twice...)
On the Friday it was slattering it down with rain, so after walking round the priory in the rain, we drove into Hay-on-Wye (rather an exciting drive over Gospel Pass in the fog and the rain) and found the very splendid Nepal Bazaar, where we spent lots of money on new clothes, which are fair-trade and very attractive. Then we went to Marijana Dworski bookshop, which specialises in language, travel, and folklore, and I bought a book of Jewish folktales and a dictionary of slang (this appears to be the new definitive slang dictionary). On Friday evening we got chatting to a charming couple over dinner; the conversation (which continued on Saturday evening) ranged over everything from boar spears to science fiction. The food in the Llanthony Priory Hotel is excellent.
On the Saturday we explored Golden Valley; we went to Longtown Castle, Vowchurch, Peterchurch and Dorstone, and the remains of the Arthur's Stone long-barrow. Lewis Carroll's brother (Skeffington Hume Dodgson) used to be vicar of Vowchurch, and there was quite a good exhibition about it in the church. Then we went into Hay-on-Wye again, as it was cold and the cloud still hadn't lifted off the hills, and visited more bookshops. Nick got a book on performance theory, and I got the collected poems of CS Lewis, Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges, and Sun Circle by Neil M Gunn.
On the Sunday, the cloud finally lifted, and we drove up to Gospel Pass and climbed up to the top of Twmpa (also known as Lord Hereford's Knob). The view from the top was fantastic; even though Hay Bluff was only intermittently visible between veils of scudding cloud. After that we had lunch and then went to Llangorse to see the remains of the crannog in the lake there. On the way down, we saw a greater-spotted woodpecker. The weather was closing in by this time, so we headed home again.