A photographer’s Insight: Pontfaen Barn, A Modern House with Character

Now the weather is improving, and all predictions for a hot summer are heralded, I am out again enjoying the Welsh countryside and the beautiful properties that are hidden away.

Recently I shot Pontfaen Barn, a stunning modern barn converted sympathetically in the vernacular by designers Mark Harrell and Anthony Marshall.

Pontfaen Barn Jpeg Web-9255

I was quite excited to shoot Mark & Anthony’s beautiful secluded barn located on a hillside above Brecon. For the shoot I had not one but 2 assistants (Paul and Andria) AND Anthony on hand for any last minute adjustments, polishing moving furniture setting up lights and creating “stories” for me.

It was the first time out with Andria who is usually one of the girls in the office and it was great to have her “on set”, she has a really creative eye and is just a really, really, really, nice person. Anyway, after her and Paul left one evening, I stayed on with Anthony trying to capture the perfect night scape and evening shots of the barn. Standing behind the house there is one of the most breath taking views of Pen Y Fan and it’s sister peaks, a great one to catch in the evening as the sun goes down.

Pontfaen Barn Night Sky-9779

(The sky is really this dark here. Unbelievable!)

Pontfaen Barn, as you have guessed from my previous posts is an ultra modern conversion, which fuses vintage furniture pieces from around the world within a contemporary, industrial-like glove. Modernist lines and visual spacing has been key to Mark and Anthony’s design process as well as reflecting the styles and materials of the area.

For a large barn, the temperature was always surprisingly pleasant, aided by the air source heat pump that has been installed (why hasn’t everyone thought of this?) If you did want to enjoy the comfort of a roaring fire, there are TWO wood burning stoves that pump out heat as well.

Pontfaen Barn Jpeg Web-9192 Pontfaen Barn Jpegs Web-9881

Instead of being flat and linear, the main living area of the barn is on split-levels with a mezzanine snug/reading area up in the rafters looking down a spiral staircase to the dining area and beyond to the kitchen. The Kitchen is then lower than the dining area with a bedroom and en suite above. It is a beautiful maze and one that is great to explore, which is one of the things I enjoyed when I arrived.

Pontfaen Barn Jpegs Web-0045 Pontfaen Barn Jpegs Web-9926 Pontfaen Barn Jpegs Web-9975

In total there are 2 double bedrooms, 2 more double bedrooms with en suit bathrooms and two family bathrooms so plenty of choice.

Usually dark places for storing hay, or housing animals, barns are not known for their copious amounts of natural light whilst in Pontfaen, contemporary artist Mark Harrell’s work adorns the walls as light pours in from large floor to ceiling windows and glass doors through out the barn. Watching the weather change became our new favourite past time and I think I could have spent hours staring out at the mountains beyond.

Relaxing, mood enhancing and peaceful, this was a great place to spend 3 days with lovely people. I only wish I had been on holiday.

Have a look at the property and browse the rest of the shots, we would love to know what you think.

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It’s Easy Being Green!

Liz and Paul own two of our cottages – Swallows Haven and Bryniau Pell, which are rated Gold by the prestigious Green Tourism Business Scheme. In this blog they outline the key steps they took to make their cottages as green as possible.  Book online, or give us a call if you’d like to book a green trip to the Brecon Beacons. 

Easy being ‘Green’

One of our guests once said that he hadn’t realised how green we were, it just seemed like a normal cottage… and that is just what we want. We have been rated ‘Gold’ by the Green Tourism Business Scheme, but for us, ‘green’ does not mean cold, basic with no home comforts, it means warm, comfortable and cosy.

Sheep at Bryniau Pell and Swallows Haven

Sheep at Bryniau Pell and Swallows Haven

A woodpecker


The log burning stove

The roaring stove






We think there are six easy steps:

  • Recycle – staying here just about everything may be recycled. Plastics, glass, metal, paper & card and compost. Not much left for the bin man!
  • Lighting – As bulbs went we replaced with LEDs. Cheaper to run and better light than the old type eco bulbs.
  • Heating – all radiators have thermostats, curtains are lined, wood burners come with free logs, ideal for a snuggle and cuddle.
  • Duvet days – not that we encourage these when there is so much to do, but if you should, our duvets and pillows are soft and comfy made from recycled plastic bottles and the linen is organic, fairtrade cotton.
  • Shop and eat local – before your stay with us we offer to shop for you or you can buy one of our own breakfast hampers. During your stay collect eggs, buy meals, meat and soup from the freezer and delicious locally handmade biscuits. The local pub even does takeaway beer.
  • Walk and talk – instead of driving for the day way not take a walk around the farm, or up the hill. Enjoy the sounds of the countryside. Build dens, dam streams, spot birds, feed lambs, gaze at the stars and enjoy your surroundings.

So six easy steps, but you are staying on an organic farm in the Brecon Beacons. You just can’t get much better than that. But oh did I mention we produce our own electricity and your central heating is from a big log burner using timber produced on the farm. Why not ask about planting a tree during your stay?

Photo of chickens

The chickens

Photo of a den

Build a den on the farm


Posted in Activities in the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains, Brecon Beacon Holiday Cottages, brecon beacons, Builth Wells, Eco, For Children, North of Brecon | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Explore Britain’s First Ever Dark Skies Festival!

Having been awarded Dark Sky status earlier this year, the Brecon Beacons is now officially one of the best places on the planet for observing the night sky. 

Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages ©

Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages ©

To celebrate all there is to see in the skies above Wales, Hay-on-Wye will be hosting a Dark Skies Festival in March 2014. The festival will be taking place between the 21st and 23rd of March 2014 and will offer people of all ages and experience the chance to reacquaint themselves with the night sky.

There will also be lectures from experts about how to get the most from your observations, during both the day and night, as well as how astronomy has enabled the world to be navigated, and expert tips on how to get amazing results from your telescopes. As part of the festival, why not head to The Swan at Hay hotel for a lecture on ‘What to see in the sky’ from expert Emma Wride before traveling up to Hay Bluff for your own observation lessons. 

Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages ©

Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages ©

Finally, there’s the chance to observe the sunrise on the equinox line – something that happens only twice a year! For more information, visit www.haytourism.org.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay during your visit and would like to get some stargazing done on your own, book into a Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages. The company lists 300+ cottages that are in wonderfully remote locations so you’ll be in a perfect position to observe the night sky.

More information for the event: http://www.darkskiesfestival.org/ 

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Sunshine In the Brecon Beacons

The last couple of days have proven that the sun does still exist. We have had some beautiful golden warm mornings and the worst part of the rain hasn’t really affected us much in the mountains. the sheep are a bit more damp but they are Welsh sheep and can deal with it.

Today, I thought it would be nice to show you what a beautiful day is is at the office.

Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages Office-8349 Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages Office-8353 Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages Office-8359 Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages Office-8367

From L to R: The office, ducks enjoying the warmth of the sunshine by the pond, the old hand painted sign, old Finbar dozing in the sunshine.

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A Photographer’s Insight: Discovering New Places

Last week, Liz took Andria and Myself out to see another new property called Red Kite Apartment. It is a 2 double bed spacious apartment on the 1st floor of the Red Kite Pub near Myddfai (Muthd-f-eye) where you can find the red kite feeding centre only 100 yards away. You can see the kites being fed from the living room widow.

Liz is the absolute best person to go out and about with, as she knows everyone and nearly every part of the National Park. She has over 30 years experience in Holiday Cottages and is an amazing person for networking with a natural sense for customer service. Driving with Liz is like having your own personal tour guide and storyteller rolled into one.

The property we were heading to is located next door to the red kite-feeding center and is equidistant from Llandovery and Llangadog and in the hills above the village of Myddfai. As we got closer to the area, which takes in stunning views of the west of the National Park we saw Red Kites a plenty. It was amazing. I have never seen Red Kites that close before and I have to say, they are HUGE. I had not realized their size before as I usually see them as tiny specs above a field or mountain circling on the thermals.

After meeting the owners and making a plan to come back in the coming weeks for photographs, Liz Jess and I headed back to Brecon via Myddfai where we stopped off at the Visitors Centre for a bite to eat.

Myddfai Visitor Center

(Myddfai Visitor Centre, Image Courtesy of Michael Sinclair for Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages)

It is a great place to stop off; I have been before when I assisted Michael, one of our other photographers when he shoot Old Church School in the summer with the sun beating down outside. This time it was a little colder…and cloudier, but the staff are really friendly and I managed to try one of their freshly made vanilla butter cookies. Very Delicious!

Old Church School Myddfai Breocn Beacons Holiday Cottages

(Old Church School in Myddfai, Image courtesy of Michael Sinclair for Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages)

Next Liz was passing the turning to one of our properties that neither Andria nor myself have been to before, so we took another detour to Esgair Berfedd. What a place! If you are ever looking for a remote holiday cottage I would suggest this property.

Esgair Berfedd Breonc Beacons Holiday Cottages

(Esgair Berfedd, Image courtesy of Paul Campbell for Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages)

It is nestled on a hill over looking a large pine forest with tress all around and views over the valley in front. Another cottage to add on the exciting places to shoot; so atmospheric and stunning.I could imagine building forts in the “jungle” or an elaborate game of hide and seek here when I was younger, a great place for families wanting to get into the wild.

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A Photographer’s Insight: An Exciting New Modern Barn Conversion in the Heart of the Brecon Beacons.

The other week Liz, Jess and I went off to see an exciting new property, Pontfaen Barn, an ultra modern barn conversion near the village of Battle on top of the mountain combining traditional, vintage items with modern minimalism.

Designers Harrell Marshal Green have taken the bare bones of a 200-year-old barn and resurrected it in the vernacular architecture of the area with an eye for natural light and a flare for contemporary art and style. Which is no surprise as one of the designers is contemporary artist, Mark Harrell.

Barn Pic 1 Barn Pic 3

(Images courtesy of Mark Harrell and Anthony Marshal)

Mark gave Liz, Jess and I the tour of the gorgeous C shaped barn that features high ceilings in the main living area showing off the original solid wood beams and the concertina glass sliding doors that give way to a huge amount of natural light.

Light is everywhere you go in this property and combined with the texture of the furnishings and interiors it creates a beautiful, relaxing and warm atmosphere. The warmth is also helped by the under floor heating throughout from air source heat pump and wood burning stoves that makes this place so wonderfully warm.

The day we came was a misty, atmospheric morning and would fit perfectly in Elle Country or modern interior design magazines with the muted colours and soft light of a Vermeer Painting that is so fashionable at the moment.

However my main aim this day was to make notes on the interiors, angles, scenes, views, light direction and stories that would be great to convey the luxury and style of the barn. I find these pre-visits quite helpful in planning my photography, as it is always easier go prepared, with a plan and knowledge of the area so that when it comes to shooting day, everything will go as smoothly as possible.

Modern-House-04011 Amended Ponfaen 011

(Images courtesy of Mark Harrell and Anthony Marshal)

I am really looking forward to shooting Pontfaen Barn, because of the natural light and rural surroundings; it is a building with so many faces and could prove an exciting, yet rewarding challenge.

Designer, Anthony Marshal mentioned that in the summer the house is surrounded by wild pinky-purple fox gloves on the hillside with blue skies, green fields and 360 degree views from the large sliding doors and the sunshine floods the house from sunrise to sun set. It is also in part of the national park that has very dark skies and at night they shine so brightly in the dark navy blue sky.

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A Photographer’s Insight: Kites over Kite Stable Cottage

During the long days of summer, Tom and myself went over to shoot four cottages for  Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages in 2 days for the website  Their individual names are Merlin, Hobby, Peregrine and Kite Stable Cottages, named after the birds of course. The four newly renovated stable cottages in a U shape neighbor a grand residence and feature modern interiors with comfort and uniformity throughout the properties.

Peregrine Kite Stable cottage- Peregrine Stable cottage-4551

(Merlin, Hobby,Peregrine and Kite Stable Cottage surrounded by rolling hills and green pastures)

These four properties have the ability to be extremely flexible with party size, from Merlin Stable Cottage being a large sized cottage perfect for two people, to Kite Stable Cottage sleeping up to 9. Combined, the four properties can sleep 19 guests while families can have their separate and private spaces, then coming in May there is another to add to the set, called Kestrel will add another 8 people.

Each cottage has an area to relax, have a BBQ and sit at the picnic table enjoying the views or reading a book in the sun. There is plenty of space to let kids loose in and fields and hills as far as the eye can see as you are surrounded by farmland and woodland. For bat and bird fanatics it is also a great place to spot some of Wales, wild and wonderful species with kites gliding over the fields and a red start bird box on an enormous sycamore tree, ready to invite the rare birds.

Cynghordy Garden-4541
(The red start holiday cottage…nailed to an enormous sycamore tree, waiting for the perfect couple)

The Welsh countryside is a great place to see wildlife and specifically the west side of the Brecon Beacons as this there are swathes of fairly untouched land, so you really do feel like you are in the Shire, with reminders of Tolkien’s inspiration for The Hobbit evident in the rolling soft hills of the low lands, to the majestic mountains and industrial heritage of the valleys.

Cynghordy Garden-4532
(The view from the properties, fields, hills and skies of the West of the Brecon Beacons)

Merlin, Hobby, Peregrine and Kite Stable Cottages are a perfect place to kick back and relax, enjoying a warm base to come home to after exploring the history and castles, the mountains, rivers, reservoirs of the area AND the kite feeding station, which is definitely worth a visit as hundreds of kites flock to be fed there.

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