‘Oho! Fronlas! The posh B&B!’ says the chap propping up the bar of the White Horse, Llandeilo. He is ‘a bit of a character’. He’s persuaded me to buy a manly pint of the local Golden Hop, and I am trying to engage in a bit of rough-hewn banter. The locals, who had been jovial when we came in, had fallen instantly silent, and are looking somewhat ruddy and UKIP-supportive. It seems important to reassure them that me and Mrs Smith are virtually made of real ale, and hadn’t in fact come in here for pre-dinner gin and tonics.
‘Where are you staying, then?’ we’re asked.
‘I think it’s called Fronlas…’
‘Erm… can’t pronounce it... "Fron-lss"?’
‘Oho! Fron-lass! The posh B&B!’
After escaping to the beer garden, my first thought is, 'Hang on – a bed and breakfast?'
‘Of course it’s a bed and breakfast,’ says Mrs Smith, as the glorious sunshine further reddens my cheeks. ‘What else could it be?’
At the last B&B we’d stayed at, Linda the landlady had sat us down in a frilly guest lounge, and craftily tangled us up in her ego, binding us to the velour with her idiosyncratic opinions. Hers was the quintessential old-fashioned bed and breakfast: the labyrinthine psycho-drama, the niggling fears and embarrassments, the deep brave breaths before coming down to breakfast, the resentments at ‘not wanting to offend Linda’. And this was what had foxed me. Ever since we had arrived at Fronlas, the mandatory psychic tax had been quietly waived. Indeed, as Eva, our host, lets us into the hall of this boutiquey escape, with its darkwood floors and its calm gray walls, and the sunlight doing all the work, we feel a surplus of calm, a place for our neurons to kick off their shoes and dabble their toes in the water.
Eva, like Fronlas itself, is unassuming. She even seems a little shy. I would know no more about her by the end of our stay as I did at the start, except that she had the psychological acuity to understand that these guests did not, at this point in time, need to know a thing about her. She could leave us to it. Mrs Smith starts to grin inanely. It’s the sort of grin you get before whooping and running across a meadow.
Our room is large, light and quiet, but after the bashful sobriety of the hall, it contains an unexpectedly extrovert shrine to interior design. The bed features a lively headboard, which is a large panel of swirling patterns that eventually segues into an elaborate wallpaper as exhuberent as purple sprouting broccoli. Mrs Smith loves all of this. Mr Smith finds it a little frivolous, as if he's found himself at a hen party when he thought he was going to the ballet. Undaunted, and with no meadow to hand, Mrs Smith jumps on the bed. The sun streams through the large gorgeous bay window. It’s so quiet. I jump onto the bed too. We sink. The wallpaper starts to grow on me.
Later, Mrs Smith declares the bed to be the most comfortable she has lain on. The mattress, hand-made by Abaca, is both luxurious and organic. Most beds, apparently, are a cocktail of toxic materials, but this one, far from it. Fronlas puts a priority on its ecological footprint. There are plenty of careful details: a recycling bin, solar water-heating, cycling-friendliness and locally sourced ingredients at breakfast. But it doesn’t feel like an ‘eco-hotel’ – there’s no hemp, no sawdust latrine, and no laminated cards urging us to conserve towels or let it mellow if it’s yellow.
Spirits lifted, we stroll into Llandeilo. It’s splendid secret of a town, dramatically rising off the western borders of the Brecon Beacons, full of colourful 18th-century houses, independent shops and places to eat. There’s even a church with a gloriously overgrown graveyard. Tomorrow night we’ll be dining at the celebrated Y Polyn, a gastronomic flashing light a 15–20-minute drive away, but this evening we’re staying local. After a short trip to the White Horse (which has a good selection of cask ales, and a pleasant outdoor courtyard), we choose the Cawdor Hotel for a two-course set meal at just under £20 each. Creamy-winey mussels and a goats cheese tart are the stand-out acts.
Somehow, perhaps on account of the rapidly quaffed Golden Hop, we find ourselves giggling drunk, and stumble back to Fronlas babbling in Welsh accents. Fronlas is unruffled, and the following morning our wickedness is rewarded when a gigantic tray is delivered to our room, containing diverse marvels from the breakfasting world. Eva’s seedy porridge it a huge hit and the freshly squeezed orange and carrot juice is deemed exquisite. Mrs Smith is pleased, meanwhile, that Fronlas has not batted an eyelid at her dairy-free thing.
Carregg Cennen Castle is a spectacular romantic ruin dizzyingly perched atop – and, in places, carved from – a mountainous crag close to Llandeilo. On the hottest day of the year, we spend the afternoon walking around the valleys in sight of the castle before making our ascent up to the precipice, for fantastic views. For an hour or so, Mrs Smith and I do not encounter another soul. Along the route, there are caves, and brooks, and dense vegetation humming with crickets and dragonflies. Castle fully explored, we wander down to the gift shop, where I snuffle locally made ice-cream. Finding ourselves miraculously unburdened by plans for the rest of the afternoon, we discover a convenient meadow. There’s nothing to do but whoop and run across it and enjoy that same special blend of joy reserved especially for visitors to our new favourite boutique bed and breakfast, Fronlas.