The Dolaucothi Arms, Pumsaint, Wales: Room service

A coaching inn you'll never want to leave

"I entered the inn of the 'Pump Saint'. The people were kind and attentive, and set before me a homely but savoury supper, and a foaming tankard of ale ... [In] a large chamber, I found an excellent and clean bed, in which I enjoyed a refreshing sleep ...." Everything, and yet nothing, has changed at the Dolaucothi Arms, in the small Carmarthenshire village of Pumsaint. When George Borrow, author of Victorian travelogue Wild Wales, stayed in 1854, he found a "good specimen of an ancient Welsh hostelry". In 2014, with new landlords and new beds, but with meals that are still hearty, it is all that again – despite a short hiatus.

Dating back more than 200 years, this coaching inn was long a welcome stop on the old drovers' road; big fireplaces and original tiled floors are reminders of its age. It's been owned by the National Trust since 1983 but became run down and closed in 2009. However, a revamp, plus the energy and vision of a young couple looking for a project, saw it re-open last year. Now, thanks to Esther and David's hard graft, the Dolaucothi Arms is back at the heart of this small community: there's quality pub grub on the menu and Welsh beers on tap; there are plans for a small shop selling essentials; and the darts team has a home once again.

There are also three (soon to be four) en-suite rooms upstairs. Painted in Farrow & Ball heritage hues, with diamond-paned casement windows, the aesthetic is arts-and-craftsy-in-progress: the couple are gradually adding scrubbed-up second-hand furniture, interesting prints and oddments. "I didn't want to just chuck up Ikea prints to cover the walls," says Esther, who used to work at Special Places to Stay publisher Sawday's. "It's a collecting process."

Old charmer: the Dolaucothi Arms is 200 years old Old charmer: the Dolaucothi Arms is 200 years old It's also a collaborative process – Esther and David have found the locals willing to help. "An upholsterer covered our chairs so she could shoot them for her website," explains David. "And the local rat-catcher/sour-dough maker uses our salmon and trout fishing rights in exchange for teaching us a bit about fishing." At last summer's inaugural beer festival, farmers lent marquees and hay bales; it was a resounding success, and a bigger one is planned for next month.

Indeed, there are many plans afoot. David – musician, pub deputy manager, salesman and gardener – wants to put in raised beds to grow their own salad (he can't dig down; there's a Roman fort below). They also hope to host bread-making, photography and survival-skills courses. Of course, they offer the basics too: you can just sit by the woodburner with a decent pint.

Location

Tucked within the folds of northern Carmarthenshire, Pumsaint – or "Five Saints", named after a quintet of holy pilgrims who once stopped here en route to St David's – is part of the National Trust's 2,500-acre Dolaucothi Estate. The Cothi River trickles behind the beer garden; the Dolaucothi Gold Mine, where tours head down the Roman and Victorian shafts, is a 10-minute walk. There's good hiking from the door (and laminated OS maps in the rooms), while the edge of the Brecon Beacons lies 12 miles east. The nearest train stations are Llandovery (12 miles) and Llanwrda (eight miles). There's a bridle tie-up if you come by horse and a 10-per-cent discount on rooms for cyclists.

Comfort

There's a pleasing simplicity to the bedrooms – a bit like staying with an aunt who has good taste. Pillows, duvets and mattresses stuffed with British wool top the king-size beds – sustainable and a boon for allergy sufferers. There are digital radios but no TVs (you can request one). Tables bear Fairtrade tea and cafetière coffee, good biscuits and a help-yourself decanter of port. Bathrooms are no-frills: only one (Room 2) has a bath and one (Room 3) is particularly bijou. But the monsoon showers are vigorous, with British-made Faith In Nature toiletries.

Esther, whose commercial kitchen experience previously ran to making scones at the National Trust's Tyntesfield, has taken to her new head chef role with aplomb. The monthly changing menu comprises well-priced staples (Welsh beef burgers, assorted pies) and seasonal experiments (wild-garlic pesto in April).

Breakfasts are high quality: home-made muesli, bread and jams; free-range sausages and bacon from a farm you can see out the window; obscenely creamy butter sourced from the Jersey cows down the road. Dolaucothi is an all-round "good specimen" once again.

Travel essentials

The Dolaucothi Arms, Pumsaint, Carmarthenshire, Wales SA18 8UW (01558 650237; thedolaucothiarms.co.uk)

Rooms ****

Value ****

Service ***

Doubles start at £75 including breakfast

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas