Holidays & Travel

Finding the antidote to modern life in North Wales

Claire Spreadbury and her husband go back to basics at a remote cabin escape.

Need to escape?
An Unyoked cabin in the middle of the countryside Need to escape? (NICKBANNEHR)

It feels like I’m at a rave with a flock of sheep. And let me tell you, they are having the time of their lives.

It’s 8.30pm and they are bleating the night away. Loud baas, low baas, high-pitched lamb baas – they’re all at it. Maybe they’re vocalising their appreciation for the forest. It is pretty damn wonderful, after all.

I’ve come to one of Unyoked’s secluded cabins – a network of hideaways in epic natural locations – with my husband James. We are officially off-gridding in North Wales, but it feels like the middle of nowhere.

We parked the car about 500 metres away, on an organic hill farm, next to a sign saying, ‘Park car here. Leave worries behind’. And that’s exactly what we intend to do.

Welsh mountain sheep stare at us, ushering their babies as we dodge piles of poo and push a wheelbarrow loaded up with stuff over mossy green grass.

Rolling hills undulate in every direction, with views of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley – a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

We walk through another gate before our cabin, Cadno, comes into view. Wonderfully wooden and welcoming, my stomach flips excitedly.

Two fold-up chairs and a table sit expectantly on the deck, overlooking a fire pit, four tree trunk stools and a lump hammer, balanced on a hunk of wood with a log-splitter. And beyond that lies forest, fields and fluffy white sheep. Lots of them.

Inside the cabin, a double bed sits beside two giant windows soaking up that view. Hot water bottles lay invitingly on top of a snuggly blanket and pine linen bedding, and the log fire is loaded up with wood.

A full kitchen sits in the other corner, stocked with tea, coffee and a small fridge, while the compost toilet and rain shower is housed in a little bathroom, complete with a how-to guide for any wild wee virgins.

The peace envelopes us and time starts to slow down as I plonk my exhausted body on the bed and watch the wind swishing through the long blades of grass. We put the metal teapot on the stove and make a cuppa, brewed with real tea leaves provided in the cabin.

I watch James as he zips up his jacket, takes his tea and wanders towards the epic scenery, stopping to rest on a gate and soak it all in.

This sort of escape is everything we need. Life is so hectic, juggling stressful jobs, a busy family life and everyone’s mental health uppers and downers. It frequently feels too much, and I have recently started craving a move to the middle of nowhere – somewhere nature can provide the therapy we all so desperately need.

James heads outside to start the fire for dinner. A squirrel sits on its hind legs, nibbling at snacks while watching the kindling being split and built into a pyramid for the flames to lick.

I ponder how tiny to make the cauliflower florets so they’ll cook on the skillet, before dousing them in olive oil, chilli powder, sriracha sauce, cumin and salt.

I liberally splodge refried beans onto tortillas and top with grated cheese, pop on a wire grill and heat in the fire pit until it’s warm and melty. Once charred, we add the cauliflower and halloumi and scoff at our table for two, while sheep bleat appreciatively in the field next door.

We sit, listening to the sounds of the forest while drinking wine out of green tin cups, the same colour as the windswept bushy pines surrounding our space. The trees stand tall like aged warriors, branches like Mr Tickle’s arms and leaves like Tina Turner’s hair. They are warped, deformed and battered, survivors of the harsh Welsh weather, but very much still here to tell the tale.

A digital guidebook provides all the information you need before, during and after your stay. And the next level detail is positively gorgeous – a tiny In-field Guide and pencil is provided for each person, to help you melt into big fat nothingness on your stay.

We lay on the bed noticing nature and talking, but also staying quiet. Unafraid of the silence, we are happy to just be.

I watch the darkness draw in through the windows as my eyelids become heavy. I count sheep as they bumble, one by one, through the field, bleating more quietly as if they know it’s time for bed. I think the rave must finally be over.

Digital detoxes aren’t essential here. There is one plug socket in the cabin to charge a phone (but you will trip the fuse if you try to use a hairdryer).

However, even without trying, you’re likely to use your phone less. There is little reception, which definitely helps, but when you’ve stepped off the ladder of life and escaped to the world of nothingness, where watching the steam rise from a hot mug of tea passes for entertainment, there’s less of a lure to doom-scroll.

At home, I often notice my time spent on social media is simply an escape. Scrolling to numb my brain, so I can think about something other than everything I need to do and deal with. I don’t need to do that here. And it’s a very wonderful feeling indeed.

As a festival veteran, I’m fully versed in the wonders of compost toilets. But I appreciate not everyone who comes here will feel the same.

As a toilet, it looks completely normal, but if you look down to where the bowl would be, there’s a hole straight through to the ground. Once you’ve used the toilet, you simply shake a mini shovel of sawdust on the top and go on your merry way. Shut the lid to avoid the smells permeating the bathroom, but it’s barely stinky at all – more ‘rabbit hutch’ than ‘public toilet’, I would say.

We love a walk that ends up at a pub, and manage to find enough reception to search for ‘pubs near me’. Google lied about the ‘mostly flat’ terrain, we conclude, as our calves start to burn heading constantly downward in steep descent. Still, we’re out now, so we crack on and eventually find The Phoenix, for a cold pint and a bowl of cheesy chips.

As we make the ascent back up what might be the steepest continual track I’ve ever hiked, the sun beats down on my back as my 44-year-old hips trudge up the hill like an aged old pendulum.

The thought of sunshine back at the cabin, a beer, and the fire pit, keep us going until we finally find our camp again, smug that we’ve earned whatever delights we fancy cooking up this evening.

The light picks out its chosen hills, transforming them from darkness into a glowing green. I sit. I listen. I gaze. I do nothing but let my senses take over, basking in the warmth of the sunshine and shivering in the chilly breeze.

Imagine having the time to roll out your mat and do daily old lady stretches surrounded by nature. Imagine having the time to wait patiently for your tea leaves to brew for the most perfect morning cuppa, or grind your own coffee beans for a more mindful zing. Imagine cooking over a fire and forgetting what the time is. And counting real sheep at bedtime, being woken only by the weather, as opposed to work worries and family stress.

I would argue every city slicker needs Unyoked in their life. A chance to stop and slow down. A moment to actually be with one another. And to re-learn how to do absolutely nothing. It’s a long lost skill we’ve all forgotten about.

How to plan your trip

Two-nights in Cadno (and all other Unyoked cabins) is £154 (weeknights) and £179 (weekends). Unyoked cabins can be found in the South Downs, West Berkshire, Suffolk, North Norfolk, Wales (Black Mountains), North Wales and Exmoor. Visit