Staying at Cae Mabon, the Welsh Shangri-la

A couple of  weekends ago we stayed at the wonderful Cae Mabon; an eco village hidden away in stunning oak woodland close to Llanberis on the edge of Snowdonia, Wales.

Dubbed the ‘Welsh Shangri-la’, Cae Mabon is a peaceful haven made up of hand built huts constructed from sustainable materials.

We arrived before dark, following the comprehensive instructions from the website. We were directed down a back road which proceeded to get narrower and narrower before taking a steep decent to the car park. The view from the car park was stunning. It looks over Llyn Padarn lake, the town of Llanberis and Snowdon.

After a short walk under a green man carving and downhill on a slate path we reached the village.

The village circles a magnificent thatched Celtic roundhouse where visitors can choose from an array of drums, tambourines and maracas to play around the central open fire. Seven individual huts surround the roundhouse, each with their own unique construction and characteristics.

The owner, Eric Maddern, built the village with help from volunteers and has since been named ‘the number one natural building project in the UK’.

Cae Mabon can cater for up to 30 people. There were 25 in our group plus a toddler, which we felt was a comfortable limit.

I started a group on Facebook as a place to plan hikes and weekends away with my family and friends. In previous years we have scaled Helvellyn and Scafel Pike and this year we wanted to reach the top of Snowdon. One friend is currently studying at the Centre of Alternative Technology, an education and visitor centre in Snowdonia demonstrating practical solutions for sustainability. His friend, who joined our group and brought several friends with her, recommended Cae Mabon as it just across the lake from Llanberis; the town that stands at the foot of Mount Snowdon.

The kitchen is located in a restored cow milking barn and is equipped with a cooking range and all the crockery and cutlery for 30 people. A verity of teas and even hot chocolate is provided, which we obliterated, so left a few pound coins on the shelves to cover the cost of replacing them. The building is a good place for visitors to gather as there are benches, a white board, a stereo and a couple of sofas.

Dave and I slept in the ‘Cob House’ which had a great view across the village, with the tops of the mountains rising above the trees in the background. It’s the cream building in the photo above. The huts are basic but are fitted out with beds and mattresses. Visitors need to bring their own bedding and head torches are essential as the village has limited solar powered lighting. We shared our hut with 3 other friends. Dave and I slept in the bunk beds which I found surprisingly comfortable and cosy (and it was quite nice to have a bed to myself!).

The composting toilets are a novelty to those new to the experience. We are well accustomed to them but they may, at first, feel a bit weird to those who haven’t used them before. They are perfectly clean and comfortable, if a little whiffy.

The door of the hobbit hut in the above photo was modeled on the hobbit house in the Lord of the Rings films.

We were extremely lucky to have had dry weather. It wouldn’t have been as enjoyable if it had rained because the majority of the experience was being outside, enjoying the surroundings. And, of course, the hot tub!

The hot tub is made from oak with a snorkel stove to heat it. It’s filled from a hose pipe direct from the stream that runs alongside. It takes around four and a half hours to get hot. So hot, in fact, we couldn’t get in it! There was a fine balance between keeping the stove stoked with wood and cooling the water down with more water from the stream. It’s a satisfying and rewarding process. The challenge is to take a dip in the freezing stream in between soaks in the hot tub. I didn’t get past my feet but a couple of people laid down in the steam, fully submerged!

The construction of the dwellings is beautifully irregular; wonky windows and doors, and reciprocal roofs in several of them. These touches really add that magical, fairytale feel to the place.

I imagine the village is even more magical is summer time, with lush grass and leaves on the trees. But March was still beautiful. We could see the mountains through the leafless trees and the stars at night from the warmth of the hot tub.

This short video tells the story of Cae Mabon in the words of its owner, Eric. If my photos haven’t yet made you want to be transported straight to this magical wold, then this video certainly will.

Cae Mabon is the perfect refuge for a break from everyday life and an opportunity to experience living with the just the basic necessities in a magical setting that truly brings you closer to the natural world.

The website has good descriptions of each dwelling and an abundance of information for anyone who is thinking about staying at Cae Mabon. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here and can’t wait to return in the future. If you are looking for a fairytale holiday right here in the UK then this is the place to stay. It’s not luxury and it’s not immaculate . But it is cosy, it is magical and it is down to earth.

P.S. I’ll be posting about our Snowdon hike
 and my thrilling zip wire ride soon!

By Jenni Tulip

I'm a bright-haired, hill walking, magpie whispering, skull collecting, tree hugging, money saving, bird watching, happy campervanning, ferret fanatic, woodland dweller sharing my stories and passion for the outdoors to inspire you to immerse yourself in nature.