5 days at Fforest; the hip Welsh farm come family-friendly retreat
Words by Anna Whitaker / Photography by Fforest
Bouncing around in the back seat as we crawl up the potholed track, the boys are already in heaven. After four hours of driving through biblical showers, the sun has finally broken through and by the time we pull up to Fforest Farm, the hipster hideaway on the outskirts of Cardigan, this is anything but a Welsh cliche.
I stumbled across Fforest Farm when looking for wedding venues back in 2013. I could tell even then from its simple luxury and relaxed, rustic vibe that it was my kind of place. But what I didn’t know then was just how perfect it would be for a family holiday, seven years later with two under 5s.
It was hard to describe where we were going at first. The Telegraph called it a hybrid of Welsh farm and Japanese forest retreat, which I explained to a few people before we left, but sounded like a bit of a wanker so opted for ‘fancy campsite’ in most cases. In many ways that’s the truth. With a number of accommodation options, from chic Bell Tents, Onsen Domes and Kata Cabins to the newly built Crog Lofts, which were restored from part of the farm’s old outbuildings, each option treads the perfect line between basic and luxury.
Bare, plywood interiors, cosy Welsh blankets and fresh, wildflower arrangements welcomed us to our Garden Shac; one of four beautifully understated cabins tucked behind the abundant flowerbeds. At the head of each bed, a huge window encouraged midnight stargazing, although blackout blinds in the kids’ room would have been a welcome addition. I’d recommend taking a GroBlind if you want to go in the summer.
In a bid to get closer to nature, all the ‘living’ spaces are outside, albeit undercover. Our terrace featured a built-in corner sofa on which the boys would drag their thick duvets onto at sunrise to drain my phone’s 4G. The kitchen was fully equipped and the dining table big enough for six (normally us four, plus a couple of kids the boys had picked up).
That was the highlight really; the way each family fielded their zone, so you could almost leave the children to their own devices knowing they were always under someone’s watch. Arlo would race onto the field in front of the Crog Lofts every morning after breakfast, looking for his new best friend. They’d play a game of football with someone else’s Dad while we washed up and when they came back to explore the gardens, we’d entertain them by identifying plants and looking for insects while the other parents had a rest.
When we weren’t reaping the pleasantries of communal living, we explored the local area. From seemingly endless sandy beach options, we headed to Aberporth (although Llangrannog and the National Trust’s Mwnt both came highly recommended) and could have stayed there all week to be honest. It was a perfect little seaside town, with quaint pastel houses dotted around the cliffs, a tidal pool for a toddler-friendly splash about and a chippie for lunch on the beach. The parking was limited though and even at 10:15, we had quite a walk down. That could have been because it was the hottest day of the year though. And it was the school summer holidays.
In Cardigan itself, the historic town flanked by the River Teifi, Fforest has another outpost overlooking the water, with a restaurant underneath. Pizzatipi felt like a cross between a boho wedding and a tiny festival, with a menu unsurprisingly bursting with simple and more experimental flavours of our favourite Italian fare. The Margherita was a safe but solid choice, with a light, crispy base topped with a tomato sauce so fresh you really taste the local ingredients.
The Pizzatipi is actually run by the four Fforest brothers; sons of the couple who followed their dreams by leaving the Shoreditch art scene and heading to the wild west of Wales in 2004. It’s probably the most inspiring family business I’ve ever seen, with such a clear and well executed vision for their brand and future legacy.
So instead of ‘fancy campsite’ or ‘Welsh farm meets Japanese forest retreat’, I’m now describing it as a more rustic, less wanky Soho Farmhouse. The kind of authentic retreat our nature-starved, London bones are going to crave until we return again next year.