Plas Dolau Country Estate Aberystwyth
Region: WalesDisabled Facilities: Yes
Category: Accommodation & Residential Trips
Address: Lovesgrove, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 3HP
Contact: 01970 617834
Plas Dolau is a small and secluded country estate with its own gardens, fields, woodland and access to the Rheidol river. The entrance to our drive is on the A44, only 3 miles from Aberystwyth shops and the sea, but far enough to discourage youngsters from walking off site.
The area is ideal for school trips of any age group, and with such a range of habitats, attracts many college/university field courses. We go from sea to mountains within a few miles and are within easy reach for day trips to Snowdonia or Pembrokeshire.
The countryside is complemented by a range of local attractions of educational interest and outdoor activities.
Our staff team has a wide variety of relevant expertise for educational visits and our aim is to help groups achieve their objectives in a safe and enjoyable environment, with excellent home cooked food options available. A privately owned Centre, Plas Dolau is a member of Christian Camping International and upholds their standards of care and concern for the individuals who visit us.
The old country mansion has a friendly, warm and relaxed atmosphere and was renovated a few years ago specifically with group visits in mind. It is ideal for exclusive use for up to 48 people but can stretch to 60 with addition of the Swedish style farm guesthouse. Small groups may be accommodated in one section of the house.
Why is this venue great for School Trips and Educational Visits?
The accommodation is rated 4 star by Visit Wales (successor to the Wales Tourist Board) and works well for exclusive use by larger groups or splits into 2 hostel sections with separate washing facilities for small groups. As well as the main lounge/meeting room, large and small dining rooms and games room, there are plenty of options for splitting into small study groups, with a rough lab. area if required.
We welcome visits by group leaders to check out the accommodation and resources in the area. Our aim is to help groups achieve their objectives and we try to tailor our help and suggestions to your specific needs. Our team includes a qualified teacher, marine and environmental biologist, agriculturist, dance and drama specialist, musician and worship leader, artist and photographer.
Our 25 acre grounds includes woodland walks, permanent pasture (with cattle, sheep, ponies and a friendly milking goat), a small stream and access to the river Rheidol, with the possibility of seeing otters or foxes at dusk or dawn. Rabbits and squirrels abound and we have seen weasels and polecats. Ravens and red kites fly over daily and we have tawny and barn owls, greater spotted woodpeckers, a friendly crow family and a host of little birds visiting our garden feeders. It is an excellent area to study wild plants, mosses and fungi and we try to conserve the species we have, including several orchids, meadowsweet and purple loosestrife in the wetter grassland.
You can see all stages of river development within 12 miles: from source and torrent (including the famous Devil’s Bridge waterfall), to mainstream and flood plain with shingle bars, meanders and ox bow lakes, ending in the harbour and marina at Aberystwyth. This has a mainly shelving shingle beach, with a rich area of rock pools and Cardigan Bay dolphins are frequently seen off the coast. Seals frequent small coves to the south and choughs nest on cliffs below the coastal path to the north. In contrast, Borth has 3 miles of sandy beach, exposing a fossil forest at low tide and ending in an extensive dune area at Ynyslas on the Dovey estuary, where the Countryside Council and local Wildlife Trust run a visitor centre.
The RSPB reserve at Ynys Hir has walks and hides to view estuary, woodland and farmland birds and there are red kite feeding stations at Bontgoch and Nant Y Moch, where the Forestry Commission have a visitor centre with cameras set up to view kite and buzzard nests.
“Green energy” issues are well covered by the Centre for Alternative Technology, local wind farms and the Rheidol Hydro-electric Power Station, again with an excellent interpretation displays. Next to this, the Butterfly House is a summer attraction and Borth Animalarium specialises mainly in “friendly” small species of animals and birds, with Fantasy Farm also providing “hands on” experience and fun for smaller children.
Inland, the vast mass of the Cambrian mountains is one of Britain’s oldest mountain ranges, with wild moorland and mountain streams running through coniferous and deciduous forests.
While we can provide an area for wide games and informal ball play, Plas Crug Leisure Centre is just 2 miles away, with swimming and sports fields, and the Clarach Leisure Centre is ideal for younger age groups, including a small ten pin bowling alley. Llain Activity Centre provides more adventurous activities with well qualified instructors in ropes, abseiling and canoeing. Groups bringing their own instructors sometimes use our small woodland gorge for problem solving exercises.
Aberystwyth itself is a good study subject, being a small town but the centre for a wide rural hinterland. As well as the University, it has an excellent small museum, the National Library of Wales and new National Assembly and Ceredigion Council buildings. Older school and college groups often tap into the experience of Aberystwyth University, including the Institute of Biological and Environmental Research, Earth Science and the Centre for Performance Research.
What does a typical school trip or educational visit include?
School visits usually run from two to four nights, though we can do a full week or occasionally just one night. Catering can be full board or selected meals only, with self catering sometimes an option. We can be flexible about meals to suit your programme, providing packed lunches and later meals on days with longer trips.
With so much on offer in the area it is hard to define a typical programme though generally it involves a mix of educational visits with fun and team building activities on and off site. We can provide staff input as required. Evenings on site depend on age group - they may be team games, treasure hunts and relaxation or classroom sessions to follow the day’s visits and plan for the next.
What size groups do they cater for?
We can take any size group of up to 48 in Plas Dolau itself but with the addition of the guest house, this can stretch to 60. On occasion, small groups may be allocated part of the accommodation.
What can they provide you with to support your school trip or educational visit?
We will do all we can to help you achieve your objectives. We can be hands off, offering advice and contacts in the area or our staff can take a more active part in your programme, tailoring our input to meet your needs. Many of our groups return year after year.
Can you take photos, video or audio? Are there any copy write restrictions?
You are welcome to take photographs etc. on site for your own use. We ask for an acknowledgement of source if photograph are published.
How do you arrange a risk assessment?
Our own risk assessments are updated regularly and we are happy for your staff to visit and carry out their own or to complete a form for you in line with your own lea requirements. We do weekly fire tests, annual maintenance of the equipment by a professional company and we have an annual inspection by the local Fire Officer. Our kitchens are inspected regularly by the local Environmental Health Officer and the catering equipment is regularly maintained. We have full employer’s and public liability insurance, which can also be viewed, but we encourage groups to have their own group travel insurance,
What are the contact details for their education officer?
First point of contact is Pat Twigg, Centre Manager, e mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 01970 617834. Once we know your requirements we can put you in touch with the most relevant person to discuss details and preferably arrange for a planning visit if you have not been before.
What does it cost?
As we provide such a range of options it is hard to give definite costs. Typically, 2009 prices have ranged from £17.50 per night for bed and breakfast to £34 full board. A pre-visit stay for one or two staff and help with planning your programme is generally free if the group makes a definite booking. For our staff involvement in your programme (eg. accompanied visits to local habitats with age appropriate worksheets, art workshops with materials, nature walks or treasure hunts or pond dipping with small children, music or dance workshops etc.) please consult.
Is specific clothing required?
This depends on time of year and activities proposed but always a good idea to have warm, comfortable outdoor clothes and shoes, wind and waterproof coats, wellingtons and a torch.
Do you have first aid on site?
We have first aid kits in both houses but our qualified first aiders are not always on site. So, schools should also bring their own suitably qualified staff. Remember that you may need someone when you are travelling or not on site here. We have our own doctor and Aberystwyth Accident and Emergency Department is about 2.5 miles away, with an excellent ambulance and paramedic service.
What facilities do they have for school trips and educational visits?
Bedrooms include hostel style accommodation sleeping around 40 youngsters in a mix of full size bunks and single beds. It splits conveniently into two corridors, with a central bedroom that can be used for boys, girls or leaders, with access to the ample loos and showers of either end or the leaders’ wing bathrooms. This wing has guesthouse style rooms (with tvs and kettles etc.), a farmhouse style kitchen and lounge that can be used as leaders only rooms or as painting room for children, quiet counselling room, music practice room etc. - though not all at once! For larger groups we can add in bedrooms in the Swedish style farm guesthouse for extra leaders, bus drivers or parents. Using all the rooms, we can provide beds for up to 60 people.
Downstairs, the main lounge/meeting room has tv with video, dvd player and piano, white board with flipchart, ohp and screen. These can be moved to other rooms as needed and the dining room or games room can be converted quickly to evening classrooms, computer rooms with further rooms for splitting into small study groups. You can walk across to the guesthouse for free wireless internet access but this does not yet reach the main house. The catering kitchen is fully equipped and adjoins the main dining room. We have a drying room for wet weather gear. Our indoor games room has table tennis, pool and table football.
Outdoors there are relaxing gardens and grounds. Our farm, woodland and riverside walks can be both recreational and educational. We have a volleyball net and, with prior arrangement, there are field areas for wide games and kicking a ball around. We can do barbecues or small “camp fires” and if you have your own qualified instructors you can use our woodland for team challenges/problem solving activities.
Ample parking in the yard behind the house takes cars and minibuses and our overflow park, 200 yards off the main A44 road, can accommodate large 56 seater buses (double deckers can park in the lay-by at the roadside).
Tuck shop and other facilities, can be provided - please ask if you have other requirements. Groups can run their own tuck shop or we can provide a couple of opportunities each day, at agreed times.
Are there disabled facilities?
We are mindful of the needs of people with disabilities and have an ongoing programme of improvements. An annual accessibility audit helps us identify practicable modifications to improve access within the constraints of our historic grade 2 listed mansion. The ground floors of both houses have guest toilets and are all on one level. The guesthouse has a downstairs twin bedroom including a large shower with a seat and we occasionally adapt a room in the mansion as a ground floor bedroom, close to washing facilities.
We recognise that this is not ideal and we recommend that we discuss your requirements and that you visit to check us out. Plas Dolau is not suitable for groups with more than a couple of people having special mobility requirements.
Age of Children / Pupils: 5 – 7 years 8 – 10 years 11 – 13 years 14 – 16 years College University
Months Open: All Year Round January February March April May June July August September October November December
Accommodation Type: Farmhouses Hostels