It’s an idyllic scene; A rural retreat, no neighbors, sweeping countryside views, a unique home and plenty of land to keep animals. This is an escape to the country that so many people dream of.
And it’s what many people look for when they appear on the popular BBC property show Escape to the Country, hoping the series production team can find them a home to fall in love with in the coveted corner of Britain that beckons them to their city to leave existence behind.
It’s no surprise that the beautiful Welsh county of Pembrokeshire is a regular feature in the programme. So many home seekers are eager to enjoy the award-winning beaches and thriving communities that define one of the nation’s most popular coastal communities
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Once dubbed the second best coastal destination in the world, Pembrokeshire turned the head of freelance designer Caroline, who lived in a flat in Chelsea, London. She craves more space, more outdoor activities open to her every day and is enthralled by the opportunity to live close to the rugged coastline of one of Britain’s most westerly counties.
Armed with a budget of up to £600,000, Caroline and presenter Alistair Appleton are braving the Welsh weather to look at three properties that they hope will meet the demands of character, country, views, space and a remote location.
The first estate is lost on words to Caroline as it covers 24 acres of land giving the opportunity to have a herd of animals not just a small selection. Alistair decides it’s not the loveliest of Pembrokeshire cottages – how rude – as it’s a converted 1950s farmhouse that’s more of a blank canvas than a historic property full of character.
The views of the Prescili Hills and proximity to St David’s and surrounding beaches were mesmerizing, but the price wasn’t, with Caroline estimating £420,000; She was shocked when there were offers in the region of £595,000 in the market.
It wasn’t that for Caroline, so maybe the second house would get closer to perfection? Full of character and with a garden that was so pretty and so unique, with a Gothic ruin as part of its charm, could this five bedroom house be Caroline’s new Welsh home?
She loved the garden but not the neighbours, disliked the house and even decided it was facing the wrong way to get the best view of the garden and the idyllic vista beyond.
Caroline estimates £565,000 but is surprised it’s only £450,000 but it just hasn’t won her heart as her new Welsh home. So it’s up to the Mystery House to save the day once again, as is so often the case with this popular real estate program.
And it’s a wild one. It’s a 1970’s take on a Spanish villa – the owner wanted to recreate a villa he fell in love with in Spain and have his own version in the middle of nowhere in Pembrokeshire.
It’s truly unique and has views, land and no neighbors but Alistair is nervous because it’s so different, will Caroline be impressed or get back in the car? But he needn’t have worried – Caroline loves it!
She loves the huge windows, the light, the space and most of all the double height hallway which would be perfect as a gallery for the creative Caroline. “Unexpected but interesting,” she decides, and the house has exactly the two acres of land she wanted.
Inside, too, it’s bubbling up – the view, the light – Caroline is very positive: “It’s spectacular, more than you could hope for.” There are five bedrooms, three reception rooms and a very charming timber-framed annexe which is perfect for Caroline’s suitable for an artist’s studio.
Caroline believes this slice of Spain was on the market in the Welsh rain for the top of her £600,000 budget, but Alistair reveals the asking price is £585,000 – another bonus that has surprised her.
Well, after last meeting Alistair the next day, he must have been hopeful that that perfect Pembrokeshire block had been found for this picky Londoner, with Caroline obviously very excited about the mystery house.
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With words like “spectacular, huge, beautiful, you could do so much with it!” being flung around, Alistair even felt like he was about to make an offer.
Not even close, sorry Alistair.
The mystery house had all the right ingredients except one – it’s not close enough to London. Doubts about moving to Pembrokeshire began on Caroline’s outward journey, which lasted eight hours. Even if Alistair had shown her a palace by the sea, he was still looking for a plot that failed.
Thank goodness Caroline had done her research on paper, worked out the course and the various routes from London to Pembrokeshire and it seemed doable. She obviously hadn’t factored in train delays and then roaming sheep, winding roads that seem to go in circles and country lanes that lead into the depths of the Welsh wilderness.
She explains to a confused Alistair, “I didn’t expect it to take more than twice as long as it did on paper! So as I really hope friends come and stay – that’s a big part of the equation for me.”
Alistair replies, “So in a way, even before you arrived, there was a big question mark about whether this was the right move for you? Perhaps London after Pembrokeshire was a step too far?”
Caroline says: ‘As the week progressed that first little thing really became significant and by the time you presented me with the perfect property it was already too late! Rural doesn’t have to be remote, that’s the greatest lesson I’ve learned. The search continues, this was really just the beginning and thank you very much.”
Alistair looks disappointed, he’s found the perfect house in the wrong place; so close and yet so far – in the truest sense of the word.
The dangers of apartment hunting when you’ve never visited the place are a lesson here too, but at least the program has helped Caroline now know what she doesn’t want. Now she has changed her search location further east in Wales or back to England and is now hopefully prioritizing travel there from London.
Alistair comments: “I’m sorry Pembrokeshire hasn’t fully drawn you in, but I hope to hear from you when you find your rural idyll.”
This apartment hunt was Series 22, Episode 14 of Escape to the Country currently available on iPlayer. And if you never want to miss the best of Wales dream homes, renovation stories and interiors, sign up for Amazing Welsh Homes’ newsletter, delivered to your inbox twice a week.