After a long and painful drive from London to the Brecon Beacons in Wales, I arrived at the cottage. After spending 5 hours in Friday rush hour traffic, M25 and M4 misery and long, winding country roads, I was well and truly ready for a beer.
The weekend was organised for a fellow Army Officers stag weekend. Rather than going to the well-trodden paths of Amsterdam, Budapest or even Blackpool, the best man decided that a weekend in the Welsh mountains would be what the groom to be would need for the best send off before marriage.
Now don’t get me wrong. We enjoy a beer as much as the next person, but a weekend of struggling to get into bars due to our excessive drunkenness, paying a fortune for flat pints of Carling and finishing the night with a donner kebab has started to lose its appeal.
Escaping to the mountains, rather than pissing down a side street in any bog standard city in England could be could be a sign of us getting old. All 12 of the blokes on the stag do are at 28-35. This seems about the normal age to get married for my group friends. Th average age of a man to get married in the UK is now 33. This change in social trends is also having an effect on the nature of the stag do.
Taking a dip
Rather than having Chantelle from Huddersfield peel her knickers off for £20 in the socially awkward gentlemen’s club, we decided to jump in an ice cold river in the British winter. Our stag party consisted of two clear social groups. There was the old school friends group and the group I sat in was the stag’s current workmates. Jumping into a gorge at Dinas Rock in South Wales was a perfect ice-breaker for the two social groups.
There was definitely some of us in the group that wanted to get boozy. But rather than spending all day doing it in an Eastern European city or some pub with sticky carpets, we had our drinks in the cottage and later the local village pub. It wasn’t quite as dry as I am making out. We did venture out on Saturday night to the literary capital of the Valleys, Hay-on-Wye. The stag was dressed up in an appropriately embarrassing fancy dress costume, to save his blushes I won’t post a picture of him but rather a picture of what he looked like. The resemblance is uncanny.
Curing the hangover with a mountain
After a day of gorge jumping and an evening spent drinking village ales with the occasional tequila thrown in for good measure left me feeling a little worse for wear. To cure the hangover, I took stroll up into the Brecon Beacons. The Pen Y Fan is the most well-known mountain in South Wales, mainly due to the infamous Fan Dance. The Fan Dance is a military test where you race for 10 miles in groups of 30, carrying full infantry fighting equipment. This includes heavy weapons, bergans and a cast iron ‘stretcher’ that weighed 80kg. I completed the Fan dance as part of my Infantry training after Sandhurst so it holds fond memories (right, it’s time to remove the rose tinted spectacles).
Walking up the Pen Y Fan with no time limit, civilian clothes and a light rucksack is a pleasant change from the days of the Platoon Commanders Battle Course. Even 6 years on, the route still feels very familiar. I’m not sure if that is a good or a bad thing?
City or the Countryside?
There will always be a place for the boozy lad’s stag do. However as people are marrying later in life, the social norms of what people will want for their stag do will also change.
Making the last weekend of single life a memorable one is even easier now. There is no need to spend loads of cash on VIP entrance for night clubs and bars. If I am honest, I personally can’t remember the majority of the boozy nights I have had out in cities in England and even the world. With so many different and adventurous activities available, there has never been a better time to ditch the city stag do.
Rather than spending your money on the nightclubs and taxis, you could:
- Go walk a mountain
- Jump in a river or gorge
- Go wild camping in a national park.
- Go caving
- Rock climbing
- Hire a canal boat
- Go shooting
Or even the more standard – Paintballing, go karting and cycle beer tour.
All of these activities will for certain be more memorable than a night out in ANY town or city in the UK. And that is for certain. Once you have spent the day doing something adventurous, that beer in the cottage or campsite will feel well deserved.