“Why on earth would you go to Wales on holiday?” a British friend scoffed. He was even more shocked when I said it was as much for the thriving food culture as the gorgeous scenery. How often we overlook what’s in our own back yard! Despite our high expectations, this tiny bilingual corner of Europe still surprised and delighted us at every turn: with produce and food; stunning coastal and mountain scenery; warm people and great accommodation; history and architecture. Just two-hours’ drive from Heathrow, Wales is a destination worth adding to any European itinerary … and for anyone already in Britain, it’s a gem hidden in plain sight. Here’s five reasons to get there soon.
Eat (& Stay) Ynyshir (Powys)
One of the best dining experiences of my life began with a snack of sourdough soaked in rich onion gravy while we checked-in to this restaurant with rooms. Dinner was 20 spectacular tiny courses with excellent customised wine matches. Then we slept in a beautiful grotto-like room with huge picture windows, before an amazing breakfast. Book the kitchen bench and experience Ynyshir for yourself!
Stay (& Eat) Llys Meddyg (Pembrokeshire)
This old stone house has beautifully restored attic bedrooms, a rambling kitchen garden and atmospheric cellar bar down twisting slate stairs. The great-value menu features house-smoked salmon and seasonal dishes like watercress soup with poached egg, wild mushrooms on sourdough, wood-fire roasted lamb cutlets and rhubarb with baked custard.
Drink Ancre Hill Vineyard (Monmouthshire)
While I’m yet to be convinced by Welsh wines in general, the ones from this family-owned vineyard on a grand old property (the only Welsh vineyard with its own winery) are well worth discovering. Try the Triomphe pet nat served in London and Edinburgh wine bars.
Drive Gower Peninsula (Glamorgan)
This southern peninsula is deservedly preserved as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. Three Cliffs Bay is particularly impressive, as is the sunset view of Rhossili Bay and tidal Worm’s Head island over a local craft beer in the cosy front bar of the Worm’s Head Hotel.
Dylan Thomas Boathouse Tearoom (Carmarthenshire)
Stroll along the peaceful estuary, past the well-preserved shed where Dylan Thomas wrote, to his boathouse home. Enjoy excellent bara brith (Welsh fruit loaf) in the cosy tearoom then listen to his recording of Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night in the front parlour and try to come away without moist eyes.
Here’s a few more things to add to your Welsh itinerary: the ruins of 900-year-old Llanthony Priory on Wales’ highest road pass; Tenby Harbour with its pastel-coloured houses; world class whisky at Penderyn in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons mountains; Caws Teifi artisanal raw milk cheese and Dà Mhìle craft spirits, both made on a family farm in beautiful Mid Wales countryside; the old-fashioned narrow gauge railway that climbs Mount Snowdon (the highest peak in England and Wales) and the luxurious boutique hotel, Palé Hall, in a Victorian mansion on the edge of Snowdonia National Park.