As the cries of the Six Nations crowds become a memory and you finally remove that eighth layer of clothing, it is clear that spring is officially here, bringing with it a little more sun and a lot more of an appreciation for the great outdoors.
In celebration of the new season, we’ve selected some of the most attractive views of the Welsh landscape you can enjoy this spring, and some places to stay.
Keen skiers may see the start of spring as the prime time to head to the Alps, but there are a lot of high points in Wales that will be kinder to your muscles and bank account. In fact, Wales has more than 138 mountains. The highest, Mount Snowdon, in North Wales, is visible from the bedroom windows of Porth Tocyn Hotel in Abersoch, so if you’re not into extreme sports like abseiling you can still capture its majesty through a camera lens while savouring breakfast in bed.
There are few better places to walk off that final Easter egg than the rural Welsh countryside. Described by Visit Wales as “the heart and soul of Wales”, The Valleys of South Wales with their extensive walking routes offer a relaxing alternative to city life. Stretch your legs across rolling hills and fresh blankets of grass, or take a more challenging route over rocky terrain. The Bear Hotel is just a short drive from the heads of the valleys, and may help take the weight off your feet afterwards.
If your best efforts at gardening have been somewhat hampered by the winter frost, you can enjoy new blooms and fresh foliage in the grounds of multiple hotels and National Trust properties alike. Many of these gardens are free to visit and picnic-friendly, but when exploring the gardens at The Falcondale, a country mansion just outside Lampeter, try a roast celtic beef sandwich with horseradish and a glass or two of something fizzy from their handpicked wine menu. There’s also 14 acres of lawns and woodlands to roam around, and dogs are just as welcome.
Wales is home to some of the most unspoilt coastlines and picturesque beaches in the UK, despite not having the best reputation for its sunny weather. One of its highlights is the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, voted as the world’s second best coastal destination in 2012 by National Geographic. Also worth a visit is Swansea’s Gower Peninsula, which provided inspiration for much of Dylan Thomas’ poetry. Populated by surfers for its strong waves and high tides, the Gower also has 188 sq km of sandy grasslands and inviting country pubs, ideal for blowing away the last of the winter cobwebs.
On the table
Although not quite in the same vein as the country’s natural landmarks, Welsh Cakes are still a welcome sight. These shortbread delicacies are a staple for any lunchbox or picnic basket, especially on St David’s Day (1 March) when it would be almost bizarre not to find them on menus across the country. Enjoy them with afternoon tea at Holm House Hotel, in Penarth, or prepare some of your own for a countryside jaunt.
Whatever the weather, Bonfire Night celebrations are guaranteed to brighten up even the dullest November. We have found some of the best events taking place across Wales this year along with a selection of fantastic hotels to stay in to enjoy the fun.
Sparks in the Park – Coopers Field, Cardiff, Saturday 7 November 4pm,
Cardiff Round Table’s annual event regularly attracts up to 20,000 people. This year’s event is partnered by Heart Wales and will include an amazing firework display, a huge bonfire, food, drinks and rides for everyone to enjoy. The bonfire will be lit at 6:15pm followed by the main firework display at 7pm.
It is advised to purchase tickets in advance, as the event is likely to sell out. Get your tickets here: www.ticketlineuk.com
Planning to stay in Cardiff for the fireworks? The luxurious farmhouse accommodation, Llanerch Vineyard, is located only fifteen minutes from the city centre. The hotel even has its own nature trail and cookery school if you want a break from the big city rush after the event.
Ponty Big Bang – Ynysangharad War Memorial Park, Pontypridd, Sunday 1 November 5pm
Held in the heart of this South Wales valleys town, the event will have an extraordinary firework display beginning at 7pm. There will be food stalls and funfair rides for all the family. Pontypridd Round Table are producing the event, with all proceeds going towards local charities and causes.
For advance tickets, visit: http://www.pontybigbang.uk
For a change of scenery, why not stay in the beautiful Grade II listed hotel, The Great House, located just half an hour from Ponty Big Bang? With a renowned restaurant serving food Monday through to Saturday, this hotel offers a deserved break from typical Bonfire Night food.
Big Bang Weekend – Saundersfoot, Friday 30 October 2pm and Saturday 31 October 1pm
This free event caters to all ages and includes a combination of Halloween and Bonfire Night-themed activities. There will be a Halloween Trick or Treat Trail for up to 250 children (who each must be accompanied by an adult) and a Spooky Bat Trail for all to enjoy throughout the village. An excellent firework display will be held on the Saturday at 8pm, including a show from the Pembrokeshire Fire Spinners.
The event is free but the trails will be held on a first-come-first-served basis, so arrive early to avoid disappointment.
To make the most of your time on the beautiful west coast, you could stay in St Bride’s Spa and Hotel right in the heart of Saundersfoot. With a state-of-the-art spa and breathtaking views, this hotel is the perfect place to unwind after the Big Bang Weekend
Ride the Rocket Firework Train – Llangollen Railway, Denbighshire, Sunday 1 November 6:00pm
This unique experience lets you enjoy Bonfire Night in a less traditional way. The return trip from Llangollen Station to Carrog will last around two and a half hours with a stop at Glyndyfrdwy Station where the firework display will be held. The train holds a licensed bar with soft drinks also available and hot food can be purchased at Glyndyfrdwy Station on the return journey. The train is set to depart at 6pm and return at around 8:30pm.
This event is likely to sell out so make sure to book tickets in advance to secure a place.
Fancy a long-weekend getaway in Llangollen? The boutique Manorhaus Hotel is located in the centre of the town hotel. This beautiful 19th century townhouse, a ‘restaurant with rooms’ is the perfect place to stay relaxed and pampered.
Llandudno Pier Fireworks Display – Llandudno Pier, North Shore, Saturday 7 November 7:30pm
This annual event, presented by Llandudno Town Council, will see a professional fireworks display taking place on the pier at 7:30pm, complete with stunning views over Llandudno Bay. There are alternate dates in case of adverse weather conditions. The event itself is free but donations are welcome.
For more information visit: http://www.llandudno.gov.uk/events-fireworks.html
If you cannot get enough of the beautiful sea views Llandudno has to offer, why not stay in St Tudno Hotel? Located right on the seafront, this award-winning hotel offers the chance to stay beside the sea in style, as well as serving the highest quality of food and wine in their award-winning restaurant
Take your pick from Wales’ treasure trove of unique and magical wedding venues
Wales is home to some of the most enchanting venues and dramatic scenery in the world. Luxury hotel experts Welsh Rarebits have put together a list of the most bewitching destinations in which to host your very own fairytale ceremony.
Chateau Rhianfa, Anglesey
If you’re looking for a magical experience on your big day, this breathtaking establishment really is the epitome of glamorous opulence. Built in 1849 and modelled on a French Renaissance castle, the Grade II listed building boasts dramatic views over the Menai Strait and the mountains of Snowdonia. It comes complete with its own conical towers and exotic gardens, and is home to 16 unique luxury bedroom chambers for wedding guests and family.
Gliffaes Country House Hotel, Crickhowell
Escape from reality in this enchanting woodland retreat, hidden away in the heart of the Brecon Beacons. With its nineteenth century wood panelling, ornate mouldings, high ceilings and grand fireplaces, Gliffaes’ interior presents a unique collusion of classic features and modern art.
The Falcondale, Lampeter
This immaculately maintained mansion is nestled within the wild and rugged countryside of Ceredigion in Mid Wales. The Italianate-style architecture celebrates the coming together of old and new, and is complemented by beautifully manicured lawns fringed by sheltered woodland.
Metropole Hotel and Spa, Llandrindod
A true contemporary fairytale manor, The Metropole celebrates the old and embraces the new with effortless elegance. Wedding guests will be treated to a combination of classic and modern interiors, and bride and groom can recuperate after the big day in the luxurious spa.
Castell Deudraeth, Portmeirion
For something totally different, host your wedding at the stunning Castell Deudraeth, part of Portmeirion Hotel and village. The recently renovated Victorian castle is full of history and grandeur. Every part of the castle tells a story, and will leave you and your guests with memories to treasure forever.
Penmaenuchaf Hall, Dolgellau
Located in the stunning mountainous region of southern Snowdonia, and with its very own immaculate gardens overlooking the beautiful Mawddach Estuary, this is so much more than just a country house. With stunning views and beautiful interiors, this venue is truly unforgettable.
Penally Abbey, Tenby
Enjoy the best of both worlds at this remarkable venue, which combines dramatic coastal views with beautiful countryside grounds and classic features. Set in the heart of Tenby, your guests can enjoy the rich assortment of local attractions during their visit to the popular Pembrokeshire hotspot.
Glamorgan Heritage Coastline
Less than 30 minutes from Cardiff is 14 miles of beautiful coastal path stretching from the seaside town of Porthcawl to Aberthaw. The route is home to a number of heritage sights and conservation areas, including Ogmore Castle and the Merthyr Mawr sand dunes, where a thriving collection of flowers and plant life can be found.
Wye Valley – Abergavenny to Little Skirrid
The Wye Valley is full of forests and castles and starting in the town of Abergavenny, this 3.4 mile route will take you across Monmouthshire’s countryside with views of the Black Mountains. Once you reach the peak of Skirrid Fawr you’ll be greeted with panoramic views of southeast Wales and central England. Make sure you visit the Skirrid Mountain Inn while you’re there – said to be Wales’ oldest inn and steeped in spooky tales of legend and myth.
Pen-y-Fan, Brecon Beacons
Just 45 minutes drive from Wales’ capital sits the highest peak in the south of Great Britain, Pen-y-Fan. Although climbing it might sound like a daunting prospect, a moderate stroll up the mountain’s wide and well-paved pathway only takes around 90 minutes from The Storey Arms car park on the A470 route towards Brecon. On a clear day, the summit views over South and Mid Wales are simply breath-taking.
Cwm Clydach, Swansea
When you think of Swansea and the Gower, you might immediately imagine the beautiful sandy coastline, but there’s actually much to offer beyond the coast and into the surrounding unspoilt countryside. Cwm Clydach is a circular walk of nine miles in total alongside the Lower Clydach River, but visiting walkers can choose any portion of the route, all of which provides clear views of the Brecon Beacons.
Llanerch Vineyard, Hensol
Take a peaceful stroll through the vines of a working vineyard just outside Cardiff. This sheltered spot is only minutes from the M4, but the surrounding woodland blocks off all the disturbances of urban life, and offers visitors a real tranquil escape. Guests at the vineyard can try a taste of the very local wine, and enjoy top quality food at the hotel’s renowned bistro.
As featured on Countryfile.com
This delightful, tender vegetable is hard to describe but imagine a salty combination of asparagus and green beans and you’re almost there. It grows in abundance in marshes and muddy sea flats, and is often a nourishing treat for curious grazing salt marsh lambs.
Where: The salt marshes at Portmeirion Village, North Wales
When: The summer months of June to September
How to serve it: Samphire is brilliant with fish, and is delicious served fresh with king prawns and a squeeze of lemon juice, or lightly fried in olive oil as an accompaniment to a fillet of Welsh sea bass.
STAY: Hotel Portmeirion & Castell Deudraeth is set on its own private peninsula, and overlooks sand, sea and mountain. Samphire grows in abundance on the salt marshes, and guests staying in the village can enjoy breathtaking views of Tremadog Bay.
Wales has the ideal climate for growing edible wild mushrooms. Chanterelles, porcinis and wood blewits are all available in late summer and early autumn, and are distinctive from each other in both appearance and flavour. However, we strongly recommend only undertaking wild mushroom foraging with an expert guide.
Where: Woodland and river banks
When: between August and November
How to serve them: Chanterelles and wood blewits are delicious simply fried in butter and served on toast with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Porcinis can be dried and rehydrated for a deep and intense flavour in risotto and pasta dishes.
STAY: The Metropole Hotel in Llandrindod Wells, mid Wales, runs half-day guided mushroom foraging tours for hotel guests and visitors. Tours are available throughout the summer and include a tasting session and preserving demonstration.
Pembrokeshire’s mussels are small and distinctively sweet in flavour. You can forage for them on the coastline during autumn and early winter, following the famous rule of only harvesting them during the months ending in ‘R’.
Where: Solva beach in Pembrokeshire at low tide
When: best between September and December when the mussels are fully grown and full of the subtle, sweet flavour of the Irish Sea.
How to serve them: Lightly steam in butter, olive oil, and garlic, followed by a good glug of white wine and a dash of cream.
STAY: Warpool Court Hotel is located in the historical city of St. David’s, and sits just three miles along the coast from Solva in Pembrokeshire.
When visiting Wales’ coastal regions, it’s only right that budding foragers should try a taste of the unique Welsh marine delicacy at its source – laver. There are numerous varieties of edible seaweed on offer, but the high iodine and iron content of laver gives it a subtle and distinctive flavour of the sea.
Where: Penclawdd, Gower Peninsula, Swansea
When: Best in September to December
How to serve it: Laverbread requires considerable cooking time before it’s ready to eat, but boiling it for 10 hours does appear to enhance its flavour. Once cooked, roll in oats and fry in bacon fat for traditional laverbread. You can also add it to soups and stews for a subtle seaside kick.
STAY: Fairyhill Hotel is located just minutes from the Gower Peninsula, where access to bays, beaches and cliffs are aplenty. Visitors can wander down to any of the intertidal beaches in the Gower and will find the purple-black laver leaves strewn over rocks.
Wild garlic grows in damp, fertile soil and therefore thrives in the Welsh climate. Follow your nose when you walk into any forest or stream bank in late spring and you will find a plethora of brilliant green leaves. Although the leaves only grow in spring, they freeze well and can be added to dishes straight from the freezer as a seasoning all year round.
Where: by the edges of streams and rivers in South and West Wales
When: between March and June
How to serve it: fresh in a salad for a garlicky hit, or fried in a little olive oil and mixed with sautéed green vegetables
STAY: Llanerch Vineyard is located just outside Cardiff on the M4. Only 15 minutes drive away is the famous Victorian masterpiece, Castell Coch and Fforest Fawr, in which you will find an abundance of wild garlic growing everywhere you turn – don’t forget to bring a pair of scissors and a bag for collecting the leaves.