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.
With each New Year comes a tide of new trends, and the wine industry is no exception. From British bubbles to light reds and rosés, we take a look at the things you should expect to see out and about and on the shelves in 2016.
Is the prosecco bubble bursting?
Although 36 per cent of wine drinkers now also enjoy a glass of prosecco, compared to 29 per cent in 2013, experts believe the demand for the Italian favourite may decline in the coming months. Simon Field, a buyer for wine merchant Berry Bros & Rudd, predicts that as consumer’s palates become more sophisticated, they are becoming ‘more ambitious in their quest for fine fizz’. Don’t worry too much if you’re an avid fan though, the prosecco bubble might be deflating but it hasn’t burst yet.
British bubbles are on the rise
Last year the British wine industry was given exciting news when the French champagne house Taittinger announced it would begin producing an English sparkling wine. Partnering with UK wine company Hatch Mansfield, it plans to begin planting orchards in Kent in 2017. Experts believe the quality of British wine has been on the rise over the last few years, with Berry Bros & Rudd CEO Dan Jego speculating it may rival champagne within the next two years. So if you’re partial to a glass of fizz then you can expect to see more British brands around this year.
If you fancy tasting the best wine that Wales has to offer, head to Cwm Deri Vineyard, which offers tastings of all the 23 wines it produces. Making a weekend of it? Both the St Brides Spa Hotel and the Penally Abbey Hotel are less than 30 minutes away from the Vineyard.
Roll up wine truck
Although this trend hasn’t completely taken off yet, the success of food trucks in previous years has sparked interested in whether a wine truck might have similar luck. A group of wine makers from Saint-Emilion plan to give it a try this summer. The tasting truck will transport 16 different wines to almost 20 locations around France, with experts on hand to give their best advice. Let’s see if this is a trend that crosses the channel in 2016.
Rosé is here to stay
A firm favourite, if not a guilty pleasure, rosé wine looks set to stick around in 2016. Although it’s usually considered a summertime tipple, Rosé is a great choice for less experienced wine drinkers as it tends to be sweeter than most white wines. As well as pale pinks, this summer will also see a rise in the popularity of light red wines. Served chilled, these are a great alternative if rosé is too sweet for you.
By the glass, not the bottle
In a move to accommodate the tastes of more adventurous consumers, bars and restaurants are now adapting their drinks menus to offer more wines by the glass. This trend can be attributed to the recent advances in technology like the Coravin system. This handy device allows for wine to be poured by the glass without removing the cork. This has allowed business’ to offer their customers a much wider range of wines in smaller measures.
If you want to expand your palate, Jabajak Hotel and Vineyard offer a number of bespoke wine tasting tours that can be tailored to your tastes. The Vineyard also has an on-site hotel so you can extend your stay and enjoy a meal in their 5 star restaurant.
Spring and summer fashion trends
Usually, when the sun appears, brightcolours, floral patterns and sandals aren’t far behind. But that might not be the case this spring and summer, as the earthy, neutral tones from winter look to be sticking around.
Pantone has released its spring and summer fashion colour reports and GQ has announced its trend prediction for the upcoming seasons. It looks like fashion will be sophisticated, toned down but classy during these months. Here is what to expect:
For the ladies
Be sure to stick to rose this spring and summer; a rose quart long jacket, a light rose blouse, rose trousers, in fact anything rose – own it. Not only will the gentle tone project composure, the light-hearted colour will also create a soothing vibe, perfect for a relaxed evening drink. Pantone has suggested pairing this colour with peach echo. As a companion to the orange family it evokes warmth and friendliness. – try a rose pink half-length skirt with a jacket in peach.
To help you relax and de-stress, turn to the colour ‘Serenity’. A mix between blue and purple, it creates a calming effect and is perfect for a weekend away. Shirts in this colour would be a good way to jazz up a work outfit. When searching for a darker colour, explore the navies. Pantone advises ‘Snorkel Blue’, an energetic, happy colour. A bag in this tone could work well with a matching pair of heeled-sandals.
Sometimes it’s nice to steer away from colours and explore the neutral side of life. The transitional ‘Iced Coffee’ is the perfect shade of brown, with an earthy quality. Long coats are particularly popular in this colour. Be sure to match it with other subtle colours to create a relaxed feeling, and wear with confidence.
When it comes to accessories, Gucci has declared the more the better. Flaunting your jewellery box will have never been easier. Layer necklaces, double up rings and include extra long earrings for a bold statement.
For the gentlemen
Clothes for the upcoming seasons consist of a subdued pallet. Green was popular on the runways this year, so have this in mind when considering your spring and summer wardrobe. Just a glimpse will do; hunt for green ties or bags, or mix shades together for a contrasting effect.
Surprisingly, similar to the ladies trends, men’s fashion is not adopting bright bold colours; it seems the central colour to scout for is grey. When searching for formal clothes, grey suits will be appreciated.
White trousers will be popular this year; if you can swap coffee in your morning meeting for water to avoid spillage then this is the trend for you. Pair white trousers with dusty brown boots and brown belts. For smartcasual occasions, wear with a patterned jumper or alternatively combine with button down shirts for a weekend look.
Not only are slip-on shoes comfy, they are humble and stylish. Sold in a range of colours, they are suitable for all occasions when worn correctly. Keep trousers well tailored to maintain the outfit balance.
We’ve all been there; relaxing on Christmas Eve with a glass of mulled wine in hand, when it suddenly dawns on you there’s someone you’ve forgotten to buy for.
Available in a range of amounts starting at £50, they are a ideal gifts for most budgets.
And because they can be bought, emailed and printed off in minutes, there’s no need to battle the Christmas crowds.
The E-Vouchers are redeemable on arrival at any of the luxury, hand-picked Welsh Rarebit properties. Here are some of the offers available this Christmas.
* A £20 surplus is added on Saturdays. This offer is available between 1 January and 29 February.
Cardiff Christmas Market and Winter Wonderland, until 24 December
Stalls selling seasonal food and gifts can be found all over the streets of Cardiff’s city centre. There’s also a Winter Wonderland, complete with an ice rink and Santa’s Grotto to really get you in the Christmas spirit. Stay at Cathedral 73, a boutique hotel with a great city centre location – right next to the Swalec Stadium.
Anglesey Winter Treasures Craft Fair, until 24 December
Some of Wales’ finest artisans and craftspeople can be found on the Isle of Anglesey until Christmas Eve. The Winter Treasures Craft Fair is held in the Oriel Ynys Môn Museum, which offers a great opportunity to pick up some one-off pieces. Why not stay close by at The Windmill, which boasts spectacular views and unusual architecture?
St David’s Christmas Carol Service and Nativity, 2o December
Soak up the festive spirit this year at St David’s Cathedral Christmas Carol Service and Nativity. The event provides the perfect opportunity to savour the cathedral’s historic architecture and explore the Celtic heritage of the surrounding city – the smallest in the UK. Need somewhere to stay? Try the Warpool Court Hotel, which offers luxury spacious rooms and peaceful surrounding gardens.
Christmas Kingdom at Celtic Manor, until 3 January
This year’s Christmas Kingdom at Celtic Manor has an impressive selection of attractions including an ice rink, Santa’s Grotto and festive food and drink stalls. Why not extend your visit to fit everything in and stay at the Hunter Lodges in the grounds of the Celtic Manor Hotel? With up to four bedrooms the luxury lodges are perfect for accommodating the whole family.
Penarth Christmas Fair, until 24 December
Open until Christmas Eve, Penarth’s Christmas Fair houses over 20 different stalls with many operated by local artists and craftsmen. Offering original and one-off pieces, this is the perfect opportunity to find some last minute Chrismas gifts. Stay at exclusive Holm House and treat yourself with a visit to the hotel’s Luxury Spa.
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.
With the final few weeks of warm weather in sight, we’ve put together a selection of gourmet picnic recipes from some of Wales’ best hotels and restaurants
Rosemary Skewered Welsh Lamb Kebabs with Tzatziki (serves 4)
Recipe courtesy of Gwesty Cymru, Aberystwyth
INGREDIENTS – KEBABS
METHOD – KEBABS
INGREDIENTS – TZATZIKI
METHOD – TZATZIKI
Caramelised Onion Tart (serves 4)
Recipe courtesy of Ye Olde Bull’s Head, Beaumaris
Crispy Carmarthenshire Ham and Asparagus
Recipe courtesy Peterstone Court, Brecon