Dwynwen – the saint for Wales’ lovers

In our first guest blog for The Year of Legends, we’ve asked Alwyn and Carl of Celticos to recount the story of Santes Dwynwen…

Image credit: http://www.visitwales.com/

On the far Western corner of Anglesey we can see Llanddwyn, the setting for the story of Dwynwen, the patron saint of Welsh lovers…

Dwynwen was the fairest of Brychan Brycheiniog’s 24 daughters. She fell in love with Maelon Dafodrill, but as always seems to happen, he was not her father’s choice, and he forbade her from marrying Maelon.

The scheming father had lined up another man who would fit his ambitions for this most beautiful daughter. The distraught Maelon, believing that it was Dwynwen who had rejected him, attacked her in his jealousy and anger.

Dwynwen fled to the wild woods where she begged that God would make her forget Maelon. She fell into a deep sleep and was visited by an angel carrying a potion that could bring forgetfulness and would turn Maelon to ice.  As she woke, she heard God declare that her wishes would be fulfilled.

She wished that Maelon would thaw from his icy state but also that she would never marry. And finally her third wish was granted – that God would fulfil the hopes and dreams of lovers through her prayers.

She kept her side of the bargain and devoted the rest of her life to God. The ruins of a church dedicated to her still exists on the windswept island, a holy well and a cross bear her name, and all lovers in Wales lovers honour her memory on her feast day 25 January.

Image credit: https://www.celticos.com/

Celticos provide bespoke guided tours and have created a series of Legendary Tours specifically for the Year of Legends – head over to their website to discover how you can explore hidden places with a Drive, Walk and Explore Tour, learn about Wales’ most iconic legend The Red Dragon and experience first hand the land of myths and legends. Click here to find out more.

2016: Year of Adventure experienced by everyone

Visit Wales declared 2016 the ‘Year of Adventure’.  It was a year jam-packed with adrenaline sports like coasteering, riding 100mph zip wires and mountain biking.

For the more tame, Visit Wales wanted to make Wales a ‘place where you can stretch yourself – mentally, physically and culturally’.  The Year of Adventure also included wildlife watching, culinary adventures and experiencing cultural events and festivals.

Geocaching, a treasure hunt using GPS, became an outdoor adventure phenomenon the whole family could enjoy, taking them on unexpected journeys throughout the country. While country lovers explored the rolling borderland of Offa’s Dyke Path to the Snowdonia and Brecon Beacons National Parks. Wildlife watchers revelled at dolphins in Cardigan Bay and witnessed endangered red kites soar above them. Foodies were well catered for too and plenty of culinary adventures were had from tasting cockles in Penclawdd to oysters in Anglesey.

Wales’ many opportunities for adventure needed to be shouted about. An ingenious way of doing this was through Visit Wales’ giant EPIC mirror letters – they travelled the country this summer, stopping at the most breath-taking spots – it’s aim to draw attention to some of Wales’ most spectacular places. Sioned and Sam, part of our very own Rarebits team, experienced the remarkable sight – Sam while it was within our Capital’s castle and Sioned witnessed the EPIC sign as a stunning backdrop to the UK Red Bull Cliff Diving World series in Abereiddy in Pembrokeshire.

Sam – “The EPIC art installation at Cardiff Castle commissioned by Visit Wales was truly spectacular! The giant mirrored letters forming the word EPIC certainly promoted Wales as an Adventure destination.”

Sioned – “This event completely personified #findyourepic. Not only were there world class divers competing at this epic location but during the day I saw groups coasteering nearby as well as spectators kayaking across the bay to watch the divers”.

Adventure came in all shapes and sizes in 2016 – where did you find yours? Did you find your inner Tarzan on a zip wire? Did you ride horseback through the surf? Share your EPIC adventures with us using #RarebitsOnTour.

Give the perfect gift this Christmas

It’s that time of year again, so it’s time to start searching for those special gifts for your loved ones. Whether you’re buying for family or friends, our vouchers are the perfect present to wake up to on Christmas morning.

We want to offer more flexibility this year, so we’re offering gold, silver and bronze options. Each voucher can be purchased for single or multiple night stays at a selection of our award-wining hotels and are redeemable at selected hotels depending on the category you choose.

You can purchase our vouchers online and receive them in the post up until the Royal Mail’s last official postdate. Alternatively, if last-minute Christmas shopping is more your style, you can buy our e-vouchers anytime and they’ll land in your inbox instantly.

 

Gold

One night stay with breakfast – £195 / Two night stay with breakfast – £375

One night stay with an evening meal and breakfast – £295 / Two night stay with an evening meal and breakfast – £550

Our gold vouchers offer the upmost luxury and are redeemable at a number of our finest hotels. Whether they’re after a relaxing spa break or a cosy countryside escape, your lucky loved one is bound to find something they’ll enjoy.

gold-voucher

Gold vouchers allow the recipient to stay at any of the following:

Bodysgallen Hall Hotel and SpaHotel PortmeirionSt Brides Spa HotelTyddyn LlanPenmaenuchaf HallGliffaes Country House HotelLake Vyrnwy Hotel and SpaFairyhill and Tre-Ysgawen Hall Hotel and Spa

 

Silver

One night stay with breakfast – £165 / Two night stay with breakfast – £300

One night stay with an evening meal and breakfast – £265 / Two night stay with an evening meal and breakfast -£475

Enjoy some country house comfort at Llansantffraed Court or indulge in a spa treatment at Penarth’s boutique Holm House with our silver vouchers.

silver-voucher

Silver voucher recipients can choose to stay at any of the following hotels:

St George’s HotelGwesty CymruPeterstone CourtPorth Tocyn HotelThe FalcondaleThe Felin Fach Griffin HarbourmasterPen-y-Dyffryn Country HotelHammet HouseHolm HouseLlansantffraed Court and Warpool Court

 

Bronze

One night stay with breakfast – £135 / Two night stay with breakfast – £250

One night stay with an evening meal and breakfast – £215 / Two night stay with an evening meal and breakfast

The hotels on offer with our bronze vouchers certainly aren’t lacking in luxury. Foodies might choose the Bear Hotel to experience its award-winning cuisine, while the spa facilities at the Sychnant Pass Country House offer the perfect way to relax after exploring Snowdonia.

bronze-voucher

Bronze voucher recipients can chose to stay in the following hotels:

Castle CottageThe Hand at LlanarmonThe BullManorhaus RuthinManorhaus LlangollenBear HotelSychnant Pass Country HouseTyn RhosCaemorgan MansionThe Metropole HotelY Talbot TregaronThe Castle Hotel and Ty Mawr Country Hotel

For advice on things to do and experience while visiting one of our hotels, check out our discover Wales section

7 Staycations you will never believe are in Wales

Summer may be officially over, but that shouldn’t stop you from planning your next getaway. As the winter months draw closer, the recurring daydream of relaxing on a beach in Bali or sailing around the Greek islands is returning more frequently. But who says you have to go abroad? It may not have the glorious weather, but Wales definitely has the glorious attractions that will be sure to convince you to take a ‘staycation’. We’ve detailed where to visit along with things to do and key activities here in Wales.

1) Portmeirion

The private tourist village of Portmeirion is located near Porthmadog in north Wales. With its picturesque views and pastel-coloured buildings, it’s easy to mistake this quirky place for a sleepy town on the Italian coast.

The village is especially magical at night, when it closes to the public but remains open for hotel guests. So why not choose between two of our luxurious hotels and suites and experience the beaches, hidden coves and woodlands after dark?

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2) Llanrwst

Situated between Conwy and Betws-y-Coed, Llanrwst is the perfect place to base yourself if you’re visiting Snowdonia. This village could be high in the Himalayas and it’s easy to forget that the outside world exists when you’re there. Sitting deep in the Conwy Valley, the iconic three-arched bridge next to the Tu Hwnt l’r Bont tearooms passes over the river and acts as the main focal point for this picturesque place. What’s more, we offer accommodation with beautiful lawns and wooded grounds in the nearby Sychnant Pass Country House, ensuring your stay will be stunning in every way.

3) Skomer Island

Skomer is located less than a mile off the stunning Pembrokeshire coast. The main attraction is its wildlife; the island is home to puffins and you might spot  dolphins and seals in its waters, giving the island a tropical feel.

In the spring, the island becomes covered in a beautiful blanket of bluebells, with no piece of land spared.

4) Tintern Abbey, Chepstow
The village of Tintern boasts outstanding landscapes complemented by the imposing structure of its ruined Cistercian Abbey. Located between Chepstow and Monmouth on the Welsh side of the River Wye, Tintern Abbey’s romantic yet gothic appearance is sure to blow you away. Being able to see the thick woodland peering through the Abbey’s structure allows you to appreciate the surroundings, which are especially beautiful on a bright day.

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 5) Merthyr Mawr sand dunes

Wales is lucky to have so many unspolit stretches of coastline and the Methyr Mawr sand dunes are particularly enchanting. These dunes are the second highest in Europe and look like they belong in the middle of the Sahara.

This location is definitely holiday-worthy, with the medieval Candleston Castle and the Norman Ogmore Castle waiting to be explored nearby.

If you’re looking for a more unusual activity, many people enjoy bringing their snow sledges to the dunes and having fun on the slopes. So why not give it a go?

6) Blaenau Ffestiniog

In the heart of Snowdonia National Park is the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. Having made its name from its industrial heritage, it is now home to two adrenaline-fuelled adventure activities – Bounce Below and Zip World Caverns. Makes a change from hiking!

Housed in a psychedelic underground cave and boasting three trampolines and a network of slides and ladders, Bounce Below is perfect for staycationers looking for an active and fun-filled trip. Similarly, Zip World Caverns offers numerous tunnels, bridges and balance beams to ensure that your experience is action packed. The best part? You don’t even need to rely on good weather.

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7)Lake Vyrnwy

Sitting on the border of the Snowdonia National Park, Lake Vyrnwy looks like something out of a children’s story. It has vast and lush views, which complement the romantic architecture of a large dam and its fairytale tower. Its surroundings are equally breathtaking, with rolling meadows, thick forest and steep waterfalls.

While you’re here, why not try the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel and Spa and enjoy the stunning sunset views from your balcony?

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If you’ve been inspired by these staycations and want to visit Wales, take a look at our offers page for some last-minute deals.

Top six places to spend Christmas in Wales

The 100-day countdown to the most wonderful time of the year has begun. If you have yet to decide how to spend Christmas, we’ve done the hard work for you and compiled a list of recommendations.

1.Laugharne 

If you’re familiar with the classic Christmas film ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’, you’ll recognise this town in Carmarthenshire, West Wales.

Pronounced ‘Larn’ and known for being the home of Dylan Thomas, it holds many of the wonders of Dylan’s world, including his old boathouse and his favourite pub – Brown’s.

The Corran Resort & Spa is a great place to stay to explore Dylan Thomas’s Christmas world. The hotel is pet-friendly and offers Christmas Day lunch to enjoy with all the family.

2.Crickhowell

Gliffaes-Crickhowell-Christmas-Break-Snow

image credit: http://www.gliffaeshotel.com/2015/10/christmas-afternoon-teas/

Crickhowell is a small, cosy town located in South Wales. The variety of local shops make it perfect to stock up on Christmas nick-nacks, and its proximity to the Brecon Beacons National Park means you’ll be surrounded by breathtaking scenery.

Gliffaes Country House Hotel is the perfect luxury base for your exploration of the Brecon Beacons. It’s located in the heart of the national park, and offers spectacular views combined with delicious meals made from local produce.

3.Lake Vyrnwy

Lake-Vyrnwy-Christmas-Break

image credit: http://showmewales.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/a-fairytale-welsh-christmas-at-lake.html

You will have seen pictures of Lake Vyrnwy, even if you haven’t heard the name before. Situated in beautiful mid Wales, the lake itself is a protected reservoir and is home to some incredible scenery.

The area provides the perfect location for an escape in Wales, and the hotel itself offers a staycation deal during the Christmas period. The four star hotel and spa hosts events to entertain you from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day and provides traditional food to really indulge this festive season.

4.Aberaeron

Aberaeron is a small harbour town on the coastline of Cardigan Bay, home to an impressive range of colourful Georgian architecture. Visitors will be able to revel in the bustling atmosphere of the fishing town while enjoying views along the harbour.

The Harbourmaster offers both beautiful sights and delicious seafood, giving visitors over the festive period a Christmas dinner with a difference.

5.Llandudno

Located in north Wales, Llandudno provided the inspiration for ‘Alice in Wonderland’ meaning your Christmas break is sure to be injected with a bit of magic.

Adults and children alike can follow the ‘Alice Trail’, taking you on a tour of the pretty town.

The seafront-based St George’s Hotel offers traditional Christmas delights between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day within its award-winning restaurant.

6.Portmeirion – near Porthmadog

image credit: http://www.portmeiriononline.co.uk/product/5_Cerdyn_Nadolig_Portmeirion_5_Christmas_Cards_0

image credit: http://www.portmeiriononline.co.uk/product/5_Cerdyn_Nadolig_Portmeirion_5_Christmas_Cards_0

The last, but by no means the least interesting, destination on our list is Portmeirion. A small village in north Wales built in an Italian style, it has a unique charm that will appeal to those after something a bit different this Christmas.

The three-night Christmas package at Hotel Portmeirion includes a festive afternoon tea, Christmas lunch and a black tie dinner.