Quirky spa treatments to try this year

Come January 1st, most of us have written out a list of New Year’s resolutions packed with positive, healthy changes we can make to our lifestyles. But what’s easy to forget, in the rush to stock up on kale and hunt down a new gym, is that the best way to become happier and healthier in the long-term is to indulge yourself every once in a while.

Book yourself in for one of the quirky spa treatments listed below, and you can strike the perfect balance between treating your body like a temple, and enjoying some well-deserved me-time!

Cosy Detoxing Clay Cocoon, Peterstone Court

Peterstone Court Spa luxury hotel pamper treatment

A Georgian manor house that nestles in the rolling green hills of the Brecon Beacons, Peterstone Court is the ideal rural retreat. The real highlight here is the spa, which is housed in the vaulted caverns beneath the hotel and boasts a captivating yet relaxed ambience.

Top of the list for quirky treatments here is the Cosy Detoxing Clay Cocoon: a 75-minute head-to-toe treatment that incorporates an orange and lime exfoliation, a warm body cocoon, and a head massage. For the finishing touch, you’ll receive a light all-over coconut oil massage, guaranteed to delight your skin!

The Power Breakfast Facial, Lake Country House Hotel & Spa

Lake Country House and Spa treatment

Lake Country House & Spa is located just outside Llangammarch Wells in Powys, and boasts a variety of fantastic spa treatments. Our favourite is the signature Power Breakfast Facial, which (you’ve guessed it) is inspired by some ingredients you’d more commonly find in your kitchen.

This speedy 30-minute facial is ideal for go-getters who want to kick-start the day. Tailored to all skin types, the Power Breakfast Facial consists of a revitalising power cleanse, mask and massage. The only downside? With oats, honey and fruit juice on the list of ingredients you might find yourself getting a little peckish…

Anglesey Sea Salt Treatments, Tre-Ysgawen Hall Hotel & Spa

Tre-Ysgawen Hall and Spa luxury hotel spa treatment

The Isle of Anglesey is the jewel of Wales’ northwest coast, famed for its beaches, ruins and – most famous of all – Hâlen Mon sea salt. When you pay a visit to the island’s Tre-Ysgawen Hall you’ll be able to enjoy a truly unique sea salt experience. Visit their spa and you can relax in their one-of-a-kind salt inhalation room, which was built in partnership with Hâlen Mon.

For a more hands-on treatment, try the Anglesey Salt Polish Relaxer, a full body exfoliation and massage that will leave you glowing from head to toe.

Darjeeling Green Tea & Ginger Detox, Holm House

Holm House luxury hotel Cardiff green tea detox spa treatment

Penarth’s Holm House is known for its sea views and fine dining – but we’re most excited about trying this establishment’s spa. Countless luxury treatments are offered, but the quirkiest and most appealing of the bunch is the Darjeeling Green Tea & Ginger Detox. Lay back and relax for 55 minutes as your skin receives an intensely revitalising treatment. Green tea and ginger salts are used to activate microcirculation, while a lower body detox wrap and lymphatic massage help to target problem areas. Sign us up!

From the fjords of Flåm to the summit of Snowdon

Shwmae and hei from Norway! In case you’ve missed it, something very special will be happening this coming spring/summer. Yours truly will be visiting Wales with the Welsh Rarebits Collection in order to stay at the amazing hotels in the Collection, sample some of the best food Wales has to offer, and really experience the fantastic Welsh ‘Croeso’!

You may be wondering who ‘yours truly’ actually is, and if so, this post is for you!

My name is Lisa, and I am a 26-year old travel blogger and freelance writer from Norway. The main things you need to know about me is that I’m a Slytherin, I’m obsessed with diving and the ocean, and that I lived in Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire for a year as an exchange student when I was 17/18.

Now, almost 10 years later; I’m coming back!

At 17 I fell in love with Wales. I knew nothing about the country before moving to Saundersfoot for my exchange year (sorry!), but it didn’t take me long to realise that Wales is one of my absolute favourite countries in the world. From the accents to the daffodil, from Gavin & Stacey to Leigh Halfpenny, I was sold. I’ve since been back several times, and I’m always sad to leave.

This is why I was extremely excited when the opportunity to travel across Wales with the Welsh Rarebits Collection came about!

Let’s rewind to the beginning of this adventure to see how it all started. A few months ago, the Welsh Rarebits Collection advertised this opportunity as ‘the best job in the world’ on their website. It didn’t take long until the opening was shared in countless Facebook groups and blogger communities I was in. Some of my friends tagged me in it knowing how much I love Wales and told me I was perfect for it.

The application was simple; a 1-minute video introducing yourself and your fit for the part. So, I decided to go for it! After all, I’ve got 9 years’ experience in travel writing through my blog Fjords and Beaches, some useful social media skills, AND I love the country. In addition to this I have worked in the hospitality field in my village in Norway (where we welcome over 1 million travellers a year), so if anyone should be testing the Welsh welcome, it should be me!

I grabbed my iPhone, and after a few failed attempts (raise your hand if you actually enjoy hearing your own voice), I had a 1-minute video of me where I didn’t sound like a complete idiot explaining these reasons why I was the best candidate. For extra effect I shot the video standing with the beautiful fjords of Norway in the background, and I think it added a little extra something to the application.

I then sent off my application and forgot all about it. I started planning the rest of my adventures for 2018, and as time passed I figured I simply didn’t get it. You have no idea how excited I was two months later when I got a call telling me that I was invited to Wales by the Welsh Rarebits Collection!

As for the plans I’ve made, I’ll be taking a rather interesting route before I make it to Wales. In February I’m heading to Bali, where I’ll be staying for two months. From there I’ll be travelling to Australia, where I also get to spend a month or two. So I’m planning on being nicely tanned by the time I visit Wales in May 2018.

I’m currently at home in Norway, waiting patiently for Christmas, and am super excited to start planning my trip to Wales next year. I’ll be travelling around Wales for at least 30 days, staying in 30 different hotels from the Collection. As someone who loves any excuse to stay in a hotel, this is the perfect trip! Luckily, I have a job I can take with me wherever I travel, and enjoying the Welsh welcome while writing about my adventures couldn’t be a better way to spend a month.

So, make sure to keep a look out on the Welsh Rarebits social media channels, as well as mine, when May comes around! I’ll be taking Wales by storm and can’t wait to share the adventure with you all through weekly blog posts and daily social media posts!

Follow along: Welsh Rarebits Instagram & Facebook – Fjords and Beaches blog, Instagram & Facebook

Take A Foodie Tour of Wales

Llansantffraed Court chef, fine dining, restaurant

A hub of artisan producers, exciting restaurants and stunning boutique hotels, Wales is the perfect location for a foodie getaway.

There are few destinations that take the ‘eat local’ mantra more seriously than Wales. With stunning scenery, delicious food and a thriving restaurant scene, it’s fast becoming the location of choice for food lovers in the know.

The region has long since peeled off the ‘gastronomic desert’ label slapped onto it unfairly by critics who rarely ventured west of the Hammersmith flyover. In the sixties, it could even be argued that the esteemed Franco Taruschio – he of the famed Walnut Tree Inn at Abergavenny – was one of the first to popularise the concept of informal fine dining allied to the championing of fresh local produce.

So where’s the good food in Wales nowadays? And what are the trends that have seen Abergavenny become host to the best food and drink festival in the UK, and in the process acting as a barometer of the movement in Wales generally? One tried-and-tested introduction into Wales’s food scene is Welsh Rarebits, an exclusive collection of 36 hotels, membership of which is by invitation only.

When we say ‘hotels’ we don’t mean big, impersonal establishments and international brands. The vast majority of Rarebits are privately owned and run, and range from seaside hotels to country houses, historic inns to cool boutique boltholes, townhouses to restaurants with rooms. Since one of the criteria for membership is to be found in the kitchen, you can confidently expect to your chosen Rarebit to serve more than cheese on toast.

Restaurant James Sommerin, Penarth, Cardiff, Michelin Star

Here’s a whistle-stop tour of just a handful of Rarebits – a good cross-section to give you a flavour of what to expect.

At the gateway to Wales near Abergavenny stands Llansantffraed Court. Its owner, Mike Morgan, is well known in Wales for his passion for food – and it shows in his menus. Provenance and food miles are high on the agenda. “Luckily for us,” says Mike, “Monmouthshire is blessed with amazingly dedicated small producers.” Specialities include Welsh Black beef, organic pedigree Welsh mountain lamb and succulent Brecon venison.

It’s the same story at Felin Fach Griffin near Brecon, named Dining Pub of the Year – a country pub redefined and reinvented. Laid back and properly comfy, with nicely worn sofas, log fires and a cosy winter warmth the Scandinavians call hygge, it’s serious only when it comes to its food, which is on a different planet from typical pub grub. Great ingredients are sourced right on the doorstep (including their own kitchen garden), so expect daily and seasonal menus to feature Welsh beef and lamb, plus game from local estates.

Restaurant James Sommerin at Penarth is the creation of one of Wales’s Michelin-starred chefs. Ask anyone who knows anything about food in Wales and the name James Sommerin soon crops up. His track record as an inspired and uniquely talented chef speaks for itself.

SAMSUNG CSC

Seafood is another Welsh top-notch speciality – so much so that much of it ends up on plates in France and Spain as well as locally. Shellfish include crab, lobster, mussels, scallops and even oysters (not forgetting Penclawdd cockles sold fresh in Swansea Market, with – of course – dash of vinegar and pepper). There’s plenty of fish too – sea bass, hake, mackerel, turbot and sole to name but a few.

St Brides mussels

And since Pembrokeshire is defined by the sea it’s no surprise that Rarebits hotels here make the most of the local catch of the day – taste the freshness while soaking up the clifftop views from St Brides Spa Hotel at Saunderfoot on the south coast, or Newport’s Llys Meddyg in the north.

Glyn Roberts has been cooking up a storm at Castle Cottage, Harlech, for longer than he cares to remember. Not that he’s lacking any of his original passion for the profession. He’s a typical top-end chef – get him talking about his favourite subject (yes, you’ve guessed it) and you might be there until dawn peeks over the battlements of Glyn’s historic neighbour, Harlech Castle. His dishes are inventive but full of honest-to-goodness flavour, a testament to the integrity of the local produce.

On the Isle of Anglesey, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is the colourful town of Beaumaris. The Bull has a destination restaurant renowned for its modern cuisine and boasts 3 AA Rosettes.  It’s a 400 year old Inn complete with original beams as well as having a trendy boutique hotel next door, The Townhouse.

The Bull, Anglesey, North Wales, fine dining, food

And any foodie tour around Wales has to take in Tyddyn Llan near Bala, where Michelin-starred Bryan Webb attracts accolade after accolade with the regularity of a metronome for the skill and quality of his cooking – not to mention the overall dining experience presided over by his wife Susan.

You don’t even have to travel to Wales to sample its bountiful larder; we haven’t mentioned its artisan farmhouse cheeses yet, which even the French have been known to praise. Rarebits’ ethos of quality has been applied to Gourmet Wales, a mail-order scheme that brings the best of Welsh food and drink to your doorstep. A variety of hampers for all occasions are available. Treats include top-quality meats, fine pies, terrines, coracle-caught smoked sea trout, marmalades, jams, pickles and chutneys, Anglesey sea salt, honey, waffles, shortbread, oatcakes, chocolates and an eclectic choice of wines – not forgetting those artisan cheeses.

And the award goes to…

Welsh Rarebits and Great Little Places members came away from the AA Hospitality Awards 2017 with a clutch of accolades last night.

The prestigious event was held in London and was attended by world-renowned chefs, prominent hoteliers and restaurateurs, hospitality gurus and key media. The Awards are a highlight in the industry calendar and recognises the excellent service provided by the very best establishments.

Wales’ first contemporary art hotel, Twr y Felin Hotel, was awarded AA Hotel of the Year, Wales.

The stunning Mansion House received AA Guest Accommodation of the Year, Wales.

Bryn Tyrch Inn is one of our newest members and triumphed in the Pub of the Year (Wales) category.

Michelin Star Restaurant James Sommerin scooped a whopping 4 Rosettes at the Awards.

These achievements reflect our Collection’s high calibre of accommodation and fantastic hospitality provided by our members. Our congratulations go out to all the winners.

Where to picnic in Wales this summer

Wales offers an abundance of great places to picnic. From charming coastal spots, to magical woodlands, intimate walled gardens and rolling countryside, there’s no shortage of places to unpack your hamper…

Fairyhill by Oldwalls, Gower

‘Picnics on the Lawn’ at Fairyhill will be continuing throughout the summer months.  The picnic offering is inspired by their signature tea menu and costs £25 per person. They will pack your afternoon tea hamper up into a lovely picnic basket complete with traditional tartan blanket, so all you need to do is decide where to pitch up. Although with 24-acres of stunning grounds, enchanting woodland and glistening lakes to choose from, you’ll be spoiled for choice.

Elan Valley Trail, Powys

The Elan Valley is often referred to as the ‘Welsh lake district’ and boasts a spectacular trail – climb past three reservoirs in the heart of beautiful, mountainous Mid Wales and choose a picnic spot.

Barafundle Beach, Pembrokeshire

Golden sands backed by dunes and ringed by trees make this one of Pembrokeshire’s most beautiful beaches. Owned by the National Trust, the beach forms part of the South Pembrokeshire Heritage Coast and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

Llansantffraed Court Hotel, near Abergavenny

Unroll your picnic blanket and choose your perfect spot in the hotel’s 20 acres of manicured grounds, complete with trout lake. Why not enjoy a game of croquet afterwards?

Overlooking Laugharne Estuary

Sit and admire the view that inspired Welsh poet Dylan Thomas to write his legendary works. Pop into The Browns while you’re in the area for a refreshing drink or why not book a stay in advance?

The Great Orme, Llandudno

There is so much to see and do on the Great Orme, a true wonderland of nature and history. Visit the Orme’s amazing Bronze Age Copper Mines or explore the Iron Age Fort. Bring out your picnic hamper once at the Summit and take in those breathtaking views. We have a fantastic collection of accommodation nearby too – St George’s Hotel, Bodysgallen Hall & Spa, Sychnant Pass Country House, Escape, Plas Rhos and Ty Carthen.

Parc yr Hebog Cottages

A true hideaway and a perfect spot for a family holiday – make the most of the great outdoors and head down to the coast for some dolphin spotting. Or stay put and indulge in an al-fresco lunch and admire the glorious surroundings.

Plas Newydd House and Gardens

Enchanting mansion and gardens, with spectacular views of Snowdonia. A whole day of things to see and do. The gardens and landscape at Plas Newydd consist of 169 acres of woodland and parkland, including 40 acres of gardens. The Black Lion Inn is the perfect base after a busy day of exploring.

Can you recommend any more to add to the list?