This Month We’re in Love With…

Forget Valentine’s Day, in Wales we’re all about St Dwynwen’s Day. Celebrated on the 25th January each year, this romantic holiday is all about spreading the love, and spending quality time with the people who matter most. In the spirit of St Dwynwen’s Day we’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite romantic places, activities and eateries around Wales that we’ve fallen for this month.

Cocktails at Prohibition in Deganwy

This cocktail bar sits on the Conwy river estuary, a stone’s throw from the ancient ruins of Deganwy Castle. Inspired by the speakeasies of the prohibition era, the cosy and atmospheric bar is the perfect place to while away a few romantic hours with someone special. If you’re feeling adventurous you can even try your hand at a cocktail class!

Stargazing in Snowdonia

Snowdonia was awarded dark sky status in 2015, which means it’s one of the best places in the UK to get fantastic views of the stars – while huddled up to your nearest and dearest. Recommended spots include Llyn Geirionydd, Bwlch y Groes and Llynnau Cregennen. Just make sure you go on a night when the sky is clear – and don’t forget the flask of cocoa!

Sunset at Rhossili Bay

Not only does Rhossili Bay boast one of the most beautiful beaches in Wales, it’s also a fantastic spot to watch the sunset. January may not be a good month for sunbathing, swimming or surfing, but what could be more romantic than taking a stroll along this gorgeous stretch of sand as the sun goes down over the water?

Hay-on-Wye

This gorgeous market town may be most famous for its literary festival, which takes place in early summer, but we reckon it’s the perfect romantic destination year round. Pay a visit during the winter months and you can keep warm with a stroll around town, paying visits to the various bookshops, craft boutiques and independent clothing stores.

Llanddwyn Island

Where better to enjoy a romantic day than Llanddwyn Island, the final resting place of St Dwynwen herself? This gorgeous little island sits off the southern coast of Anglesey, connected by a narrow isthmus that can be crossed at low tide. Pack a picnic, pull on your walking boots, and prepare yourself for a refreshing stroll through this idyllic and historic setting.

Coastal walks in Aberystwyth

There’s something uniquely romantic about cosying up to a loved one as you take a wintry walk by the sea. Head to the gorgeous market town of Aberystwyth and you can enjoy a scenic stroll along the Wales Coast Path, finishing up with a well-deserved pint at one of Borth’s charming seaside pubs. Tip: taking the funicular railway to the top of Aberystwyth’s Constitution Hill is a brilliant way to kick-start this walk (and conserve some energy).

Pancakes at La Crêperie de Claudie in Cardiff

This traditional French pancake restaurant next to Victoria Park is the perfect place to enjoy a sweet treat with your sweetheart. The batter is made onsite by Claudie herself, using a recipe handed down from one generation to the next over many years. With an assortment of crêpes, waffles, milkshakes and hot chocolates to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Get Ready for Christmas – Festive Markets across Wales

The festive season will soon be beginning in earnest, so if you’d like to spend the second half of December lazing by the fire with mulled wine and a good book, rather than battling through crowds of high street shoppers in search of gifts, then the Rare Hideaways team can help. We’ve compiled a list of the best Christmas markets around Wales, the perfect places to pick up gifts, decorations and tasty festive treats. Pop these dates and locations in your diary and you can get your Christmas shopping sorted in no time.

Llandudno Christmas Fayre, Conwy

(15-18 November)

One of the major markets coming to North Wales this November is the Llandudno Christmas Fayre. Kicking off on Thursday 15th November and running until the Sunday of that week, this market is a celebration of festive food, drink and crafts that will be hosting 130 different stalls. Highlights from the local area include Edwards of Conwy, a local butcher famous for its excellent sausages and pies; Jaspel’s Craft Cider, which is made in Anglesey, and the Snowdonia Cheese Company. Tickets only cost £4.50 (or £3.75 if you book before the end of October) and under-16s go free! Find out more here.

Colby’s Winter Fair, Pembrokeshire

(17-18 November)

Colby Woodland Garden in Amroth is a beautiful place to visit, no matter what the time of year. During the spring and summer months it comes alive with flowers and foliage; come autumn its walled garden, ponds and bridges make it an excellent place for an atmospheric adventure with your little ones. In November the garden also plays host to a winter fair, where you’ll be able to browse a variety of stalls selling homemade goods and local arts and crafts. Find out more here.

Tredegar House, Newport

(24 November-22 December)

Tredegar House is a stunning 17th-century house situated just outside Newport in South Wales. Visit this historic place during the festive season and you can enjoy the fantastic Christmas celebrations. Kicking off on Saturday 24th November, the Christmas season at Tredegar House incorporates a fantastic market, which will run every weekend. Browse jewellery, soap, homeware, decorations, and plenty of tasty food & drink, before enjoying a guided tour of the traditionally decorated house and grounds. Find out more here.

Llanerchaeron, Ceredigion

(1-2 December)

This gorgeous Georgian villa situated in the Aeron Valley is the ideal place to kick-start December. Head to Llanerchaeron for the first weekend of December and you can enjoy the annual Christmas Fair. Adult tickets are only £5 and give you access to the house, food and craft stalls, and even Father Christmas himself! Visit on a different weekend in December, and enjoy a traditional workshop which will teach you how to make a wreath or table centrepiece. Find out more here.

Don’t forget that Rare Hideaways can help turn a fun Christmas day trip into a festive weekend away. Our carefully selected self-catering properties are located all around Wales in some of the most beautiful settings imaginable. Click here and get browsing!

Iconic Views: Wales’ Most Instagrammable Places

Who needs the Amalfi Coast or the mountains of Austria when you’ve got unbelievable views right on your doorstep? Wales may be a small country, but it packs a serious punch when it comes to astonishing scenery. If you’re a keen photographer looking for the ultimate Instagram-worthy location, pay a visit to these spectacular Welsh destinations.

Fairy Glen, Betws-y-Coed

Travel to the scenic village of Betws-y-Coed in Snowdonia National Park and you can visit this atmospheric gorge on the River Conwy – for the reasonable entry free of just 50p.

The Fairy Glen – or Ffos Noddun as it is known to the locals – is thickly wooded on either side and bursting with beautiful wildflowers. Due to the structure and depth of the gorge, the river rushes through in a series of impressive, and extremely photogenic, cascades. Make sure you wander as far as Rhaeadr Y Graig Lwyd to snap photos of the beautiful falls.

St Govan’s Chapel, Buckspool

This astonishing place is located at the southernmost point of Pembrokeshire, a 15-minute drive from Pembroke. The 13th century chapel is a tiny hermit’s cell, built into the limestone cliff-face. Legend tells that St Govan was approaching Wales when he was attacked by Irish pirates – he escaped to the cliffs, where a cave magically appeared, allowing him to hide safely. To show his gratitude he built the chapel and lived there the rest of his life.

To visit you have to descend a flight of precarious worn stone steps – but it’s worth it for a glimpse of this special place and the surrounding views.

Castell Coch, Cardiff

Just a 20-minute drive from the centre of Cardiff you’ll find this 19th century Gothic revival castle, built on the site of an original 13th century structure. With its narrow windows, rounded turrets, and lush green surroundings, it looks like something out of a fairy tale.

Snap photos inside and out and take a scenic stroll through the nearby woodland.

Mwnt Beach, Cardigan

Wales is home to a number of beautiful sandy beaches, but there’s something particularly special about Mwnt. Situated on the west coast, a 15-minute drive from Aberteifi, this secluded little beach lies within a square-shaped cove and is notable for its immaculate golden sand and calm green waters.

Wander along the southern edge of the cove and you can get some fantastic photos of the pretty beach and the green headland beyond.

Llyn y Fan Fach, Brecon Beacons

Not only is this beautiful lake the perfect spot to take some magical photos, it’s also steeped in Welsh legend, supposedly the home of the Lady of the Lake.

The lake is surrounded by steep mountain ridges on its southern and western sides, which make for some incredible views. To get the best photos you’ll want to hike up the ridge and take your photographs from up high.

Castell y Gwynt, Snowdonia

There’s something very special about this summit in the heart of Snowdonia. If you’re into your mountaineering and you can make it to the top, which stands at 972 metres, you’ll be astonished by the views. The limestone rock has formed into craggy, pointed shards, which resemble piles of broken wood. As for the views from the top? Simply out of this world.

 

Images: © Crown copyright (2018) Visit Wales

Autumn Adventures in Wales

You don’t need to go Stateside to enjoy the autumn leaves, and what better way to enjoy the cooler days than to explore the colourful woodlands of Wales? With a wealth of opportunities such as hiking, mountain biking and watching the sky at night, treat yourself to a Welsh autumn break, or maybe surprise your loved ones with a holiday gift voucher!

Mountain Biking in Southern Snowdonia

Coed y Brenin is a world-class, purpose-built venue for mountain bikers, with eight specially designed trails as well as running, walking and orienteering routes. Set in the south of Snowdonia National Park, this picturesque spot makes an ideal location to visit on a weekend break or family half-term holiday. It has an excellent visitor centre, some comfortable walks where you can admire the falling leaves, and an all-access mobility trail. You can even admire the stunning landscape from the comfort of the cafe, and sample some of their home-made treats.

Hiking the Brecon Beacons

Autumn is perhaps the most dramatic season in the Brecon Beacons, with the falling leaves exposing the mountain flanks as they prepare for winter. If you’re up for a hike and some bird-watching, stop off at Craig Cerrig Gleisiaid & Fan Frynych. This extensive nature reserve covers 1200 acres of mid Wales, where you can also admire the autumn hues as you climb some of the routes up to the summit of Pen Y Fan.

Wales for Wildlife

Wales is a nature-lover’s paradise, featuring 11 RSPB sanctuaries and 216 Wildlife Trust reserves. Autumn wildlife to watch includes seasonal seals and porpoises in the islands off the Pembrokeshire coast, crested grebes near Bangor in North Wales, and wildfowl in the wetlands of the South. A highlight of the RSPB Newport Wetlands in October is the twilight flocking of 50,000 or more starlings, as they perform syncopated flight dances before dropping down to roost.

The Sky at Night

Wales has many designated Dark Sky Areas around its coasts and mountains, where you can get away from city lights and observe the heavens. At historic Penmon in north east Anglesey, for example, you can not only spot seals, dolphins and puffins off its shores, but find the astral animals of the zodiac. On the west coast, Penbryn Beach is a mile of golden sand that’s one of the best-kept secrets in Wales. Wonderful in the daytime, this is also a beautifully secluded spot from which to wonder at the beauty of the night sky.

Incredible Castles

What better adventure for inquisitive kids than a visit to a real life castle? Pembroke Castle is one of the most iconic of the Welsh castles, with a long history and stunning architecture, plus ongoing excavations and some great exhibits. With a fascinating reputation as the birthplace of Henry VII, the first of the great Tudor monarchs, Pembroke castle is also built over a natural cavern where you can find pipistrelle bats… and maybe a dragon! And if you’re arriving soon, castles all over Wales will open for free on 29/30 September.

Take a Welsh Adventure Before School Starts

The summer holidays tend to zoom past before we can even catch our breath, so why not make the most of those precious weeks and plan a few fun getaways with the family?

Visit Wales with your children and you can take them on some fantastic adventures around the country. Learn about local folktales and myths, and fuel their imaginations with atmospheric landmarks.

Arthur’s Stone, Gower

Take a day trip out of the city to visit Arthur’s Stone, Maen Ceti. Though officially the stone is said to belong to a Neolithic tomb, the myth tells that it’s a pebble from King Arthur’s boot. According to the legend, Arthur fished the pebble from his boot and threw it away, hard enough for it to travel from Carmarthenshire all the way to the hills of Gower – and in the process grow vastly in size.

Not only is this site the ideal adventure spot for kids interested in Arthurian legends, it’s also a beautiful place for an afternoon stroll. Another legend associated with the stone tells of its thirst – while there, tell your little ones to watch out for the stone getting up and going to the nearby stream for a drink!

Branwen’s Grave, Anglesey

Branwen is a major figure in Welsh mythology, the daughter of Llyr and the wife of the King of Ireland – a marriage that, in typical fashion, ended in disaster, tragedy and death. Local legend says that Branwen, who is also associated with Harlech Castle, was buried on Anglesey.

Today you can visit her supposed burial site, Bedd Branwen, a ring cairn with a small standing stone in the middle.

The Lowland Hundred, Borth

To visit Wales’ own Atlantis, head to Borth in Ceredigion, where you can view the remains of a sunken forest. Normally hidden under sand, it is only exposed in certain weather conditions. These ancient tree stumps – which died thousands of years ago – are believed to be proof of a lost country once inhabited by ancient peoples: Cantre’r Gwaelod, or the Lowland Hundred.

Various myths surround Cantre’r Gwaelod, many of which attribute the cataclysmic flood to human negligence. For the best chance of seeing this ancient forest, head to the southern end of Borth Beach at low tide.

The Lady of the Lake, Llyn y Fan Fach

Llyn y Fan Fach is a remote lake in the Brecon Beacons framed by a scenic mountain ridge. For slightly older children who are up to the challenge of a two-hour walk, this is the ideal day-trip destination.

The myth attached to this wild place tells the story of the Lady of the Lake, who rose three times from the water and was seen by a young man, enchanted by her beauty. The lady agreed to marry the young man, provided he did not touch her three times with metal. Needless to say, he did not manage to keep his promise, and his wife ultimately returned to her watery home.

Enjoy a picnic on the ridge overlooking the lake, telling your children to keep their eyes peeled for a mysterious woman emerging from the water…