Tag Archives: UK weekends

Wine and walks in Sussex

Rathfinny great british design

Steeped in a hazy morning mist, between the rolling Sussex downs, between Alfriston and the sea the sun is twinkling on Rathfinny’s vines, which cover the valley like a blanket, as we drive in. They seem to go on for miles, but then Rathfinny is no hobby vineyard – Britain’s youngest sparkling white wine also happens to be its most ambitious. You won’t have heard of Sussex Sparkling yet, as it takes several years for the first vintage to mature, but five years from now Rathfinny’s owner, Mark Driver, hopes that it will be a household name as familiar as Champagne.

aloof-rathfinney-0254_22470091343_oAnd it’s easy to see why, driving into this vast 600-acre estate, with its incredibly modern building and wine room that sits among the swathes of vines. You could be forgiven for thinking you were at a big winery in South Africa or New Zealand, not a tiny village on the South coast. But the soil conditions – the terroirs as the French call it – and the climate are directly comparable with Champagne, if not better, so the question should really be: why has it taken so long for someone to get serious about making decent wine in the UK?

aug15_5_largeTucked away at the very end of the vineyard are the Flint Barns – the original farmhouse of the estate built in the 1860s, they have been immaculately restored from a ruin and now house a large dining room, a snug lounge room and 10 ensuite bedrooms, some arranged for couples or families, and some bunk rooms that are ideal for larger groups of up to eight. But unlike other walker’s retreats there’s no Ikea furniture to be seen here. Every detail has been considered, with bespoke beds made to complement the building, the finest linen and cosiest woollen blankets – it’s not grand or fancy, but it is polished and of the highest quality. Evening meals are family-style dining of locally-soured, crowd-pleasing dishes such as lasagne or shepherd’s pie.

rathfinny-flint-barns-main-stay-2@1xThe manager and chef Adrian is local to Alfriston and a font of knowledge about local walks and visits. A good one to start with is the Rathfinny Trail, which will take you up to the top of the downs for a birds eye view of the vines on one side and the sea on the other, and you can stop at the end at Rathfinny’s Flint Barns Café – an old H van serving delicious cakes and coffees that only walkers can reach – a local hidden gem, and soak up the warm English sun while gazing out at grapes and wild poppies that are doing much the same thing.

rathfinny-flint-barns-main-stay-1@1xWhat started as a rambler’s rest and hostel is evolving. This spring, as Flint Barns is becoming more discovered, they are opening up at weekends offering Sunday roasts and are hosting their first weekend yoga retreat in May, I can’t imagine anywhere more tranquil to salute the sun.

img_0777_25793416523_o-1280x853In Alfristion, Rathfinny has a tasting room and shop, selling local art and produce as well as the first bottlings from the estate, but the rest of this pretty, artist-friendly town is well worth an explore, with its mix of antiques shops, galleries and tea houses.

rathfinny-flint-barns-main-1At the moment, this is one of Britain’s best-kept secrets, but in 2018 when the first Sussex Sparkling corks are popped, Flint Barns and Rathfinny will be to Sussex what River Cottage is to Dorset. And the news that Taittinger has bought a vineyard in Kent is further proof that Rathfinny is onto a winner. Get there now so that you can gloat at dinner parties about how you stayed before Sussex Sparkling was ‘a thing’.

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Rooms from £110 a night B&B, bunk beds from £35pp, Rathfinnyestate.com / flintbarns.com

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Go glamping this weekend

Make the most of spring’s arrival with a new season lodge, Shepherd’s hut or quirky cabin – it’s camping, but weather-proofed for fresh evenings.

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Swinton Bivouac, Yorkshire

Sitting in 20,000 acres, Swinton Bivouac is a cluster of handcrafted, gingerbread house-cute log cabins hidden on the edge of the woods, with incredible views.

Inside natural wooden floors, hand-made beds, antique rocking chairs and wood-burning stoves add to the up-cycled, eclectic vibe. As well as a small kitchenette, each shack comes with a flushing toilet and shower, and will sleep seven.

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There is a fab café, shop, and play area, and Bivouac guests can use the facilities at nearby Swinton Park – so you can combine a day walking in the dales with a massage in the spa or a posh meal.
Seven-night stays from £100 per person. 01765 535020, www.thebivouac.co.uk

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Ges the Horsebox, Surrey

Down a quiet country lane, in the middle of an idyllic woodland meadow, it’s hard to believe that Ges, a lovingly-restored and converted 1970s horse truck, is not much more than an hour’s drive from central London. Inside there’s a king-size cabin bed, a sofa bed and a bright retro interior. And if you need the bathroom, the neighbouring pony trailer, Baby Ges, houses a hot shower and compost loo. A basket and blankets are provided so that you can pack a picnic and explore the bluebell woods.

From £135 per night (sleeps four), www.canopyandstars.co.uk/ges 0117 204 7830

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The Sherwood Hideaway at Thoresby, Nottinghamshire

These rustic-chic wooden lodges, that sleep four, are hidden deep in Sherwood Forest but are contemporary and sleekly designed – from Mulberry and Designer’s Guild soft furnishings, to the state-of-the-art TV, iPod dock and wifi, to the fully-stocked kitchen, to the private hot tub. Yes, you get your own forest-view hot tub. David, the on-site concierge back at the reception lodge, can arrange bikes and advise on cycling and walking trails in the forest – which looks stunning at this time of year as the trees burst into life and bluebells abound.

From £25 per person per night. 01623 824594, www.sherwoodhideaway.com

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The Boat Shed at Ardanaiseig, Argyll

On the shores of the appropriately-named Loch Awe, the Ardanaiseig Hotel’s new Boat Shed combines contemporary architecture with splendid isolation – the glass-walled front looks on to the islands in the middle of Loch Awe and the snow-capped Ben Cruachan beyond. In spring the lake mist clears to offer truly spectacular views of the woods and mountains, reflected in the water. The one-bedroom bolthole, perched on the water’s edge is modern, romantic, and has all of the hotel’s five-star trappings on tap, too.

From £330 per night. 01866 988450, www.ardanaiseig.com

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Bluebells Nest at The Dandelion Hideaway, Leiccestershire

Nestled on the edge of the National Forest in Leicestershire, The Dandelion Hideaway has six canvas cottages dotted around the 250-acre farm and its woodland, arable and grassland. This may be “glamping” but you get all the creature comforts you could hope for, including proper beds, en-suite bathrooms with roll-top baths, a living area with a sofa, and a farmhouse kitchen complete with a dining table and a wood-burning stove.

If you want isolation then opt for Bluebells Nest, a treehouse that sits by the wood and is perfect for two. Pre-order one of Sharon’s farmhouse suppers that will be bubbling on the stove when you arrive.

Canvas cottages sleep up to six, from £700 a week, www.coolrentalguide.com.

The Shepherd’s Hut Retreat, Somerset

Circling a lake and nestled among trees turning golden brown, you’ll find four secluded, romantic shepherd’s huts, each with a private deck and fire pit. Inside, they’re surprisingly spacious, fitting in a double bed, fully-equipped kitchen and a bathroom – they even have electric heating and are insulated against spring nights.

From £90 a night (sleeps two). 07813 393164, www.theshepherdshutretreat.co.uk

Badger Gypsy Caravan, Mid Wales

What could be more nostalgic than a stay in a traditional bow-top gypsy wagon? It even comes with its own kitchen and bathroom, housed in the next-door shepherd’s hut. What’s more, it sits on a 200-acre, organic farm in the Upper Wye Valley, surrounded by walking trails, cycle routes, the river Wye and Cambrian mountains, making it the ultimate, escape-it-all, back-to-nature break.

£265 for two nights (sleeps two) – book for October and they are currently offering a 20 per cent discount. www.underthethatch.co.uk

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Lord Stones, North York Moors

Named after the Bronze-sage standing stones that top the hillside, Lord Stones is a gorgeous, glamorous campsite like no other. For starters, it sits in a stunning private country estate on the ruggedly-beautiful North York Moors. Then there’s the fact that there’s a fine-dining restaurant run by top chef Michael Chase, formerly of the Michelin-starred Star at Harome, which serves the estate’s own Belted Galloway beef on the menu, plus a lovely café and an artisan farm shop on site.

There are five, new bespoke “glamping pods”, which are stylish timber cabins that sleep four and come fully equipped with a double bed and a sofa bed, a bathroom, kitchenette and a wood-burning stove. There’s even an outdoor deck with a BBQ, lanterns and seats so that you can enjoy the best of the camping experience with the comfort of a proper night’s sleep and running water.

Glamping pods from £33.50 per person per night. 01642 778482, www.lordstones.com

 

High Cross Camping Coach, Dorset

If you can’t afford the Orient Express, try out the next best thing – this antique London Brighton & South Coast Railway carriage gleams as if it has just rolled out of the station for the first time. Climb aboard, and into another era – the rich mahogany panelling takes you back in time to the glory days of rail travel. All the original fittings remain – authentic luggage racks, rounded windows, leather straps and brasswork – although the carriage has been converted to house a fully-equipped kitchen and bathroom, while the long bench seat in the main saloon transforms into a double bed and an antique French stove keeps it cosy on chilly nights. The accompanying “living van” houses two single beds (great for kids or extra guests).

From £85 per night (sleeps four), www.canopyandstars.co.uk/campingcoach

 

Apple Tree Yurts, East Sussex

This newly-opened ash, chestnut, cotton and canvas yurt, sitting in a beautiful apple orchard, is furnished in rustic style – think soft sheepskins, a handmade double bed and wood-burner for warmth. The outside barbeque and fire pit make for a fabulous night under the stars – baked apples, anyone?

From £117.50 a night (sleeps five), www.pitchup.com

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ALISON TYLER

This article first appeared in Metro on 27 April 2015

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Family-friendly festivals

Want to go to a festival but worried you can’t now that you have little ones? Don’t worry, try these out for size. Have kids, will party

Wilderness

What: Set in the rolling Cotswolds, on an 800-year-old deer park, this is possibly Britain’s poshest festival with food from St John, Polpo, Ottolenghi and Mark Hix, and its own spa.

Who’s playing? The line-up has yet to be announced but last year included Rodriguez, Empire of the Sun, Noah and the Whale, Martha Wainwright, Tom Odell, The Bees.

What to wear: Boden dresses with Joules wellies.

Family fun: The House of Fairytales, award-winning children’s Unicorn Theatre and The Oxford Museum of Natural History are all on hand to excite your children, while Boutique Babysitting might give you a chance to catch the main stage action unencumbered by babies.

Stay: Boutique camping options include tipis, huts, yurts, and even a bus – all come with hot showers, luxury toilets, baby-changing facilities and a chill-out area – there are even “barrow boys” who will greet you and take your luggage.

When is it? 6-9 August. Adult weekend family camping £143.50, under 10s £5. Cornbury Park, Charlbury, www.wildernessfestival.com

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End of the Road

What: At the End of the Road festival, in Wiltshire, set against the backdrop of Larmer Tree Gardens, with stages resembling front rooms, complete with standard lamps and pictures on the chintzily-papered walls. Expect thoroughly British food from Pieminister and music quizzes, too.

Who’s playing? Sigur Ros, Belle and Sebastian, Eels and Dinosaur Jr played last year, while there’s also comedy and film.

What to wear: Cath Kidston, Hunter boots and Barbour jackets.

Family fun: A dedicated children’s area offers performances, workshops and activities for little people.

Stay: Choose between the family campsite or the suitably middle-class accommodation at Toby of Fairlove Yurts.

When it is? 28-30 August. Adult weekend camping £160, under 2s free. Larmer Tree Gardens, Tollard Royal, Wiltshire, www.endoftheroadfestival.com

 

BoomTown Fair

What: Hosting limitless winding streets and eccentric venues to explore, BoomTown Fair is a fully working city created by an ever expanding network of musicians, artists and creative. The four-day festival celebrates ska, reggae, dub, swing, punk and more.

Who’s playing? Altern8, Chas n Dave, Dub FX, Lady Saw (full live band), Ms Dynamite and the Dreadnoughts.

What to wear: DMs and denim.

Family fun: KidzTown now takes up a whole zone of the “city” and in 2014 will have its own dedicated main stage. There are arts and crafts workshops to entertain little ones, too.

What mums say: ‘I think the children’s area was absolutely brilliant and I know that from real experience cause my son had the best time ever and never wanted to leave it.’ Anne-Marie Williams, mum to Laurie, 6.

Stay: Camping is included in your ticket price and you can choose a ‘neighbourhood’ to camp in, from Chinatown and El Barrio Loco to Kidztown or Mayfair Avenue depending on your mood. If you’d rather “glamp” you can upgrade to the Boomtique Village for £30, which gets you access to luxury showers, wood-fired saunas and hot tubs, a chill-out lounger and a beauty station (like you’ll really have time for hair-straighteners??). You can even opt to stay in a tipi or luxury yurt.

When is it? 6-9 August. Adult weekend camping £150, 6 and under free. Matterly Estate, Nr Winchester. www.boomtownfair.co.uk

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Camp Bestival

What: Bestival’s family-friendly little sister bill’s itself as the greatest family show on earth at a castle campsite by the sea. While other festivals offer a “family area” this is a family festival with live acts, DJs, comedy and theatre.

Who’s playing? Basement Jaxx, James, Johnny Marr, Laura Mvula, The Wedding Present.

What to wear: Bright, beachy clothes.

Family fun: From circus and theatre workshops, to bouncy castles and soft play tents, a Dance Space tent, fairground rides and sandpits, children will be in heaven here. There’s a separate Toddler’s Area and a Breastival Mother and Baby Chill Out zone – we approve.

Stay: All the campsites are family-friendly, but you can also choose the boutique Tangerine Fields experience which offers pre-pitched tents or gypsy caravans, with proper loos and hot showers (www.tangerinefields.co.uk).

When is it? 30 July-2 August. Weekend camping from £180, under 11s free. Lulworth Castle, Dorset, www.campbestival.net

 

Latitude

What: Latitude’s Best Family Festival Award (at the UK Festival Awards) is testament to its diverse and inclusive atmosphere. Arranged around the banks of a lake, the laidback and impressively organised Latitude is one of the most idyllic and civilized summer festivals around.

Who’s playing: Damon Albarn, Two Door Cinema Club, Royksopp,

What to wear: Boho vintage cotton.

Family fun: A dedicated kids’ area, with childrens activities that range from face-painting to pond-dipping to pizza-making and theatre workshops, they will never get bored.

Stay: Choose between the family camping area – think kids yoga and pop-up beaches – or pay to stay at Yurtel, a luxury canvas hotel with a bar, brunch included, and a pop-up spa (www.yurtel.co.uk).

When is it? 16-19 July. Weekend ticket with family camping £182.50, Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk, www.latitudefestival.com

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Green Man

What: In the beautiful Black Mountains of Wales this small festival has been going for more than a decade and has built up a reputation as a family-friendly, independent destination that has a knack for picking future Brit and Ivor Novello award-winners before they make it big.

Who’s playing: Beirut, Neutral Milk Hotel, First Aid Kit, Daughter, Lanterns of the Lake, Anna Calvi.

What to wear: Opt for clever, low-key cool – think Toast or a classic Breton stripe top.

Family fun: As well as music, there’s comedy, poetry and literature, an area just for under 12s called Little Folk and another for teens. Mums will be appreciative of the spa and therapies, while dads will approve of the local cider, ale and quality food.

Stay: Hot showers and luxury camping areas come as standard at the award-winning intimate festival. Or make a week-long holiday out of it with a Settler’s Pass ticket (£199) which covers the festival entry and your camping for seven nights in the wild beauty of the Brecon Beacons National Park where you can go horse riding, caving, fishing, canoeing or stargazing in one of only five official “dark sky reserves” in the world.

When is it? 13-16 August. Adult weekend camping £159, children £5, infants free. Glanusk Estate, Crickhowell, Wales, www.greenman.net

 

The Eden Festival

What: Scotland’s boutique festival has nine stages, a kids arena, circus tent, drive-in cinema, caberet, comedy and workshops, all with a new-age-y, chilled-out vibe.

Who’s playing: Calvin Harris, Dub Mafia, Beans on Toast.

What to wear: There’s a hippyish feel, so plait your hair and dig out your love beads.

Family fun: The Shellycoat kids tent is where you’ll find environmentally-friendly arts and crafts (is there any other kind?), performances, forest skills workshops and a play area – all for free. There’s also kids yoga, treasure hunts and an end-if-festival kids parade.

Stay: There’s a family camping area if you want to bring your own tent, or if you’d prefer to let someone else do that hard work for you, hire a bell tent with full standing headroom and a bed made up through Yippee Yurts – they even provide luggage portering and a barbeque.

When is it? 12-14 June. Adult weekend camping £85, under 12s free. Raehills Meadows, Dumbries and Galloway. www.edenfestival.co.uk

 

ALISON TYLER

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10 of the best welly weekends

Grab your Barbour jacket, pull on your Hunter boots and get outdoors for a bracing winter walk – and you can reward yourself with amazing grub and a gorgeous room for the night at the end of it

There’s nothing more exhilarating on a frosty, clear winter’s day than a country walk over fields and hills, and given you can burn up to 400 calories an hour on a good hike, it’s little wonder the likes of Jessica Biel, Matthew Mcconaughey and Reece Witherspoon are fans. Aside from the amazing views, fresh air and vitamin D, our favourite walks include a welcoming inn at the end, with a roaring fire and delicious dinner. So pack your wellies, kids and dog, and make a weekend of it, as we’ve found the best places to enjoy a rural, rambling escape.

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The Milk House, Sissinghurst

This rustic-chic pub and restaurant with rooms is brilliantly located just across the fields from Sissinghurst Castle in Kent (it’s a pleasing 30-minute ramble away). Welly boots and dogs are practically uniform at this timber-framed building. All exposed beams and open fireplaces, there’s a lounge-y bar with comfy leather sofas and a more formal 9though still relaxed) dining room with a menu that sources 80 per cent of its produce from within a 20-mile radius. The four bedrooms are a tribute to Farrow and Ball and the local theme continue with a range of bath products from Kent, too.

Doubles from £90, www.themilkhouse.co.uk

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Woolley Grange, Wiltshire

This homely small manor hotel welcomes families and dogs – if you haven’t brought your boots, you can borrow one of the many pairs lined up in the entrance hall. And if you haven’t brought your dog, you can even borrow the resident King Charles Spaniel puppy Rex and take him for a stroll around the grounds or over the fields down (or down the lane if you’re pushing a buggy) to Bradford on Avon, or head even further a-field to Ilford Manor which is surrounded by hanging woodlands and then walk back along the river.
Rooms at Woolley are eclectic and homely, combining antique furniture with modern design, while the relaxed lounges are the perfect place to warm up with a hot chocolate after a long walk.

Doubles from £120, www.woolleygrangehotel.co.uk

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The Lord Crewe Arms, County Durham

With properly hearty, country food – think shins, hocks, and shanks of meat – Simon Hick’s modern British menu is as robust and humble as this 12th-century former Abbots Priory. Delightfully understated, but in a very stylish way, this pub with 12 bedrooms is warm and welcoming – grab an armchair in the enormous inglenook and settle in with the weekend papers and a pint of Lord Crewe Brew before heading out to the hills. The pub sits at one of the highest points on the North Pennine Hills and is surrounded by heather-clad walks, but fishing and shooting are also available if you really want to give your Barbour a workout.

Doubles from £105, www.lordcrewearmsblanchland.co.uk

 

Askham Hall, Cumbria

Askham Hall makes a very glamorous home from home – owner Charlie Lowther and his wife Juno have renovated and transformed his family home, a Grade I-listed manor house, complete with a medieval tower, to create a 13-room hip-yet-unpretentious hotel with history. The rooms are relaxed yet grand; a winning cocktail of antique beds, dinner-plate showers and jaw-dropping Lake District views. Sitting in the middle OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAof the 70,000-acre Lowther Estate, you’re literally surrounded by walks, from challenging fell climbs to a gentler walk across the estate to the George and Dragon pub in Clifton where most of the food is sourced from the estate itself, or a potter around the Hall’s romatic gardens and woodland and into Askham village.

Doubles from £150, www.askhamhall.co.uk.

 

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The Wild Rabbit, Kingham

Since opening last summer this immaculate pub with rooms, owned by Lady Bamford (the brains behind nearby Daylesford Organic), has recently won Michelin Pub of the Year. Behind its alluring honey-hued Cotswold stone walls and sage green paint, the handcrafted interior has antique furniture, stripped walls and open fires – while the menu stocks artisan ales and wine from small vineyards. Expect thoroughly stylish, and seasonal, food such as pot roast partridge or cacao nib crusted venison with girolles, celeriac and figs. While this may be the poshest pub in Britain, it is also surrounded by fields and farms – dogs are most welcome (they even provide dog beds for free). There are walking maps to borrow and you can hoof it over the fields north to Daylesford Organic to visit the spa, farm shop and restaurant there. Chipping Norton, Burford and Stow on the Wold are all close by.

Doubles from £135, www.thewildrabbit.co.uk

Bar area and dining room, Bel and the Dragon, Churt, Surrey BelDragon_churt3

Bel and the Dragon Churt, Surrey

Less than an hour from London, but a welly’s throw from the National Trust-owned Devil’s Punch Bowl – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offering incredible views, this fabulously-restored country inn has 14 bedrooms, a restaurant and bar – complete with a cosy lounge with an open fireplace and an inviting sofa. The new pizza oven and chalk-topped tables are proving a huge hit with families, while the josper grill (for the juiciest steaks) and wine served by the magnum – you just drink what you can – keep grown-ups more than satisfied.

Doubles from £95, www.belandthedragon-churt.co.uk

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Ockendon Manor, Sussex

Surrounded by the South Downs National Park, this Elizabethan Manor House welcomes guests with a roaring log fire and a cosy, wood-panelled bar. Set in nine acres, and with the South Downs Way, Wakehurst Place and Sheffield Park all on the doorstep, you’ll be spoilt for choice for walks. And at the hotel, you can spoil yourself in the state-of-the-art spa and at the Michelin-starred restaurant.

Doubles from £179, www.hshotels.co.uk/ockenden-manor-hotel-and-spa

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The Gunton Arms, Norfolk

You can’t get much more rural than a 1,000-acre deer park, which is where you’ll find this eccentric-yet-unpretentious pub and B&B owned by an art dealer and interior designer. The buzzy restaurant and bar, headed up by chef Simon Tattersall, who worked with Mark Hix, attracts north Norfolk’s finest, from muddy booted walkers and farmers to artists and landowners alike, who come to watch Tattersall cook over a vast 16th-century open fireplace. As you’d expect from a deer park close to Cromer – venison, crab and seafood abound. Just the thing after a misty country walk.

Doubles from £95, www.theguntonarms.co.uk

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The Grove, Pembrokeshire

Between the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and the Preseli Hills, the boutique Grove hotel, and its award-winning restaurant makes a chic retreat after a wild winter walk. Nab one of the fire-side seats in the lounge a snuggle up with a spicy glass of red wine and a great book. Book the Winter Warmer package and the hotel will pack you off in the morning with a walker’s hamper containing a flask of traditional Welsh cawl and tasty bites to keep you warm and toasty on your walk. Then head back to a roaring log fire, a soothing bath with a box of Wickedly Welsh chocolates and a full body massage courtesy of The Grove’s In Room Spa before delicious candlelit meal beside the fire in our award-winning restaurant (£200 per person per night).

Doubles from £165, www.thegrove-narberth.co.uk

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The Gurnard’s Head, Cornwall

There can be few more rugged or wild corners of Britain than the Zennor peninsula in Cornwall, and after a bracing walk, through cow fields, out to the tip of Zennor Point, you’ll be more than ready for a pint of real ale by the fire in the bar. This is pub-grub at its best and most local, from the ham hock terrine to the venison stew, even the soda bread with locally-churned butter is lip-smackingly good. Rooms are cosy but charming, with brilliant beds – you’ll feel so at home that you won’t want to leave. Dogs are welcome and wellies are practically obligatory round these parts.

Doubles from £110 – or book the fantastically good value Winter Escape: £130 a couple for dinner, bed and breakfast, Sunday to Thursday. www.gurnardshead.co.uk

ALISON TYLER

This article appeared in Metro on 26 January

 

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