Where to go during the Festival of Winter Walks

Britain’s Festival of Winter Walks is a great opportunity to take advantage of the stunning scenery Wales has to offer. With three national parks – Snowdonia, the Pembrokeshire coast and the Brecon Beacons – there’s plenty of choice when it comes to exploring and walking during this festive season.

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To celebrate this year’s Festival of Winter Walks, which takes place from 19 December to 3 January, we’ve put together six of the best walking trails for you to enjoy in right here in Wales.

 Sugar Loaf, Abergavenny

We’re starting with a walk right on our doorstep that our guests always enjoy. Energise yourself this New Year and join a group walk up the Sugar Loaf Mountain on 3 January. This 10 mile trail will take you along rivers, up mountains and through towns, showing you the best Wales has to offer. The walk ends in Abergavenny, so be sure to pop in and visit us here at Llansantffraed Court Hotel and tuck into a meal at our award winning restaurant, where we use only the best locally sourced Welsh ingredients. 

Boxing Day Pudding Pounder, Brecon Beacons

 If you want to work off your Christmas lunch this Boxing Day why not head down to the Red Cow Inn for a group walk around the Pontsticill Reservoir? This walk is roughly five miles long and lasts just a couple of hours so it’s a great opportunity to take in the reservoir and woodland views. It’s also a dog friendly trail so you can get the whole family outside.

The Gwyllt, Portmeirion

The Gwyllt wild gardens are the perfect place for a leisurely stroll. The unusually mild climate of the peninsula encourages growth reminiscent of a rainforest, with exotic plants and flowers sheltering the walkway; a significant contrast to the traditional Welsh landscape. While you’re visiting the village, you could pop in to the Portmeirion Hotel for afternoon tea on the terrace and enjoy the views of the Dwyryd Estuary.

Nantlle Ridge, Snowdonia

If you’re looking for something a little bit more hardcore then this walk might be for you. This trail runs over seven miles of rugged landscape including part of the Nantlle Ridge, which allows for fantastic views across the region. There isn’t a group walk organised for this route so you can enjoy it whenever suits you best – we’d recommend a clear day so you can make the most of the scenery.

Porthgain to Whitesands, Pembrokeshire Coast

This costal walk is a fantastic opportunity to take in the spectacular scenery on offer on the Pembrokeshire coast. If you keep your eyes peeled you might even spot the grey fins of porpoises feeding off the coast. Bear in mind that this particular trail is 10 miles long, but don’t worry if you’re more of a novice as there are plenty of other trails on offer along this stretch.

Lake Vyrnwy, Powys

Lake Vyrnwy is an impressive man-made reservoir built in the 1880s surrounded by beautiful woodlands and rolling hills. There are five different walking trails in the vicinity of the lake offering something to suit all abilities. The Llechwedd Du walk covers five miles and, due to its relatively steep climb, offers fantastic views of the lake as well as the heather moorland. After a day of exploring you could drop into the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa which overlooks the lake, to warm your feet by the fire.

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Make the most of autumn produce

Autumn really is one of our favourite times of the year. Not only does the Monmouthshire countryside explode with colour and beauty as the leaves change, our Victorian walled garden also bursts with fresh autumnal produce.

Unlike summer, where raw fruit and vegetables, salads and grilled foods are in full flow, autumn calls for a different approach to cooking. Many of us have now returned our barbeques to their rightful place in the garage, and are reaching for our slow cookers and stew pots to create warm and comforting dishes to see us through the shorter days.

To celebrate the start of the season, we’ve listed our favourite five autumnal ingredients to cook with over the coming months. Like us, you can either choose to grow them in your garden or, if your fingers aren’t quite as green, you can easily pick them up at your local farmer’s market or supermarket.

1) Pumpkin

shutterstock_155131223It comes as no surprise that one of the big players this season is pumpkin. Usually associated with scaring trick-or-treaters, this bright fruit can be used to make warming dishes such as soups as the weather gets colder. Pumpkin is also rich in minerals and great for keeping healthy as it contains only a small amount of calories.

2) Beetroot

Fresh beetroot will brighten any meal. Roasted, pickled or boiled, this earthy vegetable goes great with smoked fish and adds a sweet flavour to salads. Beetroot is also great for keeping skin looking and feeling healthy, but be careful when handling- the last thing you want is a ruined wardrobe thanks to its handy staining properties!

3) Blueberries

Blueberries are renowned for their great taste and health benefits. These little berries are bursting with sweet goodness and anti-oxidants to fight away the inevitable winter colds. Not only do they make for a great snack throughout the day, they’re also a great addition to a bowl of warm porridge in the morning.

4) Hazelnuts

shutterstock_125386376Nothing announces the arrival of the cold weather more than the smell of roasting hazelnuts. Although small in size, these little nuts pack a big punch when it comes to giving us energy, perfect as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up if you’re struggling in the office as the days get shorter.

5) Venison

Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about the meat lovers. This season boasts an abundance of delicious meats, including venison. This red meat is packed with protein and can be added to stews for that rich velvety taste we all crave in the colder months. Venison is also another autumnal food that could help keep you energised as the nights draw in.

Autumn really is a season that caters to all. Whether you decide to grow your own produce like we do in our walled garden, or head to your local farmer’s market or supermarket, be sure to reap the great taste that these foods have to offer until winter hits.