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Wales isn’t somewhere I’ve ever really considered going before.
Okay, so that’s probably not the craziest thing you’ve read today but it is kind of strange for me when I think about it. Let me explain…
I absolutely love beautiful landscapes (especially when I haven’t left London for a few weeks!), I’ve always wanted to climb a mountain and my favourite animal is a sheep. Plus I decided I want to take many more weekend breaks around the UK after visiting Manchester in September. So, all that considered, Wales should be a pretty obvious choice.
But with a whole world to choose from, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the places that are much closer to home. A bit too easy, really. It’s a lesson I’ve never learnt more so than when I visited Abergavenny last week.
I was there to spend a night at The Angel Hotel, celebrating its (well-deserved) recent win at the AA Hospitality Awards. The Angel was voted Hotel of the Year for Wales and, after spending a night there, it’s not hard to see why. It has a real luxurious-yet-homely interior and spacious rooms that are beautifully decorated, not to mention the super friendly staff waiting to help you with anything you need. Oh, and it’s one of only 9 hotels outside of London that are members of the Tea Guild.
That said, I still turned up with an open mind (and a bit of a headache after feeling unwell all morning!), not really knowing what to expect. Isn’t it great when you go somewhere without set expectations? Sometimes it’s the best way to experience somewhere because you have no idea what your trip will look like.
That was certainly true for me on this trip. It was a nice time to really reflect on the year and one of the main things that my stay in Abergavenny – and also my trip to Cuba last month – has made me realise is that winter holidays are a FANTASTIC idea. Here are just 6 reasons why I’ll be taking more UK-based winter breaks in 2017:
6 Very Good Reasons to Consider a Winter Staycation:
1. For the FOOD:
Starting with the most important reason of all, of course. Hands down the best part about travel is getting to try loads of tasty new things and food is pretty much always the #1 deciding factor for me when choosing where to go.
As it turns out, you don’t have to hop on a plane because there are loads of foods waiting to be tried here in the UK. Abergavenny might not be the obvious choice for an indulgent break, but the food was without doubt one of the best things about my stay at The Angel. We were greeted by its famous High Tea on arrival, where a huge table was packed with platters and platters of festive sandwiches, savoury treats and beautiful cakes, and that was all topped off with champagne and followed by the most amazing homemade scones.
Later that evening, we were treated to a feast of cured beef and fondue in the après-ski lodge. It was quite possibly the most indulgent evening I’ve ever had but it was just so, so good that I felt about 10 kilos heavier and flopped into bed. It was winter comfort food at its very, very best.
2. For some serious R&R:
There’s nothing like a short break away from daily life to push the pause button, reset and start a new week feeling refreshed. And why go any further when we have some of the most beautiful countryside and scenery in the whole world right here? Just look at this view! I don’t think anyone could stand looking at a view like that and not feel a little calmer.
Plus when you stay closer to home, you don’t have to suffer the oh-so-stressful experience of checking in, checking your liquids are under 100ml and all the rest of the airport drama that comes with a trip abroad.
3. For the things that make you say “that would work so well in…”:
Have you ever been somewhere, say a café, restaurant or pop-up shop, that you know would work so well in your hometown or area? When that happens, it’s a weird feeling of familiarity and newness all rolled into one, and that’s exactly the feeling I had when we stopped by the Art Shop & Chapel for lunch.
The shop is full of books I wanted to buy and other little cute things that would make perfect gifts, but what really makes this place is the food. The menu seemed really well thought out and it was hard to choose because it all sounded so good! I ended up trying the cottage pie with root veg mash and it was amazing – I just wish I’d had room to try a cake or dessert!
4. For the cosiness:
As much as I love the comfort of my own bed, there’s nothing like falling into a super-soft hotel bed, is there? And that’s exactly what we did in Abergavenny. As I overheard one of the girls saying, the beds were so comfy that “it was like falling into a fluffy cloud” and I couldn’t have put it better myself.
With its cosy sitting room and equally cosy bar, both of which have their own fireplaces, The Angel is definitely a great hotel for a winter getaway.
5. For the surprise:
As I said already, I didn’t arrive in Abergavenny with many expectations because I just hadn’t looked up anything about it beforehand. So as we discovered its little quirks, such as the local market and the changing ceiling installation in the indoor market (currently a load of owls, below), it was even more enjoyable to explore.
Unlike a new country, where it’s hard to visit without doing any research beforehand, it’s so easy to hop on a train and explore a new town or village in the UK without looking it up and ruining the surprise. I travelled with Great Western Railway and it took just over 2.5 hours to get to Abergavenny from London – so much quicker than I would have thought.
6. For the chance to explore when it’s quiet:
We couldn’t visit Abergavenny and not see the beautiful scenes that surround it, so we spent a morning trekking up The Sugar Loaf mountain. Our tour was guided by Drover Holidays, who run walking and cycling holidays in Wales throughout the year and, unlike in peak season, there was practically nobody else around. So even though we chose a pretty fog day to make the climb, we did get to enjoy having the mountain almost entirely to ourselves (and an uninterrupted mince pie break halfway up!).
All in all, I’m now completely sold on winter getaways and, in particular, winter breaks in the UK. There’s also no doubt that I can’t wait to explore more of North Wales and Mid Wales and the other beautiful parks there – but maybe I’ll try those in summer!
What kind of holidays do you usually go on? Would you try a winter staycation somewhere like Abergavenny?