Treat the family to a mini-break in north-east Wales

Treat the family to a mini-break in north-east Wales
Chirk-Castle.jpg

When you think of holidaying in Wales, you might not automatically think of north-east Wales, but this area has so much to offer!


Yours Verdict


Product: For what to do and what to see in north-east Wales, visit www.northeast
wales.co.uk
Price: £69.00
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Wild Pheasant Hotel and Spa

We stayed at the Wild Pheasant Hotel and Spa in Llangollen, which is a dog-friendly hotel set in the shadow of some impressive Welsh hills. The hotel has 46 rooms ranging from standard twin rooms to luxury suites with a nice bar area serving bar snacks and meals, a large conservatory in which to sit and enjoy a drink, and a more formal Yew Tree Restaurant, recently awarded a rosette for the consistent high standard of its cuisine and menu selection, offering  a wide selection of dishes, complemented with a varied wine list, as well as hosting the morning breakfasts.

The staff here were friendly and helpful and we were allowed to take Pooch into the bar area in the evening while we ate. He also slept in our room (in his own bed!) and there was a very convenient field next door to the hotel in which to exercise him before breakfast. 

Although we didn’t take advantage of the spa facilities (they don’t allow dogs in there!) the hotel offers various treatments and there’s a hydrotherapy pool, a sauna, steam room, treatment rooms and hair salon. The spa is free for residents, although there is a fee for treatments and they need to be booked in advance.

Set in its own grounds, the hotel has lovely gardens and a warm friendly atmosphere and rooms offer en-suite, tea and coffee-making facilities, hairdryer, TV, Wi-Fi and your own ironing board and iron.

Included in the price is either a full English breakfast or a continental, ideal for stocking up before walking those Welsh hills! Good portions and nicely presented, with plenty of tea and toast!

  • Useful info:
    Rooms cost from £69 a night for a standard twin room at Easter (prices tend to be higher in peak season).
    The Wild Pheasant Hotel & Spa,
    Berwyn Road, Llangollen, Denbighshire LL20 8AD.
    Call 01978 860629,
    visit www.wildpheasanthotel.co.uk

Llangollen

Set alongside the River Dee and in the shadow of the Eglwyseg escarpment to the north and the North Berwyn Mountains to the south, Llangollen hosts the International Musical Eisteddfod each July which attracts 120,000 visitors. Luckily, we visited at Easter so it was nicely busy, rather than too busy!

It’s a very scenic little town and you can take a boat ride along the Llangollen Canal or enjoy a steam train ride along the Dee Valley to Carrog, historic ruins of Valle Crucis Abbey and Dinas Bran Castle nearby. The views from Dee Bridge, built in 1345, are lovely and it’s nice to stand here awhile and take in the surrounding views.

There are lots of attractions nearby or within a reasonable driving distance so LLangollen makes a good base for a holiday. It was pleasant just to stroll around and look in shop windows and there were plenty of places to eat – we were spoilt for choice – so there should be something to suit even the fussiest of eaters.

Plas Newydd

Plas Newydd was the home of the famous Ladies of Llangollen, two women who escaped from Ireland together in the 18th Century and set up home in Llangollen. The story of Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby was well known and they entertained many famous visitors in their new home, such as the Duke of Wellington, the Duke of Gloucester and William Wordsworth.

They embarked on a series of ‘gothicisation’ and extended the house and added all manner of oak carvings and filled it with art and treasures they collected over the 50 years they lived together, funded by Sarah’s Royal Pension and small stipends from their respective families. It’s a fascinating story and a fascinating house…

We visited this site on a beautiful sunny afternoon and the gardens were looking lovely with everything just bursting into bloom. There’s a lot to see in the grounds, as well as the house, including a summerhouse, box topiary, gravel paths running alongside a stream, stone bridges and an ancient font, which all makes for a lovely walk.

The ticket office and tea room are housed in the former stables and are pretty and welcoming and immaculately kept.

We got an audio guide and a brochure so were able to follow the commentary (in a lovely, lilting Welsh accent!) about the Ladies in our own time and hear about any additional features if desired. The commentary also explained clearly the background/story of the Ladies and their reasons for escaping their fate in Ireland, should they remain there. Wandering from room to room we were able to glimpse life as it was then and take time to look at all the small details, nooks and crannies. The house is testament to what the Ladies tried to achieve and how they led their lives in all its rich and fascinating history.

Of particular interest in the house was the library with its stained glass lantern and thousands of volumes of poetry, literature and politics. And of particular fascination was the powder room which has evolved into the loos of today!

  • Useful info:
    Plas Newydd,
    Hill Street, Llangollen, LL20 8AW
    Call 01978 861314,
    visit www.plasnewyddllangollen.co.uk
    Adults £6, children 5-16 £5, OAPs & students £5, under-5s free

Chirk Castle & Gardens

Just a stone’s throw from Chirk Aqueduct is Chirk Castle. Completed in 1310, it’s apparently the last Welsh castle from the reign of Edward I.

Now under the care of the National Trust, you can enjoy the castle or sit on the grass in the award-winning gardens which have a rose garden, bronze nymphs, giant chess, hawk house and garden history, wild flowers in pleasure ground wood, giant yews.

The iron gates leading to the grounds, dated 1719, bear the coat-of-arms of the Myddelton family of Chirk Castle and are stunning.

When we were there, there was den building for children in the grounds (so plenty to keep them occupied) and dogs are allowed, but not in the castle itself.

There was also a tea room, a gift shop, a shop selling local produce, a second-hand book shop and plant sales.

  • Useful info:
    Chirk Castle,
    Chirk, Wrexham,
    LL14 5AF
    Call 01691 777701
    www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chirk-castle
    Adult: £10.90, Child: £5.45, Family £27.25
    Opening times vary. Call for information.

 

Dee Valley Way Walk

If you like walking, there are lots of walks to choose from as well as local public footpaths. The Dee Valley has a series of waymarked and graded routes taking in the stunning scenery, wildlife and local history. The Dee Valley Way on the north side of the river and North Berwyn Way to the south link Corwen and Llangollen. The routes are 15miles (24km) in total, but you don’t have to do the whole route (we didn’t) – just choose a section and walk as little or as far as you want. There’s so much to see and take in, to rush would be an affront!

 The Llangollen History Trail links interesting historical landmarks through a 6 mile (9.5k) waymarked walk.

  • Useful info:
    Visit www.deevalleywalks.com

 Llangollen Canal Pontcysyllte Aqueduct Walk

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was built in 1805 by Thomas Telford and is a fine example of civil engineering, as well as making a fabulous (if slightly scary!) walk. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it still takes tourists on a canal boat ride on the LLangollen Canal where you can enjoy glorious views down across the valleys and the River Dee. Jones the Boats have an office at the site where you can buy tickets or you can simply experience it as we did, on foot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you don’t have much of a head for heights, it’s probably best not to look down, or at least keep your hand on the rail as you cross. But if you’re feeling brave, do it hands free and experience a real sense of freedom (it’s not called the stream in the sky for nothing!). Exhilarating and fascinating, you can walk across then continue on for 5 miles until you get to Chirk with its Aqueduct . Or simply retrace your steps and treat yourself to an ice-cream afterwards.

If you're more of a serious walker, there are lots of intriguing walks and trails just off the towpaths, including the Ceiriog Valley Walk (which is lovely) and the famous Offa's Dyke Path Following the English/Welsh border for 177 miles alongside the 8th Century Offa's Dyke, a National Trail that takes you through changing landscapes – all 177 miles (285km) of it!

  • Useful info:
    Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
    LL20 7YQ
    Toilets, parking, pub, visitor centre (March-Oct),
    picnic areas, boat hire and trips,
    Offa’s Dyke National Trail

The Tea Rooms Chirk

The icing on the cake(!), this very popular eaterie has had very good reviews. The Tea Rooms at Chirk are a must for those who have just completed a long walk, as well as those who just fancy a cuppa and a cream cake. It welcomes dogs, too, so you can eat outside on the terrace with Pooch at your side.

Chirk itself is a pretty little village with a range of delightful shops plus an irresistible gift and craft shop where we bought two handbags and some earrings!

Housed in a delightful, cosy building with exposed beams, The Tea Rooms’ walls are adorned with black & white framed postcards of Chirk in bygone days, and lovely sepia-toned views that add character and charm. It’s relaxed, informal and cosy inside with a sort of lounge area with sofas and easy chairs!

The staff are cheerful and friendly and spoiled us rotten. We sat in the sunny courtyard with the dog, who was also spoiled with some dog treats. The outside seating provides individual blankets, either to sit on or perhaps wrap round you on chillier days – a really nice touch.

We visited at lunchtime and the tea room was nicely busy but not overcrowded. The menu offers a selection of sandwiches, ciabbata, ploughmans, baked potatoes, cream teas and even chips and breakfasts and uses locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible. The Tea Rooms also offer different sorts of teas (as every good tea room should!) with herbal varieties, green teas, loose leaf.

The food was beautifully presented with very generous portions and excellent service. Veggie options are available, too. I had chicken liver brandy and herb pate with wholemeal toast, onion chutney and mixed leaf salad with a large pot of tea. The onion chutney was the nicest thing I have ever tasted – I should have asked for the recipe!

My hubby had a coronation chicken sandwich with side fries and salad, and my girls had tuna melt paninis with side fires and salad, plus Victorian colas in bottles.

Full to the brim, we took away four large, excellent-tasting, home-baked cakes to eat later as we were on our way home. They went down very nicely on our return with a welcome-home cuppa!

I can’t recommend it enough; if you visit Chirk – go to the Tea Rooms!

  • Useful info:
    The Tea Rooms,
    6 Courtyard Terrace,
    Church Street, Chirk,
    Wrexham
    Call
    01691 898570
    Closed Sunday and Monday, open Tuesday-Saturday 9am-5pm
    Parking available

Note: £69 price quoted in the 'Yours verdict' box refers to a one-night stay at the Wild Pheasant Hotel and Spa in April.