Ten reasons to visit Monmouthshire, the foodie capital of Wales
Widely considered to be Wales’ gastronomic capital, Monmouthshire is certainly heaven for any foodie, but this beautifully rural and wild county just over two hours from London and can offer some of the most interesting activities and experiences in the country from Michelin star foraged dining to kayaking the rapids of the River Wye.
We look at the ten top reasons why foodies should visit Monmouthshire this year.
1. Enjoy the ultimate foodie weekend at Monmouthshire Food Festival or the Abergavenny Food Festival
Kicking off the event season for foodies young and old is the Monmouthshire Food Festival from 20th to 21st May at the beautiful Caldicot Castle. Bringing together the region’s best chefs and artisan producers, it will host chef demonstrations, talks and hands-on tutorials for all ages including little ones. At the Chefs Theatre, Chris Harrod, owner of Michelin star Restaurant with Rooms, The Whitebrook will join other local chefs in showcasing Monmouthshire’s abundant spring produce whilst experts including renowned forager Henry Ashby will offer hands on talks in the Look and Learn area. This year Guide Dogs Wales will be at the event raising awareness with a series of fun foodie activities performed blindfolded to get an idea of what it’s really like to walk in the shoes of a blind or partially sighted person.
We think the Guardian put it best when they said “Abergavenny is to food as Cannes is to film – an annual festival for spotting rising stars in Britain’s artisan food firmament”. Now in its 19th year, this is one of the leading food events in the UK, with over 200 stalls, 50 ticketed events and 35,000 visitors. Yotam Ottolenghi, Rick Stein, Anthony Bourdain and Thomasina Miers have all made appearances, and so far this year’s line-up includes Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Tom Kerridge and Chris Harrod from Michelin-starred The Whitebrook who will demo along with forager Henry Ashby on Sunday 17th September at 12pm. Get organising an epic weekend in Wales now 16th & 17th September 2017.
2. Go shopping in the beautiful market town of Monmouth
Technically in Wales, Monmouth feels as quaint an English town as Winchester or Oxford. Its riverside setting and compact town centre make it the perfect spot to spend a day trawling the shops, and if you visit on Friday or Saturday you can stock up on the best Welsh produce from the town’s two markets. Take a break for lunch in one of the Monmouth’s lovely courtyards and watch the world go by.
3. Visit a Welsh vineyard
Yes you did hear that right. Wales has vineyards. We’re not saying they’re going to rival Bordeaux any time soon but there’s certainly some drinkable stuff to be found. Take a tour of the vineyards at award winning Ancre Hill (opened by the Duchess of Cornwall), whose wines are organic and biodynamic, or visit the Sugar Loaf vineyards for a self-guided tour followed by cream tea. We can think of worse ways to spend an afternoon.
4. Get cultural at the Monmouth Music Festival
Taking place over nine days starting in July, The Monmouth Festival has been going for an incredible 35 years. With a line-up of iconic music legends, local artists and up and coming talent, and with music ranging from dance to classical and jazz to folk, you won’t be long finding your groove. 28th July – 5th August 2017.
5. Kayak the river Wye
Whether you want to run rapids or lazily cruise down the river, there aren’t many better ways to explore the stunning Wye Valley than taking to the water. If you don’t like the repetition of return trips some of the companies will even collect you at an end point and bring you back to the start by mini bus – that’s after you’ve had a delicious lunch in one of the riverside pubs. Try River Wye Canoe Hire Company for more details.
6. Go for a gourmet escape at The Whitebrook
This Michelin starred restaurant and rooms in the stunning Wye Valley is run by former Le Manoir Chef Chris Harrod. There’s a big focus on local produce, foraged ingredients and organic wines – a meal here is an experience to remember. The Whitebrook’s rooms are luxuriously decked out and oh so tranquil foodie paradise. With dinner bed and breakfast rates for the week priced from £278, The Whitebrook represents excellent value.
Top 10 Foodie Hotels, Ultimate 100 British Hotels, Sunday Times Travel
Top 50 UK Restaurants, Waitrose Good Food Guide
7. Visit a working farm and learn some rural skills
Ever felt that you missed your calling to be a sheep-shearer, pig-rearer or animal midwife? Now’s your chance to see what you’ve been missing. Monmouthshire has some great working farms that you can stay on and learn some new skills. Humble by Nature has almost 40 different courses to choose from and some properly luxe accommodation. The welcome hamper and fire pits for outdoor cooking are the icing on the cake.
8. Fall in love with apples at the Welsh Perry and Cider festival
Now in its 16th year with over 3,000 visitors expected, the Welsh Perry and Cider Festival takes places at the gorgeous Caldicot Castle. Expect well over 100 ciders and perrys to choose from (good luck getting through them), live music and some very good festival food. A cider lovers’ dream. 26th – 29th May 2017.
9. Get your walking boots on
The Wye Valley is packed full of stunning walks, through wooded glades, ancient ruins and river meadows. Choose from a multitude of trails of varying routes and distances, or go all out and attempt The Wye Valley Walk – 136 miles from Chepstow in Monmouthshire to the slopes of Plynlimon in Powys, criss-crossing the border between England and Wales. Serious walkers only need apply.
10. Indulge your sweet tooth with some Welsh treats
After all that walking you’ll need to get your energy back. Search out some Wye Valley ice cream from Brooke’s, made with milk and cream from their pedigree Jersey cows, in flavours like Welsh Gold (Honeycomb), Cointreau and Orange, and Almond Praline. Too cold for ice-cream? Visit Ben’s Bakes for some Bara Brith (fruit cake) or Welsh Tea Cakes. Or both.