The Food Capital of Wales
If there’s one thing that sets Monmouthshire apart as a top Welsh tourism destination- it’s an endlessly varied and vibrant culinary scene.
Monmouthshire easily lives up to its billing as the Food Capital of Wales. Not content with hosting the UK’s largest annual food festival in Abergavenny, Wales’ Culinary Capital continues to add to its roster of local producers with an ever-expanding list of independent bakeries, breweries, distilleries and even the odd meadery.
Having utilised the same traditional fermentation methods for over a century, Wigmore’s Bakery in Monmouth is a Welsh institution, while the Angel Bakery in Abergavenny serves up a delicious pastry and coffee combo. Other highly regarded local producers include the Preservation Society (local chutneys, syrups and preserves) and Brooke's Wye Valley Dairy Co (artisan Welsh ice creams and cheese).
One of the newest producers on the scene is The Crafty Pickle, which creates delicious vegan sauerkrauts and kimchis (with a percentage of all sales going towards addressing food insecurity).
Have you got the need for mead?
Once the tipple of choice for thirsty druids and monks, mead is making a comeback thanks to Wye Valley Meadery, who harvest honey from their own beehives to put a modern twist on this ancient favourite.
If real ales are more your speed be sure to seek out Untapped Brewing Co and Kingstone Brewery, or head to Apple County Cider near Skenfrith to sample the talents of award-winning cider producer Ben Culpin. There’s also the Silver Circle micro-distillery, home to an array of small batch spirits and cocktails, and the White Hare in Usk.
We wouldn’t blame you for not immediately thinking ‘wine’ when someone mentions Wales, but Monmouthshire has four vineyards. What’s more, White Castle vineyard recently became the first Welsh wine producer to win gold at the Decanter World Wine Awards for their pinot noir reserve 2018.
Fine Welsh dining
Of the five Michelin stars currently held in Wales, Monmouthshire is home to two. The Walnut Tree Inn has been a cornerstone of fine Welsh dining since veteran chef Shaun Hill took the helm back in 2008. That it has retained its Michelin star for the past nine years running is a testament to Shaun’s endless creativity.
Chef Chris Harrod, who made it all the way to the banquet of 2018’s Great British Menu, has led The Whitebrook to high acclaim and a coveted Michelin star. There’s also The Hardwick, named the best gastropub in Wales at the 2021 Estrella Damm awards.
After all that food you’ll need to work off some calories. The landscape here has been shaped by water so there are many opportunities for wild and open water swimming (stay safe and opt for a guided session with Swim Wild Wye). Monmouth-based Inspire2Adventure offer a variety of land and water-based activities ranging from stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) and kayaking to gorge scrambling and rock climbing.
Retreat further into the forest and try your hand at woodland yoga or Shinrin Yoku (Japanese forest Bathing) with Forest Retreats.
This is also great walking country and Monmouthshire has become increasingly popular with ‘leaf peepers’ during autumn months. The mighty Offa's Dyke Path National Trail cuts a meandering trail across the landscape, serving up beautiful views over the Wye Valley from Chepstow and Tintern to Monmouth, as well as towards the Black Mountains in the north.
Much more walking inspiration is available via the Visit Monmouthshire walking page.
Monmouthshire is also a top spot for stargazers - there are five official Dark Sky Discovery Sites, three of which are castles (Abergavenny, Caldicot and Skenfrith).
Rich with ancient history
This is a landscape steeped in history and, as you might expect from the birthplace of Henry V, home to nine castles. History buffs should try the Three Castles Walk, a 19-mile circular route linking in the medieval castles of Grosmont, Skenfrith & White Castle.
Towering above the banks of the River Wye, the spectacular ruins of Tintern Abbey provide a glimpse of its former architectural majesty - an inspiration for both Wordsworth and Turner. Similarly, it is clear to all those who encounter the 900 year-old ruins of Llanthony Priory why this was considered one of Wales’ great Medieval buildings.
Spend the night
Whitebrook has rooms on site and there are self-catering properties beside the Walnut Tree if you can’t bear to tear yourself too far from their respective kitchens. The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny has been named one of the 100 top hotels in the UK while both The Bell at Skenfrith and the Llanthony Priory Hotel are included in the Good Hotel Guide.
Prefer sleeping under the stars? Hidden Valley Yurts boasts a small group of streamside Mongolian Yurts. Other quirky options include the luxury Alachigh tents at Penhein Glamping and family-friendly canvas tents at Seven Hills Hideaway.