If you have an aversion to all things pink and fluffy, loathe ‘L’ plates and feather boas, and prefer butlers with their clothes firmly on, your tummy might turn when you get that invite to a hen party WhatsApp group.
If an alternative style hen party is more your vibe then Wales is your playground. There are plenty of activities offering a welcome departure from the debauchery associated with traditional hen parties, covering budgets from Harry and Meghan to Gretna Green. Think retreats in the wilderness, serene SUP sessions, vineyards in the Welsh version of Napa Valley and even a gothic castle ghost hunt. Read on for some serious bachelorette inspo.
Wales’ answer to Bordeaux
Your gal pals might know their Merlot from their Malbec, but do they know how many wonderful wines are created right here in Wales?
Weekends abroad in the wine regions of France and Italy are costly and unnecessary when plenty of Wales’ most beautiful vineyards offer wine tasting and tours right here. The lush Pembrokeshire National Park surrounds Cwm Deri Vineyard, where wine tasting, wine making, afternoon tea and restaurant dining are all available. There are group packages to suit every price point, starting from just £7 per person. So there we have it, Provence for a pittance.
A ghoulish ghost hunt at Craig y Nos Castle
If you’re after a sleepover of the sinister variety, this Victorian gothic castle is known as the most haunted in Wales. Once a sanatorium for children with TB, it was also the former estate of acclaimed 19th century opera singer, Adelina Patti - once one of the world’s most famous women. The slab room where Patti's body was embalmed is situated in the Castle’s cellar.
According to television's Most Haunted crew, the salt cellar houses a "particularly nasty guy” and if your party can brave some serious ghost-hunting, overnight paranormal investigation events are open to those who dare. Complete with scientific and spiritual experiments carried out throughout the night, this is not one for the easily spooked.
And if all that ghoulish activity causes a thirst, rest assured that the castle’s Cross Bar offers warming spirits of a welcome variety and the tour includes a full breakfast late the next morning.
The ‘Zen’ Party
Say so-long to socially awkward scenarios and overbearing ‘organised fun’ at The Zest Life. Hen weekends take place at Plas Cadnant, Gwynedd, in a stylish, secluded country house on the Isle of Anglesey. Hen guests are often meeting for the first time, and the experience can help connect erstwhile strangers. Nestled in 21 acres of private parkland with views over Snowdon, a meandering river, magical waterfalls and lazy meadows provide the perfect backdrop for outdoor yoga sessions. Other activities on offer include zip lining, kayaking, coasteering, mountain biking, horse riding, wild swimming and bushcraft survival skills, as well as holistic activities like reiki and massage. Namaste.
Workshops with flower power
If your hen is a platform to celebrate your creative, fun and feminine side, a flower arranging workshop might be just the ticket. Master your own romantic bridal bouquet as you’re taught the techniques behind hand-tied marvels of flora and fauna. Love, Lily Flower School is situated in the picturesque market town of Abergavenny. There at the design studio, groups of up to fifteen can surround themselves with the scent of fresh flowers and work to create floral magic. With a variety of packages available Love, Lily can provide all materials, flowers and sundries, as well as catering, refreshments and even champagne.
Picture perfect Portmeirion
Filled with fantastical Italianate-inspired houses and ornate gardens, the pretty pocket of madness that is Portmeirion is a village like no other. Expect enviably Insta-worthy backdrops, lovely enough to convince family back home you’ve spent the weekend in Florence. Stay the night at the waterfront Hotel Portmeirion, and enjoy their a la carte menu and a d'hôte menu that changes daily. The hotel’s Mermaid Spa also offers relaxation packages, complete with massages and clay and seaweed facials, starting from £55 per person.
Adventure on the Wye
Canoe, Kayak or SUP (that’s stand-up paddleboarding) your way along the idyllic River Wye and enjoy a truly unspoiled stretch of river. You can paddle for a few hours or days, setting up camp along the way. Paddlers report sightings of kingfishers, sandmartins, herons, grebes and even the occasional otter. Ideal for beginners, the route has only a few small rapids. From the Wye Valley Canoe Centre in Glasbury it takes just three hours to paddle downstream and reach the small market town of Hay, where there are plenty of hostelries serving up a sumptuous lunch to reward your efforts.
The watersports centre is now complete with a modern luxury bunkhouse situated in the chapel next door. It sleeps groups of up to 14 and features creature comforts including modern bathrooms, power showers, a woodburning stove, comfy sofas and even a slide for hens to get down to the ground floor. Nibbles or supper on arrival, breakfast, packed lunches, lunches and evening meals can all be pre-ordered next door at The River Café.