Within 30 miles of ‘Aber’ (as it’s fondly known by the Welsh) lies the market town of Rhayader. The first town on the River Wye, Rhayader is home to the spectacular dams and reservoirs of the Elan and Claerwen Valleys, making it the perfect base for the whole family to experience the stunning outdoor attractions and vistas the area has to offer. This whole region of Wales is blessed with natural beauty so if you’re making the journey between Aberystwyth and Rhayader, you’ll need some sustenance en route as you take in the views. Here’s five of the best foodie stop offs along the way.
There’s not a tired service station sarnie in sight.
Located just off the sea front on Pier Street, this Aberystwyth deli and restaurant is something of a local institution. Offering an impressive selection of artisan Spanish food and drink, Ultracomida’s fusion of continental fare and Welsh warmth and hospitality is an absolute winner. And fortunately for us they also have outposts in Narbeth and Cardiff (Curado Bar) too.
What should you try? The bacalao con hinojo – baked salt cod with roasted fennel and aioli – is a zinger of a combination, perfect after a leisurely walk by the sea. Their wine list is also extremely impressive and visitors are evangelical about the hot chocolate.
Llanfihangel y Creuddyn: Y Ffarmers
Re-opening in April 2019, Y Ffarmers’ ethos is to “offer good quality food, using local and seasonal produce where possible”, an approach that we’re sure contributed towards its inclusion in the prestigious Michelin Guide. Situated in the picturesque surroundings of the ancient parish of Llanfihangel y Creuddyn (just seven miles from Aberystwyth), this acclaimed village pub is a local treasure. Soak up the homely atmosphere provided by cosy nooks, original fireplaces and local art while treating yourself to one of the many niche craft gins and rotating selection of real ales.
What should you try? The pan seared pigeon breast, toasted sweetcorn, sweetcorn puree with bacon crumbs and a blueberry reduction is a starter that is as delicious as it is unique.
Pisgah: Halfway Inn
The Halfway Inn is far more than a local pub. Hailed by residents and tourists for being a must-visit destination, this much loved roadside country boozer and B&B seems to have it all. Gorgeous panoramic views of the surrounding Rheidol Valley. Check. Service that feels like it’s from an old friend. Check. Resident donkeys. Yes, really. Halfway between Aberystwyth and Devil's Bridge (hence the name), the Inn features flagstone flooring, stone walls, settles and a toasty log fireplace.
What should you try? The steak – when the safe choice is this succulent, you won’t get food envy.
Devil’s Bridge: Sarah Bunton
Sarah Bunton is an artisan chocolatier who has set up camp in Devil’s Bridge in the Cambrian Mountains. Stop by and watch the team of professional chocolatiers create their award-winning handmade chocolates and fudge through the purpose-built window in the chocolate workshop. When it’s time for a treat, there’s an expansive selection of luxury chocolates, including mallow spoons, candy frogs, hot chocolate stirrers, and more. If the open road is calling, there’s an adjoining take-away kiosk, serving sweet-toothed visitors Welsh ice creams, hot drinks and light snacks.
What should you try? The salted caramel artisan chocolate bar is an indulgence you need in your life.
Rhayader: Old Swan Tea Rooms
The tea rooms are located in a building in the centre of the market town of Rhayader that has its origins way back when in 1676 (it was one of two inns in Rhayader at the time). Head there in the morning to fuel up with a selection of fry-ups and omelettes ahead of a day exploring the Elan and Claerwen Valleys. And in the afternoon their popular Welsh afternoon tea, featuring Bara Brith and Welsh cakes is a welcome pit stop.
What should you try? You can’t leave without trying their twist on Cawl, a signature Welsh dish made with root vegetables, broth, and meat – traditionally lamb, but the Old Swan Tea Rooms has put their spin on it with chicken.