As we launch our Green Traveller's Guide to the Wye Valley, Jackie King picks out a selection of characterful places to stay in this glorious Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the English/Welsh border.
The Wye Valley is awash with truly welcoming places to stay, from B&Bs where the owner pays you special attention and may even conjure up your own choice of breakfast, to charming hidden inns with log fires and candles. There is such an abundance of excellent local produce from the Welsh section of the Wye Valley AONB that we focus on in this guide that it is no surprise to find one of the country's best restaurants with rooms right here. What better than to top off a first-class meal with a luxurious sleep in a splendid bedroom just a few steps away?
Chateau Terrace B&B
Homely B&B in a Georgian townhouse with views of Chepstow Castle thrown in. Have a restorative cup of tea on the balcony overlooking the Castle and the Wye Valley, knowing that you and your dog and your bikes will be equally well looked after. The double has a two-seater sofa so you can relax in your own space. A 9-minute walk from Chepstow train station. chateauterracebandb.co.uk
Inn at Penallt
With a relaxed vibe and a big welcome, the 17th-century farmhouse-turned-inn is child- and dog-friendly, has two AA Rosettes and won the AA Pub of the Year in 2012. Rooms are cosy rather than capacious and a plate of homemade Welsh cakes to go with your tea hit the right note on arrival. Two rooms are in the separate barn and two at the inn. The bar is cosy with a wood burner and if you like to keep things informal you can eat by the fire. There are a restaurant and conservatory, too. From Chepstow train station the number 65 bus is the quickest, taking about 45 minutes. facebook.com/pg/innatpenallt
For a full-on foodie break, head for Wales’s first restaurant with rooms and one of only a handful of places with a Michelin star. Set amid wooded hills, brooks, and Wye Valley loveliness, The Whitebrook is a mecca for those who like to combine a stay with an outstanding food experience. Many of the rooms are newly refurbished and have sumptuous double-ended baths and top of the range mattresses. Rooms 5, 6, 7 and 8 are smaller and all have a garden view. Menus feature innovative dishes and foraged food – maybe suckling pig with wild onions and caramelised celeriac or Brecon partridge with quinoa, hedgerow herbs and baked apple. thewhitebrook.co.uk
Traditionally furnished, woodburner-ed, spacious cottage with a very pretty large cottage garden and patio. Helen the owner has recently installed a biomass boiler and solar panels for low impact toastiness. She can arrange baggage transport for hikers and doesn’t mind if you bring your dog. There are two pubs within a mile that both do food and are dog friendly, too. There is plenty to explore – this area is said to have more castles per square mile than anywhere in Europe and there are plenty of food markets too where you’ll find Welsh lamb for the BBQ, heritage varieties of fruit and veg and Welsh wines and ciders. Next door, equally pretty Dolly’s Barn for 2 can be hired too – perfect for mixed age groups. monmouthshireholidaycottage.com
The Chicken Shed
The building was once home to chickens and they’d not recognise it now… the “radically repurposed agricultural shed” is now elegant, light-filled and with huge windows set into its cedar-cladded exterior. What a great combination of innovative architecture, head-clearing space and great views; the Chicken Shed is set on a ridge between Monmouth and Chepstow. It sleeps 8 in four bedrooms, all with gorgeous Welsh blankets; there are two en suites and one family bathroom, along with an open plan living area and a snug with its own large sofa and TV. Underfloor heating keeps everything toasty in this super stylish base that’s perfect for a big group. thechickenshedatparkhouse.com
Your surroundings positively hum with happy wildlife and the birdspotting opportunities are manifold. Unsurprisingly, Tre-gagle is a designated Local Wildlife Site and the setting is appropriately peaceful and unspoilt. At Robin’s Barn you’re sure to be drawn to the view – expansive and stunning – and all around there are 12 acres of wooded countryside and unforgettable walking. Inside find a spiral staircase, colourful sofas atop wooden floor, pretty rugs, woodburner, one double and one single room. Books, games and logs are left for you so you’re set up well for less sunny days, too. robinsbarn.co.uk
Tintern Abbey Cottage
A brilliant little base just across the road from the majestic Tintern Abbey – what a view! The cottage was winner of the Best Self Catering Place to Stay in Wales in 2010 and you’re sure to slip into the comfort of the 18th-century home very easily. There are three bedrooms and two bathrooms and a sweet little sheltered garden bursting with planting that attracts wildlife and fragrant with lavender and santolina. Tintern is a popular spot thanks to its rich history and you’ll be spoilt for choice at mealtimes – find pubs, cafes, hotels and even a vineyard and microbrewery! The cottage is brilliantly set up for little ones and is very family friendly. monmouthshirecottages.co.uk