A peek behind the scenes at one of Wales’ passionate food and drink producers is the perfect way to spend a summer’s day
Tourists will flood the nation’s beaches and beauty spots this summer in search of the dream staycation. And many of Wales’ food and drink producers will be on hand to deliver the brilliant days out they desire by welcoming curious visitors to see how they make their wares.
Food tourism was already on the rise in Wales, driven by a growing interesting in understanding how our food and drink is made, and many businesses were developing visitor experiences. But amid the ongoing pandemic and with most people in the UK still opting not to holiday abroad, many more firms are exploring the benefits of welcoming tourists.
Alongside growing revenues from paid tours, gift shops and cafes, producers can also connect directly with customers and highlight its passion for its products and explain its heritage and quality in detail, which in turn allows it to build its brand away from the pressures of finding third-party stockists.
Celteg wines is a family business that has been producing handcrafted, award-winning fruit wines, Welsh medieval mead wine, liqueurs, spirits and preserves since 1989 using recipes passed down the generations. At its site in Henllan, Llandysul, Ceredigion, visitors can interact with the producers on a tour of the facility to understand the wine-making process. There’s also the chance to savour the flavours at its on-site bistro and explore the neighbouring garden centre, Bedwen Plants, from which it sources some of its bistro’s ingredients.
Glen Gair, who takes care of Celteg’s marketing, says visitor experiences are an important part of the business and have been an increasing focus since Covid. “It’s the most authentic means in which we can currently connect with customers and highlight who we are as a business,” he says. “Prior to the pandemic, we were primarily touring trade shows and markets in order to promote the brand and make those vital connections.” With the Welsh government stating it expects Wales to benefit directly from a rise in domestic UK tourism in future years, Celteg decided to expand its premises and focus on attracting visitors.
Gair says that many of Celteg’s guests are hobbyist winemakers who have a “shared interest in the craft and often want to hear about our journey and how that production process has developed or changed over time. We love having those conversations and we love to help people discover the craft of winemaking and to show how diverse and accessible it truly can be.” And that’s exactly the kind of unique experience on offer around Wales.
Over in Cardigan another historic craft can be explored at St Dogmeal’s Y Felin. It is one of the last working water mills in Wales, having been restored to full working order by its current owners, the Hall family. It now produces a range of traditional flours using organic, biodynamic and heritage grain that is stoneground using only traditional methods and machinery, some of which is hundreds of years old.
Tours of the mill offer an insight into traditional milling, which lives on through the master miller’s youngest daughter Emma. A visit is educational, fun and beautiful - the watermill is within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and adjacent to a 12th-century abbey. Visitors can even feed the waterfowl on the pond and discover Y Felin’s selection of flours and other local produce at the mill shop.
Gwenyn Gruffydd decided to follow his dream of keeping bees in 2010. Now he makes award-winning, 100% pure Welsh Wildflower Honey from his base at Bryn Bach farm in the Tywi Valley, Carmarthenshire. Alongside his passion for making honey, Gruffydd is trying to reverse the decline of the honeybees by promoting the benefits of sowing wildflower seeds to provide valuable food and shelter for all bees and pollinators.
And he loves to share his passion for sustainable beekeeping with others. Visitors can join him at the farm for relaxed, fun and informative beekeeping experiences. On offer is a full-day introduction to beekeeping training aimed at those who want to start keeping bees, while a 90-minute hands-on beekeeping experience is suitable for individuals and families wanting to get a taste of the process.
Farm visitor centres are a great way to experience how food finds its way from the field to plates. There are many across Wales but among the finest are in North Wales. The Rhug Estate covers 12,500 acres from Gwyddelwern in the north, Carrog to the east, Cynwyd to the south and Maerdy to the west and includes a 6,700 acre in-hand organic farm in Denbighshire at its heart - one of the largest organic farms in the UK. The estate has overnight camping and a walking route for visitors to enjoy the landscape and farm but foodies should head to its farm shop, which sells 3,000 products including Rhug Organic meat.
A visit to Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, near Colwyn Bay, will reveal its family run farm shop highlighting the best in products from north Wales, alongside a restaurant and rooms so guests can linger in foodie heaven. Further east, the Harwarden Estate is home to a pub, restaurant and farm shop. The shop sits in thousands of acres of working farmland and champions food grown in the land around it.
Caernarfon is also home to the Pant Du Vineyard, located at the foot of Mount Snowdon on the slopes of the Nantlle Valley, which offers tours and wine tastings, and has an on-site shop. Over in Anglesey is the Red Wharf Bay vineyard, which offers two-hour tours conducted by the owner, including wine tastings.
Gin is still the top UK palate tickler. And lovers of the spirit in south Wales should head to Hensol Castle Distillery, which creates small-batch craft gin in the cellar of 17th-century castle Hensol Castle in the Vale of Glamorgan where a new tour and a gin-making experience is launching in September. Hensol is just a stone’s throw from Cardiff, so city breakers and city dwellers alike can get involved in the gin action.
The tour will kick off with a G&T, before a gin expert guides visitors through the distillery relating the history of the brand and the castle, before heading to the botanicals room to touch, smell and understand where botanicals come from and how they are used before viewing the 500-litre copper still “Big Ben” and tasting some gin. The gin-making experience will allow guests to design, distil and bottle and their own spirit.
Head from Hensol to the Rhondda for sweet treats. Chocolate House, at Rhondda Heritage Park mining museum in Pontypridd, which makes award-winning luxury chocolate on site. You can get a taste at a chocolate tasting session or sign up for a workshop designed to reveal the mysteries of chocolate-making from bean to bar before guiding guest to hand-roll, hand-dip and decorate their own treats.
In south-east Wales, Tintern, which has long been drawing tourists to its historic abbey and offering respite to those walking in the beautiful Wye Valley, wine-lovers can add a visit to Parva farms to their sight-seeing agenda. Privately owned and run by Colin and Judith Dudley, the vineyard produces award-winning wines and meads such as Tintern Parva Bryn Heulog, a dry white, Tintern Parva Dathliad, a sparkling wine, and Tintern Parva Spicy Welsh Mead.
A self-guided tour of the vineyard is available all year round and, as well as a look at how grapes are grown in Wales, spectacular views over the Wye valley come as an added bonus, as are free wine tastings. Visitors can also linger and enjoy the views at picnic tables - which are also welcome on the tour - and browse in the shop, which stocks local cider and perry, jams, chutneys and marmalades and honey from the Wye Valley, alongside its own wines.
Gair, of fellow wine-maker Celteg, says tours and visitor experiences are part of the way Welsh business have been ‘adapting to the times’. Their efforts - and the efforts of many other food and drink producers in Wales - mean that visitors can look forward to some truly tasty days out this summer.
Experience great Welsh food and drink
You can visit Celteg wines at Henllan, Ceredigion, SA44 5TD, from Monday to Saturday, 9am-5pm, no booking necessary (bistro serving times 11am-3pm). celticwines.co.uk
Y Felin can be found at Mill St, St Dogmaels, Cardigan, SA43 3DY. It is closed on Sundays and Wednesdays, and open 10am-1pm and 2pm to 4pm on other days. Email email@example.com or call 07825 250 562/07760 273 822 for more details. www.y-felin.com.
Courses take place at Bryn Bach, Cwrt Henri, Dryslwyn, Sir Gaerfyddin, SA32 8SE and can be booked online at gwenyngruffydd.co.uk.
Bodnant Welsh Food
Visit the farm shop at Tal-y-Cafn, LL28 5RP, open Monday-Saturday, from 9.30am-5pm and Sunday 10am-4pm). Call 01492 651100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. www.bodnant-welshfood.co.uk
The estate can be found at Corwen, Denbighshire, UK, LL21 0EH Rhug Estate Organic Farms. The farm shop is open Monday to Thursday and Sunday from 9am-5pm, Friday and Saturday, from 8.30am-5pm. Call 01490 413000 or email email@example.com rhug.co.uk
Hawarden Estate Farm Shop
Find the estate in Flintshire, Wales, CH5 3FB. The farm shop is open. Monday- Friday, 9am-10pm, Saturday, 8.30am-10pm, Sunday, 9.30am-10pm. Call 01244 533442 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rhondda Heritage Park Museum is at Coedcae Rd, Pontypridd CF37 2NP. The Chocolate House shop and cafe is open Tuesday to Saturday, 9am-4.30pm. Workshops and tasting sessions can be booked online. Call 07834900978 or email email@example.com www.chocolate-house.co.uk
Pant Du Vineyard
Find the vineyard at Ffordd Y Sir, Penygroes, Caernarfon, Gwynedd, LL54 6HE. Tours, private parties and wine tastings and can be booked online. Call 01286 881819 or email firstname.lastname@example.org www.pantdu.co.uk
Red Wharf Bay Vineyard
Discover the vineyard at Llain Gam, Lon y Traeth, Pentraeth, Anglesey, LL75 8YG. Tours by arrangement. Call 0791 999 4530 or email info@RedWharfBayVineyard.co.uk www.redwharfbayvineyard.co.uk
Hensol Castle Distillery
Visit the distillery at Hensol Castle Cellars, Hensol, Vale of Glamorgan, CF72 8JX. Gin tours start from 4 September and gin making experiences from 11 September. Book online at www.hensolcastledistillery.com or call 01443 665893.
You can find Parva Farm at Main Road, Tintern, Chepstow NP16 6SQ. It is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and open 12pm to 5pm on other days. Tours can be arranged outside these times by contacting the farm beforehand. Self-guided tours only while Covid restrictions remain.
*Please contact all venues prior to travel to check opening times.