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Welsh Winter Pubs

Where to while away the hours over Autumn and Winter in Wales? Grab your scarf and keys and let’s go kick some leaves, as we aim to discover the perfect Welsh country pub for a bite to eat in front of a roaring log fire…

The Felin Fach Griffin, Felinfach near Brecon

If you were searching for the definition of the perfect Welsh pub, you’d more than likely be directed 7 miles north-east of Brecon to The Griffin at Felinfach. A pattern of a pub, with fabulous grub, and butter-soft vintage leather sofas. Brothers Charles and Edmund Inkin and team welcome dogs at the bar, and even offer a ‘Not Lunch Not Supper’ menu all afternoon. The home made sourdough is to die for, as is thE Sunday lunch, including meats from nearby Bwlch-based Welsh Venison Centre. Drinks-wise, the emphasis is very much on promoting ales from Mid- Wales, including beers from Brecon Brewing, Waen (Llanidloes) and Monty’s, (Montgomery), but they also bang the drum for sherry, and Welsh gins. It’s also a great pit-stop on the A470, for alcohol-free Stowford Press cider (just over the border from Herefordshire) and kid-friendly Aber Valley apple juice from Talybont on Usk. Just pray for a free sofa and a Sunday supplement! Felinfach, Brecon LD3 0UB; 01874 620111

The White Horse, Hendrerwydd near Denbigh

If you really need to get lost, you’ll probably find yourself at some point at The White Horse in Hendrerwydd. It’s a dreamy gastro-pub that was the old village shop, located halfway between Denbigh and Ruthin. At the bar, take a pew on a customer-designed ‘Baa-Stool’, and savour a pint of the local ale from the local Buzzard Brewery. Or follow chef-owner Jason Stock’s advice, and reach for the Barti Ddu rum and cigar for a hedonistic treat at the heart of the Vale of Clwyd. Dwygyfylchi-born and raised, the Clwydian chef originally raised eybrows by banning cliched ‘pub grub’ like gammon, egg and pineapple from the menu. What you’ll get, however, instead, is ham hock with pickled pineapple and poached egg – and the local neighbours’ new favourite die-hard dish; the salt and pepper confit pork belly with an Asian dressing. A hidden gem well worth discovering; this is a favourite pub of local celeb newlyweds Bryn Williams and Sharleen Spiteri. Hendrerwydd, Denbigh LL16 4LL; 01824 790218

Ye Olde Bull’s Head, Beaumaris Prepared to be amazed with a taste of historical Wales on the Isle of Anglesey. Go for a bracing winter walk on Beaumaris pier and take in the grandeur of Snowdonia across the Menai straits. Then turn back towards the high street and make a beeline for The Bull, that dates from 1472. Face the fabulous gin bar, all jewel colours and stained glass, reminiscent of a Welsh apothecary. Take your pick from an array of botanicals, from sloe and juniper berries to coriander seeds; then mix with glee with Fever Tree, and enjoy the perfect G&T. One of the local Welsh gins is Snowdonia Forager’s Yellow Label with its floral notes of botanicals picked along the North Wales coast. Or try a ‘beer paddle’ of 3 guest ales and let your nearest and dearest know that, with regret, you may be some time. If you’re after some food, you’ve come to the right place; we’re talking more than a packet of crisps and pork scratchings. There is a contemporary brasserie in the coach-house at the back, and a three AA rosette awarded fine dining menu by Chef Andrew Tabberner up in The Loft. Castle St, Beaumaris LL58 8AP; 01248 810329

Tafarn y Plu, Llanystumdwy For a pint of beer with a literary twist, make your way to Llanystumdwy in Eifionydd. A stone’s throw from Tŷ Newydd, National Writing Centre of Wales, you’ll find a pub at the heart of the village; a draw for artists and poets and local farmers and families too, thanks to a bar stocked full of interesting picks and a menu full of hearty home-cooked meals. Ex-journalist landlord Ian Parri is a font of local knowledge, and will happily direct you to the nearby ‘Lôn Goed’; a 5 mile tree-lined rural lane, immortalized by a poem by R. Williams Parry as a paean to the solace of the Dwyfor countryside and the leaf-strewn carpet underfoot. Retire later to the bar for a pint of Brenin Enlli, a local bitter from the Llŷn Peninsula-based craft brewery Cwrw Llŷn. Enjoy with lasagne, cawl or curry ‘half and half ’ – or ‘cyrri hanner a hanner’ to use the local parlance. Iechyd da! Llanystumdwy, Criccieth LL52 0SH; 01766 523276

Y Talbot, Tregaron There aren’t many things in life to beat a perfectly cooked steak, a glass of red wine, and sparkling company. How about adding to that list a table for two in front of a fire, and a stay in a fabulous en-suite bedroom upstairs? I’m sure that many babies were created at Y Talbot in Tregaron, the wild west town near Pumlumon in the Cambrian Mountains. I cannot praise this Welsh pub highly enough, for its warmth and sense of place, and there’s an added ingredient to be found at the kitchen ‘coal-face’. The master hard at work there is Cardiff-born Chef Dafydd Watkin. Before he arrived as the new ‘sherrif ’ in town, he was a protegee of Marco Pierre White, with 15 years of ‘White Heat’ under his belt at the maestro’s restaurants in London. Yes, you’ll find fish and chips on the popular bar menu, but it’s plaice in place of cod. The locals adore the locally-sourced pork-belly, and the banana cheesecake is what dreams are made of. The Square Tregaron SY25 6JL; 01974 298208

The Plough and Harrow, Monk Nash

When you’re suddenly hit by the January blues, walk along Glamorgan’s Heritage Coast Path. Though you may not be up for the 14-mile journey from Penarth to Aberthaw, your interest may be piqued by the 14th Century pub, that’s very much a drink and dining draw. If you’ve yet to experience The Plough and Harrow at Monk Nash, then you’re in for a ravishing treat. A breath of fresh air will do you the world of good, as well as a pint and some seasonal fare. Although located slightly off the beaten track, it is consistently voted one of Wales’ best pubs. Amongst the ales on offer is the Wye Valley HPA, and Celt Brewery’s Native Storm. The hearty Welsh cawl is truly a treat, after a jaunt around nearby Blaen y Cwm Nature Reserve. Or – when in Rome, after all – go for the hearty Glamorgan Sausage. This native vegetarian delicacy is enriched with leeks and Y Fenni cheese. The mustard seeds from the ‘caws’ will warm the cockles of your heart, whilst the crackle of the fire may be a timely reminder that there are worst things than winter in Wales. Monknash, Cowbridge CF71 7QQ; 01656 890209

The Nag’s Head Inn, Garthmyl

Now there are pubs and there are ‘pubs’ – those places that rise above, and win prizes for exceptional standards. The Nag’s Head Inn is a case in point, between Newtown and Welshpool. It’s one of a number of highly regarded Welsh contemporary hybrids of a restaurant with rooms and a historical village inn. The venue, in Garthmyl, next to Aberiw, won the AA award for Pub of the Year for Wales. And indeed, the bar, with its cosy armchairs and log burning stove, is the perfect winter spot with its well stocked array of hand- picked ales. For a taste of something local, definitely go for Monty’s of Montgomery, or perhaps Three Tuns from just a mile over the Welsh border in Bishop’s Castle. Also represented are gins from all over Wales, including Dà Mhìle and Aber Falls. But to pay your respects to Montgomeryshire go for the Dyfi Distillery Original, from Corris. You’d be mad not to book a table at the restaurant – the rhubarb cheesecake is divine – but for a final treat, book a room upstairs. The timeless Laura Ashley designs are another local nod, to the world-famous icon from Carno. Garthmyl, Montgomery SY15 6RS; 01686 640600 The Sloop Inn, Porthgain There are some Welsh pubs you’d prefer to keep to yourself, and then there are others that you just want to shout about until the whole world knows. A trip to the Pembrokeshire harbour village of Porthgain is like stepping back in time, and the Sloop is as cosy as a Pembrokeshire woollen-jumpered hug. There are signs of the old local industry to be found all over the 18th century inn, including vintage red Porthgain bricks. Take a walk from Abereiddi along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path before claiming a pint with your beer- battered cod and chips. Edging closer to spring, choose the Porthgain Crab Salad, including local new potatoes – or ‘tato newi’ from Croesgoch. And if you can’t bear to leave, The Sloop’s cottage sleeps four, and is only a 150 metre walk away. Porthgain, Haverfordwest SA62 5BN; 01348 831449

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