Work up an appetite for delicious local delicacies on one of our stunning autumn breaks. Take a wander through the countryside and expect to be welcomed back with a roaring fire and a terrific local tipple. Choose your favourite snug getaway and plan the ultimate restful retreat at one of our homes away from home.
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Ballynahinch Castle, Ireland
Best for… fabulous seafood and outdoor pursuits
About the area: the west coast of Ireland is a magical place of mountains, sea, bog and lakes. Soft drizzle, driving rain and brooding skies make its cosy pubs with traditional music particularly inviting in autumn. It’s also the best time for walks on its deserted white sandy beaches, and for exploring Galway city and pretty Clifden without the crowds.About the hotel: fishing, cycling and mountain hiking are year-round pursuits and at Ballynahinch Castle, waterproofs and wellies are pretty much offered on arrival so you can make the most of the walking trails in the grounds. Join local fisherman John at nearby village Roundstone on a fishing trip – explore the remote, uninhabited island of Inishlacken, spot seals, check lobster and crab pots, then eat the haul for dinner back at Ballynahinch. The castle lobby’s open fire, luxurious bedrooms and welcoming pub are the perfect antidote to the wild outdoors.
Local food highlights: coastal Connemara is known for its seafood and salmon, and pubs serve big bowls of mussels with a hunk of soda bread, or crab sandwiches and Guinness. At Ballynahinch’s Owenmore restaurant, a very comfortable spot overlooking the salmon river and grounds, Irish produce is the star. Local suppliers are name-checked and the menu has a warm informality, advising ‘we throw in a little foraging, wild game and garden herbs when we can’. The walled garden is being restored and already supplies some fruit and veg. Plates are simple and beautiful: Dooncastle oysters served with trout roe, chives and wild flowers; multi-coloured beetroot with goat’s cheese and contemporary touches such as dashi in its cod, mussels and seaweed main course (five-course dinner, £64). Breakfast is generous: carve off slices of honey-roast ham, sample Irish cheeses or a full Irish. Nearby, O-Dowds in Roundstone serves seafood chowder, beef and Guinness stew and Irish craft beer (mains from £12). Galway, Connemara’s food hub, is just over an hour’s drive away.Visit Sheridan’s cheese shop and wine bar; hyper-local Aniar restaurant and cookery school, the relaxed restaurant Ard Bia and myriad pubs.
How to do it
Doubles from £175 a night, or a two-night stay with dinner for two costs from £430, ballynahinch-castle.com.
The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny
Best for… sumptuous bakes and mountain hiking
About the area: the mountains of Monmouthshire are never far from sight in Abergavenny. With such dramatic scenery on its doorstep, it’s no surprise this idyllic location was voted one of the best places to live in the UK.About the hotel: not fortunate enough to have this place as your postcode? The Angel Hotel offers a home from home; its Castle Cottage strikes the right balance of modern luxuries and British home comforts with slate floors, a stone fireplace and Lewis & Wood fabrics. The perfect retreat after a long day’s hill hiking, one final ascent up the winding staircase reveals a decadent master bedroom with views of the Blorenge mountain range on the horizon, and below, a lavender-scented walled garden.
Local food highlights: treats continue down the road at the hotel’s bakery with sourdough loaves lovingly hand-baked and leavened for longer to ensure maximum flavour. But be careful not to spoil your appetite for The Angel’s award-winning high tea: focusing on fragrant East India Company blends, this afternoon ritual offers classic coronation chicken and smoked salmon sandwiches plus mini savoury pastries and quiches, cakes and scones, topped off with a gin and Earl Grey tea cocktail (£30 per person).
Walk off the sugar high on a five-hour circuit of Sugarloaf Mountain. This heather-lined route can be cut in half by starting the ascent from the upper car park. Ambling back to lower ground, stop off at Abergavenny Market for local produce and head to The Market Bakery stall for Welsh cakes straight from the griddle. For fine dining, The Angel’s Oak Room serves elegant starters of sweet watermelon and heritage tomato salad and mains including a Welsh loin of lamb or cod paired with squash gnocchi and girolles dipped in butter sauce (mains from £14).
Warmth and community spirit is prevalent in all corners of Abergavenny, but The Art Shop & Chapel unites the town with shared supper feasts using foraged and garden grown produce. Start the morning in its pretty chapel courtyard feasting on French cinnamon toast and jostaberries (£10), or the spicy shakshuka (£8), but leave room for lunch at Michelin-starred The Walnut Tree (complimentary taxi transfer for Castle Cottage guests). The heavily focused fish menu features a tandoori gurnard with masala sauce, raita and crispy pakora that packs a mighty punch, and fusions continue to flourish with the five-spice duck, artfully presented with soy and sesame sticky rice (mains from £16).How to do it
Angel’s Castle Cottage sleeps four and costs from £95 a night. Take Great Western Railways‘ new high-speed Intercity Express from London Paddington to Newport and change for Abergavenny. Return from £72.90.
Timbrell’s Yard, Bradford-on-Avon
Best for: West Country produce and riverside charm
About the area: just seven miles from Bath, Bradford-on-Avon has all the best bits of its neighbour – honey coloured Georgian buildings, ancient history, independent restaurants and tea rooms galore – without the hordes of tourists. Autumn is a great time to visit, as any summer crowds will have departed and the cosy pubs come into their own. About the hotel: on a top spot overlooking the River Avon, you’ll find Timbrell’s Yard, a revamped coaching inn set in a grade-II listed building with a bar, farm-to-plate restaurant and 17 bedrooms. The luxurious bedrooms range in style from modern to period – either way, opt for one with a river view. On arrival, soft classical music plays from your radio and the warm welcome doesn’t stop there; other touches include complimentary locally made fudge and natural toiletries from Somerset-based Bramley. Enjoy a pre-dinner drink in the stylish bar, grab a seat near the fireplace and sip a regional craft beer or West Country cider (they do excellent cocktails too).
Local food highlights: In the restaurant, ex-River Cottage chef Tom Blake oversees the modern British menu. Provenance is key with meat, eggs, cheese and yogurt sourced from local farmers, and bread, cakes and sauces made in-house daily. Dishes are expertly cooked and portions are generous, with standouts including fall-apart-soft Gloucester Old Spot pork belly with crackling, and decadent desserts such as chocolate & salted caramel tart (mains from £13.50, desserts, £7).
Post-dinner, the best thing is you won’t have to brave the cold night air – simply stagger upstairs to your bedroom. Breakfasts are just as good, with a buffet of yogurt, fruit, croissants and homemade jams to start, followed by a full English with all the usual (top quality) suspects, plus smoky beans and an exceptional slab of bubble & squeak.
Beyond Timbrell’s Yard, there’s plenty to do. Cross over the medieval bridge and you’ll find the Saxon church, and just 10 minutes’ walk away, there’s the 14th-century tithe barn (free; english-heritage.org.uk). Check out the surrounding outbuildings selling crafts, homeware and antiques (a great place to source Christmas gifts), and recharge in the coffee shop or tea room. From there, it’s a half hour stroll through the scenic Barton Farm Country Park to the Avoncliff Aqueduct. Walk back along the towpath and stop off at quirky pub The Lock Inn Café. There’s no shortage of good dining options too, don’t miss the award-winning The Bunch of Grapes, a charming candlelit bistro serving a modern European menu (mains from £15.50). A few minutes’ drive away, The New Inn in Westwood is a toasty country pub with a woodburner, open fire, and a menu of British classics – if you’re lucky, the venison and red wine pie (£13) will be on the menu.
Written by Fiona Forman
How to do it
Double rooms rom £85 a night (timbrellsyard.com).
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Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice for the country they are travelling to.