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Best hotels in Monmouthshire 2023: Where to stay for Michelin-starred Welsh cuisine and rural charm

From restaurants with rooms to historic priory hotels, here are the Welsh county’s best stays

Kerry Walker
Thursday 11 May 2023 10:37 BST
Stay at the Angel Hotel, set in a Georgian coaching inn in the heart of Abergavenny
Stay at the Angel Hotel, set in a Georgian coaching inn in the heart of Abergavenny (Angel Hotel)

With the borders of England to the east and the River Severn estuary to the south, Wales is at its most green and giving in the borderlands of Monmouthshire, where the River Wye ribbons through ancient woodlands and past ruined abbeys beloved of Romantic writers, poets and painters.

On the fringes of the remote Black Mountains, castles, priories and Iron Age hillforts nod to a rich past, while hiking trails thread up to wind-rippled, bracken-cloaked moors.

The county also has its fair share of Instagram-worthy towns and villages, such as Abergavenny, Monmouth, Tintern and Chepstow. Known as the “foodie capital of Wales”, Monmouthshire also serves up some of the county’s best food (twinkle, twinkle Michelin star).

In among it all, you’ll find some of the county’s most alluring places to stay, from country hotels hugging riverbanks to medieval priories just a whisper away from the Offa’s Dyke Trail. Plus, of course, many a cracking inn with rooms, where you can fill your boots and rest your head.

Best hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant: The Whitebrook

Location: Whitebrook

The Whitebrook is right at the pinnacle of the Welsh food scene (The Whitebrook)

The woody, river-woven romance of the Wye Valley never seems more thrilling than when you’re wending your way along hedgerowed lanes to this utter stunner of a Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms. The look of the place is a subtle, discreetly stylish mix of country meets contemporary, with muted colours (greys, blues, golds) referencing the brook and valley, wooden floors, plus lots of light and space. The giant sleigh beds are divine, especially after a blowout feast. And, let’s face it, you’re here to eat.

The Whitebrook is right at the pinnacle of the Welsh food scene, with Chris Harrod walking the culinary high-wire in the kitchen, conjuring tasting menus full of clean, bright, unexpected flavours in dishes that make best use of foraged ingredients and heritage veg from the kitchen garden. Wye Valley asparagus cooked over pine embers served with hedgerow pickings and Tintern mead sauce? Day-boat turbot with smoked roe, Jersey royals and estuary veg? Rhubarb with toasted birch wood ice cream, hazelnut and medlar? All sensational.

Price: Doubles from £390, dinner, B&B

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Best hotel for riverside charm: Newbridge on Usk

Location: Newbridge-on-Usk

This 200-year-old country inn has six graceful rooms (Newbridge on Usk)

Tucked away in wooded seclusion on the banks of the Usk River, Newbridge on Usk is a far cry from the glamour of its sister property, the Celtic Manor, the five-star mirage above the M4. Things at this whitewashed 200-year-old country inn are more discreet, with just six graceful rooms dressed in oak and teak, the loveliest of which has an antique four-poster bed and rolltop bath.

All high beams and exposed stone, the gallery-style restaurant is much feted for its unfussy yet imaginative use of kitchen-garden and Welsh produce in season-spun dishes, such as hop-braised leeks with hare ballotine with radish, pickled heritage carrot and anise, and rare-breed Monmouthshire pork belly with liver, scallion, garlic pommes purée, lardons and gremolata. Sit on the terrace to eat like royalty and watch the river babble on by.

Best hotel for Welsh fine dining: The Hardwick

Location: Abergavenny

Stay in one of the eight stylishly understated rooms, complete with Melin Tregwynt textiles (The Hardwick)

It’s restaurants like The Hardwick that have seriously put Abergavenny (and Monmouthshire) on the culinary map. Just south of town on the road to Raglan Castle, this handsome whitewashed inn is the real Welsh country deal, with the rustic trappings, beams, stone fireplace and burnished copper bar to prove it.

With chef Stephen Terry at the helm, the food is sensational (and right up there with Michelin star contenders). Sink a local gin cocktail before trying dishes that sing gustily of Wales and beyond: from ox tongue on grilled sourdough with celeriac remoulade and dandelion in pickled walnut dressing, to trio of Brecon lamb (slow-cooked shoulder, ragout and belly) with Wye Valley asparagus and salsa verde.

After such a feast, you’ll want some quality shut-eye. Cue eight stylishly understated rooms in the contemporary extension, all with sleek oak furnishings, muted colours and eye-grabbing Melin Tregwynt textiles.

Best market town hotel: Angel Hotel

Location: Abergavenny

Right in the heart of Abergavenny, this Georgian coaching inn oozes class (Angel Hotel)

Entered through a courtyard, this dashing Georgian coaching inn right in the heart of Abergavenny looks the business, with a winning mix of period features, modern art from the gallery in town and rich Farrow & Ball colours plastered on the walls.

With its high ceilings and nods to Art Deco glamour, this is one classy place to base yourself – whether you’re here for September’s food festival (in which case, you’d better book now), or a scramble up into the hills (the Skirrid, Sugar Loaf and Blorenge). There’s a Twizy electric car available for guest hire.

Rooms in the main building are all country calm, with soft creams, taupes and greys, Lewis & Wood fabrics and beds draped in the silkiest sheets. Or stay in the revamped stables next door, a Victorian lodge in the grounds of Abergavenny castle, or a beautifully restored 17th-century cottage nearby.

There’s plenty to keep you here, be it afternoon tea in the Wedgewood Room, real ales in the fire-warmed Foxhunter bar, or dinner in the grandly columned, wine-red Oak Room. On the menu? Well-executed classics with a Welsh twist, from seafood platters to dry-aged sirloin steak. Oh, and that gorgeous sourdough bread at breakfast? It’s from their bakery just across the road.

Price: Doubles from £175, B&B

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Best hotel for a rural retreat: Llanthony Priory Hotel

Location: Llanthony

This old-school hotel sits in the ruins of medieval Llanthony Priory (Llanthony Priory Hotel)

If the idea of having no phone signal, wifi or TV sounds like the unplugged dream, you’re going to love this fabulously old-school hotel in the ruins of medieval Llanthony Priory, which was one of the most important abbeys in Wales when built in 1230.

Getting here is half the fun. The bare bones of the Augustinian priory are one of the main sights in the steep-sided, wood-wisped, thrillingly remote Vale of Ewyas, which inspired Turner’s 1794 painting and Bruce Chatwin’s novel On the Black Hill

As for the rooms, four of them are squished into the tower, reached by a spiral staircase. They are fittingly old fashioned, with dark-wood period furnishings and no plumbing (there are two shared showers, kept sparklingly clean).

After a stomp along Offa’s Dyke Path, a ramble in the Black Mountains or a drive over the Gospel Pass, a sky-high single-track lane that whips its way over moors to Hay-on-Wye, the Welsh ales and pub-style classics (beef casserole, chilli, goulash) are extremely welcome in the vaulted croft bar, once the prior’s cellar.

Price: Doubles from £140, B&B

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Best historic retreat: Priory Hotel

Location: Caerleon

Bed down in style at this 12th-century Cistercian monastery (Priory Hotel)

What did the Romans ever do for Caerleon? They made it one of the greatest towns in Britain, that’s what, giving it legionary fort status in the 1st century. Still, today, you can see the vestiges of its ancient past exploring its amphitheatre and baths.

Even better, bed down for the night at this 12th-century Cistercian monastery, redesigned with care and flair, its wood-floored rooms drenched in natural light, sprinkled with antiques and painted in soft contemporary tones of duck egg, dove grey and cream. Pops of lemon and teal, patterned tiles and freestanding bathtubs (some taking centre stage in bedrooms) lend interest and warmth.

The priory is now in the capable hands of the Martinez family, and the restaurant menu has a pinch of Spanish sunshine in dishes such as spinach and Manchego empanada with pine nuts and mountain honey.

Best country pub hotel: The Greyhound Inn and Hotel

Location: Llantrissant (near Usk)

A welcoming inn with roaring fires for winter and flowery gardens for summer (Greyhound Inn)

After a bracing ramble in the hills or a pedal through the Vale of Usk, it’s a joy to rock up at this 18th-century stone-built country inn, midway between the Roman town of Caerleon and Raglan Castle, both 15 minutes’ drive away.

In a converted stable block, the rooms are unfussy but marvellously comfortable, with plaids, florals and soft shades of blue and grey. Things are all set up for hikers, with a drying room for wet kit. Dogs are welcome, too, and the friendly owners will even provide bedding and breakfast for them.

Best of all, however, is the boozer itself, with flowery gardens for lazy summer days, and roaring fires in winter. The food is no-nonsense pub grub: prawn cocktail, jacket potatoes, rib-eye steaks and curries.

Best hotel for culinary credentials: The Bell at Skenfrith

Location: Skenfrith

Head chef Joseph Colman punches high with garden-grown and season-led ingredients (The Bell at Skenfrith)

Under a blanket of wooded hills, The Bell at Skenfrith sits astride the sprightly River Monnow, where Wales slips quietly over into England. And what a delight this handsome 17th-century coaching inn is, framed by rambling kitchen gardens, flower beds and meadows that hum with birds and bees on mellow summer days.

In winter, everyone retreats into the cosy, rustic interior, filled with polished flagstones, oak beams, botanical sketches, blazing open fires and good cheer. This is the countryside proper and walkers and dogs are welcome, with a muddy boot bar and pooch parlour for hosing off post-hike outside.

The Bell’s culinary credentials are impeccable. Head chef Joseph Colman punches high with garden-grown and season-led ingredients in stunning dishes such as Per Las blue cheese brulée with pear, walnut and balsamic (a must) and minted Welsh lamb with confit potato, asparagus and red wine jus. The owners really know their wine, as the carefully curated list reveals (there are even a couple of refreshing whites and rosés from Ross-on-Wye on there).

Named after brown trout fishing flies, the rooms are furnished with flair, all with silky linens, vintage wood furnishings, Welsh wool blankets, heritage prints and summery colours. Nice details include Noble Isle’s toiletries (the Fireside one uses beetroot from the kitchen garden) and homemade shortbread to go with freshly ground coffee. Overlooking the river, the Wickhams Fancy suite is particularly splendid with its four-poster bed.

Oh, and whatever you want – whether it’s a picnic to-go, a pair of wellies, a walking guide or some tips on how to land an enormous brown trout in the river – just say the word.

Price: Doubles from £185, B&B

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Best hotel for Victorian romance: Glen-Yr-Afon House Hotel

Location: Usk

This Victorian villa comes with lovingly tended mature gardens and lots of little neo-Gothic frills (Glen-yr-Afon House Hotel)

This whimsically turreted Victorian villa is ripe for a bodice-ripping novel, with lovingly tended mature gardens for swanning around and lots of little neo-Gothic frills. The stately pile has got “wedding venue” written all over it, but it’s also open to overnight guests.

Here, you’re right in the heart of Usk, reclining on the banks of its namesake river, with a ruined Norman castle and independent shops, pubs and tearooms to explore.

The rooms are done out in cottagey style, with soft colours, florals, flock wallpaper and period furnishings. Some are big enough for families (as is the stable cottage in the grounds). From breakfast served in an oak-panelled restaurant to afternoon tea in the courtyard, everything here is done with a dash of class.

Best gourmet stay: The Walnut Tree Inn

Location: Llanddewi Skirrid

The Walnut Tree Inn (The Walnut Tree Inn)

At the foot of Skirrid and on the cusp of the Black Mountains, The Walnut Tree is as delightful a Welsh inn as you could imagine, with views over hedgerow, wood and mountain, sheep bleating away and twinkly night skies. And its restaurant just happens to have a Michelin star, with one of the country’s most revered chefs (Shaun Hill) shaking the pans.

You come here first and foremost to eat, with kitchen-garden-grown ingredients pepping up finely tuned dishes, such as rack and shoulder of lamb with haricot beans en pistou.

But should you be in no hurry, it’s really worth staying the night in one of two garden cottages (Ivy and The Old Post Office), which riff modern on rustic, with Welsh materials (slate and wool throws), wood-burning stoves and lovingly prepared breakfast baskets (fresh farm eggs, organic apple juice, smoked salmon, locally baked bread and proper coffee).

Price: Cottages (sleeping four to six) from £210, including breakfast basket

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