Geufron Hall offers four rooms and scenic views of sheep-dotted pastures. // © 2014 Geufron Hall
Feature image (above): Situated next to Harlech Castle, Castle Cottage guests enjoy modern rooms and locally sourced, seasonal meals. // © 2014 Natalie Compagno
Wales is a country where history is painted in the landscape. Castles preside over green hills and blue seas while the views from the turrets evoke visions of King Arthur and Camelot. Welsh cuisine, once thought simple, is now interesting and highly regarded. Meals found at humble local inns are often world-class examples of farm to table.
Welsh Rarebits is the region's invite-only hotel association that prides itself on the word "rare." The association’s unique and charming hotels, all situated in or near quaint villages, have incredible food, hands-on proprietors and cozy rooms. After staying at one of these Welsh bed-and-breakfasts, guests leave with a true understanding of the Welsh word "croeso," which means "welcome.”
Castle Cottage in Harlech, Wales
Harlech Castle sits on a steep hill with stunning views of the sea and land. Castle Cottage is located right behind the castle in the heart of the old town. Lucky guests see stunning orange and pink sunsets while wandering around the castle ruins. Castle Cottage's centuries-old stonework and cascading exterior give way to modern rooms with exposed beams and Welsh art. Each of the seven rooms feature luxurious bathrooms with large tubs and heated floors. Dinner is an event with aperitifs and appetizers served in the bar before main courses. The seasonal menu in the dining room features the best of local fare: lobster, crab, sea bass, black bream, smoked salmon from Rhydlewis, Llyn Peninsular dry-cured bacon, Ruthin free-range chicken and Welsh artisanal cheeses.
Geufron Hall in Llangollen, Wales
Geufron Hall looks upon a green valley dotted with sheep and covered with mist that folds into a magical backdrop. The owners are passionate about the property; this was a family home that they converted into a B&B. All guestrooms have DVD players with a library, locally sourced toiletries, rainfall showers and blankets from Melin Tregwynt, the stylish Welsh linen designer.
The sitting room downstairs is glass-enclosed with couches, a freestanding fireplace, books and an honor bar. Dinner is on demand with light fare — homemade soup and bread or Patchwork Cointreau and orange chicken liver pate. Breakfast is a feast, with home-pressed apple juice and jams with bread to star. Be sure to order the "Best of the Bits," which consists of toast smothered in scrambled eggs with salmon, a large slab of country bacon, sauteed mushrooms and tomatoes with a butter balsamic drizzle.
Plas Bodegroes in Pwllheli, Wales
This Georgian country house, located just 1 mile away from the beach, is the perfect retreat to enjoy the sunny climes of Lleyn Peninsula. The main building, surrounded by wisteria and roses, seems like a place a wanderer would stumble upon in the woods, but the interior has the modern decor and comfort found in city hotels.
Plas Bodegroes has 10 rooms, and the rustic chic extends into the dining room where the art is not only on the walls but also outside the windows with the view of the grounds. Chef Chris Chown is highly esteemed for his authentic Welsh fare. Try the breast of organic chicken with butternut squash tortellini and thyme. To really eat like a local, bite into the Welsh rarebit (rabbit) on toasted walnut bread.
Sychnant Pass Country House in Conwy, Wales
Sychnant Pass Country House lies within Snowdonia National Park, less than 3 miles from the picture-perfect castle village of Conwy. Snowdonia is a walker's delight, with seemingly endless vast green hills. Conwy Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the attractions of Bodnant Gardens and Llandudno, a seaside resort and town, lie not far away.
Besides the location, guests are drawn to its large guestrooms, heated swimming pool and top-tier cuisine. The menu features a detailed description of its sources, including local farms, dairies, gardens and butchers. Top marks go to the warm salad of black pudding and chorizo with a poached free-range egg and mustard mayonnaise.
Ye Olde Bull's Head Inn in Beaumaris, Wales
Located just a few steps from Beaumaris Castle, Ye Olde Bulls Head Inn is the perfect place to spend the night after pretending to slay dragons within the castle grounds. Established in 1472, the inn has a long history, with famous guests such as English writer Charles Dickens. The hotel has two different buildings to choose from: the cozy original building with 13 country-style rooms (many named after Dickens' literary characters) or the townhouse with neon art.
The on-site pub is warm, not just from the roaring fire, but also from the friendly people. The hand-drawn cask ales are delightful, as is the Llyn Peninsula crab on toast with crushed peas and avocado in the informal restaurant Brasserie. The fine dining Loft Restaurant won AA Hospitality Award for Welsh Restaurant of the Year Award in 2013.