Fancy a break in the countryside away from the stresses of city life? You’ll struggle to find a more relaxed spot than Usk Valley Bed and Breakfast in the Welsh county of Monmouthshire.
As we were served tea and Welshcakes on the lawn on arrival at the B&B, it took us a few minutes to realise what was wrong.
We chatted with the friendly (but never overbearing) owner, Kerry, and watched the resident chickens and hens prowling around the massive garden. Then it hit us – it was so quiet here. Usk Valley B&B is located just off a rarely used lane near the tiny village of Bettws Newydd, so you can’t hear any traffic noise. However, if you listen carefully you can hear the fast-flowing River Usk, which gushes past parallel to the lane.
Kerry’s husband bought her two pet donkeys for her birthday one year, and guests are free to pet and feed Molly and Paddy – there’s a sack of carrots near their field. You can also help yourself to apples from the trees on the lawn.
After our welcome tea and cake, we took our bags to our room – the B&B has three large en-suite rooms each with a terrace in a stand-alone outhouse, so you can come and go as you please and don’t feel as though you are in someone’s house.
That night we hit the (not-so) bright lights of Bettws Newydd, and no – I’ve got no idea how to pronounce it. We had pre-booked a table at the village pub, the Black Bear, at 8pm so had time for a pre-dinner drink at the riverside pub The Chainbridge. Sitting outside, we watched a fly-fisherman at work in the Usk before walking the twenty minutes or so to the Black Bear. We needn’t have booked, as there was only a handful of people in the place when we arrived, and it was deserted when we left at 10pm.
The cooked breakfast the next morning in the main house’s conservatory was excellent with top quality sausages and bacon, not cheap rubbish. After checking out, I wondered why I don’t stay at B&Bs more often rather than formulaic chain hotels. We booked through laterooms and paid £85, but Kerry sad if we’d have booked directly through www.uskvalleybandb.co.uk we would have paid just £80. Now we know for next time.
So that’s the ‘donkey’ part of the title explained, what about day trips?
You’ll need a SatNav to get there, but you should spend time at TV presenter Kate Humble’s (Springwatch) open farm and café ‘Humble by Nature’ in Penallt (NP25 4RP). A working farm, with a fee to see and pet the animals, the highlight is the café where we enjoyed a cracking slice of homemade chocolate cake.
Surprisingly, it had a 1 out of 5 food hygiene rating – in fact we saw plenty of 1s and 2s across Monmouthshire. I don’t know whether this is because the hurdles to jump in Wales make getting a higher rating more difficult than in England, or if there just isn’t the demand from customers to see one. Where I live, you’d only expect to see a rating under 3 at a dodgy late night curry house or kebab shop, notorious for having rats in the kitchen.
The nearest town of any size to the bed and breakfast is Abergavenny, 8-miles away. If you go to this pretty market-town, you should pay a visit to Sugarloaf Vineyards, and sample locally produced white and rosé wines on the terrace overlooking the Sugarloaf, one of seven hills surrounding Abergavenny.
Hikers will be in heaven, as the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons are a short drive away. Although we didn’t get to the Brecon Beacons this time, we did climb the 486m Skirrid Fawr in the Black Mountains, and one of the other six hills surrounding Abergavenny.
The town of Chepstow is on the England/Wales border just inside the Welsh side, and is a 18-mile drive from the B&B. We were lucky with the weather, so enjoyed a leisurely afternoon strolling around Chepstow Castle and along the riverside (Chepstow lies on the River Wye), popping into pub beer gardens and cake shops along the way.
Finally, the B&B is promoting itself as a stop-off for rugby fans going to the six nations at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. Only 30-miles away, the capital of Wales is somewhere I haven’t been for far too long, so I will visit next time I stay at Usk Valley Bed and Breakfast.