I cannot tell you how excited Tor and I were at the prospect of getting to visit Wales. Located east of England, most people recognize “Wales” when it comes to Princess Diana’s title as Princess of Wales. Wales has a lot of royal history attached to it, filled with proud Welsh residents who love their beautiful and abundantly green country. Together with Visit Britain and Visit California in a “royal influencer exchange”, Tor and I got to explore some of these royal connections for our weekend in Wale in a lead-up to the royal wedding.
Wales had been on our bucket list for a while. It’s a country that not many talk much about, and not many bloggers have ventured out to it. One reason why I do what I do is to bring people to some places they may not have thought about visiting before (Iceland and Finland are prime examples), so when the opportunity came up to visit Wales, we leaped for joy. I’ve been reading about the royal history of Wales for years and now this was my chance to finally put everything I’ve read about into perspective. With the capital Cardiff being only a 2 hour drive from Heathrow, we hopped into our rental car from Hertz and off we went on our 4-day weekend in Wales.
Our first stop on our weekend in Wales was Cardiff. Located in southern Wales, it’s the bustling capital city that is filled with people, pubs, castles, and a few luxury hotels. We had the pleasure of staying at the only 5-star hotel in the city – The Principal St. David. It towers over Cardiff Bay, giving guests a panoramic view of the city and beyond from it’s sky high floors. For our first night, we dined downstairs at the Admiral St. David restaurant. It was quick to notice that the restaurant (and hotel!) is very popular with locals looking for a weekend escape in the city. After dining on some delicious shrimp and sea bass, we took in one last sunset view of the city on our private terraces before falling asleep in our cozy bed.
The next morning, after a hearty breakfast downstairs in the dining room where the sun began to make her debut, we got ready for our first day of exploring Wales. Our first stop? A little village called St. Fagans. Only about 10 minutes from Cardiff city center, we drove our Hertz car to the village and stopped at a picturesque chapel. The chapel ended up being across the street from St. Fagans Castle, an Elizabethan manor that is now home to the Museum of Wales. Feeling in the mood for a castle visit, we hopped back in the car and drove back towards Cardiff to explore the famous Cardiff Castle. This was one castle I had been anxious to visit. As someone who has been passionately reading about the Wars of the Roses, I felt a bit giddy to see it in person. If you have seen The White Queen, you may recognize these names. This castle used to belong to the Beauchamp family. Anne Beauchamp was the daughter of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. When Richard and his son (as well as his son’s daughter) died, his daughter Anne’s husband Richard Neville became the new Earl of Warwick and so the castle was also passed to him through his marriage to Anne. Richard Neville and Anne had two daughters – Isabel and Anne Neville. When Richard Neville was killed in the Wars of the Roses at Barnet, his eldest daughter Isabel inherited the castle and title, with her husband George, Duke of Clarence (brother to King Edward IV of England) taking possession of them both through marriage. After Isabel died in childbirth and her husband the Duke of Clarence was executed for treason, the castle was passed to Isabel’s younger sister Anne. Anne was married to Richard, Duke of Gloucester (youngest brother of King Edward IV) and so he became the new owner of Cardiff Castle. For those who don’t know, Richard went on to become the infamous King Richard III, with Anne Neville his queen. After Anne died of illness and Richard was killed by the future King Henry VII in the final battle of the Wars of the Roses, the new king Henry VII bestowed the castle upon his uncle Jasper Tudor. After Jasper died, Henry VII then bestowed Cardiff Castle to his second son – little Prince Henry, Duke of York – the future King Henry VIII of England.
After wandering the historic grounds of Cardiff Castle, it was time for us to continue our weekend in Wales in Abergavenny. After checking in at the Angel Hotel, we popped in next door to famous milliner Alison Tod. I absolutely adore fascinators and couture hats, and with the royal wedding being just a week away from our visit, we got to speak to Alison about her process for designing hats for a few royal wedding guests. While she couldn’t reveal the names of the guests she was designing for, she hinted with a smile that they were close to Prince Harry. She had also previously designed hats for guests attending the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Now I am wishing she could have designed hats for my guests at my own wedding two years ago! We got to play around in her shop with some of her most iconic and most elaborately couture headpieces, which pleased my inner fashionista’s heart. If I could have an excuse to wear a gorgeous couture hat every day, I’d definitely find one.
When our shop visit came to an end, we popped back next door at our hotel for The Angel Hotel’s famous afternoon tea. They were kind enough to give us a spot by the fireplace as we indulged in their award-winning tea. For those who don’t already know, I am actually not a massive tea drinker or a big tea fan, despite me having an obsession with attending afternoon tea (I usually drink hot cocoa since I am allergic to coffee). But our wonderful hostess kept wanting me to try different teas from their award-winning collection, which I happily obliged. To my surprise, I loved them! I actually tried some of Tor’s and ended up ordering more of his for myself. That’s how good the tea was! We tried not to fill up too much on the incredible food, since we had a dinner reservation at the hotel’s restaurant The Oak Room shortly. But while we were both enjoying tea and dinner, we noticed a lot of people around us speaking Welsh, which made us realize that these spots were also extremely popular with locals as well as tourists. Because we travel so often, it’s so nice to be surrounded by locals as it truly validates a place we visit, in our opinion.
Sunday morning was going to be a real treat for our weekend in Wales. I’ve been a foodie most of my life, which is why I attended culinary school in NYC. With that said, this was going to be an opportunity that soothed both my culinary and royal passions. After checking out of The Angel hotel, we drove a few minutes down the road to the Culinary Cottage where I was able to partake in a baking class with chef Penny Lewis, a private “secret” chef to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II! Cakes, cooking, and a royal chef? Yes please! After donning our aprons, we spent all morning baking different kinds of soda bread, chocolate chess cakes, rosewater cakes, and brioche. I couldn’t help but imagine Penny baking all of these things for the queen. If I was a royal, I’d definitely hire Penny to be my chef! Her recipes were easy to follow and I even learned a few new tricks of the trade to help make my cakes at home get the royal seal of approval from all of our friends.
With boxes of freshly baked goods in my lap in the car, we drove to our final stop for our weekend in Wales – Brecon. Located only a few miles from the English border, we checked into our final hotel, Llangoed Hall. I had been obsessed with this hotel for a long time, having seen it in photos several months ago. It’s a luxury hotel inside a magnificent Welsh country house with a few royal connections. The hotel is frequently visited by Prince Charles, who also happens to be Prince of Wales, since many of his farms are nearby (he used to bring Prince William and Prince Harry along to the hotel as well whenever they would visit together). Prince Charles is passionate about organic farming, which is quite evident everywhere you turn in the gloriously green country, especially around Brecon.
Llangoed Hall is located just outside of the stunning Brecon Beacons, which is a national park that seems to perfectly beautiful to be real. Imagine breathtaking mountain ranges surrounded by perfectly green fields and pastures with quaint stone cottages and farmhouses, as well as endless amounts of sheep. That’s actually a very poor description of it, since words cannot really do it justice. On our first morning in Brecon, we were picked up by Janet Redler who then took us on a little private tour of Brecon Beacons. We first stopped at the village of Brecon, where we went inside the gorgeous Brecon Cathedral. Afterwards, we got to visit a spot that made Tor feel like he was in Disneyland – Penderyn Distillery. It’s the only distillery in the entire country of Wales (although they are opening two more locations in Wales soon!). Since Tor’s brother lives in England and is familiar with Penderyn, he spoke highly of their whiskey before he even knew it was on our itinerary. I am not much of a whiskey drinker (I really only like wine), but I had to try some of their famous, award-winning batches. While I may be indifferent to the taste, I oddly like the smell. During our tour behind-the-scenes of their process, I found myself really enjoying the smell. Maybe it was all the barley, I don’t know. But Tor had a grand old time at his whiskey tasting (he definitely got tipsy!), and I actually enjoyed their Welsh Cream Liqueur so much that we bought a bottle to bring back home.
For our final morning during our weekend in Wales, Calum Milne (the owner of Llangoed Hall), had a special surprise for me. When we came down the stairs in the morning from our room (we stayed in the stunning suite #3), we saw two vintage cars parked out front. Mr. Milne had heard that I have a royal obsession, and these two cars have some of the biggest royal connections we would encounter on our entire trip – they were once owned by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II’s parents! I know Mr. Milne thought I was really composed upon seeing them in person, but inside I was freaking out. When he asked if I wanted to sit inside them, I nearly collapsed. The first car I sat in was King George VI’s, although he owned it when he was still Duke of York. As I sat in this beautiful vintage car, I couldn’t help but mutter, “King George VI sat right here. He was right here!” That notion in itself made my royal-obsessed heart flip a little bit. Even Tor got a kick out of sitting in the car, as he has been forced to watch pretty much any royal film or tv show with me numerous times. Mr. Milne then invited me to sit in the back of the Queen Mother’s car, which she rode in with her daughters Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret just before her husband became the new King of England. Sitting in the back, I took a moment to step back in time and imagine a young girl with perfect chocolate brown curls sitting in the exact same spot more than 80 years ago, unaware that one day she would be fated to become the country’s longest reigning monarch. The icing on the cake was the special cupboard in the back of the car, which was actually a whiskey bar! The Queen Mother loved to be driven around in her car with a glass of scotch in hand (she was a true Scotswoman after all). I would have totally done the same thing but with wine instead. Wink wink.
After 4 magical days exploring hidden royal gems of Wales, it was time to say goodbye. Our weekend in Wales was a gateway to us wanting to explore even more of the country. We were very lucky to have been blessed with completely rain-free weather on our entire visit, which is apparently very rare. It felt like Wales was showing off, and she succeeded. We fell in love with it, and we know there’s so much more to be seen, explored, and enjoyed that we are already planning a trip to come back. I cannot recommend this country enough.
What I Wore In This Post
Theory coat (old, similar here and here) // Sézane sweater (old, similar here and here) // Skinnyshirt bow shirt // Joseph suede leggings (similar here; faux suede version here) // Stuart Weitzman boots // Strathberry bag c/o (last seen here) // Illesteva sunglasses
RED Valentino cape and polka dot shirt c/o (cape also available here; similar cape here and similar shirt here) // Joseph suede leggings (similar here; faux suede version here) // Stuart Weitzman boots // Strathberry bag c/o
Barbour jacket (last seen here) // Ganni sweater (similar here and here) // Joseph suede leggings (similar here; faux suede version here) // Stuart Weitzman boots
Chi Chi London dress (similar here and here)
Cabbage & Roses coat (similar here and here) // Ganni sweater (similar here and here) // Current Elliott corduroy pants // Stuart Weitzman boots