Staycation: Castle Cottage, Abergavenny
by Sarah Akhurst
Follow our lead to this dog-friendly retreat in beautiful West Wales
Apart from the constant sock theft, the eternal drain on our finances and having to step over 38kg of labrador every time we want to get to the fridge, we do love having a dog but, 18 months in, I have to admit we still occasionally ‘forget’ about said canine when planning weekends away. When ‘Dogs welcome’ is on a venue’s landing page, I’m always thankful for the timely reminder.
The aptly named Caradog Cottages in the foodie haven of Abergavenny is one such venue, so we’re heading off on our first weekend away as dog parents. Caradog has seven (dog-friendly) cottages in and around the Monmouthshire town, all perfectly located to enjoy the best the region has to offer.
Our home for the weekend is the beautiful 17th-century Castle Cottage, right next to Abergavenny castle and its surrounding meadows. Downstairs, there’s a cosy lounge and kitchenette that leads out onto a beautiful walled garden with seating area; upstairs, a master en suite bedroom, complete with picture-perfect exposed rafters and writing desk.
There’s another small en suite double bedroom nestled in the walled garden, and a dog bed and bowl are also supplied. An array of local produce awaits us when we get to the cottage, including smoked salmon, ham, eggs, fresh fruit and sourdough from the renowned Angel Bakery but, for now, the sun is splitting the sky so it’s off to explore the nearby meadows with Cosmo. Winding along the banks of the River Usk, it’s easy to see why this is a happy place for dogs and humans alike.
Dinner that night is the culmination of a long-held ambition of mine to visit The Walnut Tree, which has been a foodie destination since the 1960s. Shaun Hill took over the kitchen 15 years ago and has held a Michelin star here since 2010. The cooking is all about high-quality produce, seasonal ingredients and classic technique.
I feast on monkfish with mussels, clams and cider to start; plaice with cauliflower, brown shrimp and spiced butter to follow and burnt Basque cheesecake with strawberry ice cream to finish. Every dish is a lesson in culinary perfection, served up in a lovely sun-drenched room. Saturday morning sees another trot around the meadows for Cosmo and his male human (oh, hello, lie-in), followed by a trip to The Angel Bakery to boost our breakfast haul.
We laze around in the garden, eating smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, and some amazing candied grapefruit brioche from the aforementioned bakery. In the afternoon, we take Cosmo for a spin up Sugar Loaf mountain – one of the Black Mountains’ highest peaks – but our leisurely morning combined with the glorious weather has put paid to any chances of us getting a spot in the car park, so we plump for a long walk in the environs.
Two hours later and back in town, we take advantage of an exhausted pup and weave our way around a few of the dog-friendly hostelries before heading back to the cottage for some wine and nibbles in the garden. I’m a Londonphile at heart, but I found myself peeking in a few estate agents windows by the end of my trip. The gateway to Wales is definitely open.