From the craggy peaks of Snowdonia to the rugged beaches of the Wales Coastal Path and the sweeping hills of Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales is home to an enchanting landscape that is surprisingly varied for such a small country. Lace up your walking boots and hit the arterial hiking trails to make the most of the verdant countryside, where you'll stumble upon river valleys, secret waterfalls and pristine lakes. If hiking isn’t for you, there are more than 600 castles to explore (more per square mile than anywhere else in the world) along with mysterious stone circles, dolmens and standing stones that provide a curious look into the past. After a day out in the elements, retreat to one of these country mansions and cottages, where a roaring fire and a comfortable bed await.
The Jacobean Hall, Mold
Perched on the edge of Welsh border country, The Jacobean Hall is a Grade I-listed manor house located a mile from the market town of Mold. Sleeping 16 (or 24 including the adjoining Coach House), this country estate is heaving with history; you’ll find family portraits and coats of arms in the oak-panelled entrance hall, while antique furnishings, original fireplaces and brocade upholstery add to the regal setting.
To the rear of the property is 100 acres of rolling parkland, including a Victorian walled garden, tennis courts and croquet lawns, that lead down to picturesque River Alyn. Nearby Loggerheads Country Park is the destination for hiking, while the mountain biking trails of Coed Llandegla Forest offer the chance to explore on two wheels.
From £4,640 per week, kateandtoms.com
Seren Mor, Newport
Architect Sir Colin Stanfield-Smith described this corner of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park as “the most beautiful location for a house anywhere in the UK”, but it’s not just for the views that Seren Mor is renowned. Designed by John Pardey Architects, this contemporary holiday home scooped the RIBA Welsh Award and Gold Medal for Architecture in Wales in 2013 in recognition of its understated, sustainable design.
The property has been designed upside-down to make the most of the coastal views, with all but one of the five bright bedrooms found downstairs. On the top floor, the open-plan living room and kitchen lead out onto a large balcony overlooking Newport’s picturesque estuary. In the large terraced garden you’ll find secret pathways leading directly down to the beach, while more intrepid explorers can hike three miles to the top of Carningli Mountain. Kayaks, surf boards and children’s wet suits are on hand for ocean adventures.
From £3,550 per week, uniquehomestays.com
The Weir House, Ludlow
Once a restaurant with rooms that earned the area of Ludlow one of three Michelin stars, The Weir House is home to a £70,000 kitchen where head chef Chris Bradley once cooked up his award-winning dishes. Not one for cooking? Ask the owners to arrange for a private chef to whip up a feast while you enjoy drinks on the terrace, where the views look out across the charming landscaped garden and down to the River Terne.
The property sleeps 12, with six bedrooms spread across the main house, all of which have en-suite bathrooms. There’s also a detached annex to the side of the property, offering an additional bedroom, bathroom and kitchenette. By day, explore the historic Ludlow Castle and neighbouring Medieval market town, or discover the nearby Whitecliffe Common and Mortimer Forest.
From £2,914 per week, sugarandloaf.com
Deri Manor, Pembrokeshire
With an original listed staircase and a fireplace rescued from the Houses of Parliament, Deri Manor in Pembrokeshire offers a delve into interior design history. Hints of this Georgian country estate’s past can be spotted in the grand entranceway and the intricate cornicing, oak beams and dazzling chandeliers that line the ceilings, but the furnishings themselves are contemporary and homely, striking the balance between heritage home and modern country retreat.
Take your pick from 10 bedrooms sleeping 21, with clever zip and link beds allowing you to switch between super kings and twins. After a day spotting dolphins or pulling lobster pots in nearby New Quay, wandering the manor’s three acres or fishing in the trout lake, retire to Deri Manor’s resident bar for nightcaps and a game of billiards.
From £4,750, per week, kateandtoms.com
Surrounded by verdant woodland and topped with crenelations and a conical roof in the west wing, Florin in Aberaeron is every bit the fairytale escape. A winding tree-lined driveway leads to this enchanting Victorian country house, which sleeps up to 14 guests in seven individually-designed bedrooms, six of which are home to king-size beds. Candelabras, a banquet-style dining room and secret Les Dandys bookcase doors add character to the property, but it’s the little touches that make Florin a truly unique escape — from the luxury welcome hamper packed with locally-sourced cheese, wine and chocolate to the Diptyque and Temperley London candles, organic handmade soaps and his and hers Hunter wellingtons lined up by the door.
Slip on a pair and venture outside, where you’ll find romantic gardens decorated with ornate fountains, secret pathways that lead to the children’s treehouse and a hot tub nestled among the woodland. At the end of the garden is a contemporary glass-fronted summer house complete with woodburner, television, pizza oven, barbecue and hanging chair — all the tools required for dinner al fresco.
From £2,995 per week, uniquehomestays.com
The Country Retreat, Leominster
Relics of The Country Retreat’s past are peppered throughout this 14th-century mansion, where modernised interiors are interwoven with original period features. Low, oak-beamed ceilings, grand fireplaces and an original gristmill recall a former life, while contemporary furnishings, a modern kitchen and a well-stocked games room bring it firmly into the 21st century.
There are nine bedrooms for up to 18 guests, along with three reception rooms in which to relax and a well-stocked bar for nightcaps. Outside, there are five acres of grounds to explore, with landscaped terraces and rolling lawns leading to a summer house, BBQ, two fire pits and an orchard. Smaller guests will love the nature trail and bagatelle of outdoor games, which includes giant Jenga, croquet and a child’s swing.
From £5,459 per week, sugarandloaf.com
Bunny Farm, Crowbridge
The grand hallway is the centrepiece of Bunny Farm, so much so that it’s been converted into a dining room where the French limestone fireplace, Gill Nontha mural and 400 sq ft staircase draw the eye. This converted farmhouse has been renovated to create a contemporary country retreat, with vibrant furnishings and modern artworks contrasted with original stone entranceways and low wood beam ceilings.
Four spacious bedrooms sleep 10, with a pull out sofa bed in the games room offering extra space for little ones. The farm boasts four acres of gardens and paddocks for exploring, complete with a sunken trampoline and six-seater hot tub. The nearby town of Crowbridge is home to an excellent selection of delis, country pubs and vintage boutiques.
From £2,650 per week, kateandtoms.com
The Wilds, Crickhowell
Tucked deep within the Black Mountains of Wales’ Brecon Beacons National Park is The Wilds, a converted farm with spectacular mountain views. Ideally arranged for multi-generational families or large groups, The Wilds is split between two properties, with bedrooms, reception rooms and a kitchen in both the main house and the adjoining barn house. Although only a few miles from the town of Crickhowell, this mountain hideaway feels utterly remote, with the surrounding countryside yours to explore.
Put your orienteering skills to the test on a walk to discover hilltop vistas and dramatic waterfalls, or spend the day horse riding, fishing or canoeing on the River Wye. After a day in the elements, refuel on a fire-baked pizza cooked in the outdoor oven, before soaking up the scenery in the hot tub, which has some of the best views overlooking the valley.
From £2,695 per week, uniquehomestays.com
Felin Neydd House, Brecon Beacons
Once the hunting lodge of the Evans-Bevan family, Felin Neydd House has been meticulously restored to its former glory, with elegant interiors and quirky design features that hint at its sporting past. Antique furnishings and ornate rugs decorate the nine bedrooms, some of which can be adapted from super kings to twins.
Should you seek entertainment beyond the billiards room, library or well-stocked wine cellar, there are 50 acres of grounds to explore, along with fishing, hunting, riding and shooting activities available in the local area. The manor house’s location in the Brecon Beacons National Park means there are also some great walks in the surrounding area, as well as in the nearby Black Mountains. The famous literary town of Hay-on-Wye is a few miles away.
From £6,054 per week, sugarandloaf.com
Hilltop Hall, Llangollen
It’s what’s outside that counts at Hilltop Hall in North Wales, where there are 85 acres of park and woodland to explore. You could spend your entire holiday winding your way through the Italianate gardens – which are peppered with corner statues and water features – strolling through the orchard or picnicking in the woodlands, where criss-crossing bridlepaths set the stage for adventure. There’s more to discover beyond the boundaries though, where you’ll find the surrounding Welsh hills and Offa’s Dyke footpath.
The manor house itself emulates the grandeur of its grounds, with a theatrical Medieval-style dining room and eclectic bedrooms, each individually designed and curiously named — think Twin Peaks, Highland Fling and the Moroccan room. There are 14 to choose from in the main house, and a further six in the neighbouring apartment.
From £5,200 per week, kateandtoms.com