July 21, 2017 by donoughshanahan
The list of finalists for the South Wales regional pub of the year can be found here. In this article I want to highlight three pubs which take a little bit more effort to get to from Swansea. They are
- New Inn, Bwlch
- Queen’s Head, Chepstow
- Arvon Ale House, Llandrindod Wells
As it happens they also were the top three pubs in the South Wales regional Pub of the Year competition with the New Inn running out the winner.
Bwlch is about mid-way between Brecon, Ebbw Vale and Abergavenny. It is a rural region and a particular favourite for hikers due to the impressive views over the Talybont reservoir. Waun Fach, the highest mountain in the Black Mountains is also within striking distance. Getting there by car is the most accessible route. Public transport would require between two to three hours travel time one way with changes in Brecon or Abergavenny. There is some accommodation with the pub having a bunkhouse and another being beside the pub. The next pub is 1.4 miles away.
The pub itself is mainly in one stone-flagged room with possible rooms off the main for busy periods. It is not very big, perhaps able to sit 8-10 tables of 4 with most of the space being taken up by the tables. Up to 4 real ales are available and during our trip these were sourced from Blackjack, Salopian, Wye Valley and Felinfoel with the latter two being the regulars. Lagers and a good selection of other drinks are also available. Meals are served throughout the day and I would describe them as being good value, circa £10.
The Queens Head is located in the picturesque town of Chepstow. Local attractions include the castle and walks that follow Wye Valley way, Wales Coast Path and Offa’s Dyke. Equestrian connoisseurs will of course enjoy the races. Limestone cliffs overlook the town where Peregrine Falcons have been known to nest.
The pub is small, nay tiny and is worthy of its micro-pub status. It consists of one room and one unisex toilet with an all standing capacity of 20-30. There is limited seating capacity. There are typically 7 to 8 real ale hand pumps available. The ales are from all over though the excellent Grey Trees and Untapped seem to be regulars. There are no big brand keg lagers such as Heineken and a limited selection of shorts is available. If you want a cuppa, it will be from the pub’s only mug (or two). Accommodation is plentiful in Chepstow, if expensive. However for a cheap option try the Green Man backpackers which has connections to the local Morris dancing troupe.
Just over 2 hours away on the heart of Wales lines is the Arvon Ale House in Llandrindod. Return connections via Arriva should come in under £30. For those wishing to stay overnight, there is a wide selection of accommodation with the Glen Usk for example often having last minute deals for £20-30 per night.
The pub was awarded Wales Pub of the Year 2016 and is the first micro pub in the area. However the pub is not all that small with one large main room, a smaller back room and toilets. Still a comfortable capacity of under 50 is likely. Five changing real ales are available along with real cider and a good selection of whiskeys and gins. There are no regular beers (as far as I know) and the mix is constantly changing. Again there is a lack of big brand keg beers. The pub has a vibrant local following and hosts many community based events such charity auctions and has even held a sloe gin competition. Regular traditional music sessions are also held.