V-day looms and there’s no escaping it, but before you utter an exasperated sigh you should check these alternative romantic ideas compiled by Lisbeth Burich. With so much on offer throughout the country, the annual celebration of love could extend far beyond the tired old chocolate-and-roses cliché.
LEARN A NEW SKILL
Become a chocolatier for a day
Chocolate is an essential Valentine’s ingredient, and Abergavenny’s holy grail for cocoa addicts Black Mountain Gold now offers a chance to become master of the dark arts under the apprenticeship of chocolatier Jules James. What is more romantic than the craft of tempering melting chocolate and making heavenly truffles by hand? What’s more, the workshop is right on the doorstep to the magnificent Brecon Beacons – ideal for a post-chocolate binge ramble.
‘Chocolate making and tasting workshop’ £99 pp. Black Mountain Gold, 59 Frogmore St, Abergavenny. Info: 01873 855139 / www.bmchocolate.com
Say it with cake
For the ultimate cutesy Valentine’s treat, book a special couples’ cupcake-decorating workshop with sugar craft artist Gareth Davis. From fondant to piping techniques, this workshop sees you fit for the Bake Off, and includes refreshments and chocolate dipped strawberries. The workshop is held at Pettigrew’s kitchen and classroom directly above their Victoria Park bakery.
‘Cupcake decorating workshop’ £45 for two. Wednesday 14 February 10am-12pm or 7pm-9 pm. Info: 07772630332 / www.letthemseecake.com
Have my willow heart
Now here’s a literal take on Valentine’s, and one that will excite crafty lovebirds: learn how to weave a decorative willow heart under the guidance of Amanda Rayner, expert in all things willow. With the workshop set in the tranquil Monmouth countryside, guests could be tempted to stay on the farm for a night or two in the converted old hayloft.
‘Willow heart making workshop’ £45. Saturday 3 February 10 am-1 pm. Humble by Nature, Penallt, Monmouth. Info: 01600 714 595 / www.humblebynature.com
Swirl and sip Welsh sunshine
Llanerch have been making award-winning wines since 1986 under the Valentines pitch-perfect label Cariad (meaning sweetheart in Welsh). Inspect the vines on a self-guided tour before tasting the labours of their love in the elegant, glass-fronted restaurant overlooking the vineyard. Go the whole hog and pair your wine flight with a curated food menu, available Wednesday – Sunday 1.30-4 pm.
‘Taste of Cariad’ £7.50 pp, available Monday – Sunday. Llanerch Vineyard, Hensol, Vale of Glamorgan. Info: 01443 222716 / www.llanerch-vineyard.co.uk
Hop to it
The number of craft breweries in Wales has multiplied in recent years, but have you ever wondered what goes on behind closed doors? Multi-award-winning microbrewery Tiny Rebel, which exploded on to the indie scene in 2012, opens its doors to visitors every Saturday. Get to grips with the ins-and-outs of brewing and finish in the shiny new bar with a beer of your choice, which will taste all the better for knowing the care that has gone its creation.
Tiny Rebel Brewing, Wern Industrial Estate, Newport. Tours £15, available Saturdays 1.30pm and 4pm. Info: 01633 547378 / www.tinyrebel.co.uk
Whisky me away
The historic village of Penderyn, in the foothills of Brecon Beacons,is home to the renowned single-malt whisky. Get an intimate look behind the scenes of whisky making, from malting to distillation and maturation, on an hour-long tour, then retreat to the Tasting Bar with a well-earned tipple, or three.
Tours £8.50 pp, available Monday – Sunday. Penderyn Distillery Visitor Centre, Pontpren, Aberdare. Info: 01685 810 650 / www.penderyn.wales
Skydive over the Gower Peninsula
The link between fear, adrenaline and romantic attraction has been backed up time and again by science, and Swansea is where the ultimate thrill is to be had – a tandem parachute jump from a height of 12,000 feet. There are views of the Gower peninsula to be enjoyed on your way down, if the adrenalin pumping through your body allows it.
Tandem jump £230, availability is weather dependent. Info: 01792 207035 / www.skydiveswansea.co.uk
Conquer the Pembrokeshire cliffs
If you fancy a more hands-on experience with the natural environment, coasteering lets you explore the Pembrokeshire coast up-close and intrepidly. A 2-hour session has all the action packed in there, from cliff jumping to scramble climbing and adventure swimming. The price includes wetsuit, helmet and buoyancy aid. Seal pups have been known to appear on these outings, so prepare yourselves for aww-inspiring cuteness.
£45 for a 2 hour session. Contact for availability. Info: 01348 837337 / www.celticquestcoasteering.com
WEEKENDS FOR TWO
Curl up in a shepherd’s hut
Turn off your smartphones and cwtch in a shepherd’s hut, a wheeled wagon traditionally used to tend flocks of livestock. This specimen, in the craggy Glamorgan countryside, is miles away from its humble origins – still snug, but with all modern comforts such as a kitchen and the all-important wood burner to keep cosy in Welsh winter.
The Bugail Hut. From £100 per night, sleeps 2. Info: www.canopyandstars.co.uk
Bed down Persian-style
Of all places, Monmouthshire must be the last you’d expect to come upon a Persian-inspired tent. ‘Glamping’ has taken a firm hold on the Welsh countryside, and all the better for loved-up couples in search of adventure – this stylish abode sits amid 400 acres of unspoilt countryside and private nature trails. Take a walk up Grey Hill for breath-taking views of the Severn Valley.
The Cribbau at Penheim Glamping, From £92 per night, sleeps up to 4. Info: www.canopyandstars.co.uk
Float their boat
Why settle for a seaside vacation when you could be on the sea? The floating eco pod on the Neyland Yacht Marina in Pembrokeshire may be compact, but it has all your lazy weekend needs covered – a kitchenette for sizzling morning bacon and even a private patio to soak up the afternoon sun. Explore the pubs and cafes in the marina and nearby town, or stay in with a book or a film from the onboard library before allowing the rising and falling waves to send you to sleep.
£75 per night, sleeps up to 4. Info: www.airbnb.com
BE MY VEGAN VALENTINE
Hip Cardiff joint Milgi’s rainbow-coloured dishes are the perfect antidote to a winter’s day, and their backyard yurt offers an intimate space in which to sip lychee and basil mojitos. The tortilla stack, a show-stopping tower of blue corn tortillas, refried beans, spiced root vegetables and ubiquitous smashed avocado comes highly recommended.
Milgi, 213 City Road, Cardiff. Info: 02920473150 / www.milgicardiff.com
Escape to India
An enduring favourite with vegetarians and vegans in Cardiff, the vivid murals, bronze pots and trinkets adorning the walls of the Vegetarian Food Studio transport you to South India. Opt for a traditional thali accompanied by a vegan mango lassi, and if there’s any room left, browse the selection of sweet snacks with vegan options aplenty. If you would like to toast your Valentine with something stronger than a lassi, you can bring your own bottle at a friendly £1.50 charge per drinker.
Vegetarian Food Studio, 115-117 Penarth Rd, Cardiff. Info: 029 2023 8222 / www.vegetarianfoodstudio.com
Pop the Prosecco
This homely café is not only located smack-bang in the glamorous Mumbles, its simple vibrant fare has also earned it a loyal brunch crowd. Whether of a vegan or gluten-free persuasion, The Kitchen Table caters to all, and on V-day you even get a complimentary glass of Prosecco when you order 2 courses or more.
The Kitchen Table, 626 Mumbles Rd, The Mumbles, Swansea. Info: 01792 367 616