Where to stay: two British inns

A former coaching inn turned spa in Yorkshire versus an inn for foodies in some of the most beautiful countryside in Wales.

The Bell at Skenfrith, Monmouthshire

This pub is in some of the most beautiful countryside in Wales. It is also famed for its fantastic food. And by booking one of the 11 rooms, you can enjoy an extensive wine list without requiring a designated driver.

How they rate it

The hotel's decor is "simple and straightforward", says Tom Chesshyre in The Times. All the rooms are named after brown trout fishing flies. "Whickham's Fancy" is the best a suite complete with four-poster bed. But the main selling point is the two AA rosette restaurant. It serves locally sourced organic food, with most of the vegetables coming from the inn's own kitchen garden. The country setting makes walking off your dinner a treat.

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The menu

Dishes are inspired by cook Elizabeth David's "fait-simple" approach to food. Six mains are offered at dinner, including fillet of sea trout and roast duck. Pudding options include butternut squash crme caramel with winter fruits, or fig tarte tatin with maury syrup and cinnamon ice cream. Three courses cost £28.50.

The cost

A double room costs from £110 on a bed and breakfast basis. Call 01600-750235, or visit Skenfrith.co.uk for more information.

The Feversham Arms, Yorkshire


This inn-turned-luxury-hotel in the heart of North Yorkshire has just been named the AA Hotel of the Year in England. Housed in a former coaching inn, its attractions include fine food, a heated outdoor swimming pool and an award-winning spa.

How they rate it

Expect a "welcoming home-from-home atmosphere" with "unpretentious and cosy decor", says Carola Long in The Independent. The heated swimming pool is the jewel in the hotel's crown: "add a pool to a weekend break and suddenly it becomes a bona fide holiday". But heated or not, only the brave will be taking a dip in winter. Instead, you can snuggle up in your room, many of which have open fireplaces or stoves, "so you can warm up after a winter walk". For those looking for a bit of pampering, the Verbana Spa features a sauna, aromatherapy room and Elemis treatments.

The menu

The food is "fancy enough to be interesting, but not fussy", with an emphasis on local produce. The tasting menu costs £45 and includes confit of duck and black pudding roulade, pan-seared sea bass and Scottish venison with apple jelly.

The cost

Rooms cost from £150 per night, including breakfast. Treatments in the spa cost from £18. Call 01439-770766, or visit Fevershamarmshotel.com to book.

The best Christmas shows

Here is the pick of the country's best Christmas shows, according to Lucy Powell in The Times.

"Dickens's tale of the rediscovered joy of giving, loving and forgoing the counting of large piles of gold is clearing hitting a nerve", with adaptations of A Christmas Carol being put on around the country. Catch 'comedian' Gareth Hale playing Scrooge at the Arts Theatre in London from 11 Nov to 10 Jan. 0845-0175584; Artstheatrewestend.com.

For the first time Shakespeare's Globe is opening its doors in winter with a run of Footsbarn's Christmas Cracker. It's short, just two half-hour chunks, but packed full of madness including a tight-rope walking Juliet and a three-headed Shakespeare. There is mulled wine on tap to help fend off the cold. The show runs from 22 Dec to 3 Jan. 020-7401 9919; Shakespeares-globe.org.


Those looking for something more traditional should head for the Birmingham Hippodrome to see The Nutcracker brought to life by the Birmingham Royal Ballet. The show runs from 27 Nov to 13 Dec. 0121-245 3500; Brb.org.uk.