WALES - TASTE OF THE PLACE: WELSH CAKES, GASTROPUBS, AND FRESH FORAGE
DIG IN: Thanks to its largely rural landscape, Wales, the smallest member of the U.K., has emerged as the epicenter of the foraging culture in the realm. Guides in the Brecon Beacons National Park, a 520-square-mile reserve about an hour’s drive north of Cardiff, have capitalized on the combination of cultivated and wild land to offer food- and foraging-focused hikes that appeal to outdoor lovers with curious palates. Unlike national parks in the U.S., which were largely set aside before the onset of development, British reserves protect mostly private land, celebrating the interface of man and landscape and using park regulations to restrict big business — even the grocery stores here are co-ops — in order to promote local sustainability.
HOW TO EXPLORE: Food tourism here is uniquely outward bound, with a number of guides offering rugged but savory excursions in the wild. Mick Collins, owner of Outdoors@Hay, takes foraging another step in the native direction with “bushcraft,” the art of living in the wild focused on creating shelter, sourcing water, and finding food. Outings range from foraging afternoons to weekends spent learning bushcraft, including snaring your own rabbit or cooking your just-caught fish, on a canoe camping trip. The eponymous owner of Kevin Walker Mountain Activities marries his profession as a guide to his passion for food in a range of food-themed hikes to a local gastropub, inn-to-inn routes, and picnic treks featuring locally grown and produced foods.
POCKET THIS: From one of the many bookshops in the picture-book town of Hay-on-Wye, pick up a copy of The Hedgerow Handbook by local author and forager Adele Nozedar as a guide to the edible landscape.
CAN'T MISS MEALS: The Good Pub Guide, a U.K. foodie bible, calls the Felin Fach Griffin in Brecon its “inn of the year” for 2013, home to a destination gastropub with menus sourced from its spacious kitchen gardens out back. Programming varies, but often the inn runs foraging programs with Liz Knight, owner of the wild herb company Forage, and author Adele Nozedar. The Angel Hotel in the nearby town of Abergavenny serves the country’s best afternoon tea, featuring house-baked scones, sandwiches, and cakes. The recently restored 18th-century Talgarth Mill again grinds its own flour, supplying the on-site wood-fired bakery and café.
SHACK UP: The park is dotted with vacation rentals ranging from cozy farmhouses with hiking trails out the door to historic estate homes with amenities like hot tubs, open hearths, and gardens. Lease one from Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages, which will arrange for extras such as bicycles and canoes to be delivered for your stay or fishing guides.