Red wine, cosy pubs, decadent welsh treats, and spa treatments. It doesn’t sound like a first family trip with a baby does it? But that was our first weekend trip away with baby Archer: as a relaxing family spa break with lots of cuddles!
But first… we had to boycott our original plan…
It was pouring down with rain outside on another miserable winter’s afternoon. The sky was grey, dusk was almost upon us, and we were hurriedly driving around Cheshire trying to find somewhere to get Archer’s passport photo properly taken. I say properly as we had already wasted an hour and £15 on two attempts. Lessons learned: US standard passport photographs are not so easy to get in print, and a baby and a photo booth don’t mix. Our train to London was booked for the next morning, hotel reserved, and an appointment at the American Embassy scheduled for 9am the following day. I was dreading the thought of rush hour on the London underground with a newborn baby, and the weather made me just want to curl up indoors – and we were going to have to drag a newborn around London in it.
I didn’t want Archer’s first trip to be stressful and miserable, I wanted it to be special and relaxing. Mr R. and I shared a look, the rain outside so heavy now it was deafening, and ten minutes later we had cancelled our appointment and were Googling spa hotels in North Wales.
Arriving in Llangollen
Llangollen is a small but bustling town on the River Dee in North Wales. Quaint but robust, the town was in full swing when we arrived despite it being a cold winters day. It felt relatively geared up towards summer tourism, and yet there was a nice bustle that isn’t always found in these UK holiday destinations, becoming ghost towns in the dead of winter. The pub was full, cafes bustling, and we just managed to find a car parking space as we arrived on the Sunday afternoon.
Everywhere had me feeling hungry: a small greengrocers nestled down a side street had a lavish display of fruit and veg; the local bakery window was full of delicious Welsh offerings; and I could have spent the entirety of my weekend in the cheese shop and winery. On a recommendation we headed down a small cobbled street next to the river and found the Corn Mill pub, where we were lucky to find a table. We dined on mussels in a white wine cream and chunky chips dipped in mayonnaise, whilst watching the mesmerising tumbling of the River Dee below.
A Beautiful (and Reasonably Priced!) Spa Hotel
Five minutes drive out of the town centre we found our hotel, the Wild Pheasant Hotel & Spa. We were early, and so had cups of tea in the cosy bar area, using the quiet surroundings to feed Archer in the comfortable armchair. Our room was pleasant, clean, and with a cot made up ready for Archer. (I didn’t dare tell the lovely staff that we never actually used it, as he slept so well in his pram, but the care and attention to detail did not go unappreciated!)
I was desperate for some mummy time, so once Archer was settled and Uriel happy with the remote in hand, I slipped into my bathing suit and headed down to find the spa. It was just what I needed, with large connecting spa pools, a steam room, and sauna. Being winter, the hotel was really quiet, and so it was really relaxing with so few people around.
And the best thing… the hotel was £70 per night which included breakfast. I was very impressed with the lovely clean and newly refurbished interior, delicious breakfast, and great service. And did I mention SPA?
Archer’s First Night Away From Home
I was really nervous about how Archer would settle for the night without his bedtime routine. Our room sadly didn’t have a bath so that was out of the question (the sink was one of those modern shallow things, and so I wasn’t going to attempt to bath him in that either). We headed down to try the hotel restaurant for supper, where we could take Archer down in the pram easily with us. He was so happy and relaxed throughout dinner, and started to drift off as we finished up. By the time we were up in the room it was just past his usual bedtime and we found that he was completely zonked out. I eventually woke him around 9pm for a feed, and he settled straight back down again, sleeping through until 3am. I poured a big glass of wine. Phew! Happy baby = happy mama!
What To See In Llangollen
The next morning we woke up to snow on the ground and a beautiful sunny day. After breakfast we walked down to the town with Archer in his carrier, a beautiful journey along the riverside. We ate hot roast chicken and pork sandwiches in a local café, and went back to the beautiful Corn Mill pub for an afternoon drink. This time we were able to venture upstairs as we didn’t have the pram with us, and the pub seemed to get even more spectacular. Their wine selection was amazing, and I would definitely say it is a do not miss place to visit when in the area. Nearby there is a really sweet little vintage shop, well worth popping in to if you find yourself in need of a wax jacket or pretty silk scarf.
Across the river, which is via a spectacular bridge with a huge drop down to the water (so take your camera!) is a quirky Taxidermist that caught our eye. Be sure to stop and have a look through the window at the incredible animals on display. And then just up the hill is the canal, where you can step back in time and take a horse drawn narrowboat along it. After popping in to the few small shops, I bought some delicious treats for later and we headed back up the hill to our hotel.
A Pampering Last Night
The highlight of my trip was having a pamper in the spa. I had an incredible facial and massage, and talked the ear off the spa technician, so happy to chat about something other than babies for an hour or so. Uriel and I spent the rest of the evening in our room nibbling cheese, drinking red wine, and watching a movie. Archer settled so well again, and we were all feeling so relaxed when we awoke the next morning.
After another delicious breakfast, we headed home. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t very nice on the morning we left so we abandoned our plans of visiting a local castle. However if you find yourself in Llangollen, I recommend heading to National Trust’s Crick castle, or visiting the castle ruins which are visible from the town.
Archer’s first trip and second country was a success, and the perfect pamper break for mummy, daddy, and baby.
Where did you go for your first trip with your baby?