Stormtroopers surf the Severn Bore

Meet Birds of Prey up close

Paddle your own canoe

On the clear River Wye

Magical experiences. Amazing things to choose every day of your stay!

“A product is what you buy. An experience is what you remember”

So much to  experience. What will you choose today?  From adrenaline packed action to gentle crafts or time to “stand and stare”   Its all here for you!

We have limited our huge list to things which are  under an hour from our cottages by car and  which have proved popular with guests. We can supply contact details for all the places and things we list and are happy to help you make the right choices  for you  ahead of your stay with us. If you would like to try something not listed do ask us. It doesnt mean its not here and we can probably find it for you ( apart from nightclubs which we know we are not very good at!)

See where Star Wars ” The Force Awakens” was filmed , sit on an Iron Throne – or spot Dr Who

The big stars and crew of  the movie “Star Wars The Force Awakens” were in the area summer 2015 creating this outstanding movie. It was all top secret at the time though the locals were buzzing but then an official  letter was published thanking everyone involved in the Forest of Dean and the secret was out  !  In spring 2019 Iron Thrones were hidden round the country and one was found here. Sit on it for your selfie!  Come and visit Puzzlewood just a few minutes from us, relive the most dramatic moments and see what you can recognise!  (Its a lovely and interesting place even if you are not a movie buff!)

And thats not all. Dr Who is filmed in the area between  Chepstow and Cardiff and there are numerous blog sites telling fans where filming may be at any time.Many of our gusts have  watched  filming and been thrilled by it. What will you spot?

Descend into a Coal Mine

The industrial heritage museums include “Big Pit” at the Blaenavon World Heritage Centre, which was a working coal mine. The guides who take you underground are almost all former miners and the tour includes a trip 300 feet (100 metres) underground. It is  one of the best of attractions yet  FREE as one of the National Museums of Wales. Fantastic holiday option and particularly on a wet day ( no rain underground). Has a minimum height restriction so unsuitable for very small children please check.

Surf the Severn Bore (or watch others!)

The Severn Bore is one of Britain’s few truly spectacular natural phenomena. It is a large surge wave that can be seen in the estuary of the River Severn, where the tidal range is the 2nd highest in the world, being as much as 50 feet (approx. 15.4m).

The height of the bore is on line in advance and the expected Bores are star graded.

Rather mad people surf and kayak it and the best travel  for miles!

The bore can be viewed from a number of places but the best views are from Minsterworth. A public footpath runs along the river bank. Access to this is adjacent to the Church, where there is a lectern giving information about the Bore. Please use one of the car parks and do not park along Church Lane. There is no fixed charge for parking, but a voluntary contribution is requested. A collection box is sited at the pedestrian exits. Toilets at both car parks are usually available when there are 4 star week-end Bores, but not at other times and not at the Village Hall for evening Bores.

Always take heed of warnings about  any expected flooding associated with the bore and be mindful of these when planning parking.

Ride a steam train

  • Ride Full sized real Country Steam Trains  of the gorgeous Dean Forest Railway  ( and seasonal specials with  meals or Santa). You can also book a gift experience where adults  get to work with and drive the trains for a day.
  • Climb  to the top  with the Brecon Mountain railway
  • Perrygrove Steam trains  . Particularly good for children aged about 3-9 . Railway is 15 inch gauge (381mm) and  steam engines  pull almost all the trains. They wind their way along a ¾ mile track through farmland and woods. There are 4 stations each with paths to walk through the ancient Perrygrove Wood on the edge of the Forest of Dean.A trip takes just over 20 minutes but most passengers get off to go to the covered picnic and play area at Foxy Hollow – or to go treasure hunting – and return by a later train. There is no charge for extra rides  Children can even wave the green flag!

Kayaking and Canoeing

  • The clean River Wye is the pefect river for Canadian Canoes ( the open sort ideal for families) and kayaks ( single person closed decks). Numerous operators offer a great, safe, service for half or whole days and you need not be super fit to enjoy it. . Please see  our special page about River Sports.

Feed a Red Kite or an Eagle

  • The National Birds of Prey Centre  Newent t houses over 200 birds of prey, Eagles, Hawks, Owls, Vultures, Kites, Buzzards and Falcons. Three superb flying demonstrations per day, all different. Wonderful gardens to enjoy, cafe and shop, walks through the woods, field and ponds. Great photo opportunities.  ICBP is the oldest bird of prey centre in the UK.. You can book handling experience days for those wanting to get beak to beak with birds and fly them..Photography experiences. also bookable.

A place not to be missed. Ignore the weather forecasts and sat navs, get to Newent on main roads and follow the signs!

  • At Gilgrin Farm near Rhayader they feed the Red Kites at around 2 pm ( 3 in summer) all year. The spectacle of  20 or more  of these magnificent birds with their 6ft wingspan is never to be forgotten. The drive takes about an hour from Abergavenny through gorgeous hill country and combines well with a visit to Hay on Wye. Take your camera and choose a clear day.

Cycling or Mountain biking

  • Lots of it locally!   You can hire bikes or bring your own .  Please see special Cycling page!

Get airborne

  • Gliding lesson from Usk Flying club
  • Microlight Flying lesson from Gloucester Staverton airport with the Poet Pilot
  • Hot air ballooning over the Vale of Usk

Learn new Cooking and Crafting skills

  • Harts Barn Cookery School offers lessons in everything from Foraging to Chocolate Making and has special sessions for children .
  • Make a pot or sew a frock. Taurus Crafts has  a programme of pottery, sewing and patchwork courses including children’s classes and will quote for bespoke courses for a small group too

Go Horse Racing

  • At Chepstow  which also has special theme evenings. This year including top performers in concert after racing ( really top performers , not tribute bands unless stated!)
  • or at Cheltenham, home of the Festival and the Cheltenham Gold Cup

Ice skate, sing torchlit Carols and meet Reindeer

  • There is an all year indoor rink in Cardiff but for the real Christmas expereince we love the pop up rinks which come for the season only. There is always a big one at Cribbs Causeway ( Bristol Shoping Centre with John Lewis, Marks and Spencer etc) but our favourite is the little one which moves around within the Forest of Dean most years . Over the years variously at Beechenhurst and Whitemead. Please  ask us in late Autumn if/where it will be this Christmas..
  • Usk Winter Festival in early December has stalls and winter entertainments .  Shops stay open, stalls arrive. Pubs are packed!  Detailed Information is usually available from October onwards.
  • First Saturday  of December sees the most magical Carol service in roofless Tintern Abbey. Real flaming torches,get a mulled wine  before it starts and wrap up warm as it goes ahead whatever the weather. Simply perfect  ( especially if you are staying at Tintern Abbey Cottage across the road!)
  • See also the Christmas Page

Swimming and gym

  • There are public leisure centres in Monmouth, Chepstow and Abergavenny which have good gyms, pools, steam and saunas and a programme of classes/sessions from aqua aerobics to serious fitness swims. No membership needed you can just pay as you go. ( Bring ID if you are over 60 and based in Wales  as some sessions are free or at a good reduced rate.)
  • VirginActive  Gyms have a centre witha pool in Cwmbran ( approx 10 mins from Vanilla Cottage) which you can  use if you are already a Virgin member elsewhere.

Clay pigeon shooting

  • DBC leisure will teach you to shoot clays or hone your skills  and is under 10 minutes from Tintern


  • In the area there is excellent River Fishing ( Rivers Wye, Monnow  and Usk ) plus numerous ponds including Grange Springs which is very close to Foxes Reach and to Tintern Abbey Cottage.
  • Bigsweir Fishery  has  a 2.5 mile stretch of the Wye with double bank fishing  near Bigsweir Bridge
  • Big Well Fly Fishing  at Redbrook offers three lakes stocked with trout.
  • Ravensnest Fisheries at Tintern

please see special page about Fishing

Tour a vineyard, taste the wine

There are a number of good vineyards in Monmouthshire but we especially suggest a tour of Tintern Parva Farm. Its family run and the friendly people who show you round are the owners and know their stuff. How much there is to see depends on the time of the year ( summer is best) but tastings are always possible and you can buy more to take home to your cottage!

Tour a brewery, taste the beer

Near enough next door to Parva Fam Vineyard  is Kingstone brewery ( no wonder its a jolly village!) . Once again its family run and the friendly people who show you round are the owners and know their stuff. How much there is to see depends on the day so its best to ask in advance but tastings are always possible and you can buy more to take home to your cottage! The brewery also makes and sells good breads, has summer lunches, bread making classes – and sometimes has pizza takaway evenings. Yum!

Tour a cider maker,taste the ciders

Nestling on a hillside amongst apple and perry pear orchards, Westons Cider, with its 400 year old farmhouse is a unique day out .Join a tour around the cider mill and hear how cider is produced, from the planting of the orchards to the moment it is poured into a glass.  Sample their  ciders and perries in the shop (adults only).

Say cheese at Smarts Traditional Cheesemaking

near Huntley Glos. Hand made cheesemaking can be seen Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Home cured bacon and hand made sausages including gluten free also available.

Take afternoon tea

Fancy dainty china, scones, scrummy cakes and a forgotten diet?  Put on your afternoon dress and try the Angel Hotel in Abergavenny. Winner of the Tea Council’s prestigious awards they can even add a glass of Champagne.So popular you really need to book.

Something slightly less glam but no less delicious? Home made cakes at the White Monk Cafe Tintern Abbey ( all year) – constant winners with our guests!

Meet gorgeous butterflies close up  at the Butterfly Zoo

The Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo  at Symonds Yat is indoors, it’s tropical and it’s teeming with exotic butterflies. They fly around as you discover their fascinating lives in close-up: Egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and some of the world’s most beautiful butterflies.

The species we breed in our zoo have fascinating survival strategies, and there’s loads to  learn. Bring a camera for superb wildlife photography, open whatever the weather!

Cinema as it used to be

The Savoy  in Monmouth (15 minutes from Foxes Reach or Tintern Abbey Cottage ) is a truly old fashioned cinema ( and now also back to being a live Theatre attracting really great speakers and shows.) which is being renovated and operated by a group of real enthusiasts. Has a bar and you can actually take  your wine or cup of tea in to the show with you. Local free parking in the evening. Ticket prices are old fashioned too – but films are new.

Abergavenny has charming little Baker Street cinema – smart and showing the latest releases in a lovely renovated building. 10 minutes from Vanilla!

Go to the Theatre, a Concert or the Opera

How spoiled are you for choices here. Our live theatres include

  • The Savoy Monmouth
  • The Blake Monmouth
  • The Borough Theatre Abergavenny
  • The New Theatre Cardiff
  • The Millennium Centre Cardiff
  • St Davids Hall Cardiff
  • Malvern Theatres ( 1 hour)

In addition to the above there are one off concerts as various venues. check out Whats on at Chepstow Racecourse  and Caldicot  and Chepstow Castles this year! Whenever you come there will be a show somewhere local , from pantomime to Grand Opera, from touring rep to a book reading. Not to mention the bands that Rock whole Castles! Fab nights out and masses to choose from !

If the BBC National Orchestra of Wales or the National Opera of Wales are performing dont miss them. They are truly world class.

Attend an agricultural show

Want to meet a sheep or a cow ? Admire a sheepdog  at work?  Sit on a tractor?  Watch show jumping? Cuddle a foxhound?

Buy local foods?

Whether you know a lot about Country Life or are just learning  the agricultural shows  make a really wonderful day out.

  • Abergavenny July
  • Royal Welsh  end of July
  • Chepstow early August
  • Monmouth  early July
  • Usk early September.

The Royal Welsh is special as a four day show.As well as its principal function of showcasing the cream of Welsh livestock and the high quality food and drink produced in Wales, it encompasses the wider spectrum of farming and rural life and successfully bridges the gap between town and country. It provides something to interest everyone through its kaleidoscopic range of activities including forestry, horticulture, crafts, countryside sports, Sports Village and a 12 hour programme of exciting entertainment that continues throughout each of the four days of the event.. Note no dogs at the Show except competitors to their rings and asistance dogs.

At the other shows dogs are welcome on leads. Bring your wellies and come ready to learn and enjoy genuine country life.You will find us helping in the Horse rings at some of them. Say hello.!

Tour the Cardiff Principality ( formerly Millennium)  Stadium

Cardiff’s state-of-the-art Principality ( formerly called Millennium ) Stadium  with its  fully retractable roof is the home of Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and the Wales national football team. Described by the WRU as “the most magnificent rugby venue in the world”, it can be visited on hour-long behind-the-scenes tours that leave you with a keen sense of the huge scale and national standing of this most impressive site.

Tours explore all levels of the stadium, There are plenty of great photo opportunities along the way, such as standing by your favourite team member’s shirt or raising a trophy in a victorious pose. For many, the highlight is visiting the atmospheric “Dragon’s Lair” home-side changing rooms. The tour guides are knowledgeable and entertaining, and even those visitors not passionate about sport will be caught up in the spirit of Welsh patriotism that the stadium evokes.

Have a beauty  treatment

Our qualified beautician will come to your cottage by apointment to treat you to a whole range of pampering experiences. Manicure, facial,sports massage?  whats it to be?

If you would prefer to go to a salon or would like a day out at a spa with a pool ask us. There are several to suit different tastes and pockets.

Try SCUBA  Diving

at the National Diving Centre near Chepstow you can learn  to dive. They have all the kit and preperly qualified instruction.Needs to be booked in advance


  • is tranquil on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal (Day hire)
  • Or let someone else do all the work and be a passenger on Kingfisher Cruises on The River Wye from Symonds Yat.

Meet a Roman

  • Historians can revel in the Roman antiquities at Caerleon which are well presented. Like all the National Museums of Wales this is amazingly FREE and perfect if you have  a child “Doing” Romans or learning Latin.
  • Roman  Bath (one hour’s drive) is world famous and now has brilliant interpretation of Roman Life  too.

Visit a summer garden

  • Usk is a frequent winner of Britain in Bloom awards. The floral town has an open gardens weekend (end of June annually)
  • Dewstow Gardens  are gorgeous
  • The National Gardens Scheme Yellow Book has many events each year in our area. see our special gardens page for more!

Star Gazing

  • Want to gaze more knowledgeably at the stars from our terraces or the hot tub?
  • Download the star charts for this month or better still visit them while you are with us!  We are blessed with dark skies so you can enjoy the unrivalled beauty of the heavens.

Visit a Pot Pourri grower

  • Locally made Pot Pourri- From the slopes of the Monnow Valley, Monmouthshire lies Tregout Farm where they grow the ingredients for their beautiful, fragrant, aromatherapy potpourri and scented sacs.
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