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At the Hand at Llanarmon, the noise and fury of the outside world feels magicked away. Don't miss a thing by getting the day's biggest stories sent direct to your inbox. Sometimes what you really need is to be miles away from anywhere, a roaring fire inside, a blanket of snow and the occasional bleat of a sheep outside. The Hand at Llanarmon, tucked away in the hills outside Llangollen, certainly fits that bill.
On the November night when we drive to this little gem, the Horseshoe Pass, one of the most spectacular ro in Wales, is closed due to heavy snowfall. We go the long way round, before driving through a blizzard up pitch black, twisting lanes, on through scattered villages to eventually find the warm glow of this country inn.
It is only in the morning, against crisp, sunny winter skies, that we realise just how picturesque the Hand really is, nestled in the snow-covered Berwyn range. Its backdrop really does tick every magical box: the babbling river, Victorian lamppost and tiny village church, the waterfall on the slopes behind.
Pheasants wander out into the road before vanishing into the winter hedgerows. For centuries the Hand has served passing travellers, locals, farmers, hunters and now - in the 21st Century - those seeking respite from modern life, often people who have travelled from a long way away to find peace and quiet.
Inside is as inviting as its exterior. A cosy bar, raging fire, ancient beams, welcoming service. Follow the bar through to the dining area, an airy space framed by portraits of Welsh landscapes, and a gastronomic menu awaits.
We dine on braised treacle pork cheeks, duck liver parfait and marinated Welsh lamb. Hiding at the back of the Hand is an unexpected treat. We visit at the outset of the general election, with me already weary from months of relentless and inconclusive politics, so an encounter with an outside hot tub - complete with a daft but delicious disco light setting - was just what the doctor ordered. A glass of wine and a soak as the November sun set behind the hills, with only a sheep for company, could not be more welcome. The campaign trail could be in a parallel universe.
Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog - not to be confused with Llanarmon-yn-Lal, 20 miles to the north - sits at a crossro, a maze of lanes leading off in all directions. Behind the Hand one of these little ro winds away past whitewashed cottages and slate-covered farmhouses, up into the rolling hillsides of the Berwyns towards Pystill Rhaedr, a stunning waterfall featured in the old poem The Seven Wonders of Wales.
Sadly, my little car is having none of it, taking us only so far before starting to alarmingly slide backwards down the icy incline. That particular wonder will have to wait for another day, but a walk in these hills come springtime would be well worth the return trip. Ten miles or so in another Looking for men Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog lies the chocolate box town of Llangollen, where the River Dee tumbles past an old steam railway and statuesque townhouses, overlooked by a ruined medieval castle.
All rates are per room per night and include a full breakfast, together with spa facilities. Two of the Country rooms are wheelchair-accessible and dogs are welcome to stay but let the hotel know when booking to be allocated a dog-friendly room.
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A slice of Narnia in the heart of North Wales