Travel

Welsh wonders

A mini-break in Wales is not really a holiday I’d considered before, preferring to escape to further flung parts of Europe in search of guaranteed sunshine.

But when the chance came to try out three of the country’s top independent hotels, it seemed foolish to turn it down.

Sadly, the Great British Weather lived up to our expectations, looking particularly drizzly and cold as we made our way along the motorway.

But a few hours in to our stay I realised that, rain or shine, it really didn’t matter. This was going to be a great getaway.

Our stay began at Peterstone Court hotel, situated just outside the town of Brecon, in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Peterstone Court

Peterstone Court

I relaxed almost instantly.

It may have had something to do with the beautiful, sheep-filled grounds and the sweeping driveway that carried us to the doors of the grand house, or maybe it was the vast sumptuously decorated bedroom with huge bed and a bathroom bigger than my front room.

Or perhaps the lovely locally-reared ham and tomato sandwiches that were whipped up for us after our long drive from Nottingham.

But I think it was the amazing back, neck and shoulder massage that really sealed the deal.

The hotel has its own small-but -perfectly-formed spa in the cellars underneath the house, where we both enjoyed a massage in the cosy couple’s treatment room. It was up there with the best massages I have ever had and was the perfect start to our mini-break.

Our bedroom at Peterstone Court

Our bedroom at Peterstone Court

Dinner was served in the beautiful high-ceilinged dining room with views over-looking the hills, before returning to our huge, cosy bedroom, complete with sleigh bed and squashy sofas to lounge on.

The next morning, after all the pampering and eating of the previous day we decided we really ought to get out and explore.

Just a few short steps from the hotel grounds is a river path which winds its way in to the small town of Brecon. We spent a lovely morning admiring the wildlife as we wandered .

Bluebells were bursting out all over the banks, and ducklings splashed in the water – the perfect antidote to stressed out city life.

Bluebells by the river near Peterstone Court

Bluebells by the river near Peterstone Court

The river behind Peterstone Court

The river behind Peterstone Court

Having walked for, ooh, at least five miles in to Brecon and back, it was time to start thinking about relaxing again, and make our way to our next stop – the jaw-droppingly beautiful Nanteos mansion.

If we thought Peterstone Court was grand, Nanteos took it to a whole new level. The hotel is once again housed in a beautiful country house – this one just on the outskirts of Aberystwyth – but its location is even more secluded and its refurbishment even more exquisite.

Once a family home, but then left to rack and ruin for many years during the 20th century, its new owners have started the pain-staking job of restoring it back to its former glory. So far, they have only completed the first two floors but no expense has been spared.

Nanteos Mansion

Nanteos Mansion

As soon as you enter the reception you know you are in a very special place. We felt like we’d snuck in to the poshest house in the village and that we shouldn’t really be there. Staff are attentive and courteous when you need them, but most of the time you are free to wander as you please and we really couldn’t believe our luck as we took in the grand surroundings.

The grand dining room

The grand dining room

The sweeping staircase at Nanteos

The sweeping staircase at Nanteos

Amazing old furniture in the kitchen at Nanteos

Amazing old furniture in the kitchen at Nanteos

My favourite room was the kitchen, complete with original furniture and cooking equipment, where breakfast is served every morning.

We enjoyed beautiful scrambled eggs on toast – the perfect hangover cure after a few too many glasses of the local Penderyn whiskey the night before.

But special mention has to go to our bathroom, which I think probably wins the accolade of best bathroom of any hotel I have ever stayed in.

A huge cast iron bath, a heated bench in the middle, a massive shower, piles of fluffy towels but, best of all, lights behind the mirror which automatically switched on when I pulled the blinds down!

I confess I may have spent a little too long pulling the blinds down and then up again just to make sure I wasn’t imagining things..

The most amazing hotel bathroom ever

The most amazing hotel bathroom ever

The Do Not Disturb teddy bear was also a nice touch..

The 'Do Not Disturb' teddy bear at Nanteos Mansion

The ‘Do Not Disturb’ teddy bear at Nanteos Mansion

Day three saw us venture just down the road to our next stop – the Gwesty Cymru hotel on Aberystwyth’s sea-front.

After the grandeur of Peterstone Court and Nanteos Mansion, this three-storey seafront townhouse felt decidedly tiny but, we decided almost instantly, far more ‘us’.

The exterior of the Gwesty Cymru hotel

The exterior of the Gwesty Cymru hotel

While we loved sampling a taste of the high-life at the other hotels, Gwesty Cymru was down-to-earth and welcoming, and our sea-view room was the perfect place to escape from the biting wind that was battering the town when we arrived.

Aberystwyth beach

Aberystwyth beach

I’ve got to be honest, Aberystwyth isn’t the prettiest of places, but it does have some lovely independent shops and a laid-back feel.

After lunch in a trendy beachfront Italian restaurant, we took a trip along the coast to the sand dunes at Ynslas, which were beautiful, if a bit bleak in the chilly wind.

Ynslas sand dunes

Ynslas sand dunes

After a bracing walk we returned to Aberystwyth where we enjoyed an amble around the town and discovered some great pubs, before heading back to the hotel’s restaurant where we enjoyed yet another amazing meal.

The hotel prides itself on using as much locally-sourced food as possible, and its restaurant was buzzing, even on a Wednesday evening, with diners coming from far and wide, not just those who were staying in the hotel.

We finished the day sharing a bottle of wine in our room, sitting in armchairs in the bay window watching the sun set over the waves.

Not a bad end to our Welsh adventure.

  • Our trip was organised by the Welsh Rarebits collection of independent, boutique hotels. For a free copy of the 2013 brochure visit www.rarebits.co.uk or call 01570 470 785.
  •  Double rooms at Peterstone Court start from £92.50 pp (two sharing) on a dinner bed and breakfast. For bookings call 01874 665 387.
  •  Gwesty Cymru Hotel & Restaurant, located on the Aberystwyth seafront, has doubles from £43.50 pp (two sharing) on a B&B basis. Sea-view rooms from £69 pp (dinner circa £30 pp). Tel. 01970 612 252.
  •  Double rooms at Nanteos Mansion start from £90 pp (two sharing) on a B&B basis. Tel. 01970 600 522.
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