Lake Vyrnwy Hotel, Bala
The Lake Vyrnwy Hotel epitomises “location, location, location” with one of the most mesmerising views you are going to find anywhere on earth, never mind Wales. Nestled among the soaring mountains that ring the lake, isolated in perfect peace and quiet, this neo-baronial pile in specious grounds offers pitch pine, deep leather chairs, soft furnishings, log fires and wealth of antiques in spacious and luxurious room, flawless service and sumptuous cuisine. It’s difficult to conceive why anybody wouldn’t love it just for its own sake, but it offers a wealth of activities and sports, from luxuriating in its spa, to boating on the lake, walking through the majestic forests and countryside, or any of the activities on the hotel’s 24,000 acre estate, from clay pigeon shooting to fly fishing and pool.
Obviously, such peak standards don’t come cheap (a weekend for two will set you back in the order of £200 just for the room) but the value for money is terrific, and the memories unforgettable.
Llanthony Priory, Abergavenny
Do you ever get that feeling you’d like to withdraw from the world? Be incommunicado for a while? Being in a dead-quiet situation where the world cannot conceivably disturb your idyll?
Llanthony Priory is your place. It’s not difficult for you to get to, but without wifi, mobile-phone signals or televisions in the rooms, it might as well be the other side of the world so far as the office is concerned. A former monastery dating from the middle ages, mentioned by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the twelve century (who remarked on its beauty and tranquility — and not much has changed since then!), dissolved by Henry VIII, turned into a manor house, and now a hotel, every room is different. Circular stone stairs lead to rooms with four-poster beds, sloping ceilings and great oak beams. Whether you spend the weekend walking or cycling through the Brecon Becons, visiting the stunning wonders of the national park, painting, star gazing or just reading, it’s a brilliant, romantic, historic place to unwind and forget the rest of the world exists.
The restaurant at Llanthony Priory Hotel
St George’s Hotel, Llandudno
For classic Edwardian elegance, including the grade 2 listed breakfast room, with magnificent views of the Irish Sea, it has to be the four-star St George’s Hotel, Llandudno. Once a run-down shadow of a Victorian resort, Llandudno has been spruced up and rendered gorgeous again, laid back, but still plenty to do. Most of the rooms in the St George’s have lovely town or sea views, and are fully equipped with classy en-suite bathrooms and plush mattresses to sink into. While you’re there, indulge yourself with a cream tea — classic scones and clotted cream, with a glass of prosecco.
Harbourmaster hotal, Aberaeron
Aberaeron’s harbour is a delightful flotilla of pleasure boats bobbing in front of a cluster of little Georgian houses painted all the colours of the rainbow. In the middle of them, the biggest of the lot, sits what used to be the harbour master’s office, controlling the boats that drifted in and out on the tide. The harbour master moved out years ago. It’s now a family hotel, developed and decorated in a modern and chic style. The bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms, and decorated in sea and sunset hues. The restaurant offers fresh-from-the-harbour sea food, masterfully balanced in traditional dishes with an up-to-date twist.
St David’s Hotel, Cardiff
I have to confess. With some trepidation, in case the the plod knock on my door saying, “Anything you say on your website may be used as evidence against you.” Years ago, my brother, his girlfriend, my mate Owen and I went for dinner in Cardiff Bay. Markedly worse for wear, and fancying a few more drinkies after closing time, we popped over to the St David’s, and ordered a round. “What is your room number,” asked the barman.
“326” I told him, which was a lie. We weren’t staying in the hotel. Sitting down with our drinkies, we admired the ash trays, which were lovely. Big, chunky, heavy glass with a purple swirl running through them. Really, the nicest ash trays I’d ever seen. A few minutes passed before the bar manager approached, requesting that I join him at the bar. He asked me to confirm my room number, then asked whether I was actually staying at the hotel. He couldn’t ask me to pay for the drinkies, because he wasn’t allowed to sell to the general public at that hour. So he asked me to leave the premises and never return for a very, very long time. I broke the sad news to my companions, so we finished up. But those ash trays — really, they were just so lovely. So while my brother’s girlfriend, who was quite a looker, chatted up the barman and the manager, we shoved the ash trays down the front of our trousers and walked out like we had the biggest balls in Wales! Which, metaphorically speaking, I suppose we did.
I don’t smoke any more, and the law forbids smoking in the bar these days, so maybe they’d trust me again, as long as I pay for my drinks. I relate this story merely to emphasise that, if St David’s will devote such attention to a mere ash tray, think what the rest of the hotel is like. Its views of Cardiff Bay are simply stunning. The restaurant is tremendous. The rooms are huge and luxurious. Cardiff is a city that is remarkably well equipped, everything within easy reach of the hotel’s door step. From opera to ice hockey, including a huge shopping centre, a castle, wonderful architecture, lush green spaces, it’s all there is Cardiff, and easily reached on the M4, by rail or by air.