Glorious Gardens

Summer has officially arrived, which means it’s time to slap on some sun cream, pull out that picnic blanket, and plan a delightful getaway in the UK. In Wales, you can make the most of the sunshine by heading to one of these gorgeous hotels, all of which are known for their fantastic gardens.

Tre-Ysgawen Hall & Spa, Anglesey

Tre-Ysgawen is a country house hotel and spa dating back to 1882 which is known for its fine dining. The gardens surrounding the hotel are a key attraction, and feature a laburnum arch, an old well, a snowdrop wood, and – most notably – a number of sculptures, including the 19th century “Lady”.

Bodysgallen Hall & Spa, Llandudno

This historic hotel is situated within 200 stunning acres of wooded parkland and gardens. Book a stay here and you can wander through the lovingly maintained grounds admiring the walled gardens, lily ponds, rockery, rose bushes, and follies. The crowning glory is the 17th century formal garden filled with precise box hedges.

Holm House, Penarth

Head to picturesque Penarth, a coastal town just south of Cardiff, and you can stay at Holm House. Penarth is known as “The Garden of the Sea”, so it’s fitting that Holm House boasts immaculately manicured gardens, where you can enjoy gorgeous sea views. Experience the luxury of a Holm House break by making use of this fantastic Midweek Sunset Escape offer, which includes a 25-minute spa treatment.

Bear Hotel, Crickhowell

Just named one of the Best Summer Pubs in Britain by The Times, The Bear Hotel in Crickhowell is the perfect place for a summer escape. Plan a stay in this former stagecoach inn, or simply stop by for lunch, and you can dine in the beautiful summer garden, which boasts some spectacular floral displays.

Lake Country House & Spa, Llangammarch Wells

You might book into the Lake Country House to enjoy the luxury spa treatments, but you’ll want to stay for the beautiful grounds. Stroll past the lakes and along the banks of the River Irfon, fish and play tennis, and spot resident woodpeckers in the trees.

Llansantffraed Court, Abergavenny

Llansantffraed Court is a hotel and restaurant housed in a spectacular redbrick building. Best known for its award-winning food, the hotel is also notable for its beautiful gardens. The 20 acres of grounds feature a walled kitchen garden, manicured lawns, ancient trees, a lake and fountain, and even a 16th century church.

Grove of Narberth, Narberth

The Grove of Narberth is a luxury hotel situated in the rolling Pembrokeshire hills, just a 12 minute drive from the coast. In the beautiful grounds you’ll discover centuries-old oaks and beeches, formal box hedges, a restored 17th century walled garden, and a kitchen garden. Visit during the summer, and you can expect to see rhododendrons and colourful flower borders in bloom.

Portmeirion, near Porthmadog

We couldn’t talk about glorious gardens without mentioning Portmeirion, the coastal town famously designed and constructed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the style of an Italian village. Visit this curious place and take a tour of the quirky, beautifully kept gardens. Notable features include the pagoda and lily pond of the Japanese Garden, the rhododendrons, and the monkey puzzle trees.

Making a Splash!

With the mercury rising across the UK, it’s a fantastic time to plan a poolside holiday. To avoid the hassle of booking flights and accommodation abroad, arrange a stay in beautiful Wales. All the properties listed below have their own swimming pools, which means you’re guaranteed a cool, refreshing and oh-so-relaxing stay!

Porth Tocyn Country House Hotel, Abersoch

Porth Tocyn is a coastal country house hotel situated a short distance from some excellent beaches. Stay at this establishment, though, and you won’t even have to venture outside to sunbathe by the water. The surrounding gardens feature a secluded outdoor swimming pool, lined with loungers, chairs, and plenty of greenery.

Peterstone Court, Brecon

Housed in a Georgian building that still boasts traditional features, Peterstone Court is, on the one hand, a classic example of a country hotel. On the other, it’s a modern and vibrant establishment that boasts a fully equipped gym, excellent spa facilities, and – best of all – a heated outdoor pool, which rests in the centre of a lovingly maintained garden.

Sychnant Pass Country House, Conwy

This 5-star hotel nestles on the edge of Snowdonia National Park amidst three gorgeous acres of landscaped gardens. Book a stay here and you can spend your days golfing, hiking, and sightseeing in the historic local towns and villages. Alternatively, stay put and make use of the excellent onsite facilities. Work out in the gym, enjoy spa treatments, and enjoy a relaxing swim in the heated indoor pool.

The Metropole Hotel, Llandrindod

The Metropole is housed in a distinctive green building that dates back to the late 19th century. Home to an award-winning restaurant and a spa housed in a Victorian conservatory, this 4-star hotel frequently tops the list of mid-Wales establishments. Stay here and you can enjoy leisurely swims in the 18 metre heated indoor swimming pool – it’s the perfect way to unwind after a day of sightseeing.

Corran Resort & Spa, Laugharne

The Corran is a country retreat located on the Towy Estuary, a short distance from the Dylan Thomas Boathouse. A place where tradition meets modernity, the Corran houses a 16th century building at its heart, and is known for its spa, award-winning restaurant, and The Corran Academy – a cookery course run by Jean-Christophe Novelli. More importantly, the hotel also boasts an excellent indoor swimming pool!

St Brides Spa Hotel, Saundersfoot

This Pembrokeshire hotel is situated on a cliff top overlooking the coast. The main attraction here is the spa, which provides a sanctuary of seafront calm and a host of revitalising treatments. The most exciting feature here is the outdoor infinity hydro pool, which lets you cool off as you gaze out at the spectacular Pembrokeshire coastline.

Warpool Court Hotel, St Davids

Warpool Court is perhaps best known for its stunning sea views, which can be enjoyed from the Italian-style gardens and the traditional dining room. Set in 15 acres of beautiful coastal land, Warpool Court provides the perfect escape from the urban grind. Best of all, the hotel boasts a covered heated swimming pool, which stays open between April and September.

Take a Welsh Road Trip

The road trip may be an American tradition – but who says you can’t have an awesome driving holiday in Wales?

Not only is our beautiful nation filled with stunning natural landscapes, it’s also home to countless historic sites, tourist attractions, and friendly villages boasting excellent accommodation.

To give our readers some road trip inspiration, we’ve taken a look at three fantastic routes of The Wales Way.

The North Wales Way: Castles & Coastal Villages

The first of these routes is also the shortest, at 75 miles, making it ideal for a weekend break. The official route follows the North Wales Expressway and starts just outside Chester.

The first major attraction is the 13th-century Flint Castle, which sits on the River Dee. Come off the expressway at Conwy Road Bridge and you can pay a visit to another historic site: the spectacular Conwy Castle in the picturesque market town of Conwy. This formidable fortress was built for Edward I; two more of his castles, Caernarfon and Beaumaris, can be found just off this route on the Menai Strait.

This route also boasts highlights such as the Conwy Brewery, the Welsh Mountain Zoo, and the 19th-century South Stack Lighthouse. The village of Rhoscolyn on Anglesey, meanwhile, is the perfect place to stop for a spot of lunch and a stroll along the beach.

The Coastal Way: Beaches & Wildlife

If you’re seeking a longer road trip, try out the 180-mile Coastal Way, which runs from St David’s all the way to the Llyn Peninsula.

Early highlights include St David’s Cathedral, the Abeireddi Blue Lagoon, and the charming Melin Tregwynt Woollen Mill. As you head north you’ll have the opportunity to sample some local fare at the Bluestone Brewing Company, NOMNOM Chocolate, and Caws Cenarth Cheese.

The key attraction of the Coastal Way is the opportunity to visit gorgeous beaches and spot local marine life. At Cardigan Bay, you can hop on a boat and see dolphins and seals. Other fantastic coastal sites include the Borth Submerged Forest, Barmouth Beach, and the quirky village of Portmeirion.

For the ultimate coastal experience, extend your stay on the Llyn Peninsula, and spend some time exploring the gorgeous beaches. You can even take a boat over to Bardsey Island to do birdwatching and seal spotting.

The Cambrian Way: Mountains & Cities

The longest route in the Wales Way family is the Cambrian Way, which runs for 185 miles down the spine of Wales.

Starting in Llandudno, you’ll take the A470 into the heart of Snowdonia. Here you can visit the Swallow Falls, Surf Snowdonia, and Castell Dolwyddelan – not to mention hike, cycle or horse ride through the spectacular mountains.

Coming out of Snowdonia you’ll rejoin the A470, and drive through beautiful mountainous countryside as you come into the Brecon Beacons. Highlights here are numerous and include Pen y Fan, the highest peak in south Wales, Cyfarthfa Castle, and the Brecon Mountain Railway.

From here you’ll head into our vibrant capital city, Cardiff, where you can catch a game of rugby at the Principality Stadium, visit the historic castle and explore the museums, shops and world-class restaurants. With Newport and Swansea only a short drive away, you can easily continue your city tour of southern Wales.

The only question is… which route will you choose?

Photography supplied by Visit Wales Image Centre © Crown Copyright (2018)

The Welsh Welcome: Through Mid-Wales back to Cardiff (Week 5)

Written by Lisa from Fjords and Beaches as she travels through Wales experiencing the Welsh Welcome for the whole of June.

After months of planning and anticipation, followed by weeks of adventures and incredible hotel experiences, my trip with the Welsh Rarebits Collection has sadly come to an end. I can’t believe how fast time has flown by, and wish I could go back and do it all again!

In case you have missed out, I have been travelling Wales for the whole of June, staying in 32 of the incredible Hotels of Distinction in the Welsh Rarebits Collection. Each week I have summed up my stays, and you can catch up on all the blog posts below.

Week 1 – From Cardiff to Pembrokeshire

Week 2 – Along the Pembrokeshire Coast to Aberystwyth

Week 3 – Through Snowdonia to Anglesey

Week 4 – From Anglesey across the North

It is absolutely incredible to think of all the stunning hotels I have seen and gotten to stay in these past weeks. And this last week has been no exception!

Hotel no. 25 – The Metropole Hotel & Spa

Upon arrival at my next destination, I got a fun invitation to go on a tour through the nearby Elan Valley (and seeing 3 out of the 4 dams built here to supply Bristol with water). I naturally said yes, and was treated to a joy ride in a very unique car. So unique, in fact, that there are only 60 of it in the world! It was such a fun trip, and I highly recommend visiting Elan Valley for anyone staying at the Metropole Hotel and Spa.

I was really excited when I saw this hotel, mainly because of its fairytale-like towers. I was even more excited to enter my room and realise that it was in one of these towers! It didn’t take me long to get settled in and start getting some work done, because the wifi was absolutely incredible. I spent the majority of the afternoon writing blog posts, editing photos and streaming Downton Abbey in my tower room. Before dinner, I made sure to have a walk through the hotel hallway, where the interesting (and long) history of the hotel is displayed. This was such a great touch, as one of my #1 questions when getting to a new hotel is how old the building is and if there are any fun facts to share!

I had dinner in Spencer’s Brasserie, one of their two restaurants. Starting off with a lovely gin & tonic from the bar, I then had a hard time choosing from the many options on their menu. The food was great, and I was super excited to see cannelloni on the menu, which is one of my favourites. In addition to the great food, the staff was incredibly welcoming, and I had a really good dinner experience.

Hotel no. 26 – Lake Country House & Spa

The next stop on my drive through Mid-Wales was the Lake Country House and Spa. I almost cried upon arrival, because in the sweltering heat I was met in the doorway by a man who carried my suitcase for me, which was incredibly welcome at the time. I was shown to my room (the Master Suite), and almost squealed with excitement over the tall bed with the princess curtains. Then I saw the in-room tub, and got even more excited. This room truly was made for comfort.

I spent the day walking around the lake that the hotel takes its name from, and relaxing at the spa. They have a hot tub and a pool, in addition to a steam room and sauna. I was made to feel right at home at Lake Country House, and wasn’t surprised to learn that many of the guests of the hotel came back after their first visit.

The next day I was treated to an Indian Head Massage before checking out, and it was absolute heaven. The 50-minute treatment included a back and shoulder massage, and left me feeling so refreshed. As I was struggling with hay fever, the massage therapist spent some time focusing on the channels around my nostrils, and even used a menthol rub for me to breathe in, in order to clear my nose. I left feeling so much better than I came in, and was incredibly grateful.

Hotel no. 27 – Gliffaes Country House Hotel

Arriving at Gliffaes Country House Hotel had me smiling. The drive up to the hotel was beautiful, and I couldn’t wait to start exploring their 33 acres of land. The trees on the property were incredible, and I quickly understood why one of their leaflets include a tree walk, with information on all the trees you can see on the property. Once I had checked into my room (which was absolutely lovely), I jumped in the shower and was in awe of how good the shower pressure was! This may seem like a random thing to notice, but when you’ve travelled as much as I have, you know how important it is when staying at a hotel.

Dinner was such a lovely experience, and I truly enjoyed it. Afterwards, I was asked if I wanted to enjoy my coffee out on the porch, which was too good an offer to turn down! The views were just incredible, and I had such a lovely evening relaxing and enjoying coffee and a couple of treats.

After dinner, I drove down to Cardiff airport to pick up a friend who joined me for the rest of the trip. The drive was super quick, and it’s incredible to me how easily you can get to Gliffaes from Cardiff. When we woke up the next day, we went on the lovely tree walk around the grounds of the hotel and spent some time enjoying the views before it was time to head off to our next destination.

Hotel no. 28 – Peterstone Court Hotel

Peterstone Court hotel welcomed us with stunning weather, friendly faces and a very inviting pool. We arrived in time for lunch and settled in in the shade on the porch, looking forward to the time when we could jump in. After a tour of the hotel, we quickly realised that the spa was just as inviting, and opted for a relaxing hour in the indoor hot tub. Here, Ida fell asleep for a half hour (tired from the journey the night before), while I read my book and doubling as a lifeguard (making sure her head was above water at all times). I can’t imagine a more relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

After our visit to the spa, Ida stayed behind to have a Swedish massage, while I spent some time getting some work done in our room. Our room was large and spacious, with lovely mountain views and a beautiful fireplace.

Dinner was incredible, and I really enjoyed my Perl Las (blue cheese) pannacotta, which I had never tried before! We opted to enjoy our desserts outside in the warm evening and were super happy with the lack of midgies and mosquitoes. We repeated this process after breakfast the next morning, asking to bring our pot of fresh coffee outside. Such a lovely place.

Hotel no. 29 – Llansantffraed Court Hotel

Our next hotel was one I was already quite excited about. I had done my research on Instagram, and seen the facade of Llansantffraed Court Hotel in several photos, knowing very well that this was a very aesthetically pleasing hotel. The drive up to the hotel proved me right, and as we passed the pond in front of the hotel, both me and Ida were smiling from ear to ear.

They were kind enough to give us separate rooms, something we couldn’t have been more grateful for. Not only were the rooms stunning to begin with, but we had two of them! Once we were all checked in, we arranged to have afternoon tea out in the grounds of the hotel (something which the staff are happy to accommodate for), and we enjoyed a lovely afternoon out in in the sun, eating scones and having tea and local sparkling wine!

Dinner at Llansantffraed was an experience worth travelling for, and both me and Ida squealed with excitement at each course that was brought out. We went through an incredible 7-course dinner, complete with matching wine pairings. I left the dinner with a list of wines to buy once I get home to Norway! Did I mention that out of their impressive wine list (almost 200 wines), all are available to order by the glass?

Hotel no. 30 – The Bear

The following day we headed towards Crickhowell, where we found our next destination. In the area surrounding the Bear Hotel, you can find the incredible Tretower Court, which is an impressive castle and stately home. Owned by William Herbert and inhabited by his half-brother and the Vaughan family, you’ll be amazed at the interesting history to be found here.

Our room at the Bear Hotel was absolutely incredible. The tub was huge, and the four-poster bed was stunning, which impressive details carved into the posters. We quickly learned that we had been given the honeymoon suite, which we were very happy with! I made sure to find the time to have a nice bath before dinner, and it was incredibly relaxing.

The dinner at the Bear was a great experience, and we were so excited to experience ‘pub dining’ at its finest. Great service, great food (and portions), and a great selection of dishes. In addition to the menu, we could also choose between their selected specials, and so you are bound to find something you love here. For desserts, we opted for the Eton Mess and the Tiramisu, and both were mouthwatering!

Hotel no. 31 – James Sommerin

The last night of my adventure saw me back along the oceanfront in Penarth, and it was a little bittersweet to be back. However sad I was to be finishing my month, I was really excited to stay and dine at what I had been told might just be a culinary highlight of the trip; Restaurant James Sommerin.

Our room was great, and we loved the green and blue colour scheme of it. We had a lovely balcony overlooking the Penarth Pier and loved being so close to Cardiff. We made sure to head to central Cardiff on the day we arrived, to have a nice stroll around and enjoy being back in the city. We did, however, head back to James Sommerin a little early, so we could get ready and enjoy the excitement before our dining experience in the evening.

Dinner did not disappoint, and we spent the entire evening awing and ooh-ing over the meals we were served. We went with the 6-course tasting menu, which is a surprise menu that is specially prepared for each table, and served by the chefs! We had a selection of meats and new tasting experiences, from smoked eel to leg of rabbit, and every course was as delicious as the one before. The highlight of the evening has to be the raspberry and granola souffle, which was cut in front of us and finished with a hot raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream.

I can’t explain enough how unbelievable this month has been! From an Italian village and Michelin star restaurants, to manor houses and former Parliamentarian headquarters, the Welsh Rarebits Collection really has something for everyone!

I hope you have enjoyed following my adventures around Wales, because I have LOVED it! Please stay in touch with me on Facebook and Instagram, and leave any comments you may have below!

— Lisa from Fjords and Beaches