An enchanting weekend in Wales. By Victoria Preston
Nestled in the heart of the historic Conwy Valley is North Wales’s newest luxury hotel. A friend and I arrived at Caer Rhun Hall tired and stressed from a busy week at work, then left two days later utterly zen.
After a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Leeds, we arrived to beautiful, Autumnal views of crimson, marigold and plum. The hotel is just half-an-hour’s drive to Snowdonia- I’m sure anyone who’s visited the National Park can imagine the landscapes here. As we pulled into the hotel’s entrance, we were in awe of the building.
The three-storey, late-Victorian mansion boasts a heavily ornamented roofline adorned with stunning, decorative gables, tall chimneys and towers. On entrance, we were greeted by the friendly receptionist; Georgie, who offered us drinks and showed us to our room. As a Grade II listed building, the hotel isn’t permitted to install an elevator.
We stayed in the Anderson suite (£190 per night*). Our room was incredibly spacious and recently refurbished. The furniture was chic, with a large bed and a comfortable pull-out bed (set up as requested). By far the focal feature of the room; a free-standing copper bath sits before the large windows which look onto the grounds. We also loved the fluffy robes, espresso machine with pretty china, and modern bathroom with a sit-down shower.
There were, however, a few lacking aspects. A cabinet underneath the table was clearly fitted for a mini fridge but there was yet to be one in there. Neither was there a phone, which means we couldn’t call for room service. I felt this was a little strange for a hotel which otherwise maintains its luxury stature. The room could also do with a (well-lit) mirror on the table and a proper full-length mirror.
Although the hotel advertised itself as a digital detox, the Wi-Fi was simply undergoing improvements, therefore a slow connection was available. Likewise, we could see from the wirings on the wall that they were planning to fit a TV in the room. It seemed a shame that the hotel had opened before these finishing touches had been added. Still, none of this takes away from the fact we both said “wow” when we entered the room.
After settling in, we decided to explore the grounds, which exhibit some very impressive, ancient trees. In particular, a huge, illuminated cedar tree sits to the rear of the property where we much enjoyed the quaint swing hung from one of its many canopied branches. A short walk across the hotel’s football pitch brought us to the early-medieval and Grade I listed St Mary’s church, right by the banks of the river Conwy, surrounded by sheep-spotted parkland. Sat on the site of a once bustling Roman fort, this tiny, picturesque church is well worth the wander. We found the grounds at Caer Rhun so serene that we spent most of our visit amongst them.
The hotel’s restaurant and spa were under construction on our visit, so that night, we ate at The Belmont– a twenty-minute drive from the hotel in Llandudno. The food here was fairly good and the staff were pleasant. They make the most heavenly peppercorn sauce, but aside from that- nothing to write home about.
Things got a whole lot tastier at breakfast. Back at the hotel, a ritzy continental is included. High-quality cold meats, cheeses, pastries, breads, homemade granolas, yogurts and fruit are available from eight till ten each morning. The serrano ham was a particular favourite of mine. Although the staff were attentive, I felt it would have been helpful to mention the cooked food on offer. We weren’t aware that it was possible to pay for a cooked breakfast until a plate of eggs Benedict passed us the next morning. I would suggest a menu on each table to avoid this confusion.
There is, however, an egg station with a clever boiling machine and adorable wind-up hen egg timers. The picnic baskets full of Marmite hearts and mini Nutellas also went down a treat, naturally. Note for devoted HP sauce fans- the hotel serves what I believe to be homemade brown sauce, but it’s more comparable to chutney.
Full of grub and raring to go, we set off to the Zip World Slate Caverns, one of three activity parks in the area, offering guests the chance to fly over a quarry on Europe’s largest zip line, and bounce on underground trampolines. After the scenic forty-minute drive, we popped our hard hats on and slipped 500 feet underground for a tour of the Llechwedd slate mine.
The tour proved both interesting and moving. The last chamber on the tour; The Cathedral, is not only majestic, but also the deepest point in the UK you can get married! Due to the constant temperature in the mine (6-7°C), it’s also used to age 26,000kg of cheese. You can purchase the Welsh Slate Cavern Aged Cheddar in the gift shop and Sainsbury’s- the unique flinty flavours of the slate are absolutely delicious. I’ve already finished mine!
That night, we dined at the Llandudno Bay Hotel, after a drink by the open fire in the hotel’s bar. Though the restaurant was empty, our waiter was lovely, and we much enjoyed the haddock, then walked it off along the charming promenade before returning to the hotel for a good night’s kip.
If I were to describe Caer Rhun Hall in one word, it would be bucolic. Us urban dwellers often undervalue time spent outdoors, but my Welsh trip served as a reminder of the benefits of a good dose of fresh air and nature. Our visit was a true pastoral; it has manifested the notion that rural life delivers inner peace. Once the hotel’s developments are completed, I would recommend Caer Rhun Hall for a romantic getaway, especially for dog owners as I believe the hotel is dog-friendly. To any readers planning a wedding- this one should be a solid contender.
Conwy, Wales, Ll32 8Hx
T: 01492 650 012