Have you discovered Wales? Located just two and a half hours from London and one hour from Bath, England, south Wales is the ideal country escape for nature lovers. This was our first visit to Wales and we were pleased to discover Gliffaes Country House Hotel in Brecon Beacons National Park. Our goal was to visit all of the national parks in Wales. It was an added bonus that we were able to stay in a historic, family-owned hotel by a river.
Brecon Beacons National Park location
Brecon Beacons is a lovely location in itself, but Gliffaes Country House is like staying in a hotel, surrounded by a giant arboretum. In fact, Gliffaes has been named one of the best small arboretums in Wales and with 33 acres of trees, flowering shrubs and woodlands by the River Usk, I can see why they have earned this honor. As I am from the San Francisco Bay Area, I was pleased to see plantings of California Redwoods, too. It’s rumored that these Coastal Redwoods, the world’s tallest trees, were planted here in 1885 and they are a sight to behold. Don’t miss the 100 and 200 year old Japanese maples in this unique Victorian arboretum.
Once inside the family-run hotel, you’ll be greeted and asked to sign the guest book. It’s a nod to old-world hospitality and Welsh charm. Indeed, it reminded me of our stay in Mount Juliet Estate Manor House in Kilkenny, Ireland. The drawing room and sitting room have wood burning fireplaces and wonderful art from the area.
If you opt for the dinner, bed and breakfast package, you’ll have a chance to review the menu in the bar or sitting room and enjoy a glass of wine or cocktail before dinner. You’ll actually make your menu selections with your server in the bar. I love this country house tradition and wish we offered something like this in the states. It’s also a very efficient way to order, without feeling rushed.
The chef utilizes local produce that reflects a seasonal menu and sources meat and fish within the area. Vegetarian options are also available. Try not to eat too many pieces of the house baked breads or you’ll be too full to order dessert. We enjoyed the trio of homemade ice cream, but the local cheese plate looked tempting, as well.
After a relaxing day of walking beside the River Usk, counting sheep in the pasture and talking to the local chickens, I was ready to tuck into our double bed. Guests have their choice of 23 rooms in the boutique hotel. We stayed in room 19, a classic double, but if this was a special occasion or romantic getaway, I’d reserve room 6 with its River Usk view and luxurious Victorian bath tub.
The hotel’s water supply comes from their very own spring. Grab a rubber ducky, slide into the bath tub and enjoy the Noble Isle bath amenities while you soak in the view.
The next day we woke up to a full Welsh breakfast, seated at a table for two by the fireplace. We enjoyed our bacon and eggs, grabbed an apple from the fruit plate and headed out for a day of horseback riding in Brecon Beacons National Park. If horseback riding isn’t your cup of tea, take a spin on the hotel’s electric bicycles or arrange for a guide to take you trout fishing on the river – this is the place to fish for the elusive wild brown trout.
In the afternoon, head back to Gliffaes for Afternoon Tea in the conservatory. Afternoon tea is served until 6:00 p.m. in case you’d like to feed the kids early and enjoy an adult-only dinner later in the evening. However you decide to spend your time in south Wales, make sure you book several days in the country. There’s plenty to keep you occupied.
Gliffaes Country House Hotel review and all photos by San Francisco Bay Area travel writer Nancy D. Brown. Her stay was hosted by Gliffaes Country House. As always, her thoughts and opinions are her own.