Best of the Rest
Easily accessible from Manchester Airport along the A55, the north coast’s primary highway, Conwy Golf Club (conwygolfclub.co.uk) can best be described as a minor-championship links, having hosted the final British Open qualifier in ‘06 as well as numerous regional events. Donald Steel did some bunker work a few years ago that resulted in a number of punishing pits. Llanymynech Golf Club (), straddling the English border, was Ian Woosnam’s boyhood stomping ground. It occupies the highest land for miles. Says Woosie: “ The view from the twelfth tee is one of the most magnificent you’ll see.” Way out on the Isle of Anglesey, Bull Bay Golf Club (bullbaygc.co.uk) is a madcap romp around a remote, gorse-clad plateau. Designed by W. H. Fowler of Walton Heath fame, the course makes brilliant use of its wild terrain, with greens perched on natural shelves and rock ledges. It’s worth a side trip if you make it as far north as Nefyn. Pyle & Kenfig Golf Club (pandkgolfclub.co.uk) is often packaged alongside Porthcawl and Southerndown to Cardiff-area visitors, but it runs a distant third, though there are some excellent holes within the dunes on the back nine. In the southwest corner of the country, Tenby is an ancient castle town turned mid-market summer resort. Tenby Golf Club (tenbygolf.co.uk)—which dates to 1888, making it one of the oldest in Wales—is a quirky links with some nice contour, especially the double-blind fourth near the coast.
Where to Stay
Castell Deudraeth In nineteenth-century Wales, conspicuous consumption often meant conspicuous construction, as the nouveau riche built homes modeled after medieval castles. These are now known as “ follies.” Castell Deudraeth is a folly, but only on the exterior. Inside, it’s a cool blend of traditional and modern. Opened as a hotel in 2001, its four suites and seven bedrooms are very much up to date, with queen- or king-size beds, heated floors and whirlpool baths. The downstairs lounge, with its toasty hearth and comfy chairs, might be the most inviting space of all. It’s connected to a fine restaurant that expertly handles such local delights as Menai Strait oysters and Llyn crab and lobster.
Portmeirion, Gwynedd. Rooms: $350-$480. Contact: 011-44/1766-770-000, portmeirion-village.com.
Celtic Manor Resort On the surface, Celtic Manor appears to be an American-style resort, and it’s certainly different from most other lodging options in Wales. Its origins lie in the early 1980s, when billionaire Sir Terence Matthews purchased the shuttered maternity hospital in which he was born and converted it into a hotel. This original structure still exists as the classically styled Manor House. It connects to the 330-room main hotel, which is loaded with latter-day amenities and where two themes quickly become clear: a commitment to big-time professional golf and, in charming contrast, a celebration of the valley’s Roman heritage. The expansive Forum Spa is the most obvious nod to the original masters of decadence; one feels perfectly spoiled taking a nocturnal dip in the infinity pool, beneath a domed firmament twinkling with simulated stars.
Coldra Woods, the Usk Valley, South Wales. Rooms: from $315. Contact: 011-44/1633-413-000, celtic-manor.com.
Llangoed Hall Set on seventeen idyllic acres along the banks of the swift-running River Wye, this grand manor house dates to 1632. It was restored in belle epoque style in the 1910s by architect Clough Williams-Ellis (see opposite page). Most recently, the estate has been carried to near perfection by its current proprietor, Sir Bernard Ashley, Laura Ashley’s widower. With its high-ceilinged rooms, four-poster canopy beds, saucer-size showerheads and window seats looking out on pastoral fields and the Brecon Beacons mountains, Llangoed Hall is overwhelmingly romantic. It may not be well situated for golf—the Cardiff-area courses are a good ninety minutes away—but it offers the loveliest accommodations in all of Wales.
Llyswen, Brecon, Powys. Rooms: from $390. Contact: 011-44/1874-754-525, llangoedhall.com.
Llety Bodfor This stylish townhouse no more than a two-minute drive from Aberdovey Golf Club appeals to travelers with a taste for interior design. Its eight huge, beautifully appointed suites are perfect for those who are accustomed to spreading out. For what it’s worth, Llety Bodfor is much quieter and more private than the Penhelig Arms up the road.
Aberdovey, Gwynedd. Rooms: $90-$290. Contact: 011-44/1654-767-475, lletybodfor.co.uk.
Morgans Hotel In the heart of Swansea, Morgans is housed in a red brick 1902 building. The twenty-room boutique, possessing a contemporary style worthy of London or New York, is the city’s best hotel. (Welsh lass and keen golfer Catherine Zeta-Jones used to stay here before she and her husband, Michael Douglas, bought a home on the Gower Peninsula.) Morgans is twenty minutes from Pennard Golf Club and a block from the Dylan Thomas Centre and the cavernous pubs and clubs of Wind Street.
Somerset Place, Swansea. Rooms: $250-$500. Contact: 011-44/1792-484-848, morgans hotel.co.uk.
St. Brides Spa Hotel Perched on a sea cliff offering lovely views of the village of Saundersfoot and its beach and harbor, St. Brides is a modern retreat in one of the U.K.’s most unspoiled regions: the Pembrokeshire coast. The brand-new Marine Spa, with cliff-edge treatment rooms and a luxurious “ thermal suite,” is the main draw. It’s a small hotel with a relaxed atmosphere and warm, personal service. Golf at Tenby is ten minutes down the road.
Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire. Rooms: $280-$520. Contact: 011-44/1834-812-304, stbrides spahotel.com.
St. David’s Hotel & Spa Cardiff exploded during the Industrial Revolution, fueled by the export of coal; it went from a backwater village in 1800 to a boomtown by the turn of the twentieth century. But when the city fell on hard times beginning in the 1960s, the old docks gained notoriety as one of Britain’s roughest areas. In the eighties, the city embarked on an ambitious plan to rejuvenate the waterfront, rebranded as Cardiff Bay. In addition to the Millennium Centre, a showcase of arts and culture, today’s cornerstones also include the St. David’s Hotel, which is decked out in cosmopolitan decor. Downtown Cardiff, with its Victorian shopping arcades, is ten minutes away by bus, and the nearby M4 motorway places courses such as Porthcawl and Southerndown within easy reach.
Havannah Street, Cardiff. Rooms: $219-$460. Contact: 011-44/2920-454-045, the stdavidshotel.com.