Nestled in the lush Wye Valley, Llangoed Hall is a luxury country house hotel and foodie destination. Even in twilight, the enormous, ivy-clad hall is impressive to behold. We finally arrived, tired and late, after a long drive, and were welcomed at the door by a friendly member of staff, who escorted us to our room.
The hall is awash with gorgeous antiques and fine art, which are part of a collection amassed by its former owner Sir Bernard Ashley (husband of the late designer Laura Ashley). What should have been a one-minute walk down a corridor and up some stairs turned into a distracted five minutes of examining intriguing objects and gaping at beautiful paintings, some by eminent artists such as Augustus John and James McNeil Whistler.
The hotel rooms are adorned with Laura Ashley prints
The hotel has 23 bedrooms, all of which have been individually designed and retain a period feel. After being ushered into our room by our patient porter, we discovered that ours was tastefully decorated with yet more antique furniture. Iconic floral fabric ubiquitous with Laura Ashley adorned the vast four-poster bed and chaise longue, which was perfect for reclining on should the walk across the room prove too exhausting.
The first port of call for any weary traveller on arrival must surely be the fathoms-deep bath, which is where I found myself after a quick snoop around the room. In lieu of tea and coffee-making facilities, complimentary sherry is available in all the rooms, and I can personally vouch for a glass of the good stuff being the perfect accompaniment to a luxurious bath.
Food and drink
Breakfast at Llangoed Hall is locally sourced and will set you up for the day
Eating at the hall is a real treat and good-quality locally sourced ingredients are at the very heart of Head Chef Nick Brodie’s offering. Vegetables, fruits and herbs are grown in the hotel’s kitchen garden. Bread is baked daily on site and eggs are sourced from the estate’s ducks, hens and bantams. For breakfast, the homemade granola was tasty – nutty and fruity – and the smoked haddock and poached egg were delicate. The full Welsh breakfast was a carnivore’s dream, comprising flavoursome sausages, black pudding and crispy bacon, served with mushrooms, tomatoes and the traditional Welsh laver bread.
Scruffs (myself included) take note: the hall operates a no jeans, no polo shirts policy for evening meals. We began this opulent experience with G&Ts and delicious hors d’oeuvres in the oak-panelled Great Hall. The bright, creamy pea pana cotta, using freshly picked and podded garden peas, was a highlight.
Welsh lamb: a delight to the taste buds
Wine enthusiasts will enjoy scouring the Yellow Pages-sized drinks menu for their favourite tipple, but it was all about the food for us and we spent a while deliberating various options before deciding on the tasting menu. This offers a superb selection of different meats, vegetables, textures and flavours to showcase the estate’s produce. At our dining table, we were given a selection of warm rolls to pick at before our banquet commenced.
First up was a perfectly poached bantam egg, served with salt-baked turnip and Iberico ham. The oozy yolk and earthy mushroom sauce formed a flavourful broth, perfect for bread dipping. Next was pigeon with kohlrabi and pear, followed by salmon with scallop ceviche, velvety avocado and wasabi mayonnaise, the most enjoyable sashimi I’ve ever had.
Anyone for petit fours?
Veal tartare was next up, and then the star of the show: Welsh lamb. Perfectly cooked and succulent, it was a dish to fantasize about in the days to come, and was accompanied by couscous, goat’s cheese and asparagus. The feast was nicely rounded off with a dessert of moist pistachio cake, blueberries and crème fraiche. Despite protesting that we couldn’t eat another bite, we devoured the chocolaty petit fours in a few greedy mouthfuls and sipped tea from dainty china cups.
Out and about
The Brecon Beacons are a stone's throw away from Llangoed Hotel
The hotel is situated in an area that’s perfect for outdoors enthusiasts. Kayaking is available on the Wye River and the nearby Brecon Beacons National Park offers activities such as mountain biking, whitewater rafting and hiking. We decided to head to Pen y Fan, southern Britain’s highest peak. A 2.5-hour circular route starting from Pont ar Daf car park takes you up Corn Du and Pen y Fan and affords spectacular views across the national park.
The location offers a great deal to non-outdoorsy folk too. We spent an enjoyable afternoon in the pretty town of Hay-on-Wye, nine miles from the hotel and home to the world-famous literary festival. Unsurprisingly, the town is bibliophile heaven, with around 30 bookshops. It also has numerous antique stores, cafes and cosy pubs should you wish to rest your sore feet after a day spent traipsing round the shops.
It's also worth taking a stately turn around the well-maintained grounds of Llangoed Hall itself. We visited the kitchen garden and got temporarily lost in the maze; an experience that was worth every step.
Getting there and away
The beautiful River Wye is on the hotel's doorstep
The only slight drawback of a remote location like this is that it's not the easiest place in the world to get to (but well worth the schlep, nonetheless). The nearest train station to Llangoed Hall is Builth Road, 10 miles away. It's a four and a half hour journey from London Euston to Builth Road, with two changes (Crewe and Shrewsbury) along the way. The city of Hereford is 24 miles away and may be a better option, train-wise; it takes just under three hours to get there from London Paddington with a change at Newport.
Alternatively, you could fly to Bristol or Cardiff airports, both around an hour away. The best way to get here, however, is to drive, meaning you're free to explore the local area at your leisure too. The hotel has plenty of on-site parking and the nearest town is Brecon.
Rooms at Llangoed Hall start at £150 per night based on two sharing and including a two course Welsh breakfast. Visit llangoedhall.co.uk or call 01874 754525 to book