Travel review: Wales shows off its own stairway to heaven

WELSH WONDER: Ynyshir Hall where the hotel rooms are named after famous artists, including Matisse.
WELSH WONDER: Ynyshir Hall where the hotel rooms are named after famous artists, including Matisse.
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Rumour has it that the wonderful Welsh countryside was the perfect inspiration for one of the greatest rock songs of all times.

And soaking up the beauty of the rolling hills and wonderful Cambrian mountains it’s easy to see why.

Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant owns a house in this neck of the woods and is rumoured to have penned Stairway to Heaven about a little path into the mountains.

The rock legend is also just one of the celebrities to have graced the doorstep of the picturesque ten-bedroom Ynyshir Hall.

Tucked away off the beaten track the hotel just oozes charm.

As soon as the fabulous white building appeared on the skyline, and my partner and I drove up the winding track leading to the front door we knew that we were in for something special.

And the hotel is steeped in fascinating history.

Flanked by the sea and the mountains, Ynyshir Hall, was once home to Queen Victoria.

The monarch, who ruled the country for nearly six decades, refurbished the estate when she acquired it.

She loved the wildlife that inhabited the site and helped to craft the extensive gardens that encapsulate the striking building.

Some of the trees that she planted still take pride of place in the gardens today.

Parts of the hall date back to the 15th century but the first recorded owner was David Lloyd, who lived here in the 17th century. His son, John Lloyd, had the nearby Eglwysfach church built.

Work on the gardens continued in 1928, when Ynyshir Hall was sold to William Hubert Mappin of jewellers, Mappin and Webb.

On his death in 1966, 1,000 acres of the estate were sold to the RSPB, to establish the bird reserve that still exists today.

And we were lucky enough to have a sneaky glimpse behind the scenes at the reserve which has recently graced our television screens in the BBC’s Springwatch series.

But the beautiful country house hotel is certainly in safe hands

It was snapped up by present day Queen Joan Reen and her husband and painter Rob, who were the former owners of the property after they sold it in 2006.

And it seems like they have plenty of plans for the future including a whole new wing and a spa treatment centre at the back of the building.

After a three-hour drive from Leeds my partner and I were delighted to arrive at the hotel and were quickly taken to our stunning room – named the Renoir.

Each of the hotel’s rooms and suites are named after a famous artist and the paintings on the walls have been created in the style of that artist.

We were greeted by a fabulous blue and yellow room complete with a fabulous bathroom boasting a starlight style ceiling, an infinity mirror and heated tiles.

To say we were impressed with our spacious room was certainly an enormous understatement.

Just as we prepared to kick off our shoes and relax in the elegant surroundings we received a knock at the door and were treated to a selection of warm scones and a pot of glorious tea.

Over the years Ynyshir has been renowned for its dining experience.

Head chef, Gareth Ward, and his team are behind the innovative award-winning dishes on offer.

My partner and I opted for the tasting menu and it has to be simply some of the finest food we have ever sampled.

When it comes to innovation we were bowled over by what the team dished up for us.

Our selection included a whiskey sour and passionfruit espuma, chicken and foie gras sandwiches and chunky chips with truffle, peas and caviar on top.

We were also lucky enough to sample the ‘elderflower bubble’, which just exploded into a taste sensation.

Crab and avocado ice cream and watermelon made for a fascinating fish dish and our main was duck.

Our meal came with a selection of wines to sample to bring out the different flavours of each dish.

We reached the conclusion by the end of the meal that we would quite happily drive all the way to Wales again even if it is just to sample a taste of the finer things in life.

During our stay we laced up our walking boots and trekked around the stunning RSPB reserve which Ynyshir boasts on its doorstep.

Thankfully the weather remained fine during our trip so that certainly put to bed the saying that it always rains in Wales.

It was easy to see why the reserve was so popular with the Springwatch team with the vast wilderness on offer.

The hotel is the perfect hideaway for celebrities.

And it’s safe to say that Ynyshir has certainly seen its fair share over the years.

Famous guests have included The Duke of Kent, comedian Eddie Izzard, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.

And it’s certainly not every day you can claim to have slept in the same bed as Richard Gere. Apparently the actor visited the beautiful Welsh hotel while he was filming Arthurian flick First Knight.

When I quizzed the staff about his stay they remained tight-lipped about which room he stayed in.

I’m secretly hoping he slept in the beautiful Renoir suite – just so then I can carry on teasing my partner about sharing the same bed as a famous movie star!

TRAVELFACTS

There are ten bedrooms at Ynyshir Hall and prices range from £350 to £855 for one night including dinner, bed and breakfast for one night for two people.

Admission to the RSPB Ynyshir nature reserve is free for members, £5 for adult non-members, £2.50 for children and £10 for a family ticket.

For more information about the hotel visit www.ynyshirhall.co.uk or contact 01654 781209.

Jess Gibson on her travels (copyright: The Travelista)

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