What Makes Gliffaes Country House So Special – A Visit by a Best Loved Prize Winner
Firstly, I must say that my wife and I were both astonished and delighted to be the chosen Winners of two nights B&B at Gliffaes. We had driven past but neither visited (nor even seen it?) during the first five years of our married lives together around 50 years ago. We knew and love the general area and so had an idea of what to expect. Access to Gliffaes is from the A40 trunk road a couple of miles west of Crickhowell…The first impression is of a somewhat forbidding, Welsh stone-built, house of overly ornate Italian style…Out of the car there was the wonderful scent of woodsmoke! Once inside the welcome from Reception staff was so warm and their first thought was that we should have afternoon tea in the lounge or conservatory after our 5 hour journey! Hang the cases, sort those out later!
The conservatory sits on the south side of the house and overlooks a sloping lawn with trees and shrubs that break it up somewhat but adds interest before the tumbling river Usk is glimpsed below.
The conservatory enjoys this view from its position atop a vaulted terrace that extends beyond and offers extensive outdoor seating with fabulous views of the river and mountain on the other side of the narrow valley. It is beautifully and comfortably furnished with an elegant, gas fired heater for colder days.
One of the three ladies from Reception showed us to our room, highlighting what she thought we would need to know for our comfort there. We had understood that we were to have a Standard room but, from what we saw of others, we suspect that ours was at least one grade above that. In fact it had exactly the same southward view as from the conservatory but, lacking east and west facing windows, the outlook was entirely to the south. It was, however, excellent.
Storage space enabled all of our clothes to be unpacked and placed tidily in the wardrobe and chest of drawers with sufficient room to leave exposed surfaces uncluttered. The bed was huge – we almost needed an intercom system from one side to the other. A nice touch was the upholstered window seat which supplemented the single armchair; there was also a small, rather elegant chaise/sofa but it was too low to suit either of us – getting up from it would have been nigh impossible.
We had a table for two beside a wonderful log burner (that, together with others around, and a beautiful open fireplace in the lounge all contributed to the welcoming smell on arrival)…The main courses were superb and, although the presentation made the portions look modest, they proved more than sufficient. The dining room service was attentive, unobtrusive, charming, friendly – all with perfect civility without being servile or obsequious; in fact, pretty well perfect.
Breakfast offered an either, or both from buffet and cooked selections. My wife had home-made muesli and fruit compote (both excellent) and I had cereals; we followed both with modest cooked selections. Her poached eggs were near perfection and I simply couldn’t fault my choices of sweet-cure bacon, button chestnut mushrooms, Paddy’s sausage and scrambled egg. Al, were super and as I really like them.
This hotel has been in the same family ownership and management for some 60 years, the house might possibly be considered a Victorian Folly, but it is clearly much loved and not easy to sustain. As many as possible of its original features are still present and are complemented by some beautiful antique furniture around the house. Decor is very much in keeping and doubtless appeals much to the angling fraternity who especially appreciate the access to the Usk afforded by their stay here.
The gardens are not the overtly ornate layouts of some, more stately, homes but follow the natural contours of the land. This is steep in places making some precipitous, unguarded steps down to the river potentially hazardous to the unwary or even impossible to the infirm. We took one flight (the main
one) of some 70 stone steps that led us to the short stretch of river bank accessible directly from the hotel, before we entered a neighbouring farmer’s sheep field for a gentler return about a mile upstream. A combination of some marshy ground and sheep droppings required some care to negotiate!
The hotel grounds contain a number of specimen trees, some planted more than a century ago and all recorded by the current owners who continue to maintain them and add to them; they provide a detailed tree walk guide for guests…
The gardens were attractive and made good use of the several little streams that trickled through them from the hillside.
Gliffaes is, to a high degree, isolated; this is primarily a fishing location and somewhere to relax. The local area is farming country with a good deal of attraction for hill walkers, pony trekkers and back packers but if you’re none of these a car is essential to get out and about. Scenery hereabouts is fantastic, the nearby rivers (Usk and Wye) flow in some of the most beautiful valleys in Britain.
Karl & Patricia Smith