Last month, we found ourselves with a much needed night of freedom. Now don’t get me wrong. I love spending time with our daughter Elodie, but I also relish those opportunities when we can escape the day to day, sit back, relax, drink what we want and for a brief time not worry about the responsibilities of being a parent. It also gives us time to talk, reconnect and remember we are more than just the makers and carers of a small child. We are extremely lucky we have 2 sets of amazing grand parents who make this all possible, who adore Elodie and whom she adores and so there is absolutely no worry about leaving.
Browsing through Booking.com for spa hotels in North Wales, I came across Llanhaeadr Springs – a spa retreat in the Clwydian Range, that looked a bit quirky and different from your average spa hotel. I checked their own website to see if there was any benefit to booking direct (it must be the hotelier in me) – there wasn’t. Understandable, as they are a new business and need the reach and exposure that the established travel websites can offer them – maybe best not to rock that boat just yet.
I booked over the phone with the owner, Harry. It was £150 for bed and continental breakfast, staying in their self contained, 15th century bridal suite called The Dovecot. The price also included use of the hydro pool, sauna and steam room. I asked about dinner, something they don’t currently offer (however, their new restaurant is coming soon). You can either cook (as the suite has a little kitchen) or Harry said he could get us a table somewhere local, he wasn’t sure where exactly (as it was quite short notice) but it would definately be somewhere good as he loves his food. I was happy with that.
We arrived at the retreat late in the afternoon, after getting just a tiny bit lost (TIP: Google maps makes you turn right into the little village of Llanrhaeadr – when in fact the property is just a little further along the main road and on the left). The buildings and the landscaping is beautiful and I instantly felt we had made a good choice. We parked the car (plenty of parking space) and went in the reception area where we were greeted by a friendly receptionist (apologies, I didn’t catch her name) and Diesel the Black Labrador. Anyone who knows my husband Iain and I, understands this is an instant hit with us. We love dogs. And for those who are not so keen, don’t worry, he wasn’t roaming around, he was safely behind the counter (but we asked to meet him properly of course and he came out and we made a fuss of him).
We waited a few minutes for Harry, who introduced himself and then took us on a little show round to see where everything was. The Dovecot sits to the back of the property and is a beautiful little building with many original features, including a wall of pigeon holes, where the birds used to nest – I love that they retained this. There is a little kitchen and bathroom downstairs and the bedroom upstairs, complete with a little log burner. You can tell that a lot of thought and hard work has gone into making this a real luxurious and warm space. The little details – such as the frame around the TV, the soft bed throw and the love candle holders in the windows, add those little extra touches that make it really special. We were delighted that a bottle of Prosseco was included for us – what a nice little surprise.
A major highlight of this stunning spa retreat is without a doubt the hydro pool. There is a ceramic mosaic on the floor of the pool, which is absolutely beautiful. It was created by Craig Bragdy Designs, who are a family run business in Denbigh, North Wales. They employ a team of seventy designers who hand make these magical works of art all across the world. You can view a sample of their other luxury swimming pools on their website www.cbdpools.com.
We spent a little time relaxing in the pool and it was excellent, the only thing I found a little intrusive were the people peering through the window to have a look every time they passed. I think a blind or frosted window would be good here. Harry also mentioned to us that the pool looks spectacular at night and we couldn’t help but think perhaps the experience would be enhanced throughout the day if the room was made a bit darker. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to have another look later on – definately an excuse to go back sometime for a twilight experience!
We both had an Indian Head Massage in the spa, which was pleasant. However I didn’t realise this would be a treatment sitting down instead of lying down and so would probably opt for a full body massage next time.
Later on, when we were ready for dinner, Harry very kindly gave us a lift to the restaurant that he had booked for us. During the drive over we chatted about the retreat and the passion and determination he feels to make the place a success poured out of him. I love to see this. He really cares about his guests and does everything he can to make their experience a positive one.
The restaurant Harry booked for us was a little bistro called On The Hill. It is housed in a 16th century building in the town of Ruthin. It was everything Harry promised. Delicious food, good wine and a great atmosphere. To start I had the Pate Duo – duck liver with orange and shallot and chicken liver with tarragon, redcurrant and brandy, served with sweet onion jam and crispy french toast. It was excellent (and a very big portion). Iain had the Black Pudding with a crispy fried poached egg, tomato and spinach relish, pancetta, potato fritters and maple syrup. The only word I can use to describe that is WOW. If you like black pudding this was outstanding. My only concern here was the starters were so big I had trouble finishing my main course and couldn’t even contemplate dessert at the end. We noticed a couple next to us order a starter between them afterwards – they must of known!
For our main courses I had Cod Trio – pan fried cod fillet, cod cake and crispy cod fritters with fennel cream, truffle and tarragon, vegetables and crispy fritters. Again, a delight for my tastebuds. The batter on the fish and fritters was light and the fish was all perfectly cooked. Iain had the ‘Welsh Pork’ – twice cooked crispy braised belly pork, char-grilled tenderloin and crispy pulled shoulder, parsnip dauphinois, apple and Dijon mustard cream, buttered sweetheart cabbage and cider gravy, with vegetables. It was as good as it sounds.
We headed back to The Dovecot after dinner and literally rolled into bed, totally relaxed and full to the brim of excellent food, and what a bed it was – so comfortable, I drifted off into the best sleep ever. Nothing to do with all the Prosecco and wine of course!
We had arranged for Harry to drop breakfast off in the morning at 9am and at exactly 9am he knocked on the door. They do not offer a cooked breakfast, only continental, which normally I would be disappointed about but there was plenty to choose from including ham and salmon and it was really nicely presented in a tiered stand.
Our stay at Llanrhaeadr Springs was an excellent experience and if we get the chance to return we definately will – especially once the new restaurant is open. I am also keen to return later in the summer when their new custom made Shepherd Huts are finished. The five new huts will add accommodation for another 10 people and will all have a double bed, en suite and log burner.
As well as the perfect romantic getaway, Llanrhaeadr Springs is also an exclusive wedding and events venue and day spa and you can find all the information you need on their website www.springs-spa.co.uk