For some reason, Wales has slipped under the radar for luxury vacationers in a way that Scotland, Ireland and even Cornwall have not. Yes, the nation is popular when it comes to holiday homes and rentals but the stamp of opulence hasn’t quite made its mark here like other spots in the UK and Ireland.
But, hidden away, a good six-hour drive from London in the heart of Pembrokeshire, is Grove of Narberth – a country hotel part of the independently owned Seren group that promises a luxurious romantic break to rival that of any of the better-known destinations across the country.
Owners Zoe and Neil Kedward first came across the original property in 2007 in a pretty sorry state and, after an initial refurbishment of the 15th-century manor house, opened the Grove as a bed and breakfast with just four rooms and an additional four self-catering cottages. Through the years, the Kedwards have carefully restored and updated different wings and outhouses, added two restaurants and brought the total room count to a still small 25.
Now carefully decorated with original artwork, filled with plenty of cozy corners bedecked in a delicious butterscotch color scheme, and manned by a small army of joyful and unfalteringly helpful staff, Grove of Narberth is a real testament to Welsh hospitality and is regarded as one of the nation’s (and in my opinion, the UK’s) best hotels.
The rooms at the Grove of Narberth are, in short, brilliant. Spread across the main house and several surrounding outbuildings, each is completely individually designed; some are grand and lofty, others cottage-style and infinitely cozy.
Rooms, particularly those in the main house, are intended to convey the building’s storied history (some are even named for long-passed residents) and have plenty of thoughtful touches, from the locally made bath amenities to the hand-selected art. The care and attention put in by the Kedwards is clear at every corner.
We were in the cute Bramble Suite, which sits in Poyer’s Cottage, adjacent to the main house but with plenty of privacy. Low-ceilinged and moodily lit, the room felt like a perfect fall bolt hole.
It had everything I like in a hotel room — a ginormous bathroom with a stonking great bathtub and a fully separate toilet (call me a prude); a working fireplace, roaring ready for our arrival; an all-inclusive mini bar; and an oversized bed with sheets I swear were made of silk — as well as lots of things I didn’t know I liked in a hotel room, but definitely do now: A glass-walled-and-ceilinged cube lounge; a completely black-tiled shower room; and what looked to be the heads of pitchforks repurposed as artwork.
The Grove of Narberth really punches above its weight when it comes to dining. Despite being very much on the boutique side of things, the hotel has two restaurants as well as a bar. Artisan Rooms is the more casual of the pair, with a brasserie-style menu full of big, comforting dishes.
The four-AA-Rosette Fernery is the real star attraction though. Drawn up by executive chef Douglas Balish, the eight-course tasting menu is a real love letter to Welsh ingredients, many of which are grown at the on-site gardens. Balish has gone to lengths to forge proper relationships with local purveyors, sometimes buying up whole bundles of produce they couldn’t place elsewhere and transforming them into thoughtful, elegant dishes.
Head sommelier, Cathryn Bell, pairs the lot with an accomplished, thoughtful wine flight. Far from being just about matching drinks with food, Bell’s pairings are a unique expression of her taste – from a dry manzanilla sherry with the snacks to the Welsh brut, grown at the Velfrey Vineyard some 20 minutes from the hotel. The Fernery is part of an exciting new wave of Welsh-driven restaurants that are capturing national attention.
The Grove of Narberth doesn’t have a dedicated spa facility and instead offers a range of in-room treatments delivered by in-house therapists.
You might be tempted to spend long days by the fire in the Grove’s several lounges, reading the paper and sipping tea (I was, at least), but if you can drag yourself outside, there is plenty to be discovered in this corner of south Wales. The hotel sits amidst 26 acres of grounds, and guests are encouraged to get out and explore – there’s a network of walking paths interweaved into the meadows and woodland.
For a trip further afield, Pembrokeshire is known for its beautiful long sandy beaches (Newgale, Barafundle Bay and Broad Haven South Beach are all in easy driving distance) and the region has some cute towns too – try St Davids, which is technically the UK’s smallest city.
Every night, the housekeeping team will leave a top (and weather-adjusted) tip for the next day – from a favorite nearby pub to a coastal walk – so you’re unlikely to find yourself uninspired.
From £390 ($491) per night, grovenarberth.co.uk