Wales is home to a succession of charming boutique hotels in all sorts of forms, from Pembrokeshire hideaways set above the sea to rural pubs given a 21st-century injection of style. Among these Welsh boltholes are places that offer a little bit of luxury if you're walking in the countryside, great restaurants worth the journey, or lodgings if you seek a romantic break.
Penally Abbey, Tenby, Pembrokeshire
This late 18th-century house, built in the rare Strawberry Gothic style, is gorgeously and luxuriously eclectic (it is not, in fact, an abbey, though the ruined chapel in its gardens certainly add to its charm). The owner found all the hotel’s furniture in local antique shops and French markets, chose soft Farrow and Ball tones for the walls, and has made sure every room smells divine; the sitting room, for example, is rose-hued and fire-lit. When you're hungry, the six and 10-course taster menus are inspired by a love of foraging and fermenting. The well-kempt village of Penally is surrounded by 'secret' beaches to explore.
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Coed-Y-Mwstwr, sheathed in Welsh woodland, is a country house escape just outside of Bridgend. Easy to reach despite the rural escapism vibe, it’s a place that blends boutique with traditional – and is worth stopping off just for the sumptuous Sunday roasts. Modern warmth comes courtesy of Martin Hulbert (the man behind Chewton Glen's treehouse suites). Look out for a quirky annealed copper leaf chandelier over curved seating, or the mantelpiece dotted with carved wooden mushrooms. Standard double rooms all balance period aesthetic – Victorian-esque wallpapers patterned with flora and fauna, dark-wood furniture – with comfortable touches such as oversized cushions and plush bedheads.
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Rooms at James Sommerin, Penarth, Glamorgan
Penarth is where Cardiff meets the coast, and right on the seafront is where James Sommerin works his Michelin-starred culinary magic. From the restaurant with rooms expect big views out across the Severn Estuary that reach all the way to Weston-super-Mare on clear days. The overall look is understated but intimate, with banquette seating, white-linen-draped tables and tubular pendant lights emitting a flattering glow. Uplifting sea views give the rooms their wow factor, especially when observed from the bay window seats. The aquamarine, teal and green colour schemes are like an invigorating blast of sea air.
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Ynyshir Restaurant and Rooms, Eglwys Fach, Powys
A modern revamp has given Ynyshir a new lease of life. Menus prize fatty meats, fermentation and gutsy flavours – and chef Gareth Ward has one Michelin star under his belt and is surely gunning for a second. Ynyshir’s location is pretty special, too; Queen Victoria even acquired the handsome white-painted house as a hidden retreat. A fire pit smouldering by the entrance is a sign of things to come in this edgy, super-slick, Scandi-style take on a country house. There are a few nods to the past – a bay window here, Victorian tiles there – but overall the look is stripped-back, with oak floors, one-of-a-kind rustic furnishings and a palette of moody blues, greens and charcoals.
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The Grove, Narberth, Pembrokeshire
Lawns, woodland and meadowland stretching for 26 acres add thoroughly rural peaceful elements to The Grove, which has established itself as the smartest country house hotel in Pembrokeshire. It offers Georgian meets Arts and Crafts interiors, luxurious and attractive bedrooms, and highly creative food from Allister Barsby, formerly of Michelin-starred Gidleigh Park in Devon. The lounges – cosy yet elegant, with real fires, window seats, plush sofas and modern prints and paintings of the coast – set the tone of the whole property. Narberth, one of Pembrokeshire's prettiest towns and home to a number of appealing cafés and foodie shops, is two miles away.
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Escape Boutique B&B, Llandudno, Conwy
Escape is located just off this Victorian seaside resort's main shopping street. The design is a showcase of electic, personal touches – the owners have sourced vintage pieces of furniture from European design fairs and continue to refresh the rooms regularly. There are nine urban-cool rooms, and each one has it's own style: the boudoir-romance feel of Room Six with its LED wallpaper and gold leaf motif contrasts with the Zen-calm and suspended bed of front-facing Room Seven. Pick of the bunch is Room Five, with its retro-style design of red leather, vintage vinyl and a cupboard with a phone box mural.
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Llys Meddyg, Newport, Pembrokeshire
Llys Meddyg – which means ‘Doctor’s Court’, in allusion to a previous occupant – is a Grade II listed Georgian coaching house. It looks rather austere from the road but the interior is colourful and cosy, and a restaurant that uses fresh local produce has garnered an enviable reputation across Pembrokeshire. Works by local artists hang on the walls of the eight rooms, and beautiful blankets from nearby woollen mill Melin Tregwynt add a splash of colour. The hotel is popular with coast walkers, as well as 'ruin-bibbers' heading to see Pentre Ifan, the largest neolithic dolman in Wales.
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The Broadmead, Tenby, Pembrokeshire
Broadmead Boutique B&B is a thoroughly modern bed and breakfast in Tenby, exuding period charm but aiming for 21st-century luxury. Inside, it’s a sexed-up country house. The high ceilings and a vibrant stained glass skylight above the curving Adamesque staircase are among period character retained, but there’s also a cluster of modern touches: pinstriped wallpaper, quirky art (versions of classic portraits in which humans have been replaced with dogs), and a colonial-style orangery made cosy. Rooms feature some bold colours but otherwise are kept airy with whites and cream, and are certainly pleasant places to linger. Complimentary Buck’s Fizz is a decadent start to a morning.
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The Townhouse, Beaumaris, Anglesey
The hotel is located on the main drag of Beaumaris, the attractive honeypot town on Anglesey’s southeast coast – it’s an obvious base to explore Anglesey, and the cornerstone Welsh castle stands just a few steps from the front door. The 17th-century building has been given a major contemporary overhaul; there’s a slightly postmodern, Seventies feel to the retro-style fittings but it works. Individuality runs throughout: one room has a sky-blue motif while another features iridescent wallpaper on a dandelion theme, Italian chairs and a giant hanging light shade. The Townhouse is the younger sister to The Bull, Beaumaris’ historic coaching inn.
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Brown's, Laugharne, Carmarthenshire
This former drinking den of Dylan Thomas, also known as The Browns, is a canny combination of upmarket local, artsy meeting space and boutique b&b (quite a departure from its days as a rough and ready boozer). The 15 rooms are of widely differing proportions and shapes. Some feature original beams and exposed brickwork, while all have wooden floors, arty wallpaper showing blow-ups of local people and landscapes, organic mattresses with classy Welsh linen and textiles. This is Laugharne’s poshest pub; it serves Welsh ales and Penderyn whisky, and draws a mixed crowd of locals and tourists.
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Contributions by David Atkinson, Kerry Christiani, Hattie Garlick, Fred Mawer, Chris Moss and Benjamin Parker