Bodysgallen Hall in North Wales was the starting point for my week exploring Wales and it was a great place to begin. Its location just outside Llandudno on the north coast is right at the top of Wales and yet when I climbed up the little winding staircase of the 13th century tower onto its roof, I felt as if I were able to see all the way down the country to Cardiff. I couldn’t quite see that far, but it did yield some fabulous views all the way across to Conwy castle, thanks to some spectacular late summer clear skies and bright sunshine.
Closer still were Bodysgallen’s lovely gardens set in 200 acres of parkland, and I happily wandered around in the sun with a G&T in hand which made for a very civilised start to my Welsh odyssey.
From the outside, Bodysgallen is an imposing building, originally constructed as a watch-tower for Conwy castle to guard against a surprise attack. The hotel is fairly imposing on the inside too, with wood-panelling, stone-mullioned windows, a grand fireplace in the lounge on the first floor and high-ceilings in the dining room.
My room was very pleasant, with a high four-poster bed, two desks at the windows, a radio by the bed and a TV and DVD player.
The decor is slightly old-fashioned – the first thing I saw on entering the room is the Corby trouser press which surely can be retired by now – but there was a good-sized folder full of local information which I always like, free wi-fi and the bathroom was clean and smart.
In the rest of the hotel there are plenty of comfy sofas both in the entrance hall and first-floor lounge on which to sit and curl up with a good book or have a game of cards, although the relaxed atmosphere is slightly ruined by the hotel’s love of stern notices: does every side-table need to be adorned with little cards saying that the use of ‘portable phones’ is not allowed? As most people use their phones for anything but phone calls, someone quietly reading the papers in a cosy corner on their smartphone is hardly likely to cause offence. There are more notices in the bedrooms too, about not stealing the glass water bottles, about not hanging your swimwear on the radiators – it did feel a little as if I was constantly being told off.
However the staff are very friendly, especially at the spa which is a short walk away through the woods and much bigger than I’d expected: as well as treatment rooms there is a full-sized swimming pool, sauna, hot tub and fully-equipped gym, all of which I had to myself. (Bodysgallen was last week listed at one of Britain’s Best Hotels for spa by The Sunday Times). I had an excellent Daphin facial before heading out to Llandudno and the Great Orme which are just five minutes’ drive away.
Dinner at Bodysgallen Hall’s three-AA rosette restaurant is quite a smart affair – ties are not compulsory but trainers or tracksuits aren’t allowed. A lighter meal is served on Monday evenings (three courses for £29.50) but when I was there it was the full works: six starter options including ham terrine and smoked salmon and seven main courses ranging from wild Welsh bass and fillet steak to Gressingham duck – two courses were £39 and three were £49. I chose the scallops with red pepper puree and tapenade, and Welsh lamb with hotpot potato and glazed spring onions. I’ve had more impressive scallops but both looked good and tasted delicious, especially the lamb, but I still had enough room for the well-stocked cheese trolley.
The next morning I took Bodysgallen up on its offer of delivering coffee to my room before breakfast (like its sister hotel, Hartwell House, it wants to maintain a traditional country house feel and bring guests their morning drink). My double espresso with a jug of hot milk arrived very promptly, and I emerged from my bath to find it steaming away cheerfully on my window table, making me feel very well looked after (and a little like Bertie Wooster).
While there is a terrific view of the gardens from the dining room, I was never to see it, being tucked away in the same corner table for all my meals – I’d definitely recommend trying to reserve a window table in either of the dining rooms if possible. Breakfast options ranged from pastries and cereals to a full cooked option, including kippers, haddock or eggs done any way, and service was very prompt, even if I did raise an eyebrow with my request for some black pudding with my grilled kippers and poached eggs. I’m glad I did though as it was delicious.
Before I left I was given a tour of the hotel by the general manger’s lovely PA who not only took me up the precipitous stairs to the roof for the great views but also showed me the many little cottages dotted about the estate, for those who want to really tuck themselves away for a few days.
However it was time for me and my little yellow car to head south, via the surreal delights of Portmeirion and the beauty of Snowdonia towards a very different but just as memorable hotel, Ynyshir Hall.
Bodysgallen Hall, The Royal Welsh Way, Llandudno, North Wales LL30 1RS
Tel: 01492 584 466 www.bodysgallen.com
Rooms from £179 for two sharing including breakfast.
Bodysgallen Hall is managed by Historic House Hotels and is a member of Pride of Britain Hotels. It was the AA Hotel of the Year for Wales in 2013, one of the Editor’s Choice Gardens picks in the 2016 Good Hotels Guide and named in The Sunday Times Ultimate 100 British Hotels in October 2015.