Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Day 9 - Wales Coast - Harlech - A castle and cottage fit for a king...

From Dolgellau, I drove to Harlech, famous for its World Heritage Site castle. And the views change again...for the better, if that's possible. (This trip is making me search hard for adjectives...must bring out that old Thesaurus of mine.)

Harlech sits high up on a hill, a town of 1000 people with a small main street. The castle dominates in the centre, where it looks west and north over a vast plain of low green hills, rising into the watercolour mountains of Snowdonia. And in the middle of these is the geometrically perfect triangle of Mount Snowdon itself. But it doesn't stop there. To the west, the town drops off steeply to Harlech Beach, 4 miles long, and St Davids Championship Golf Course, a links course, that blends well into the environment.

I am staying at Castle Cottage Harlech, and the views of Snowdon from the lounge bar will keep you from your meal. Except that the restaurant is award winning, and my starter (grilled goats cheese, avocado and pine nuts on beetroot carpaccio with pesto dressing), and my main (roasted loin of lamb and confit shoulder, served on bubble and squeak with buttered carrots and a red wine shallot sauce) quickly got me out of my chair in the lounge and into the dining area.

Castle Cottage's tag line is "restaurant with rooms", and this hints at the passion of owners Glyn and Jacqueline Roberts. The restaurant is the fulcrum around which this highly professional, yet welcoming, establishment turns. It is a family-run, luxury, five star restaurant, in a restored 17th century inn. The rooms, though, provide the double whammy. They are easily the most comfortable and sophisticated I've experienced on this trip, as well as among the slickest I've stayed in over several years of travel journalism.

From the outside, the austere stone work blends in with the rest of town, and you can easily walk past Castle Cottage without realising the potential dining and accommodation experience inside.

And something else makes it really easy to visit...although it would be number 1 on many visitors' lists of places to stay in Wales, and is definitely a "special" spot, it doesn't have the attendant formalities. I walked in with my dirty shorts and hiking boots, initially worried about pitching up at a smart spot looking like I did. But as I walked in, Glyn greeted me before I could greet him. "You must be the South African!" he said. "Only South Africans walk around in shorts all day!" I felt welcome straight away.

Check out Britain's other World Heritage Sites, and see what else Harlech has in store for you.

Harlech Castle...dating from the late 1200s.

My room at Castle Cottage Harlech...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that lovely review of Castle Cottage, I came upon your blog while researching this place, as we intend to stay there in a few weeks, prior to spending a week in a holiday cottage in Harlech - a bit of luxury to start our week. We will be spending the week walking up hills, and swimming in the sea if the weather is warm.

    What an interesting journey you must be having! Good luck, I will look at your blog now and again to see how you are getting on. It will be interesting to see what you make of Liverpool, my home town.

    Best wishes,

    Joy Miller and Andrew Chisnall