Break for the Bore Da: Celtic Manor Resort, Wales
For centuries, the Welsh fought back the Vikings. Now the Scandinavians have calmed down a bit, their style is more welcome.
As the lyrics to the 2010 YouTube smash, Newport (Ymerodraeth State of Mind), a hilarious parody of Empire State of Mind, Alicia Keys and Jay Z’s ode to New York suggest, there’s plenty to celebrate about this historic town. Even without resorting to amusing invitations that ‘I’ve got cheese I’m melting it/Caerphilly, bread and ham/Hey presto it’s a Rarebit/Head out to Caerleon.’ Nearby Caerleon on the River Usk, is indeed beautiful – a site of major archaeological importance, home to a Roman legionary fortress, Isca Augusta, and an Iron Age hill fort, with a history extending to the Norman and medieval periods.
Joking aside, Newport has plenty to crow about. Not least the place that put it on the hospitality map, the Celtic Manor Resort. Developed by multi-millionaire Sir Terry Matthews over the course of 30 years, what was once 69-bedroom 19th century Coldra Hall has now grown to be the premier 5-star draw for South Wales. Now a golf, spa and leisure destination, it consists of two adjoining hotels, a country inn, two spas, six restaurants, three championship golf courses, two golf and country clubs, a high ropes course, adventure golf, laser tag, archery and a multi-purpose conference centre, it’s an impressive mix of traditional and new. A 334-bedroom, 32-suite luxury 5-star hotel with two presidential suites, sit along the original house.
In 2010 it became the proud venue for the Ryder Cup, the first to be held in Wales and won by Europe on the especially constructed Twenty Ten course, by a sublime Graeme McDowell in a final nail-biting anchor match. As if that wasn’t a high point to be proud of – Celtic Manor will host the 2014 NATO summit, which one suspects in light of recent events will be quite a busy one. Truly on the map, indeed. And, thanks to being behind the M4, less than two and half hours by car from London.
In June 2012, Matthews and the hotel announced a £160 million 10-year plan for developing the hotel as a resort. Creating 230 new permanent jobs and 700 in the construction, the first stage has been completed – 10 luxury 5-star lodges constructed on high ground that had been levelled off to accommodate the Ryder Cup’s (no doubt, thundering) grandstands.
Now taking bookings, the resulting Hunter Lodges offer a slice of Scandinavian airy living with stunning views of the rolling Usk valley and that beautiful course. Given cute avian-themed names such as Kooky Kestrel, Plucky Pheasant and Swanky Swallow, they’re designed for sharing with family and friends (or playing rivals). Four plush en-suite bedrooms, a warm open lounge and top end kitchens inside, whilst a decadent outdoor hot tub affords the views to die for outside. Clearly, these are spaces for entertaining, relaxing and dining together. Although more than adequately equipped for self-catering, guests will be able to use the restaurants at the resort or order gourmet hampers or takeaway favourites.
The buildings’ architecture and their construction are fascinating – more than 10,000 logs, brought in by six lorries, imported from sustainable forests, just below the Arctic Circle in Finland. The locale is vital. North of that latitude and the trees won’t grow quickly and south, the wood doesn’t cure properly.
Each lodge took a team of 14 workers just twelve days to build, from the hotel team’s own specifications and designs. Russell Phillips, vice president of facilities and development, said: “The logs are formed so accurately and fit together so well, the wood requires no bonding agents or fillers. The buildings just snap together and are literally airtight. Guests will be able to experience the five-star quality of the hotel, but in the middle of tranquil countryside.”
With over 8.1 square kilometres of space, the resort has plenty of scope to build up to 50 more, if these are deemed successful. One can surmise, based solely on what’s visible here, that the distant crack you hear is some more sustainable Finnish pine forest coming down right now.
For more information on the Hunter Lodges visit the Celtic Manor website www.celtic-manor.com or call +44 (0)1633 413 000.