Is this 'Wales Best Resort Hotel'?
The Celtic Manor Resort, widely described as ‘Wales Best Resort Hotel’, home to the Ryder Cup in 2010 and accommodating guests such as Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones and Barak O Bama – it was certainly worth a visit.
The setting does not sound glamorous. Perched on a hilltop in Newport, not the pretty fisherman’s village of Newport in Pembrokeshire, but Goldie Looking Chain Newport and overlooking the M4 motorway; this does not paint the idyllic setting for arguable ‘Wales Best Resort Hotel’. Conveniently, The Celtic Manor is literally 2 minutes’ drive off the M4 and just 10 minutes’ drive from the Severn Bridge; perfect for a weekend escape.
The Celtic Manor is grand, not swish and glitzy like the Ritz but a grand five star family Hotel and Resort. From the grand atrium reception to the white marble floor and Roman pillars and 6 floors of white washed balconies, stretching high above, resembling a Mediterranean resort and overlooking the reception foyer. The Celtic Manor leaves an incredible first impression.
It was Christmas, and a fairy light chandelier hung the entire 20 or so metres of the atrium above a beautiful five metre tall Christmas tree. The cosy lounge in the centre of the reception had been dressed with a beautiful miniature railway set. The hotel resembled a New York Hotel at Christmas, and complete with its own ice rink, had that magical Christmas feeling.
The Celtic Manor, set in 2000 acres of woodland, boasts an extensive array of facilities. As a family five star resort facilities include: Luxury Spa, Three Championship Golf Courses, Ice Rink, High Rope Adventure, Laser Combat, Mountain Biking, Tennis Courts, Fishing and even a Santa's Grotto during December - plenty to keep you occupied during an overnight stay.
Check in was swift, despite a queue of up to 10 other guests waiting in line. You immediately notice that this is a big busy hotel. With 330 rooms in additional to the numerous conferences and weddings, there is a lot going on here. Also note, after unloading you car at the entrance the main car park is a five minute walk away (there is a link bus too) or you can park in the underground car park at a cost of £15 for 24 hours - so we moved the car and walked back. The bedroom was luxurious and traditionally styled, like a country club. Well sized with a seating area and dressing table, the room also contained a veranda with a red canopy. The bathroom was elegant; both floor and walls were cladded with white marble. The bathroom consisting of a separate shower and a standard bath (no double enders here).
The spa looks amazing in all the glossy brochures, with its feature night sky ceiling, I was eager to experience it. As we entered from the changing facilities I was absolutely amazed. The place was roofed and full of kids. I counted 140 guests and the noise level resembled a school trip to Alton Towers. We spent some time in the pool before moving to the Jacuzzi. This can only be described as a Turkish Bath House. All 45 of us sat there shoulder to shoulder – far from the relaxing spa experience I had in mind. There were 30 sun loungers and 140 guests, needless to say the odds of us getting a sun lounger were zero to slim. After 30 minutes with pounding heads, we headed back to the room to ‘relax’ – in my eyes the Celtic Manor doesn’t have a spa – it has a leisure centre. Now fast forward to 7am the next morning and felt like a swim. Amazingly I was the only guest – it was perfect. I lay back in the Jacuzzi, admiring the elegant Roman themed spa and hand painted feature sky ceiling with just the sound of the water bubbling in the Jacuzzi. This was the spa experienced I had envisioned so top tip: Visit the spa before the rest of the hotel wakes up.
Winter Special B & B - £89.00
Dinner at Steak on Six - £120.00
Drinks in Merlins Bar - £20.50
(Two Double Brecon Gin & Tonic)
Cost of stay - £229.50
This gives you an idea of the likely costs to stay at The Celtic Manor. At peak times room rates will certainly increase, New Years Eve was £300. Also if you like a good few G&T's then beware as drink prices are a little steep, then again if you travelling from London you be laughing.
The endless list of activities, especially if you are bringing your family, can seriously dent your wallet. From ice skating to Tree Top adventure course, golf or even a luxury massage sessions. On the bright side - your family won't get bored here.
The Resort offers 9 different restaurants, all set within the resort grounds. Two of which are the hotels signature restaurants: Steak on Six and Rafters. Rafters was closed so we opted to Steak on Six. Set on the sixth floor the restaurant offers spectacular views of the Welsh countryside, and M4.
Steak on Six offers its own private bar for pre-dinner drinks. The lounge was smart, calm and relaxing – a world away from our spa experience. A few glasses of Prosecco later we were taken to the restaurant. Combining contemporary with rustic Steak on Six offers that smart casual dining experience. Large panoramic glass windows, natural stone walls, brown rustic leather seating all dressed with soft candlelit, wine glass laid tables. The restaurant is smart yet warm and inviting. We were sat next to the window and opted for a bottle of Argentinian red. Of course, you can’t come somewhere like this without ordering steak; I opted for the Rib Eye with red wine jus. It was perfectly cooked (rare), the flavours of the food were mouth-watering. All in all a beautiful meal and restaurant experience with fantastic service. We finished off the evening with a cocktail in Merlin’s Bar; while listening to a musician play the black piano as we sat next to the roaring open log fire. The perfect end to a perfect evening.
The next morning it was a buffet breakfast in The Olive Tree restaurant. We arrived at breakfast at 9.30am and god it was busy. Is was like everyone had left the spa (at the same time) and headed for breakfast. We waiting for 20 minutes before we were seated. Breakfast was tasty with lots of options. I wasn’t blown away and at times the buffet cart felt a bit like the high school dinner counter, yet it was more than adequate. Luckily we missed the crowds to check out. We checked out swiftly and made on our way.
Overall I really like the Celtic Manor. Whatever it does, it does very well, from the ambience to the food to the service. Don’t get me wrong with 330 rooms the Celtic Manor is a big hotel, not that it feels that big. It gets busy, especially the leisure centre. Also if you are looking for absolute perfection like the best room you have ever stayed in, then you will probably not find it here, unless you splashed out for the Presidential Suite perhaps. However, I particularly like the design, decor and ambience of all the areas and especially the restaurants and bars. The hotel is huge, with long airport terminal like corridors stretching down to the Convention Centre, yet every corridor and every corner is perfectly and elegantly dressed; lamps, paintings and soft squishy carpet. Why can’t Heathrow feel like this? When sitting there drinking your Prosecco or wine in the grand elegant surroundings you really do escape. Not only do you get that feeling of escapism but that feeling of enthusiasm and motivation to stand up and live life and this level. If you’re looking for a spa weekend, go to St Brides. If you’re looking for an experience, to be impressed and all within 10 minutes of the Severn Bridge – go to The Celtic Manor.
What is your favourite Resort Hotel in Wales? Comment below.