You can’t help but leave your worries behind when you take the scenic drive through the valleys of mid-Wales to the country house of Ynyshir Hall.
Set in 14 acres of landscaped gardens, this Michelin rated Relais & Chateaux hotel is surrounded by beautiful countryside and coastlines, making it a walker’s paradise. Just a few miles away from the ancient welsh capital of Machynlleth, you’re far from the rat race and can explore the beautiful region at whatever pace you wish. The grounds back on to Ynys-hir RSPB reserve, past home to the popular BBC2 show Springwatch, and just minutes from the hall is the magnificent Artists Valley; full of winding pathways, pools and waterfalls, where Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant was inspired to write the rock classic Stairway to Heaven.
Introducing Ynyshir Hall
Ynyshir Hall dates back to the 15th Century. Over its long history it has had many owners, but the most famous has to be Queen Victoria. Much of the gardens you see today are thanks to her input, and she supposedly planted the Hall’s Persian Ironwood herself. From month to month its beauty will change with snowdrops making way to bluebells as spring blooms, then the wonderful magnolias, hydrangeas and rhododendrons later take the main stage.
More recently the Hall moved into the hands of William Hubert Mappin of the jewellers Mappin and Webb. A big conservationist, he would take umbrage to hunters on his land, and on his death he sold 1,000 acres of the Ynyshir Hall’s estate to the RSPB, creating the wonderful wildlife haven we can still explore today.
It wasn’t long after his death in the 1970’s that the Hall first opened up as a hotel. The current owners Rob and Joan Reen have worked tirelessly to create the luxury haven that now welcomes guests, offering ten unique rooms that breath country elegance and provide service that is second to none.
Accommodation at Ynyshir Hall
Ynyshir Hall’s rooms are named after famous artists each with its own unique style and decor. With a range of sizes to choose from, several even have their own sitting rooms and all have wonderfully luxurious bathrooms. Whichever room you choose you’ll have extravagant beds to sink into at the end of the day, beautiful views of the grounds and/or mountains surrounding the estate and walls adorned with inspiring art by owner Rob Reen.
The Chagall Suite
During our visit we were lucky enough to stay in the Chagall Suite, which is one of two rooms that make up the standalone Garden Suites. The front door opens onto a lovely living room with a stone fireplace, an inviting woodburner nestled inside. Surrounded by cosy sofas, it’s a wonderful place to unwind with a glass of sherry after a winter country walk.
The centre of the suite is the large bedroom, with a bed that faces patio doors overlooking the gardens and mountains: an awe-inspiring view to wake up to in the morning. These doors open up to a private outdoor seating area, so on warmer months you can be just that bit closer to nature.
The decadent furniture was to die for, reminding you that this isn’t your average B&B destination.
One of the suite’s many highlights has to be its spacious bathroom, complete with walk-in rain shower and the deepest freestanding bath I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Dinner at Ynyshir Hall
Ynyshir Hall offers a delicious breakfast menu that includes dishes such as a full welsh breakfast and scrambled eggs with salmon and also offers afternoon tea. However, it is most renowned for its dinner menus, with people travelling from near and far to visit the restaurant, considered one of the best fine dining venues in Wales.
The kitchen is run by award winning head chef Gareth Ward, who with his team offers diners innovative taster menus that are five, eight or eleven courses in length. The chefs use locally sourced ingredients with seafood from Cardigan Bay and wild salmon from the local rivers, and the Hall even has its own kitchen garden.
During our stay we partook in the 11-course taster menu: a four-hour culinary event that treated us to a myriad taste sensations. The courses were hugely varied in their flavours and, as to be expected over so many courses, some groupings stood out more than others. Personal highlights included barbequed, pureed and fermented leek, some delectable welsh wagyu beef and the rice pudding with rhubarb and marjoram granita. The mix of warm, soft rice pudding with the crunch of the cold granita was marvellously odd, and also looked amazing when swirled together – just one example of an experience focused on making the most of all your senses.
Presentation played a big part, with the chefs clearly spending time perfecting the plating of the dishes, texture also played a role, with several of the softer dishes using ingredients such as sourdough croutons to mix things up, but smell and sight were also important factors.
For example the final course was a goats curd mousse with nettle granita, sprinkled with small flowers and sorrel leaves picked in the garden. The concept revolved around the freshness of spring, and to bring that to life a chef brought out a bowl of nettles onto which he poured liquid nitrogen, causing nettle scented smoke to waft over the table, invoking thoughts of the outdoors.
Several of the chefs come out to talk to you about the inspiration behind the dishes throughout the dinner, and it was lovely to have the opportunity to hear the stories behind the food we were eating. The evening was finished off by one of the team poaching white chocolate macaroons in liquid nitrogen at our table. A truly unique (and tasty) finisher! The food itself was delicious, but as this shows it’s the overall experience that makes dining at Ynyshir Hall so special: the feeling that you’re taking part in an extraordinary event. One not to be missed!
The hotel has close ties with the Ynys-hir RSPB reserve, and with the entrance only a five-minute walk from the Hall’s front door, it’s well worth a visit. Overlooking Snowdonia National Park, it’s home to a wide array of birds, animals and plants and its variety of habitats (from woods to valleys and marshland) make it a real joy to explore. During my visit I strolled through woods with carpets of bluebells, dodged nesting Canadian geese, walked alongside pheasants and was surprised by the appearance of a bounding hare on the pathway.
With Artists Valley just a few minutes in the opposite direction, the flat sounds of the Dyfi estuary and Borth coast all close by, the hotel also offers several walk itineraries and can even provide a guide, all you need to do is ask at reception.
There are also several towns nearby to visit, historic sites including the Dyfi Furnace and many activity centres including the Dyfi Osprey Project and Dyfi Biosphere, so you’re spoilt for choice.
If all you want is to be pampered however, you don’t have to travel far at all. The hotel offers a selection of spa therapies, so you can completely unwind without having to leave the comfort of the grounds…
Ynyshir Hall feels like a well kept secret, one I’m torn between shouting about and keeping all to myself. A luxury hideaway with staff that are exceptionally friendly, helpful and set on making you truly unwind, I came away from my visit feeling more relaxed and refreshed than I had in months. Great setting, great service – a great find for anyone looking to visit mid-Wales!
Our thanks to the Ynyshir Hall team for their hospitality during our stay.
- Location: Eglwysfach, Machynlleth, Powys, Wales, SY20 8TA
- Telephone: 01654 781209
- Email: [email protected]
- Website: http://www.ynyshirhall.co.uk/