Women say it’s always hard to buy presents for a man. As a man I tend to disagree: we’re easily pleased really. A bottle of beer, a new toothbrush, some new socks – they’re all nice to have. Of course the older we become, the easier we are to please too, I think, so when presented with the gift of a stay at the Celtic Manor for my birthday, I wasn’t just pleased, I was very pleased indeed!
By now most people know the Celtic Manor as that place where Obama and Co. stayed for the recent NATO summit. While we were there, all the preparations were taking place for the upcoming event, with miles of reinforced steel fencing, concrete blocks on the approach roads and, in our own opinion, an impending sense of doom. But once past the ring of steel you can immediately see why this is fast becoming a globally known hotel/resort. Since its hosting of golf’s prestigious Ryder Cup back in 2010 it has become more and more ‘on the map’.
Once parked in its own internal multi-level car park we made our way into the impressive cathedral-dimensioned foyer, which is encased with curves, modern artworks and sculptures and loads of light from the huge glass atrium and enormous front window which rises the entire height of the building.
After checking-in we were shown to our room – sorry, ‘suite’, which looks out over the lower Usk valley and over to the Severn Bridges. The resort is shrouded by its own woodlands and the magnificent golf courses, including the renowned ‘Twenty Ten’ where the aforementioned Ryder Cup battle took place. The room was huge, with a lounge/dining area, a small loo near the entrance, a separate bedroom and the bathroom. Each room had floor-to-ceiling windows and a little terrace from which you could get a panoramic view of the picturesque surroundings.
Now I, as described at the top of this post, am easily pleased and I thought the Celtic Manor was a really lovely place, with luxurious furniture and beautiful views. The bathroom was huge with a big double-bath and separate walk-in shower. Mrs C, however being a little more discerning than me is a stickler for detail, so when she pointed out things like the lighting in the bathroom as being a bit ‘Aaaaarrrggghhh’ with little control and even less ambience – and the decor as being a little short of ‘contemporary’ I immediately started questioning my own sense of judgement. Why have all these fancy little cornices and carvings, which are a right pain to keep clean, when you could have new smooth lines which look so smart and have no integral dust-traps? she asks. (Not that they were dusty, of course – everything was immaculate!) Having forgotten to bring my own duster with me I hadn’t even considered the practicalities of domestic responsibility on this occasion, but perhaps she did have a point.
I, meanwhile, was pondering the evening’s meal choices at the fine-dining ‘Terry M’ restaurant, which certainly didn’t disappoint at all. The meal was fantastic. I chose a Sewen (Sea Trout) starter and a Beef Fillet main, both of which were as close to perfect as I’ve ever tasted. Each course was interspersed with petits amuse bouches, all of which were delicious and our choice of Portuguese Douro Valley wine complemented it all perfectly.
Drinks in Merlin’s Bar were lovely too and again, as I’d forgotten my j-cloth and Cif spray I was blissfully unaware of some cleaning issues dutifully pointed out to me by Mrs C who, returning from the loos, was a little disappointed by the state of play at the time in the ladies.
Breakfast the following morning was …. busy! It was akin to doing battle with the Boxing-Day sales, with all three buffets 3-deep with malnourished, starving guests who had trekked for days across wilderness and desert to find sustenance in bacon, egg and waffles. In all fairness, the buffet was very well stocked and I enjoyed my ‘full monty’. Even though it all seemed like a military strategy, the walkie-talkie-clad staff managed it all effortlessly and it ran like a well-oiled machine.
Putting aside Mrs C’s natural tendency to nit-pick, the Celtic Manor is a big, impressive and high-class establishment with so much to do for grown-ups and kids alike; whether it’s a pamper session in the Elemis Spa, a round of golf on one of the 3 courses or simply burying yourself in a good book in a comfy sofa, this place has it all and you’d be hard-pressed to find much better resort in the UK for an ‘away from it all’ break with – or without the family.