We don’t do castles where I’m from in Australia. Not old ones anyway. That may be why they still have the power to fill me with awe. Castles are the stuff of fairytales and Disney, where princesses wait for princes and where happy-ever-afters take place. When I pulled up the driveway to Glandyfi Castle, near the Welsh coast, I took one look at the imposing edifice that loomed over the estuary and wondered whether I should have brought something fancier to wear. A ball gown, perhaps, rather than my faded jeans and sweatshirt?
The solid wooden door was closed and probably bolted so I used the back entrance, letting myself in via a fabulous glass-roofed atrium clearly used for dining. A suit of armour stood in the corner, critiquing my entry. In the main hallway I bumped into the owner, Maureen Holmes.
Maureen is a large part of what makes Glandyfi work. The formal, austere air of the castle is dimmed by Maureen’s welcoming smile. She did not glance twice at my denim indiscretion, instead leading me to the premier suite. The Osprey Room (pictured here) features a sumptuous four-poster bed – the decor is slightly chintzy, but I would expect nothing less from a royal chamber. It was the bathroom that really blew me away, however: in direct contrast to the subtle elegance of the moss-coloured bedroom the bathroom is all modern, clean lines, tiled in shimmering purple. A large round spa bath firmly stakes its dominance, sitting in the middle of a room larger than my London apartment.
Maureen brought me cake and tea so that I could peruse the evening’s menu and make my dinner selection without the pangs of an empty stomach. Outside, the sun slowly sank over the mudflats, tinging the trees with gold. The cake was delicious – but even it couldn’t distract me from the views over the estuary and the breathtaking Welsh countryside.
As I’d anticipated, dinner was served in the atrium, the former castle courtyard. I did my best with my limited wardrobe and was relieved to notice other guests had dressed down too. The three-course meal was a perfect partnership of gourmet local produce and home-style country cooking, in hugely generous portions. After a starter of home-made smoked mackerel pâté with beetroot purée, and the pork tenderloin baked with fennel and cider accompanied by apple and mustard mash that followed it, I had to take a break before I could tackle dessert. The fig and brioche bread and butter pudding guaranteed that the rest of the evening, once I’d waddled away from the dining room, would involve very little movement.
Glandyfi Castle is a top-notch retreat for people who like to play outside and get dirty during the day and then eat well before kicking their shoes off and curling up with a book by the warming fire in the study. Maybe it’s more fairytale than how royalty really used their castles. But for me, it offered the opportunity to behave like a queen.
Glandyfi Castle, Glandyfi, Machynlleth, Powys, Wales, SY20 8SS, U.K.
+44 1654 781238; glandyficastle.co.uk