Last June we had a short break near Oswestry, at a family run country hotel called Pen-y-Dyffryn, which I think is the only hotel in England included in the Welsh Rarebits `collection` of distinctive hotels. According to the hotel’s `blurb` Pen-y-Dyffryn is Welsh for `head of the valley` and we chose to stay there because the setting looked amazing and it sounded as though the food there would be good: our plan was to have a couple of walks in the surrounding countryside as we’d never been to that area before. We booked one of the outside rooms converted from a coach house because I had visions of us sitting on our private patio with glasses of wine watching the sun set over the Welsh hills. With our usual luck regarding weather when we go away (even in Corsica) it rained most of the time we were there so the private courtyard was completely wasted.
Getting there was not easy for us. According to Google Maps our road journey from Canterbury to Oswestry should have taken about four and a half hours but what with accidents on the M25, `smart` motorway roadworks on the M1 and the usual congestion on the M6 it was more like six. We could have got to Venice quicker! Incidentally, the nearest stations are at Shrewsbury or Gobowen, both a half hour drive from the hotel, so going by train would have taken over five hours to Shrewsbury (currently approximately three hours from London with a change at Wolverhampton) and then a 35 minute taxi ride.
Thankfully we arrived at Pen-y-Dyffryn just in time for the promised complimentary cream tea, served to us in the lounge in front of a welcome log fire (yes, I did say it was June). We then donned our raincoats and went out to explore the area, woods up the hill and, in the other direction, fields of lambs seemingly trying to shelter from the rain rather than gambolling. The hotel, a beautiful converted Georgian rectory, is just in Shopshire but overlooks Wales so any drive or walk takes you back and forth between England and Wales.
We were expecting the food to be good and we were not disappointed. Dinner was four courses plus the inevitable but delicious amuses-bouches and the choice was good, with menu changes every day. A lot of the other guests seemed to be regulars and I think if we lived closer we could easily join them. After a good night’s sleep in our comfortable room we ventured slowly down to breakfast, the steep stone steps being rather slippery in the rain. A word of caution to anyone thinking of booking an outside room – they are reached by either steep steps from the back of the hotel or shallower steps set across the garden from the front of the hotel. However, these outside rooms are ideal if you want to take your dog away with you. There is a ground floor room – the Terrace Room – which has a walk-in shower and is more suitable for people who are partially disabled.
For breakfast a good selection of cereals, fruit and juices was set out on a table in the hall and orders were taken for coffee, tea and a huge choice of hot food once you are seated in the dining room (at any available table that is laid up). Lunches are also available should you wish to stay around the hotel during the day, though I think you’d have to do a lot of walking to use up the extra intake of calories. Some of the rooms have spa baths and various spa treatments can be booked in advance if you like that sort of thing. In my opinion the special deals that include dinner in the price are good value.
The staff, many of whom seemed to be members of the family who run the hotel, were extremely friendly, helpful and attentive.
As it was still raining for our one full day there we decided against any serious walking and drove instead to nearby Powis Castle, when luckily the rain stopped long enough for us to tour the garden (but that’s another review).
After our short holiday we decided to return home a different way as the motorways had been so awful, so although it took even longer going via the Malvern Hills and Cotswolds at least the soggy scenery was far better and we were able to stop a couple of times for refreshments in pleasant villages.
I would definitely go back to Pen-y-Dyffryn as it is a good hotel in beautiful surroundings with plenty of interesting places to visit nearby, but next time I’d book at least 3 nights to make the long journey there and back worthwhile.
“See hotel’s website for further details”:http://www.peny.co.uk