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The Celtic Manor Resort

Celtic Manor Resort

Coldra Woods, South Wales, UK
Tee-rific: It's the venue for the 2010 Ryder Cup and a hit with the tournament's European captain Colin Montgomerie. But there's more to South Wales' finest hotel than just world class golf, discovers Jon Kirk.

first impressions
If it's a luxury spa or golfing break that you're after, then fore-get the rest – this stunning hotel has it all.

Perched proudly on a hillside overlooking the Usk Valley and set in 1,400 of pristine parkland, this five-star resort is grand in every sense of the word.

Built in the early 19th Century as a private home for local coal magnate Thomas Powell, the world's first millionaire, the original Manor House has long been a source of TLC – it went on to become a maternity hospital. It was snapped up in 1980 by the firm's current chairman, the Welsh telecommunications tycoon Sir Terence Matthews.

But the main hotel we see today sprung up more recently following a mammoth expansion programme in 1999. A total of £140 million was invested in the project – the largest single investment of its kind in the British hospitality industry at the time.

And it was worth every last penny.

The family-friendly development now boasts two hotels; the original 70-bedroom Manor House, and the newer 330-bedroom Resort Hotel and spa. The resort has also built a formidable reputation as a leading conference centre and boasts a 1,400sq ft exhibition hall and 31 function rooms.

The finished product has earned Celtic Manor a string of accolades including the AA Hotel of the Year Wales, the RAC Blue Ribbon for Excellence, and Top UK Conference Hotel.

A host of A-list celebrities including Elton John, Tom Jones, Anthony Hopkins and Cliff Richard are also fans.

But then, that's no real surprise given the quality of the accommodation, its fine dining and its twin health clubs and spas. Oh, and there are three championship golf courses to choose from too, one of which was designed specifically for the Ryder Cup 2010.

The hotel is only a short drive from Bristol International Airport and 90 minutes from London's Heathrow.

Celtic Manor House

bedrooms
Thanks to thoughtful renovation, the four-star Manor House retains most of its original period features. These include the stunning stained glass window in the Hedleys Private Dining Room, which was installed by the shipping entrepreneur Sir John Beynon after he bought the property in 1915. The room also boasts its original plaster mouldings and wall panels.

The Residents' Lounge has its original oak fireplace, while the Manor Lounge Bar sports a painting of a woman believed to be that of Sir John's mother, Lydia. Elsewhere, a giant stained glass window lights up the main staircase, which has carved newel posts and panelling. The outdoor patio was installed in 1980; three years later it hosted a glitzy bash by local crooner Tom Jones.

Each of the Manor House's 70 bedrooms are light, spacious and full of character. They are outfitted in traditional country house décor with queen-sized beds and luxury linens. Four of the rooms boast luxurious four-poster beds.

Set in acres of landscaped gardens, and with its own parking, the rooms are packed with the latest mod-cons and facilities. These include a speakerphone with voicemail, large writing desk, fax, electronic safe, satellite TV with in-house films, and a mini-bar packed with tasty goodies. There's also a hairdryer, trouser press, iron and ironing board, complimentary tea and coffee, alarm clock, and air-con with personal climate control. But wait for it – there's more. Guests may make unlimited complimentary calls to national landline phone numbers, and have free dial-up internet access.

Bathrooms are en-suite, with deep tubs and power showers, heated towel rails, large mirrors and luxury toiletries.

Larger parties may consider the Manor Period Family room, which can sleep two adults and up to children plus a cot. If you're looking to push the boat out, try the Manor Deluxe Family room – a spacious junior suite with king-sized bed.

And so we move on to the Resort Hotel, a five-star complex with 330 bedrooms and 32 suites. Rooms are modern, bright, spacious and elegant.

Superior Doubles boast queen-sized beds, while the Superior Double with Balcony has wonderful views across the golf courses or over to the Severn Estuary.

The Resort Deluxe King, and the Resort Deluxe King with Balcony, both have a little extra space – and king-sized beds.

There are 32 suites at the Resort. These include five styles of Family Room, and two Presidential Suites. If you're after something really special, and if your budget allows, the Presidential has two bedrooms, a private dining room, study and lounge. It won't come cheap, but it's guaranteed to make you feel like a million dollars.

Facilities in all rooms are similar to those in the Manor House, except for a few, important additions – including a same-day laundry, pressing and dry cleaning service.

Bathrooms in the Resort Hotel are fabulous; expect four-piece marble suites with separate walk-in showers. They also boast under-floor heating and heated towel rails. There's even a deluxe bathrobe to use, and comfortable slippers.

food and drink
Eating at the Resort is a delight. There are five restaurants to choose from, so whatever you fancy, you'll find it here.

For all-day snacks or afternoon tea, head to Merlins, an informal piano bar with games room, conservatory and terrace.

The Lodge Brasserie has a similar feel, but offers spectacular views over the Roman Road golf course.

The Olive Tree also boasts views of the Roman Road and offers a Mediterranean-style buffet in an elegant but informal setting. Breakfast – a lavish buffet-style affair – is also served here.

If you're staying in the Manor House, or fancy exploring it, try The Patio. Here you'll find bistro-style food served in the wonderful conservatory.

If you have time, head to Rafters Bar and Restaurant. Set in the clubhouse of the exclusive Twenty Ten golf course, it's the perfect place to unwind with a drink after a round, enjoy afternoon tea, or sample its European-style evening menu.

But whatever you do, be sure to sample the delights of The Crown at Celtic Manor, the resort's flagship restaurant. Executive Chef James Sommerin holds Wales' only Michelin star at sister venue, The Crown at Whitebrook, and the Celtic Manor restaurant is the only one in South Wales to boast three AA rosettes. Décor is elegant, bold and sophisticated without being pompous and over-formal – as, it seems, are its excellent staff. Dishes, which are prepared using locally-sourced ingredients, are exceptional.

Room service is available around the clock.

service with a smile?
Expect exceptional service 24/7 – rare praise indeed for a hotel of this size. In fact, from the moment you set foot into the magnificent foyer, you'll be treated like the lord of the Manor.

What makes the hotel unique is the sheer range of facilities available here. For business guests, this includes the convention centre – a purpose-built, dedicated complex complete with separate driveway and entrance. The complex can accommodate up to 1,500 delegates and includes a rooftop garden and BBQ terrace.

The Resort also offers free parking to guests in its 300-space underground car park.

Elsewhere you'll find the Celtic Mall, a range of delightful boutiques selling golf merchandise, designer clothing and spa gift sets. The Mall also includes the Denise Yapp Fine Art Gallery.

local attractions
South Wales boasts a wealth of things to see and do – and thanks to Celtic Manor's location, you're never far away from the action.

But let's be honest, most people who stay at the Resort wouldn't dream of leaving the grounds. And why would they? It has everything from tennis, hiking and shooting to fishing, mountain biking and a family games room.

But the biggest attraction for most is the golf. And that's no surprise given that the Resort has played host to a string of prestigious tournaments including the Wales Open. In 2010, it will also host the Ryder Cup, the world's third largest sporting event.

Golf course at Celtic Manor

The Twenty Ten measures 7,493 yards, has a par of 71, and sports water hazards on half its holes. By most players' standards, it's tricky; for the author (whose biggest handicap is himself), it's nigh-on impossible – but super fun.

The Montgomerie – named after its Scottish designer Colin Montgomerie, one of Europe's most successful players – is slightly shorter at 6,371 yards. But the 69-par course packs a punch with deep bunkers and plenty of hazards.

Meanwhile, the Roman Road – voted best inland course in Wales – is 6,515 yards and par 70. It opened in 1995 and hosted the Wales Open from 2005 to 2007. It's also the venue for the All Star Cup – a star-studded charity event which counts Catherine Zeta Jones, Ant and Dec, and Chris Evans among its previous challengers.

For those looking to improve their game, head to the on-site Golf Academy for professional coaching. The complex also boasts a two-tier driving range, practice greens and equipment hire.

But however you spend your stay, be sure to visit the award-winning The Forum Spa. Unwind in the 20-metre swimming pool, relax in the spa pool, and chill in the sauna and steam rooms. If you really must work out, the Cardio Theatre and Fitness Assessment Centre is stocked with all the latest equipment.

Whatever you do, make sure you pamper yourself in the treatment rooms. Do try the full body massage or the Rasul Mud Ritual – an oriental skin exfoliation.

There's also a wide range of beauty therapies including treatments from Payot, Clarins, Elemis, ghd spa and Leighton Danny Nails.

will it break the bank?
Surprisingly not. Prices at the Manor House start from just £98 per room, per night, based on two people sharing a double room. Incredibly, this also includes a full Welsh breakfast.

Rooms at the Resort Hotel start from £138 per night, based on two people sharing a Superior Double. This also includes a Welsh breakfast.

Further information on all tariffs, plus seasonal packages, can be found on the hotel's website.

details
Celtic Manor Resort
Coldra Woods
The Usk Valley
South Wales, UK
NP18 1HQ
Web: www.celtic-manor.com

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