A haven from the chaos of contemporary culture, Gliffaes Country House Hotel is the rural retreat you’ve been dreaming of.
Recover, reset and revel in the only 4-star hotel in Wales’ glorious Brecon Beacons.
Gliffaes Country House Hotel has been run by current owner Susie Suter’s family for some 70 years, but it still feels very much like the grand family residence it once was.
Susie and her husband James took over the business 20 years ago, but have clearly worked hard to maintain its century-transcending charm.
A “modern boutique” in the country, this is not. No, Gliffaes is better than that. It’s more about retreating to an undefined in history. A time in space, a mindset, free from the trivialities and bedlam of modern-day life.
Gliffaes is about seeking solace in someone else’s home. Albeit the Grade 2 listed home of an extremely well-to-do family.
Even on the drive to the hotel, I found myself beginning to relax, my shoulders loosening as I edged deeper into the Welsh countryside.
By the time I reached the hotel’s narrow tree-lined driveway, where I stopped my car to bask in the autumnal show of burnt copper, mustard and crimson, I already felt like a new person.
“We want it to feel like you’re in someone’s home,” James explained as he stoked the fire in front of the bar. “We don’t like to have signs up all over the place saying ‘This way to the restaurant’ or ‘Breakfast this way’.”
And that’s exactly how you feel as you sink into the giant sofas by the fire in the wood-panelled drawing room. As you submerge yourself in your giant bathtub. As you roam the impressive grounds and ramble down to the River Usk, on which the property resides.
Gliffaes Hotel is small enough that the staff can build personal rapport with their guests.
From check-in to dinner, breakfast to check-out, I enjoyed the unhurried service style and sense that, by chatting with the staff, I was gaining an insight into the local community.
As they shared with me their enthusiasm for the property’s diverse and rare tree and plant species, or talked about how they’d worked at the hotel for 15+ years and were happy to see how little had changed, I sensed a certain sense of pride in their being able to be part of the Gliffaes story.
As James put it: “You couldn’t wish for a better bunch of people.”
The Food & Drink
As to be expected, the dining room feels very much like a family dining room (a noble family’s dining room, perhaps), with space for some 40 diners. French doors offer views over the garden, while the fireplace roars during the cool months.
A buffet is laid out for breakfast with all sorts of delicious pastries, fruit and juices. The apple juice is made on the premises using apples from the orchard (and the water comes from Gliffaes’ own spring).
You can also enjoy made-to-order hot dishes like smoked salmon and kippers from the famous Black Mountain Smokery, as well as Welsh bacon and sausages from Paddy Sweeny’s Butchers in Brecon.
Fuel up for a day of walking with the Gliffaes full Welsh breakfast, or indulge your sweet tooth with Welsh bara brith (a sort of fruit cake) or French toast drizzled in all sorts of sticky goodness.
Tip: Breakfast is served from 8am until 10am and is also available to non-residents, so even if you don’t stay…
The Gliffaes Afternoon Tea Buffet is laid out every day from 4pm to 5.30pm and is something of a local legend – the perfect pick me up after day out in the fresh air.
Having spent so many years out of the UK, this was something of a dream come true for me. I loved the little savoury sandwiches, stuffed with fresh fillings like chicken, cheese or salmon. The scones and various homemade cakes (the Welsh cakes are to die for) go down
Tip: The Gliffaes Afternoon Tea Buffet is also available to non guests and costs just £20pp (and £10pp for kids under 10) – but be sure you book ahead.
Lunch & Dinner
The dining experience at Gliffaes Hotel begins at the bar, with a few drinks by the fire.
If you’re lucky, James will be on hand to talk you through his impressive selection of global wines (by the glass, bottle or half-bottle), which he clearly holds dear to his heart.
The ambience is relaxed and informal, although you wouldn’t feel at all out of place if you fancied throwing on your favourite suit or dress.
Moving into the dining room, candles and a roaring fire set the mood perfectly. The menu changes with the season and is inspired by the the Slow Food Movement. Around 65% of the ingredients are sourced locally, within a 75-mile radius.
Revelling in being in my homeland, I kept things as Welsh as possible and started with the gorgeous (and creative) crab and Welsh ale tartlet with Welsh rarebit and Breconshire Rocket (£10).
Although I must add I was definitely tempted by the citrus-cured mackerel with a pistachio and hazelnut soufflé, and Pernod-pickled fennel (£9).
For my main course I didn’t even hesitate to order the duo of Welsh lamb (rump and shepherd’s pie), which was served with a modern minted pea fritter, carrots and thyme sauce (£24). This was easily one of the most satisfying dishes I’ve had this year.
I was also impressed to see a bouillabaisse fish stew on the menu (with prawns, bass, mussels and gurnard).
I was a tad too stuffed dessert but managed to share the excellent apple tarte tatin. If I were to do it all over again, I’d definitely save some space for the artisanal Welsh cheese board.
Then it’s time for a glass of Penderyn Welsh whisky or a Brecon Beacons G&T (although rumour has it James makes a mean Martini).
Each of the 23 bedrooms is a different size and shape, uniquely decorated. The decor is timeless, neither dated nor en vogue. And you can quite easily imagine it being used as a filmset.
It’s the sort of place where people return year after year, eventually settling on a favourite room to return to time and time again.
All offer fantastic views over the grounds, while four of the larger rooms offer privileged views over the River Usk – some even boasting wisteria-draped balconies.
As with the sitting rooms and corridors, the rooms feature art by local artists – another hint at James and Susie’s commitment to the local community – as well as books on everything from fishing to hiking int he local landscapes.
The gardens of Gliffaes Hotel are every bit as impressive as the house itself. Those in-the-know may even argue more so.
Its 33 acres are home to a vast and diverse range of mature trees from far off lands. Many of which were planted by Victorian collectors.
“There are quite a few varieties that shouldn’t really have survived here,” James explained when I commented on how exotic it all looked.
Much of what can be seen today is the result of Susie’s grandfather (if I’ve worked that out correctly) CH Taudevin’s work, who was a landscape gardener.
Tip: Ask at reception for a tree walk map, which outlines some of the more unusual species. The hotel also organises regular walks through the gardens and woods, followed by a two-course lunch back at the restaurant (£36pp or £20 for kids under 16 – be sure to book ahead). Another great options for non-guests.
Activities, Sporting Facilities & Nearby Attractions
Fishing: I’m not really one to talk fishing, but I think it’s worth noting that Gliffaes is revered for its world-class river fishing. With a private stretch of river, it boasts five salmon and trout beats.
Tennis court: Yep, one of them too!
The Brecon Beacons: The Brecon Beacons are nearby and offer excellent cycling, hiking, horse riding and picnicking. There are caves, lakes, hills, waterfalls churches, chapels, canals and museums galore. Discover more things to see and do on the official Brecon Beacons tourism website.
Talybont Reservoir: I would highly recommend making a pitstop at the serene Talybont reservoir and forest. It’s easy to get to by car and offer a scenic but gentle walk for those short on time (or energy).
Crickhowell: The charming village of Crickhowell is a located just a few miles away from Gliffaes Hotel and harbours its own castle (this is Wales after all), as well as the Grade 1 listed Crickhowell Bridge (longest stone bridge in Wales) and plenty of cutesy shops to peruse.
Brecon Town: The small town of Brecon is located a 20-minute drive away from the hotel , and has a number of interesting museums to explore.
Hay-on-Wye: Wales’ famous ‘book town’ of Hay-on-Wye is situated about 30-minutes away from Gliffaes Hotel and is well worth a visit.
Tretower: This tiny hamlet is home to the fortified medieval mansion of Tretower Court and the remains of Grade 1 listed Tretower Castle.
A truly beautiful property with a great team of people, fantastic food and spectacular scenery. If you need to escape to the country, you’d be hard pushed to find a better destination than Gliffaes Country House Hotel.
Make it Happen
Doubles are available from around £100 with breakfast included.
I also recommend popping by for breakfast, afternoon tea (be sure to book ahead) and a stroll around the grounds, even if you don’t have time to stay overnight.
Address: Gliffaes Hotel, Crickhowell, Powys, NP8 1RH
Phone: 01874 730 371
Have you visited Gliffaes Hotel in Wales’ Brecon Beacons? Leave a comment below to share your experiences.
Note: I was invited to stay at Gliffaes Hotel, but all opinions and photos in this post are 100% my own.