The first thing to say about this hotel is that it is in a wonderful location.
You turn off the Dolgellau - Tywyn road through the gates and drive up a winding path to the hotel (hopefully avoiding the rather scary looking landslip). You are instantly transported into another world: old-fashioned elegance and total peace and calm (save for a loudly mewling buzzard that appeared each morning). The building is an impressive gabled mansion with slate roofs and thick stone walls. The gardens are spectacular, extensive and beautiful. You could easily spend an hour or two just wandering in the grounds.
Inside all is leather and dark wood, I'm guessing Victorian or Edwardian. There is an enormous lounge about the size of a tennis court and smaller lounges and dining rooms. All very lovely.
The staff are properly attired in black and white, discreet, polite and charming.
The dining room was in a conservatory type room - all white linen and silver-plated elegance.
And the food was good too.
But - my first word of warning - this is not a place to visit on a budget.
We were offered a deal of sorts that included a Dinner, Bed and Breakfast rate of £80 per person for the first night (including a nice tea) and £60 per person (I think) B&B thereafter. Not too bad for a very lovely hotel you might think. But the dinner included in this price was the so-called Market Menu priced at £25. There was no choice at all. The main course was Swedish meatballs with pasta. Not quite the fine-dining experience we might have hoped for. So we skipped the Market Menu and took the main menu - from memory about £40 odd per head, (with supplements if you wanted beef or scallops, etc.) So, with a bottle of wine, a pretty expensive meal. Certainly over a hundred quid for two. Add to that two ferociously expensive G&Ts and your discounted first night deal is a distant memory.
The next "but" was the room.
In order to take advantage of the "special" rate quoted above we were not offered a choice of rooms. We were given a room called "Price" on the second floor built into the roof. What would plainly have been the scullery maid's room in years gone by. A rather small room with a dull 70s style wardrobe and little of the Edwardian charm that characterises the downstairs.
The bathroom was decidedly substandard. Cramped on any reckoning and horribly dated. Brown tiles on the wall. Lino on the floor. A cheap plastic shower head over the bath, and a white nylon shower curtain. Absolutely no pretence at luxury at all and desperately needing a face-lift.
I discussed this with the owner/manager - a humorous, engaging, charming and rather wily character - who you could easily spend a lot of time chatting to. He was quite blunt about it: you got what you paid for. If you want a bigger room, you can pay for it.
The next day I was shown some of the bedrooms on the first-floor. Absolutely magnificent. Huge rooms, sumptuously furnished, some with balconies, four posters, sofas and writing tables. Beautiful rooms that you would feel privileged to be staying in.
So, the moral of this tale?
Do not come to this hotel on a deal or a budget. There is no such thing as a free meal.
If you come to this hotel - and it is well worth coming to - forget the miserable £80 deal and go the whole hog. Take a big room and pay for it. If you haven't got £300 (or more) a night to spend on a room and meal, then you would be better off elsewhere
Some other notes:
The hotel is an internationally important bat roost. There are long-eared, pipistrelle, noctule (I think) and lesser-horseshoe bats in the roof. If you are a bat-fanatic you will be in paradise. If you are not, you probably won't even notice them.
The walk down the Mawddach Estuary (from the hotel) to Barmouth is one of the great walks. You come out of the hotel gates, cross the road and onto the Mawddach trail, which follows the old railway track from Dolgellau down to the Barmouth bridge. All flat and easy going, and utterly stupendous. We walked the whole way to Barmouth (must be about 8 miles) and caught a bus back on the north side of the estuary to Bontddu - a wooden toll bridge and an exceptional sight in its own right.
John Ruskin said that there is "no better walk than from Barmouth through to Dolgellau other than from Dolgellau to Barmouth".
We also liked Torrent Walk in Dolgellau and the wonderful Precipice Walk just north of the town.
If you like eating in - and can afford it - the hotel provides fine dining in a lovely dining room.
If you want to eat out we would recommend Y Merionnydd in Dolgellau. A really terrific restaurant (with great Welsh gin and tonics, about half the price of the hotel). We ate there one night and booked it for the next on our way out. Really nice place.
I give the "poor" rating for the room we stayed in. In all honesty it was poor. I'm sure there are plenty of rooms in this hotel that deserve "excellent" - but as the boss said, you have to pay for them.
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- Also Known As:
- Penmaenuchaf Hall Penmaenpool
- Penmaenuchaf Hall Hotel Penmaenpool