Life in the relaxing lane at Bodelwyddan Castle
AS I sat back, drink in hand, listening to The Eagles classic ‘Take It Easy’ I couldn’t think of a better way to sum up my weekend at Warner Leisure Hotels’ Bodelwyddan Castle.
The Alter Eagles tribute band were the Saturday night headliners and, while they were the advertised highlight of the break, in my opinion they shared the limelight with many other facets of this delightful venue on the north coast of Wales.
For me the staff were the real revelation, and you can see that this is not just a job for them, but a vocation they embrace passionately, and the family atmosphere among colleagues is tangible.
Guests are made to feel so welcome here and, while not the biggest Warner venue, it was for me one of the warmest. I say not one of the largest as, unlike its sister hotels, Bodelwyddan Castle has only the one restaurant – but watch this space as I’ll come back to this.
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Originally built in 1461 as a manor house by the Humphreys family, the property remained with their descendants for many years, and the castellation aspect was completed in the 1860s by the then incumbent Lord of the Manor to appease his would-be bride who said she wouldn’t marry him if it remained a mere manor house!
After many uses as a WWI hospital, British Army officers’ mess in WWII and then a school, the castle ended up in the care of the National Trust. The castle – at least part of it – was acquired by Warner Leisure Hotels in 1993, but very recently the company completed the purchase of the entire site.
So here is the exciting bit. Work is soon set to start on sympathetically repurposing the rest of the well-maintained and Grade II-listed castle, with an alternative a la carte venue and historic bedrooms among the ideas.
So what can you expect here? The answer is whatever you want. If you just want to relax, take in the wonderful scenery (Snowdonia is on the doorstep) then do just that. Maybe take in a stroll around the tranquil woodland walk, and the elegantly maintained and manicured walled gardens with views to die for.
Step it up a bit with a game of table tennis, croquet or golf putting – just help yourself to the equipment.
Maybe you fancy a little more action, so don’t forget that archery and rifle-shooting* sessions are all included in the price (*the rifles were being refurbished at the time of writing and so were unavailable, but likely to be firing on all cylinders on your break!)
Also included free for guests is a gym, swimming pool, sauna, tropicarium and steam room (try the plunge bucket if you dare!) and for that bit of extra indulgence treat yourself to a spa session for an extra price. I enjoyed for the first time a hot stone experience, whereby heated smooth basalt rocks are used by the masseur to create a warming and incredibly soothing back massage.
We stayed in one of the sumptuous castle garden lodges, with a spacious living room complete with widescreen TV, fridge and tea/coffee making facilities. A corridor housing wardrobes, a free safe, and iron/ironing board for guests leads you to the modern bathroom with a sensor-controlled night light – ideal for that nocturnal call of nature!
A king-sized bed awaits in the bedroom, again with a flatscreen TV, and a hairdryer in its holster beside a wall-width mirror was very much appreciated by my wife.
As lodge guests we received a welcome pack of snack goodies and our tea tray was replenished daily with biscuits and fresh milk thrown in for good measure.
Meals are typically Warner – excellent quality and a good choice for all. Dishes are still brought to table unless you plump for the daily roast where a carver serves your meat and you help yourself to vegetables et al. It’s a help-yourself breakfast too, but other items like eggs Benedict, poached eggs and scrambled tofu can be ordered from the kitchen.
For an added experience I can heartily recommend the afternoon tea, whereby you can plump for everyday tea or be brave and try out some of the specialist blends in the jars on the table - English breakfast, Liquorice Limey, Moroccan Mint and Spiced Blueberry Pie to mention but a few. WARNING: Be prepared for arguably the biggest selection of cakes you have ever seen and, indeed, a doggy bag was required to finish some of the treats off at a later session.
On our break the entertainment was especially good. Friday night saw (for those who can remember!) Opportunity Knocks legend Bernie Flint, who holds the record for most consecutive victories on the show, more than Les Dawson and Lena Zavaroni, and his powerhouse voice was complemented by some great comedy.
Sunday night saw great act Endless Lionel, whose tribute to Motown legend Richie had both the audience on their feet and in stitches.
If you fancy a venture out, Rhyl is just a few minutes away to dip your toes in the Irish Sea, and Colwyn Bay, Conwy and Llandudno are particularly picturesque seaside towns with the latter just 20 minutes’ drive away and the others even less.
On the road there we caught a glimpse of Gwrych Castle, used in the I’m A Celebrity... TV programme, and admission prices there are just £10 adults, £5 children.
So finally, back to Saturday’s headline entertainment and the music of the Eagles, a particular favourite of mine, and all the best songs you would want to hear including arguably their biggest hit, Hotel California.
And here again, the song’s lyrics describe Bodelwyddan Castle perfectly. ‘Any time of year, you can find it here’.
Prices for two-night weekends start from £154pp. For more information visit www.warnerleisurehotels.co.uk/hotels/bodelwyddan-castle-hotel