Dramatic sea cliff walks and the UK’s smallest city are a stone’s throw from one of the finest boutique hotels in Wales, as James Ruddy discovered.
The white Georgian pepper pot windmill tower on top of Twr Y Felin Hotel has witnessed some dramatic changes since its sails finally blew down for the last time over a century ago.
Among the building’s relaunches since then was as a temperance hotel, a niche that became hugely popular along with the movement against alcohol which swept the British Isles in the nineteenth century.
Apart from the tower, the latest transformation – as the first contemporary art hotel in Wales when it reopened in 2015 – is a far cry from those days, instead, displaying plenty in-the-moment features.
That feeling of freshness struck me when I first clapped eyes on the ultra-modern building set amid aeons of natural and human history, just a short stroll from the capital city, tiny St David’s, and, in the other direction, the world-renowned cliff walking of Caerfai Bay.
Inside, the impression was further enhanced when I spotted the first of the 100 pieces of specially commissioned art that are dotted around its walls.
Among the most stunning are landscapes capturing the exquisite nature of the region’s coastline, but many visitors are struck by the dramatic portraits of Welsh actors Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins.
A haven of calm and friendly service, the food is exceptional in the Blas (Taste in Welsh) restaurant and blends the theme of ‘art on a plate’ with contemporary twists on locally-sourced produce, from lobster, crab, mussels and clams to the many fish caught daily nearby as well as locally farmed beef, duck and fowl.
The traditional Welsh lamb rump is a must, served with potatoes, onions and peas, or you might be lucky to find the chef’s daily coastal foraging has added the likes of samphire and monk’s beard into the mix.
With 41 minimalist luxury rooms (20 of which were opened earlier this year), built around that restored 1806 windmill – the name means Mill Tower in Welsh – some lucky guests can also book the Tower Suite on three floors with all-round views across the Peninsula.
The feel of the rooms, suites, bar and lounge is determinedly modernistic, as envisaged by Keith Griffiths, the Hong Kong-based architect with Pembrokeshire roots, who redesigned the property for its reopening.
As you would expect for a multi-award winner, the quality is luxurious and includes chocolate, greys and beiges with an earthy feel. Coupled with limestone bathrooms, most with separate walk-in showers, high-quality TV and audio and, mercifully, easy-to-operate coffee systems.
The sights include the lush green fields above Caerfai Bay itself, dotted with a herd of grazing dairy cows. These provide the milk that a local farmer churns into Cheddar and Caerphilly organic cheese, which brings an evening dinner to a scrumptious close.
Based just five minutes’ walk from 5th century St David’s, (population just 1700), it was perfect for a look round the busy little craft market, as well as the magnificent cathedral and for an amble through the independent shops, followed by the ubiquitous Welsh farm ice cream treat, of course.
In the other direction, toward the coast, those stunning Pembrokeshire’s cliff-edge rambles beckoned too.
Indeed, we couldn’t resist taking an early morning eye-opener around Caerfai Bay and beach before heading back for a delicious full Welsh breakfast that included some exceptional laverbread, that edible seaweed that ensures you know exactly where you are!
Tell Me More About Twr Y Felin Hotel
The Twr Y Felin Hotel, St David’s, Pembrokeshire, Wales, SA62 6QT
Services at the Twr Y Felin Hotel include a treatment room with holistic massages, Indian head massage or reflexology. You can also try Qi Gong Meditation or Reiki Holistic treatments.
Rooms from £250 a night.
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