Have you ever visited a place and instantly felt at home? I don’t mean that you’ve been there before, or are reliving a past life, but rather, when you experience that feeling of knowing that you’ve arrived somewhere that’s just ‘you’. That’s how I felt arriving at the magnificent Bodysgallen Hall in Llandudno, north Wales.
I knew that this country house hotel and spa, which is the property of The National Trust, was special as soon the taxi driver wound her car up the driveway to the house, past grazing sheep belonging to the neighbouring farm, who stared nonchantly but intently at our car as we ooh’d and aah’d at the recently-born spring lambs.
Although we’ve travelled from London to Llandudno by train, Llandudno is just a one hour drive from Holyhead, if you are getting a ferry over from Ireland, and just 90 minutes from Liverpool if you choose the Belfast-Liverpool route.
Stepping through the door of the 17th century building in to the main hall, the oldest part of the house, we could feel the warmth and comfort radiate through those ancient walls to make us feel immediately welcomed.
The house has a history stretching back 600 years, with parts of the building dating back as far as 1620, possibly even further, and the current owners here have pulled off a remarkable achievement, making you feel like you’re an old friend, even on your first visit.
The first thing we did after being shown to our spacious bedroom suite, with its separate sitting space replete with plump armchairs, was to order tea and coffee. There’s no kettle in the rooms as, in the tradition of a country house, guests are served room service tea and coffee in their bedrooms. Later, sitting on our spacious king size bed, gazing through leaded windows, we had views over the countryside towards the mountains of Snowdonia National Park and I thought to myself that really, I could never tire of this view. Instead of the relentless hum of traffic that is the soundtrack to our life in Belfast, all we could hear was birdsong and the baaing of those beautiful lambs.
A 13th century watchtower probably stood on the site before it became a home in the late Elizabethan era, but the entire property has been skilfully and sympathetically restored by Historic House Hotels, and was given to the National Trust in 2008. The name Bodysgallen itself may mean either ‘house among thistles’ or ‘the abode of Cadwallon’, who was a 6th century chieftain, but the exact meaning has been lost in the mists of time.
Elsewhere in the Hall you will find a library and various oak-panelled rooms – the Drawing Room on the floor above the main hall features a magnificent fireplace with the 17th century coats of arms of previous owners. I also made time to visit the spa, just a short walk from the hotel in its own separate building, for a swim, sauna and facial.
There’s something about walking into a spa and the soothing scents of aromatherapy oils that leaves me instantly relaxed and this was no exception. The spa offers products by luxury British brand, Aromatherapy Associates and my therapist, with the beautiful Welsh name, Llinos, truly has healing hands as I was so relaxed during my Essential Rose Facial, that I drifted off into a dreamy reverie a couple of times and really didn’t want this wonderful treatment to end.
More active types will enjoy a croquet lawn in the hotel grounds, as well as several golf courses in the area, but for me, a swim and a facial provided the perfect indulgence and as much activity as I wanted during this relaxing two-night break.
Our aim was to unwind, take it easy and soak up the atmosphere of this historic house, and it really is the perfect place for those wishing for an escape from their daily routine.
As well as my spa treatment, another highlight was a fine dining gourmet dinner in the Dining Room restaurant, with its 3 AA Rosettes and emphasis on using seasonal produce from the Hall’s own gardens.
During our stay we also made sure to take a walk in the gardens, one of the finest Arts and Crafts gardens in the whole of Wales. Bodysgallen is surrounded by more than 200 acres of parkland and gardens, both manicured and wild, and we went on the hunt for the walled garden, lily ponds and herb-filled box hedges of the garden, with its sundial dated 1678.
On the last evening of our break, we enjoyed a drink in front of the roaring fire in the main hall and our thoughts turned to the people who would have sat in the same spot hundreds of years ago. Who were they and what sort of conversations did they have? Could they ever have imaged that hundreds of years later, guests would still be visiting their home and enjoying this most beautiful part of the Welsh countryside?
For more details visit the website at bodysgallen.com. B&B is priced from £185 per night based on two sharing.