The Celtic Manor Resort

Goliath-sized Celtic Manor Resort offers a 5-star hotel, with 330 rooms, 32 suites, three championship golf courses, six restaurants, an award-winning spa and health club. Set in 1,400 acres of parkland, this luxurious retreat hosted the 2010 Ryder Cup. But is there any substance behind the swagger? Tina Banerjee finds out 

First impressions

Celtic Manor atriumCeltic Manor features a grand atrium
Celtic Manor

A local we’d met had rather unforgivingly compared the hotel’s exterior to “Colditz”. Whilst I didn’t entirely agree, I could see his point.

However, once you step inside the hotel’s magnificent lobby, everything changes. The sun-lit flooded atrium, dragon-carved pillars, sunken seated area, scattering of comfy sofas, towering trees and Romanesque columns create a sense of grandeur and scale. There’s too much to digest in an instant but further sweeps of the lobby reveal a bar, a restaurant and a parade of designer boutique shops. Despite the buzz of guests around us on a busy Friday afternoon, the copious space creates the illusion of serenity.

We enjoy a speedy check in at the concierge desk where we’re offered valet parking (bonus). Service comes with a warm, friendly smile and remains so throughout our stay. Without exception, all the staff are attentive and go out of their way to be accommodating – elevating service beyond the impersonal often encountered in hotels of this size.

Ideal for…

The hotel’s plush but unpretentious surroundings ensure it has broad appeal for those wanting a luxury weekend break. I spot golfing buddies, couples, families and spa aficionados and even a hen party, spanning all ages.

The room

Celtic Manor roomThe rooms are luxurious
Celtic Manor

We’re staying in a divine, resort deluxe suite on floor eight, which opens up into a spacious lounge and dining area. The main feature are the glorious window views of picturesque woodlands, rolling hills, the Severn Estuary and even the white tips of the Severn Bridge rising like ship masts in the distance; only the ugly grey squiggle of the M4 motorway spoils the scene. Patio windows lead to two expansive terraces but oddly, no tables or chairs to relax and soak up the views. The elegant, traditional but homely décor is complimented by modern comforts: an iPod docking station, Nespresso coffee maker, well-stocked mini bar, CD player, flatscreen TV, DVD, video and complimentary internet access.

Adjoining the living room is the master bedroom, dominated by an enormous, comfy king sized bed. There’s a small balcony, large wardrobe, more tea- and coffee-making facilities, a mini bar and another TV. A hallway leads to a generous-sized marble bathroom, with a separate bath and shower and luxury Elemis beauty products.

Eating and drinking

There are six different dining options in the hotel and four eateries in the adjoining Manor House sister hotel. This is where we head the first night, having to negotiate the cavernous convention centre facilities in order to access Le Patio. Set within a light, airy conservatory, with rattan chairs and wood panelling and suffused with the glow of small candles, everything from the red-and-green awnings to the music tinkling in the background is in tune with the French bistro theme.

I choose hearty meat dishes, beginning with pork terrine (£7.50), delicately flavoured with herbs and sweet garlic, and with satisfyingly crunchy almonds. It’s accompanied by sweet plum and ginger chutney and toasted onion bread. It is tasty but dense and I get half way through before giving up. My mains are equally filling – beef bourguignon (£15.50) braised in red wine sauce, with bacon, mushrooms, onions and creamy mash. It is tender and succulent; my only regret is that I am unable to finish it.

LodgeThe Lodge Brasserie
Celtic Manor

The following evening, we hop on the hotel’s free shuttle for the short journey to The Lodge, a sophisticated but informal brasserie set within the clubhouse overlooking the Roman Road golf course. I immediately fall for the setting: exposed cedar oak beams, hand-cut stone walls, leather chairs, set against a soft jazz music backdrop. Our window seats offer sweeping views of the 18th hole where players tee off in the bright summer’s evening.

For starters, I enjoy a delicious welsh goat’s cheese and roasted plum salad, with caramelised onions (£9.25). It’s beautifully presented, crunchy and sweet. I follow it up with pan-fried fillet of cod, with creamed leek mash, wilted spinach, pea shoots and spring onion foam (£18.50). It’s fabulous, and despite the fact my stomach is groaning, the thought of dessert proves too irresistible. I quickly devour my strawberry trifle (£5.25), one of the creamiest I have ever tasted. Everything from the service to the setting is superb.

Each morning, we breakfast at the Olive Tree Restaurant adjoining the lobby where a more than generous selection of continental and cooked breakfast options await, plus a la carte offerings ranging from smoked salmon to grilled kippers. One morning, a harpist provides lovely musical accompaniment to our food.


Celtic spa poolPool time
Celtic Manor

For spa-lovers, the sprawling Forum Spa voted the Best UK Hotel Spa in 2011, consists of 16 treatment rooms, a spa lounge area, a steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi, a 20m (66ft) pool and an impressive-sized gym. The facilities are all of a high standard: clean and beautifully tiled. On a busy weekend, though, the atmosphere is unsurprisingly bustling rather than serene.

However, the tranquillity I seek follows my two superb spa treatments; a 50-minute modern skin facial (£65) which helps to renew my dull-looking skin, followed by a tension-busting Swedish massage (£65). The star-lit effect ceilings, candle-lit room and soothing music tick all the right boxes and I emerge glowing and revitalised.

Golfers are spoilt for choice; there’s the Roman Road course, Montgomerie course, and Twenty Ten course, which was built specially for the 2010 Ryder Cup tournament.

Room for improvement

The spa doesn’t have the air of pampered exclusivity you associate with top London spa hotels; it’s just too big and bustling. When I visit, two showers don’t work, whilst the third emits a loud protest from the pipes when turned on, no doubt temporary niggles. However, my main gripe is the small size of the spa lounge. It fails to be a relaxing oasis because there’s no privacy from the main spa and it’s too cramped.

Out and about

Celtic Manor forest jumpTreetops adventure
Celtic Manor

The hotel offers so much to do within its grounds that you simply don’t need to leave: from walking and mountain biking to shooting and tennis. For daredevils, try the Forest Jump Treetops Adventure course, which involves zip lining around 30 obstacles made from rope, wood and wire and involves a challenging vertical ascent at the start. It costs £20 for adults and £18 for 11-15 years old.

Sightseers have much to explore: the Usk Valley is strewn with castles, including the wonderful fairytale Castell Coch, there’s nearby Cardiff or it’s a 90-minute drive to gorgeous Rhossili Beach on the Gower Peninsula. Alternatively, head north of Newport to the Brecon Beacons National Park. 

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