Hotel Review: The Hafod

Hafod hotel

With the Jubilee weekend approaching, husband and I decided we would make use of the long weekend by getting out of the country. We left England for the first time since Covid restrictions were imposed, driving west into Wales. As hoped, the bunting was less prolific here.

We had booked ourselves into The Hafod Hotel at Devil’s Bridge (east of Aberystwyth) for three nights, on a dinner bed and breakfast basis. We were glad to have opted to be fed entirely here as there were few other options in the immediate area. The bar and restaurant proved popular with both residents and non-residents, something that at times affected service. The staff were unfailing friendly and welcoming but clearly working as hard as they could in challenging circumstances.

We had asked for a superior rather than basic room. What we got was newly refurbished accommodation. There wasn’t a great deal of space but it was fresh and clean. We appreciated the walk-in shower in the en-suite (there was no bath). The view of the valley was delightful.

The hotel is situated on a busy through road – although all roads in this area are narrow and twisty. It is popular with bikers, who parked their machines under our window. Across the road are tables that were well used by both residents and passers by. It all added to a convivial atmosphere. Overnight the traffic dropped and we were able to sleep well in the peace and quiet.

Within the hotel, food and drinks may be enjoyed in the restaurant or a large bar area. Between these is a lounge where we had our pre-dinner tipples. The hotel sources what it can locally and I enjoyed several gins from the Dyfi Distillery this can be visited in nearby Machynlleth.

From the lounge area a staircase rises to the guest accommodation. I was amused by a doorway that had been blocked with a smaller staircase it would be a challenge to climb.

The food on offer was oriented towards pub fare rather than fine dining. Portions were generous – rather more than I am used to eating. The menu was unchanged throughout our stay so I did repeat a few dishes.

While the halloumi fries were tasty, the delicious feta and melon starter suited me better.  My usual choice of fish arrived drenched in a sauce so I switched to the chicken burger thereafter. This contained a portion of whole chicken that I believe was deep fried – a preparation I usually avoid but managed to digest without issue. The cheese board proved excellent – local cheeses served with a good supply of biscuits and grapes. Husband enjoyed each of the puddings he ordered, trying a different one each evening.

Pleasant though our stay at the hotel was, the highlight for us was the location. From the hotel at Devil’s Bridge we walked both up and down the valley in which it sits. There were numerous waterfalls to marvel at as the various rivers converging in this area tumbled through steeply cut gorges. By climbing through woodland we gained a spectacular view of the surrounding area.

Paths could be challenging to navigate at times – seriously boggy in places riverside and worryingly narrow above ravines. It was worth persevering to appreciate the topography. We heard cuckoos and woodpeckers. We pondered the preponderance of the rhododendrons that grew in every location.

Man-made structures were also admired, including the eponymous bridges – three built, one on top of the other, the oldest dating back many centuries.

We travelled to Aberystwyth on the Saturday morning to take part in their Parkrun, getting back to the hotel just in time for breakfast – we had previously checked it would be served until 10.30am. Sadly, my poached eggs were barely cooked on this day. I wondered if the kitchen staff had been inconvenienced by our later arrival at the table.

We returned to Aberystwyth in the afternoon to explore the town and enjoy a coastal walk – this was time well spent.

On our final day, having checked out of the hotel, we enjoyed a lovely walk in the nearby Hafod Estate. The riverside paths here were well maintained and the surrounds picturesque. It was a fitting end to a most enjoyable short break.

Hafod room name

A City Break in Edinburgh

My elder son is currently a student at Edinburgh University. We drove him and the essential equipment that all students seem to need to his halls in September, staying a couple of nights in a hotel to make the long journey from Wiltshire more worthwhile. There was so much to see we determined to return and enjoy it fully as tourists. Thus, on Friday of last week, we boarded an early morning flight which took us north of the wall.

img_20161118_085851761

Starting our break with an airport breakfast

The hotel we selected, Ten Hill Place, is owned by the Royal College of Surgeons and uses profits to train surgeons worldwide. It is situated close to many of the university buildings and within easy walking distance of the Royal Mile. It proved an excellent choice.

img_20161118_130441045   img_20161118_130506820

A comfortable base

img_20161118_202246324   img_20161118_212541241

Tasty food in the No. Ten Restaurant

I was delighted to find a lovely bookshop just around the corner. Blackwell Edinburgh is well worth a visit.

img_20161118_141303954   img_20161118_141354125

With window displays such as this how could any book lover resist?

The weather started off cold and clear so we climbed both Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat to enjoy the views. The former is an easy ascent and provides a number of interesting constructions to admire. The latter proved more challenging. We tackled it on a frosty morning and the stone pathways were very slippery underfoot. I was grateful for my husband’s assistance in reaching the summit and then making our way back down.

img_20161118_153246299_hdr   img_20161118_153547437

Calton Hill

img_20161119_111454086   img_20161119_111509315

Arthur’s Seat 

The weather then turned dull and bitterly cold so we enjoyed some of the many indoor attractions offered around the Royal Mile. Having toured the wonderful castle on our previous visit we opted for Holyrood Palace this time around. The castle was better value, although we did enjoy our stroll through the palace gardens. For the cost of entrance there just weren’t enough rooms open inside, and all seemed too structured, impersonal and lacking in atmosphere. I suspect my lack of interest in the royal family, other than as historical figures, may be a factor in this assessment. I could not relate to the unctious tone of the guide.

img_20161120_110409508_hdr

The ruined abbey and gardens were of more interest than the house

There are a large number of places to visit in the city centre, many of which are free of charge. We enjoy museums and chose to explore the Museum of Childhood, Museum of Edinburgh and The Writers’ Museum. These were of interest as much for the old town houses in which they are located as for the displays.

We also spent several hours exploring the National Museum of Scotland. There were many interesting galleries in this impressive building although their arrangement appeared somewhat eclectic which added to our entertainment as we pondered why.

 img_20160911_172739   img_20161119_151925346

Writers’ Museum and National Museum of Scotland

We particularly enjoyed the Museum on the Mound which offers a history of money as well as a chance to crack a safe. We failed.

img_20161120_133904814

Who would you like to see on a £20 note?

The most interesting place visited on this trip, and one which we regret not giving more than two hours, were the Surgeons’ Hall Museums, also owned by the Royal College of Surgeons. Avoid the pathology displays if you are inclined to hypochondria, but we found it fascinating.

img_20161118_140817435

In the evenings, as well as eating in the restaurant at our hotel, we enjoyed delicious meals at Howies and Apiary. Each day we walked for miles around the city’s cobbled streets and hidden alleyways, admiring the impressive local architecture and grand buildings.

img_20161121_095334418_hdr

Old College, one of the many university buildings 

The new Scottish Parliament Building with its bizarre modern architecture and eye wateringly expensive construction cost is closed to visitors on a Sunday, the day we had allocated for a tour. We had also been advised to visit The Real Mary King’s Close but ran out of time.

Edinburgh is a beautiful city and we feel fortunate that we had only the cold to contend with rather than the wet and windy weather that arrived as we left. There is still much to see and we hope to return.