Nanteos Mansion: a country house hotel with charm and grandeur

Nanteos is a family-run mansion just outside Aberystwyth  (Nanteos)
Nanteos is a family-run mansion just outside Aberystwyth (Nanteos)

When it comes to country house hotels, Nanteos has history.

In its earlier incarnation, it hosted the Nanteos Cup brought to the house by monks at the Dissolution of the monasteries, which was, by legend, the Holy Grail. There’s a replica of the original (which is in the National Library of Wales, close by) simple cracked wooden vessel in the hall – so yes, very Indiana Jones.

The modern building dates from the early eighteenth century and remained in the same family, the Powells, until 1950, when the then lady of the house, Margaret Powell, died without any heir besides the son who died in the Great War.

In its heyday, the house boasted tens of thousands of acres; you look out from your ivy-wreathed window out onto fine pastures grazed by sheep who are in full cry in the morning. There’s a lovely stream that runs alongside the path to the house and a lake, and stables for a nice, undemanding walk. So, if your fancy runs to a Georgian mansion for a little break, this is a fine example.

There is a morning room to catch the light; and a notable music room with fine plaster and mirrored walls. The kitchen for breakfast is splendid, with big black flagstones and iron frames to hang hams from and gleaming, massive copper pans.

The food at Nanteos is excellent and the service is charming (Nanteos)
The food at Nanteos is excellent and the service is charming (Nanteos)

The bedrooms are of a piece with the house; big high ceilings and lovely big windows; and unlike most private country houses, generously heated.

The restaurant is open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday (on Sunday it alternates between lunch and tea) and it’s very good. The menu changes monthly and includes some excellent options – meltingly tender lamb medallions and hake in caper mash with leeks were memorable – as well as the inevitable steak and chips. The ice-cream is from the house. Breakfast is good too; the full Welsh has notable sausages and bacon. Service is charming.

It’s just outside Aberystwyth, so the sea and the promenade aren’t far away; nor is the famous steam railway and the national library. But for a little break you may want simply to bed in at Nanteos.

If there’s a fault it’s in little things: the library bar in the original library has book-wallpaper, not actual books and there’s my pet bugbear, background music during dinner (Bob Dylan?). Butter comes in foil wrapped packets; if you ask for wine by the glass it comes in an unprepossessing mini bottles; the toiletries are unremarkable and the assortment of tea bags and milk doesn’t have the country house aspect.

But these are less important than the grandeur of the house, the charm of the grounds, the admirable cooking and the willing service. Oh, and there are said to be ghosts. What more do you want?

The splendid ceilings at Nanteos (Nanteos)
The splendid ceilings at Nanteos (Nanteos)

The best way – obviously – to get to Aberystwyth is by rail. You can travel in comfort with Avanti to Birmingham (check out the breakfast in first class) and then take a stopping service with Transport for Wales through Shropshire and Wales. It’s actually a lovely route. Then a brief cab ride to Nanteos.

It would be lovely at any time, but in spring, with the primroses and bluebells bursting out in the meadows and the lambs innocent of their fate, it’s especially inviting. But how to return to a modest London flat after these enormous ceilings?

From £165,

Return from London to Aberystwyth by train from £88.