A magnificent country house located in the stunning Wye Valley
Set in the breathtaking rolling hills of the Brecon Beacons and Wye Valley, Llangoed Hall is surrounded by 20 acres of private gardens leading to the River Wye in the heart of Mid-Wales.
In 1919 the present building was completed and in 1987 it was bought by Sir Bernard Ashley (Welsh born designer Laura Ashley’s husband) who restored it to its former glory. Although Laura never actually lived there, her influence can be seen throughout the individually designed rooms of the 23-bedroom hotel. Today, after an extensive refurbishment, the hotel looks as spectacular as ever, while retaining its charm.
The bedrooms at Llangoed Hall
Each of the 23 bedrooms is beautifully decorated with rich fabrics, antique mirrors, sumptuous sofas, Roberts radios and cast-iron baths. Many have four-poster beds and comfortable places to kick back and relax in the classic feature bedrooms, all featuring an original Laura Ashley piece. There’s even a decanter of sherry in each room that adds a little deliciousness to your stay. It’s like stepping back in time, except for the TV and free wi-fi.
The award-winning restaurant
Head Chef Nick Brodie and his talented team place emphasis on creating dishes that make use of the finest local Welsh produce – and offer home-grown ingredients that showcase the powerful connection between sustainability, nature food and flavour. The food is sourced from the hotel’s kitchen garden. In fact, the hotel grows 45% of the vegetables, soft fruits and herbs that they require in winter and in the summer months, the hotel enjoys 95% sustainability, meaning chefs can pick produce and have this delivered to the plate in two minutes, preserving both flavour and freshness. Guests can also visit three busy egg houses - Chicken, Duck and Quail - where the eggs are collected.
The restaurant offers an intimate fine dining experience where guests can indulge in eight-course seasonal menus - Prestige and Vegetarian – accompanied by a wine flight that compliments the courses perfectly. For those who aren’t in the mood for an eight-course menu, a four-course menu is also offered. During my visit I enjoyed the eight tasting course menu, which included crisp fresh canapés served with taramalsalata and cod roe, mackerel torched with lemon juice and tomato consume, Aylesbury duck served with shallots and red leaves followed by a sweet but taut gooseberry fool and smooth honey parfait served with bee pollen and lavender.
Guests can enjoy a selection of afternoon teas in sumptuous comfortable surroundings with a Cream Tea, Welsh Tea and the Laura Ashley Afternoon tea that includes a glass of elderflower Champagne, a selection of floral teas, finger sandwiches, scones and various cakes all served on bespoke Caverswall crockery inspired by Laura Ashley’s design style.
The wine cellar at Llangoed Hall contains a collection of some of the world’s finest wines. The wines on the list have been chosen to perfectly complement the outstanding cuisine served in the restaurant. The wine list is compiled by Tanners Wines, a local vintner, whose reputation for quality has been recognised by a string of industry awards.
Laura Ashley and husband Bernard owned a unique collection of art now on display at the hotel today. Their personal collection includes sketches by the American-born artist and society wit, James McNeil Whistler and works by Herman Dudley Murphy and Augustus John. Adding interest and character to the hotel, guests at Llangoed can browse the collection at anytime during their stay.
There are 17 acres of landscaped gardens at the hotel. The maze features a variety of flowers including roses, inspired by Laura Ashley and the gardens also include an extensive kitchen garden.
It the small touches that make a difference
The hotel is home to a large telescope, which guests are encouraged to use after dark to stargaze - the perfect night cap for a romantic evening.
We can't think of a more magnificent hotel to enjoy a weekend in the gorgeous Welsh countryside.
A night at Llangoed Hall is priced from £150.00 (B&B based on two sharing).
With the coveted white truffle now in season just in time to grace the tables of the most discerning gourmets, it's the perfect time to visit Tuscany. I firmly believe this delicacy tastes even better when you hunt for it yourself, which is what I set out to do during my recent visit to Borgo Pignano.
Sitting in the heart of Tuscany on a hilltop between two fertile valleys in the Val d’Elsa region, this 750-acre country estate is a unique combination of a luxury resort with a beautifully restored 18th century mansion at its center surrounded by eco farmland and woods, which allows the hotel to be almost fully self-contained.
The term ‘borgo’ (‘hamlet’ in Italian) dates back to Etruscan times. Former farm workers lived in cottages (some of which have been restored and now serve as accommodation for bigger groups of guests or families) whereas couples and singles stay in the main mansion.
The resort is within easy driving distance from the historical towns of Volterra and San Gimignano and is located about 40km north of Siena. We flew into Bologna and, as we didn’t hire a car, took the train to another pretty medieval town called Poggibonsi and then a taxi from there, which we discovered was a wise choice because the road is winding and the sign posting isn’t all that great, so unless you have a GPS you might get lost!
As soon as we set off, we were enchanted by the woods and the gorgeous countryside views. The resort’s entrance is marked by an impressive arch, which sets the scene for grandeur.
Upon arrival, our rooms weren’t ready, so we were led through the vast, immaculate gardens to a terrace overlooking a rock pool, which guests were swimming in – even in October! From next year on, the pool will be heated, for those who aren’t as brave.
While we waited, we were treated to our first taste of Tuscan cuisine with delicious products produced entirely on the farm and in the greenhouses, including a hearty barley soup topped with grated cheese and a sprinkling of white truffle.
The ground floor houses the reception and an adjacent cozy courtyard, the dining room, living room and - a great highlight - a library with hundreds of books in several languages. As the charming general manager, Oriol, explained, Borgo Pignano wants its guest to enjoy tranquility and nature, avoiding modern gadgets wherever possible. Hence there is no TV and no key cards for the rooms. Hot water and heating are provided by solar cells and the only nod towards modern day communication is the availability of fast WiFi. So, if you’re looking to get away from it all, this is the place.
The rooms are vast and beautifully furnished, with wooden floors, antique rugs and a bathroom with a rain shower and a great variety of goodies, all made in ‘laboratories’ on the premises.
After we had settled in, we were treated to a tour of the estate and were amazed to see how much more there is to Borgo Pignano than just a luxury hotel. We viewed the rolling fields and the green houses, the beehives where their own honey is produced, six pigs in a huge enclosure in the woods happily snuffling away and horses, ponies and chickens. We also stopped by the aforementioned laboratories to see honey making, production of scented candles and creams and even the grinding of flour for the home baked bread, much of which is made by hand.
For dinner guests have a choice between a private table in the fine dining restaurant or, for those who like to mingle with other guests, a communal table in a beautiful dining room with a vast fireplace. In the summer al fresco dining is arranged in the garden.
Above: Communal Dining in the Medieval room. Below: Villa Pignano restaurant.
Truffle hunting at Borgo Pignano
The next day we embarked on the adventure we had come for - truffle hunting. We were met by two professional and licensed truffle hunters, Daniele and Alessio and, most importantly, their cute truffle dog Pato.
Off we went into the woods, over fallen trees, roots and slippery leaves and after only a few minutes, Pato became excited, starting to scrabble, with his snout under the roots of a chestnut tree. Lo and behold, he had found a truffle! At a command of Daniele, he immediately stopped and turned away, so he could dig out the white gold with his hands and a special instrument called vanghino. We were warned that we might not find any truffles, but luck was with us and within the two hours we spent in the woods, we collected no less than five truffles.
In the evening in the communal dining room we enjoyed our bounty, shaved over a rich risotto prepared by chef Vincenzo Martella who revealed his favorite truffle dish is fried eggs and mashed potatoes with shaved truffles and then mixed with the half liquid yolk. He even recommends adding truffles to desserts such as tiramisu or zabaglione.
If you can’t make it during the truffle season, which ends on 15 November when the resort closes, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy including horseback riding (for all levels), a midnight picnic (when there is a full moon), hiking in the woods or indulging in a treatment in the spa.
Venturing further afield
Excursions to other Tuscan treasures such as Florence, Volterra, San Gimignano and the ochre city of Siena are easily within reach. If you don’t have a rental car, the resort is happy to arrange cars and drivers on your behalf.
We couldn’t think of a more relaxing and luxurious venue for a taste of an authentic Tuscan heaven.
Rates start at €310 per night based on a double room including breakfast. Prices vary based on room selection and season. Children are welcome at the resort. Dogs are also welcome, however, they’re only allowed in the villas, not in the main mansion or in the dining rooms, gardens or pool areas. Bicycles and Nordic walking sticks are available upon request.
A summary of our stay at Borgo Pignano
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