As a hardy Londoner, used to breathing in fresh smog of a morning, there’s something supremely healthy about spending a weekend in the countryside.
Along with the usual squeals en route as we spot bunny rabbits, fields of sheep, cows and the like, there’s a fair bit of excitement about the fact that we arrive at an almost eerily-quiet destination, where the only noise pollution comes from a couple of crickets having a sing-song.
Usually, this level of rural living conjures up images of basic accommodation (dare I say, camping), but, thankfully, Fairyhill couldn’t be further away from a tent if it tried – with its beautifully traditional exterior belying the welcome modern touches inside. The building has some wonderfully endearing characteristics, like low ceilings and slightly uneven doors, but the spacious rooms, massive beds, and all mod-con bathrooms give the place an impressive edge over other boutique hotels.
There’s also a traditional approach from the staff, which are friendly and attentive, although what works wonderfully in a large hotel may come across as slightly intrusive in a smaller one. However, I certainly appreciate the five-star treatment when I realise I have forgotten my toothbrush and I am presented with another one almost as soon as I get off the phone to reception. Speedy service.
And if the calm of the countryside and friendly staff hasn’t relaxed you enough, Fairyhill also offers a range of holistic therapy treatments. To relax in a slightly less holistic manner, the hotel runs wine-tasting events. I make a note to return for these, after having some pretty fantastic wine at dinner.
Above all else, the hotel is a cosy and welcoming, and although there are plenty of things to do nearby, it is tempting to curl up in one of the large windows with a book or just wander around the beautiful grounds. If you do manage to tear yourself away from Fairyhill, take a trip to one of the Gower’s stunning beaches, and surf, body board, swim or simply walk along the coastline (where many scenes from Doctor Who have been filmed) soaking up the sea air and stunning views.
Food and drink
Supper at Fairyhill is something of a dining experience. The restaurant is filled with guests and non-guests, who have made the journey, from the Gower, Swansea and beyond, just for the food. The restaurant’s reputation clearly stretches beyond the local area; even a young shop assistant in Swansea (on overhearing we would be eating there that evening) absolutely rhapsodised about a meal she had eaten there a few months previously. It’s “lush” she gushed. Praise indeed.
Before dinner, stop off in the cosy bar at the front of the property for an aperitif and some nibbles. The tiny apetisers are so good I almost steal my dining companion’s portion. I blame it on the day’s exercise, but really, they are delicious.
The dinner menu that follows doesn’t disappoint either, with starters such as tempura, beautifully-dressed salad and duck terrine, all made from locally-sourced ingredients. As for the mains, the steak is an excellent cut of beef from a neighbouring farm. You’ll also find risotto, various seafood dishes, duck and pork on the menu – again, all from the Gower, a real treat for city-goers escaping the big smoke.
Desert is worth saving room for, choose from salted caramel cheesecake, Welsh cheese and praline ice-cream. My personal advice? Choose more than one.
Breakfast is the usual mixture of cereal, fruit, juices and fresh yogurt, although the cooked breakfast (more of that locally-sourced produce) really does deserve an honourable mention. In the countryside, even the baked beans taste fresher.
Price: Rooms start at £190
Address: Reynoldston, Gower, Swansea, SA3 1BS, Wales, 01792 390139, fairyhill.net/home/
Radio Times travel rating: 8/10 A splendid country retreat with plenty of old-fashioned hospitality and delicious food.
Radio Times was hosted by Visit Wales and Fairyhill, all of our contributors maintain editorial independence at all times and conduct first-hand research.