The Welsh island of Anglesey rose in popularity when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made it their home. This outdoor playground caters for adventurists, nature lovers, and has some of the most challenging sailing on the nearby Menai Strait.
There’s every possible outdoor activity imaginable within striking distance of Chateau Rhianfa including zip wires, mountaineering, mountain biking, rib rides, abseiling and horse riding. I opted to sail for two days with the Plas Menai sailing school. Noted as one of the best sailing schools in the British Isles, the school caters for all levels and I was fortunate enough to find myself on a yacht with fellow ‘wind-chasers’. We had a great time sailing around the coast of Anglesey, Puffin Island and over to Conwy Bay.
My sailing adventure was preceded by a luxury stay just across the water. On reflection, a berth the size of a coffin is never going to compare with a luxury hotel suite and on that basis I would thoroughly recommend that you exert yourself before checking-in as a post-activity treat. Adrenalin sports provide an excellent ‘come down’ from the stresses of the city, giving your brain a much-needed rest before slipping easily into a tranquil state of relaxation.
Chateau Rhianfa, situated at Menai Bridge, is only a few minutes’ drive from the pretty seaside village of Beaumaris. “Rhianfa”, meaning women’s abode was the name given this French Loire-styled chateau by Lady Sarah Hay Williams, wife of Sir John Hay-Williams, the Baronet of Bodelwyddan in 1849. The couple took inspiration for its design from their many trips to the region.
The impressive facade with turrets and towers is best viewed from the water below, but the charming entrance gives more than a hint of the treasures that lay beyond.
With 22 individually-styled rooms, there is something to suit all tastes, from the dark and romantic four-poster Duke Suite with the wet room built in the turret to our ornately styled Duchess Suite next door.
This breath-taking suite is arguably the largest bedroom I have ever slept in. The stunning pièce de resistance … a two-person bath perfectly positioned in the bay window from which to admire the view across the straits to mount Snowdon day or night.. The predominantly neutral decor with black accessories, hints of red and a stunning large tulip print wall covering gave the room an extravagant air without the pretention.
This is not a hotel where you’re simply allocated a room with a faceless number; the staff take the time to ensure that the room is matched with the occupants and the occasion.
Whilst the relaxed atmosphere and the stunning suites may tempt you to stay in your room, I urge you to get out and explore the chateau. It’s full of little surprises, nooks and crannies like the writing room at the top of the tower. I loved the playful use of the turrets. Cosy little snugs have been created, lit and decorated in red and green, inspired by the local sailing connection, representing port and starboard. These little hidey holes are perfect spots to enjoy a glass of something decadent or curl up with one of the many books available for guests.
With the feel of a family home, guests are encouraged to find their own favourite resting places and there are almost as many public rooms as there are bedrooms. Lounges, bars, a wine cellar, private dining rooms, the music room, games room and sun room abound, many with open fires, including the one in reception, which provides a warm welcome in the winter months. Chateau Rhianfa is teeming with gorgeous quirky features, beautiful little trinkets, spectacular artwork and silk rugs, there’s so much detail to take in and explore.
For the more sporty guests, there is a gym and tennis court on site, but the sauna and hot tub with views of the water below really caught my attention as I set out to explore the delightful waterside gardens.
Having recently won the Best Hotel Restaurant of the Year in the Welsh Food Awards, it was no surprise that dinner was indeed divine. Prepared by chef Andrew Sheridan who has previously worked alongside celebrity chef Michael Caine. Guests enjoy canapés in the wine caves prior to dining in the Great Hall. I opted for the freshest, finest grade Yuzu glazed tuna served with mango puree, lime and chilli vinaigrette garnished with a touch of humour in the form of cracked wild rice, which left me guessing for quite some time.
For my main course I opted for the perfectly cooked 28-day dry aged Welsh black ribeye steak served with triple cooked truffle chips, truffle hollandaise, Portobello mushrooms and some of the tastiest tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. For dessert, I chose a delicate hot apple tartan with crystallised apples and a light apple sorbet.
Whilst many chefs have a reputation for being grumpy and difficult, Andy is generous with his time and responsive to hear what his guests do and don’t like about his food, so much so that I even felt brave enough to pinch some of his secret recipes.
The vibe at Chateau Rhianfa is a reflection of General Manager Martin Page. Warm and friendly, informal and relaxed, guests are made to feel they can roam freely around the house and grounds, but the staff are always around should you need anything.
The beauty of a place like Anglesey is that the changes to the landscape vary dramatically with each season. Combining this with the vast array of rooms the hotel has to offer, gives you a completely different experience every time you visit. I’m heading back in the heart of winter – see you there?