Review by Fiona Duncan, published 21st September 2008.
I’m watching Welsh hotels with great interest. Though there are probably no more than 50 in the country that are worthy of special attention, that’s far more than in previous years, and among them there’s something for everyone, evenly spread between the mountainous north, the south and the west.
The best of them are brilliant at what they do, and when it comes to food, they understand that much-abused phrase “locally sourced” better than many of their English counterparts. And generally speaking, they are cheaper too. That feeling of just having been robbed when it comes to paying the bill is far less likely to occur in a town beginning with two “l”s.
Among Welsh hotels I’m happy to recommend, there are flashy spa resorts, basic mountain inns, romantic restaurants-with-rooms, peaceful country houses and flamboyant seafront villas. Here in Llandeilo (and in Swansea, at its sister establishment, Morgans) I discover that the affordable contemporary town hotel, as invented by Hotel du Vin and much copied since, is also represented.
Affordable it most certainly is, even by the standards of a place with two “l”s like Llandeilo. It stands in the centre of town (packed with interesting specialist shops), which itself stands in the middle of the country, making it a useful base, not just for the Brecon Beacons on its doorstep, but for both Pembrokeshire and Cardigan Bay. The river Towey flows under its old stone bridge, and on through a valley of diverse and lovely landscapes.
Like the bridge, the Cawdor has a history. Painted deep red, it’s been a hotel since Georgian times, when politicians and notables gathered in its large ground floor assembly room, now the hotel’s restaurant, for dinner and entertainment. It has little changed, including the wide first- and second-floor hallways leading to the bedrooms, which give a sense of grandeur as you approach.
Since Morgans took over three years ago, the bedrooms have been refurbished in chunky contemporary style, all wood and slate and flat screen TVs, but each one different in terms of fabric and colour. Beds are excellent, with Egyptian cotton linen and attractive throws. All 23 are pictured and described on the hotel’s excellent website, with floor plans giving exact measurements.
Prices, including full breakfast, depend on size: two cost as little as £65; most are £100 and £125, with a huge top floor suite the most expensive at £200. I’ve known bedrooms of similar quality to cost nearly double those prices.
So, the Cawdor is good value, which is why it has a strong following among young couples looking for a weekend break – but that doesn’t mean to say it’s perfect. Despite some charming individual members of staff, the Cawdor, I felt, lacks the personal touch. It feels like an operation, which of course is, but really good hotels don’t give that away. The dining room, albeit original, is cavernous and feels uncomfortably empty when only a few guests are in. Breakfast in The Bistro, a drab brown anteroom, is a listless affair.
In short, you’ll get plenty for your pound at the Cawdor, but not in the way of personality.
The Cawdor, Rhosmaen Street, Llandeilo (0800 988 3002; www.thecawdor.com). Doubles from £65 to £200 per night, including breakfast. One specially adapted room for guests with disabilities.