Beautiful country mansion Grove of Narberth sits alongside four cottages and a 15th-century long house built for mediaeval farmers and their livestock. Far more fit for king than cattle, the hotel itself is a regal blend of modern luxe and country charm, ideal for romantic getaways or escapes with family and friends. The work of designer Martin Hulbert, the interiors look like they've evolved naturally over time, staying rooted in the local area by showcasing the talent and artistry of the Pembrokeshire community. Rooms are filled with handmade furniture (both new and antique), local pottery, vintage Welsh lace, and artwork and photography by local artists. Finishing touches like sumptous Persian rugs and fine Vietnamese silks add a dash of internationalism that'll please the most worldy of wanderers.
The beautiful Pembrokeshire coast with its secluded beaches
Luxurious and comfortable historic hotel
Castles to explore, Narberth’s pretty market town and local food to feast on
A gin cocktail each on arrival; GoldSmith members get a half-bottle of Billcarte-Salmon Reserve champagne
In the know
Also need to know:
The hotel is filled with artwork by local artist, Gillian McDonald; if you particularly like the look of a certain piece, ask at reception about bringing it home. For extra brownie points, surprise Mrs Smith with an in-room spa treatment; be sure to book ahead as they prove very popular with guests.
Swimwear for the beach; walking boots for traipsing around forests and castles; some old classics to read in front of the fire; bedsocks or slippers for optimum cosiness.
Rural chic, fit farm – think floaty florals, crisply ironed shirts, and obligatory glowing cheeks and wind-ruffled hair for both sexes.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
I’ve just done nothing for three days. Absolutely nothing. It was glorious. Never before has such precious little generated so much activity in a man’s pleasure centre. But I’ve also discovered I’m an idiot. For many reasons – but the main being that I live in London and I never go to Wales. The Grove is in Pembrokeshire. It’s one of those places that when you tell somebody you’re going they’ll hunch their shoulders, flap their hands and say “YOU… WILL… LOVE… IT!” Why has everybody been to Pembrokeshire without telling me? It’s like Ocado. Finally I try it, I love it and then I find out you’ve all been using it behind my back for years.
As we approached the Grove through the village of Narberth, it was as if I had been struck down with a platitude-inducing strain of Tourette’s. Words like ‘Wow’ and ‘Oooooh’ dribbled uncontrollably from my gaping mouth. The hotel is 15 minutes south of the middle of nowhere and it’s only a well-hidden road sign down a long driveway that ushers you in towards the large country house. A Georgian mansion, it is actually more like a rich friend’s parents’ house. The sort of house I occasionally went to a party at as a teenager and spent the whole night thinking about how angry their folks would be in the morning. On the way in I had a flashback, suddenly worrying they might be able to smell I’d been smoking.
The rural-deluxe interior reinforces the feeling that you are actually in a private property – one that belongs to somebody with great taste in furniture and art. A lot of the pieces are for sale including the paintings in the room, each piece of furniture appearing the kind that was once excitedly bid on at auction. Our white, French white-armoired room had cotton sheets so good it made me shudder at about the state of my linen at home. Then Mrs Smith went into the bathroom and started screaming. They have REN products. The howls were like ones that would be elicited if I had turned on the telly and discovered the adult channel had been left on. But of course the Grove wouldn’t have an adult channel. (And if they did it would be too much like watching porn at my parents’ place, forcing me to confront some terrible recollections of being caught doing just that.)
After unpacking, only a complete weirdo wouldn’t want to head straight to the drawing room to sit by the fire. Especially as you’re ambushed on the way with a wine list that has one carefully picked bottle for each type of grape. This is great, as normally scanning a wine list can mean that I’m concentrating more on the beads of sweat pouring down my ruddy face in anticipation of naïve-ordering humiliation rather than what producer to plump for.
Then, just as my polite Tourette’s kicked in again, something happened. It must have been that feeling that I was in somebody’s rich parents’ house. Trying so hard not to make a mess, my body rebelled. It’s a blur now, but everybody in that room must have watched me walk over to the luxurious, pale green sofa and calmly pour a glass of red wine over it. I remember the whole thing as if watching it from above. Shouts of ‘soda water!’ ‘salt!’ and ‘I’m so sorry about him’ were thankfully followed by an ‘it’s perfectly OK’. While the brilliant staff scrubbed away at my stains, we retreated to the bedroom.
I had embarrassed Mrs Smith. She sat on the bed annoyed. Thinking I’d cheer her up, I crawled up the expensive mattress towards her tossing a cream cushion aside in a playful yet powerfully masculine manner. Bull’s eye. The silk pillow hit my full glass of red wine on the bedside table. A team of engineers could not arrange for a small amount of liquid to be dispersed so evenly across so many surfaces. For the next half an hour it must have seemed like we were having the wildest time of out lives in that room. It was, in fact, the sound of me pounding the floor with a flannel while Mrs Smith moaned in agony.
In a bid to not ruin any more of this beautiful hotel, in the morning, we headed out. If you go to the Grove, get Neil to organise you a day out. He’s brilliant at it. We went to St David’s (Britain’s smallest city) where we watched a school sing carols in the Cathedral. We took the sort of bracing walk through Pembrokeshire’s soul-stirring countryside that after five minutes inspires claims about how much you’d like to walk the width of England. After 20, you’re holding yourself up with a bit of driftwood, sobbing and begging to a god you don’t believe in you’ll soon find a pub. We also went to two different supermarkets. I can confirm that the Spa in Narberth does not sell carpet cleaner but the unbranded mini-mart stocks the full 1,001 cleaning range and the guy behind the till has some excellent tips on getting red wine out of hotel carpets.
You’ll be pleased to hear that the stain-removal product worked and I managed to erase all traces of pinot. I owned up to the staff and they were amazing. We left feeling we now have family friends in Pembrokeshire. And I still drool when I think about the delicious local dishes in the restaurant. Malcolm, who runs the restaurant is brilliant. This is a man who can discuss local history and the X-Factor with equal knowledge and passion.
The best thing about our trip to the Grove? I now know this beautiful house full of friendly people out in the middle of nowhere is out there whenever I need it. And it’s by a village where you can get a perfect coffee, buy imported Spanish wine and pick up Joseph Joseph kitchenware or Barbour jackets from a boutique shop. I vaguely remember insisting I’d come back alone with a typewriter for a month and type away staring across the rolling fields, eating lamb and sipping wine from a straw in a plastic glass nailed to the table. It’s all a bit of haze now. That’s what you get when you spend three days drifting in and out of consciousness, opening your eyes only to guide a fork or glass towards your smiling mouth. And do the odd bit of upholstery daubing.
Molleston, Narbeth, Pembrokeshire, Wales, Pembrokeshire SA67 8BX, United Kingdom
- Internet services
- On-Site parking
The Fernery is the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, an elegant and softly-lit space with round tables draped in luxurious linens and finished with a fern swimming in a glass bowl. It’s here that executive head chef Allister Barsby takes the best local produce he can find – including vegetables and herbs grown in the hotel's own garden – to produce bold, inspired dishes that toe the line between Welsh tradition and avant garde European cuisine. Expect dishes like pan-fried duck liver with poached rhubarb, hazelnut cream and xeres vinegar sauce, and Bass with roasted with star anise, saffron onions, tapenade and bouillabaisse. A more casual option, the Artisan Rooms celebrates simple cooking that lets the sheer quality of the Welsh ingredients shine through. The restaurant is spread across three rooms, one with a unique wall of hand-woven willow, the other two filled with local crafts and Pembrokeshire artwork by Gillian McDonald. Expect grazing boards of the best of Welsh charcuterie and artisan cheese, grilled Welsh lamb and beef, and fish landed in Pembrokeshire.
Go for the window seats to soak up the beautiful garden views.
Breakfast, from 8am–10am; lunch, noon to 2pm; dinner, 6pm (6.30pm in The Fernery) to 9pm.
Order an in-room feast from 8am to 9.30pm; start your day with the traditional farmhouse breakfast, order Welsh rarebit for afternoon nibbles, and pick from the restaurant's à la carte menu in the evening.
The bar itself is fashioned from Welsh steel and purple slate – the very same used on the roof of the hotel. Welsh settles, stools and traditional spindle chairs create a homely feel, and lamps like those once used to light the local mines add a nostalgic finish. The wine selection stands out, as head sommelier Catriona Mcgregor has to source varietes that match the quality of the dishes served in the Fernery. If you're one for a digestif, you couldn't ask for a more cosy and welcoming place to curl up with a whiskey.
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