A boy pulling a raft on the Adventure Golf course

Celtic Manor: the perfect family weekend break


The Celtic Manor Resort won global acclaim for hosting the 2010 Ryder Cup. But this extraordinary leisure complex, set in 1,600 acres of parkland in the hills north of Newport, is also the perfect place for a family weekend break, with high wires, themed children’s events, teen spa treats – and the best adventure golf ever.

An extraordinary leisure complex

I know a man, who knows a man, who worked on the construction of a big hotel. “It wasn’t like any other job I’ve done,” the man (allegedly) said. “If he didn’t like something, he’d tell us to knock it down, and build it again, until he was happy with it. Everything had to be absolutely perfect.”

The ‘he’ in question is Sir Terry Matthews, telecoms tycoon, the first Welsh billionaire, and proud owner of The Celtic Manor Resort, an extraordinary leisure complex in the hills north of Newport.

I’ve no idea if the story is true, but it certainly felt true during our family weekend break at Celtic Manor in early 2013. The place is absolutely enormous – almost 400 beds in two hotels, set in 1,600 acres of Welsh parkland that includes three championship golf courses. Everything is spotlessly, flawlessly manicured, inside and out.

The owner’s famous perfectionism is there in every detail, from an excellent fine-dining restaurant called Terry M, to the livid green health drink on the breakfast buffet, labelled ‘Uncle Terry’s Smoothie’ (his favourite blend of seven fruit and veg, since you ask). The harpist in the breakfast room plays jazz, his favourite genre of music. His son Dylan is the resort’s chief executive.

The family connection goes back further: Sir Terry was born in the original 19th-century Manor House, which used to be a maternity hospital. He bought the Manor in 1980 and spent £100m turning it into a luxury hotel. Then he began work on a separate 330-bedroom Resort Hotel, and yet more developments are still being planned.

Golfing glories

But Celtic Manor, while being Sir Terry’s baby in every detail, is far from being a rich man’s folly. As he’s pointed out, he’s a businessman. The place actually works – and works superbly, as it demonstrated when it hosted the 2010 Ryder Cup. The event was a triumph, thanks to the good-natured efficiency of the organisers (and helped by a famous home victory).

Family friendly

And the resort isn’t content to bask in its golfing glories. Although golf is still a massive draw for UK and overseas visitors, Celtic Manor is doing everything in its considerable power to attract everyone – and that includes families. This means it’s invested heavily in family-friendly activities and services. There’s a nannying service for parents who want to escape to the spa, or bar, or golf courses. There’s a Resort Rangers programme of kids’ adventures, including major themed events during school holidays. There’s indoor Laser Combat, right next to a superb games room with air hockey, table tennis, table football and a pool table. The spa does special Teen Dream ‘mum-and-me’ packages, and the gorgeous pool has special family swim sessions.

Golfing adventures

Outside, there’s a playground, and 18-hole Adventure Golf inspired by the world’s signature holes. There’s Forest Jump, a thrilling treetop forest adventure which has both high and low ropes courses. They’re also busy planning Sky Wire Wales, on which you’ll be able to soar for a kilometre above the beautiful Usk Valley at up to 50mph.

Back indoors, there’s a special children’s sitting every Saturday and throughout the school holidays in the Olive Tree buffet restaurant, which is one of six dining options.

But here’s the big question. Never mind the hundreds of millions of pounds lavished on it. Is Celtic Manor, well … fun? I’ll leave the verdict to my seven-year-old, standing in the splendour of our seventh-floor Ambassador Suite, her cheeks still pink from the excitement of Forest Jump. “Dad,” she says. “Can we stay here forever?”

No, but we’ll be back. We had a blast.