The Celtic Manor Resort has long been a mystery to me. From the M4 and the A449, it’s a striking modern building perched high on the hill outside Newport which I’ve driven past it many times, wondering what lies inside. I know international golfers play on its courses (Europe won the Ryder Cup here in 2010). I know President Barack Obama stayed here (for the 2014 NATO summit, no less). But I’ve also heard rumours of plush hotel room deals, spas and afternoon teas that can be enjoyed by us more mere mortals, so I’ve enlisted my Welsh mam to come with me to see if this is true.
And we say in South Wales, we have a whale of a time. This is what we found together…
The Resort Hotel’s entrance will make you gasp before you’ve gone further
Beyond the 1982 entrance is the sky-high Celtic Manor lobby – instantly you’ll crane your neck to look up. Dragons and modern Welsh tapestries deck the walls, and floors with 330 hotel rooms circle above us. Our guide today is Celtic Manor’s Sophie Robins, who takes us up in the gorgeous silver lifts, so we can have a nose at the hotel rooms, resplendent in coffees and creams. There are deals to stay here often, putting even us ordinary folk in with a chance of some luxury. Mam and I particularly like that they’ve started putting complementary jars of Welsh cakes in every room, plus the views from the landings.
Celtic Manor Resort isn’t just one hotel…but four
Here’s another surprise: the grand 1982 building you see from the road is just the main hotel. The Manor House hotel is also here, built as a private home by Wales’ first coal millionaire, Thomas Howell, in 1860 – it was originally named Coldra House. You find it by taking escalators down past the day spa and the conference rooms. Quickly, you’re in a very different place, full of stained glass and mahogany.
After Thomas Howell’s death, Coldra House became the Lydia Beynon Maternity Hospital, and one of the babies born there, Terry Matthews, bought the building after it has closed. From 1980, the Newport-born IT entrereneur began developing the site, and what we see today is the result of his efforts. He must have enjoyed it – he’s still in charge.
And then there’s the other hotels. The 148-bedroom Coldra Court Hotel, a few minutes’ drive away, joined the fold in 2016, and The Inn at Newbridge On Usk, a boutique six-bedroom guesthouse six miles up the road. Both can be accessed by the Celtic Manor’s sleek black shuttle buses, which potter around the main resort. They can take you to the golf course and its clubhouse, the detached Hunter Lodges (where President Obama stayed during during the NATO summit), and to activity areas for kids big and small. We take one to take in the size of the site, and I’m staggered by it, as well as its beauty, as misty clouds rise from the valley.
Then we returned to our home base, where we’re starting to get a little peckish.
If you’re hungry or thirsty, you’re in luck
If you’re at Celtic Manor, you’ve got options: there are six restaurants on the main site. In the main resort hotel, you’ll find a brand new pan-Asian restaurant, Pad, featuring classics like bao buns and laksa and special menus for vegans in a gorgeous modern setting.
Then there’s the popular Steak On Six with great views, and afternoon teas in The Olive Tree & Garden Rooms (Mam and I share a tower of sandwiches here and a few cakes later in our day, taking the rest home in a plush box).
Out of the main hotel, the Clubhouse also two options: The Grill overlooking the Roman Road golf course, which is popular with families, and Rafters for fancier occasions (don’t wear your football shirts and flip flops here smartly after 5pm). The Coldra Court also has the new Rib Smokehouse and Grill, where meats are cooked in hickory-wood fired ovens, and double AA Rosette-award winning restaurant at The Inn at Newbridge On Usk offers stunning meals on the riverbank from head chef Adam Whittle.
Then there’s everything else…
There are two luxury spas, three health clubs and a swimming pool at Celtic Manor. We take the less energetic options of a facial (Mam) and a neck, back and shoulder massage (me) and leave our treaments happily unwound, reading our brochures about everything else going on here.
Of course, there’s plenty of sporty activity. As well as the three golf courses on site, there’s the Celebrity Cup every year, plus polo matches and motoring days. For families wanting to get energetic, activities include Adventure Golf, On Target archery, Laser Combat, and high and low rope adventure courses at the site’s Forest Jump. Celtic Manor also have Evergreen Nannies, who can entertain little ones after 6pm if you’re a parent wanting some time to kick back.
Then there’s the showstopping entertainment planned at the site’s International Convention Centre Wales, opening in 2019, featuring a busy programme of concerts and performances. And of course don’t forget you can get married here too. To be honest, I doubt there’s very much you can’t do here.
As we leave, Mam and I make a promise to come here again – although we’re not entirely sure what we’ll do first. We drive away, look up, salute that striking building, and go home full of hwyl."