9:28 AM September 23, 2022
As we turned into the drive and the honeyed beauty of Palé Hall hove into sight, the operatic chorus from the back of the car increased dramatically in volume. We have often wondered how and why our dogs sense when something special is in the offing… and this time their instincts were true.
We had arrived at that fabulous time of day when the sunlight was striking shards of gold through the glorious trees dappling the grass and giving warmth at the end of the day. These wonderful arboreal giants cluster the parkland which swiftly drops in sloping terraces towards the River Dee.
This river, famous for fly fishing, wends its way through some 30 acres of the beautiful gardens, which in their time have attracted figures of state such as Winston Churchill and Queen Victoria.
The greeting from the staff at Palé Hall was special and sincere. We felt like honoured guests, and so indeed did our dogs. Since the events of the last two years, dogs have been increasingly welcomed into the most revered locations, and this was no exception. We were shown to our suite with a feeling of anticipation.
The Winston Churchill Suite is the most sumptuous and stylish ‘room’ (an understatement) and named in honour of its most famous resident guest, who spent many of the tensest, pivotal moments of the war in this highly guarded and secret location to rest and to plot his next moves.
The luxury, the copper bathtub, the four-poster bed, the ornate ceiling giving the impression of an upside-down boat and the perfect pairing of William Morris wallpaper and fabrics are of the present day and designed for total comfort.
Our little working cockers gazed with anticipation at the treats on offer. They are seasoned travellers, but this display of welcoming goodies, comfy beds and necessities were above and beyond their expectations.
Their owners, the Dogfather and Dogmother, having combed their coats, refreshed themselves and donned suitable garb, to the dogs’ chagrin, uprooted them to pop them in the car, a courtesy we afford anywhere we stay while we can’t be with them.
Walking in for the second time was an opportunity to take in the beauty of the hall itself. Sensitively restored to its former glory, the property had a period of inactivity after its auspicious beginnings while serving in the 1950s as a hunting lodge to the Duke of Westminster.
Gentle neglect seems to have suited it. Having its own electricity supply helped and there was very little decay as a result. The present owners have used the very most sophisticated wallcoverings and restored the beautiful plasterwork, particularly in the Henry Robertson restaurant.
The woodwork gives a hospitable warmth and glow to the entrance hall and we enjoyed our suggested gin and tonics in comfort whilst perusing the most enticing tasting menu and enjoying the carefully prepared canapés.
I was very tempted by the pairings of South African Viognier with the Cornish crab, a Californian Pinot Noir with the suckling pig and some unusual dessert wines with puddings. Palé Hall evidently has a talented sommelier, and the imaginative selections were very tempting. However, we opted for a white Rioja and a red Fleurie from the extensive wine list and were not disappointed.
The calm ambience of the Henry Robertson restaurant with its Louis XV gilded plasterwork and aquamarine and gold furnishings provided the perfect place to savour such a thoughtful tasting menu. As we enjoyed the views down the gently sloping terraces to the parterre gardens below, the food and wine was brought to us by the delightful and knowledgeable staff.
The dressed Cornish crab with tomato ponzu, courgette and seaweed was a gentle contrast of sweetness and umami flavour and it was, for me the highlight of this wonderful meal. The Dogfather, aka my husband, enjoyed his rabbit and leek terrine and the pickled shiitake and garden salad made the whole plate a visual feast.
The herb-crusted Welsh lamb with baba ghanoush was a triumph; the flavour of the ghanoush was exquisite and complemented the lamb perfectly.
The suckling pig was enjoyed by the Dogmother, as was the set rose yoghurt, macerated strawberries and elderflower vinegar… perhaps a bit too subtle with the rose scent for my taste. The Black Forest gateau was declared a triumph and we repaired to the car to pick up the dogs, then retired replete to bed.
The hospitality continued in the morning. We enjoyed the company of other residents and their dogs in the Huntsman at breakfast and it didn’t go unnoticed by ours that one lucky spaniel had a homemade sausage.
Freshly squeezed orange juice (so rare) prefaced a delicious locally sourced Welsh breakfast, much enjoyed by us both and tided us over until our eagerly awaited afternoon tea.
The visual anticipation of afternoon tea did not disappoint. From the selection of carefully curated teas to the delicious sandwiches and the teetering turret of exquisite patisserie, there was nothing left, literally, to be desired.
Our final intention was to explore the beautiful gardens and the famous Queen Victoria walk. Our little dogs had been eagerly looking forward to a vigorous walk down towards the river… the only disappointment of the day.
Two very replete owners were not quite capable, and elected for a gentle amble round the garden and a rest on the odd tree stump here and there. But we could tell that they had thoroughly enjoyed their stay and we commented a few days later, that like all the best short breaks, we felt we had had a restful, pampered and fabulous week away at the most glorious country house hotel.
Palé Hall is an AA Five Red Star, Relais & Chateaux destination luxury country house hotel on the edge of Snowdonia.
Palé Estate, Llandderfel, Bala LL23 7PS
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