This review of Llety Bodfor in Wales is taken from our latest guidebook, Mr & Mrs Smith: Hotel Collection – UK/Ireland Volume 2.
As a confirmed Welshman who rarely makes it home, I couldn’t wait to get to this isolated stretch of the country. And my promises of huge valleys tumbling down to glistening open seas are all the ammo I need to get Mrs Smith into the map-reading mood. Even the motorway rush hour can’t dampen my patriotic fervour; I can practically hear those male voice choirs already.
The Aberdovey we arrive in is bathed in soft late-afternoon light, with families catching the last rays on the beach and groups of friends sipping Pimm’s on the promenade. My childhood memories of fish ’n’ chips in the car, under a continual drizzle, clearly took place in a parallel universe. As we trundle along a seafront of pastel houses with the sun reflecting off the estuary, Mrs Smith wonders if we really are in Mid Wales at all. I tell her that this picturesque idyll is exactly as I remember it. I am lying of course.
Llety Bodfor’s mauve façade greets us first; our friendly hosts second. As they steer us towards G&Ts in a large, wooden-floored living room, the dapper, cosy chamber is dusk-drenched in a warm burnt-sienna glow. A homely approach, but set in the context of a sophisticated beachside villa. Traditional features are highlighted with modern, quirky touches: a denim armchair hunkers on original floorboards; a doorway is quirkily crowned with red bandanna’d cattle horns. As my other half reclines, I reach for the vinyl collection and record player, marvelling at all the prog rock (we plump for Dylan, if you must know).
It’s not long before we’re climbing the stairs to our own enclave. And what an enclave it is: a vast room containing a sheepskin-cushion-covered bed, an enormous TV and a delicious-for-downtime brown leather sofa. All in twice the square footage of our boudoir back home. While the picture editor in me is framing up the sea view, the bathroom is stealing Mrs Smith’s attention: the mood-changing effect that a freestanding roll-top bath can have on a lady is quite astounding.
All this is the work of Ann Hughes (interior designer and one half of the husband-and-wife team behind Llety Bodfor), and we’re pleased not to find a single doily or net curtain. Instead, fresh white and blue walls wrap themselves around the magnanimous space; even a Blackberry-hardened stress-stickler would be hard pressed not to find the resulting sea-fresh-calm effect seductive. I mentally scrap my long-held conviction that ‘Welsh B&B’ and ‘contemporary comfort’ are mutually exclusive terms; our ‘humble’ bed and breakfast could certainly give Claridge’s a run for its Coutts-accounted money.
As we drink in the view of the expansive west Wales shoreline from our large bay windows, it’s hard to disembark the World’s Biggest Bed, but dinner at the locally renowned Penhelig Arms beckons. A short stroll along the foam-splashed seafront brings us to the harbour walls outside the Pen (as the locals call it) for sunset champagne. We have barely got our bearings when a tantalising aroma begins to waft from the restaurant, curling around our noses and luring us inside to dine. We follow the scent and are not disappointed; our meal of lemon sole, crab and super-fresh scallops certainly lives up to the local hype, and we swirl, sniff and sip several top tipples from the impressive wine list.
After pushing our straining belts to their leather limits with a scales-busting selection of local cheeses and port – this is a holiday, after all – we meander back along the now-deserted promenade. Taking in the sea air and indulging in a little star-spotting (in an astronomical sense, providing a welcome break from my paparazzi-shot-sifting day job), we are soon back at Llety Bodfor. Then it’s a quick rummage through the DVD collection, before gratefully diving under our huge bedspread.
It’s funny how, in that split second before opening your eyes upon waking, you can totally forget where you are when you’re away. But, as Mrs Smith opens the shutters to flood the room with eye-squintingly bright Gwynedd light, there’s no disputing our whereabouts. After dunking ourselves in our pool-sized tub, we dunk warm croissants in bean-fresh coffee. These are accompanied by a greedily ordered spread of the mouthwatering local specialities (including laverbread tart and Anglesey smoked salmon) that make breakfasting at Llety an event in itself.
Full of the full Welsh, and in anticipation of a sun-warmed Welsh day, we decide to forgo the sands for a few hours – and head to the weekly market at nearby town Machynlleth instead. It’s a healthy jostle with locals at stalls selling a thousand batteries for a fiver, and then at a sampling of local cheeses and honey that we have to pull ourselves away from. Seeing as we’re here, we decide to put in an appearance at the Wynnstay, too – an award-winning country pub and total in-the-know local foodie institution.
After a zigzagging drive back along the estuary, we flop on to the flour-soft sand outside Aberdovey, my taste buds still savouring the wild sea bass I enjoyed in the Wynnstay’s garden. Casting a lingering glance back at the toy-town green hills that form the backdrop to this pretty prom – and giving ourselves a secret standing ovation for our choice of break – we wonder why, exactly, we would ever want to bother with airports again. The tourist-board vignette for this part of the world would be part Victorian bucket ’n’ spades holiday, part French Riviera – with that indispensable Welsh male voice choir providing the soundtrack.