DOES a plush hotel with acres of rolling green fields and trees sweeping away in front of it, yet only a short drive from charming coastal towns, sound appealing?
Well, that’s what the Falcondale Hotel at Lampeter promises and it delivers in spades.
We wended our way there, taking a change from our usual route west from Wiltshire by heading over the Severn Bridge.
Once heading north it’s not long before you notice the roads are quieter, the amount of greenery increases and you being to wonder why you haven’t headed for picturesque Ceredigion before.
We stopped for snack in Llandovery, a small town with streets offering a surprising range of shops.
The Penygawse Victorian Tea Room looked appealing and we weren’t surprised later that it topped the town’s list of cafes on TripAdvisor.
From there Lampeter is less than 20 miles away on roads where we barely saw a handful of other cars.
Making a mental note of pubs we fancied trying when passing through the town we turned right at the clearly marked between a few homes before the road becomes an exclusive route to and from the hotel.
Ample parking is provided and it wasn’t long before we were checked in and shown to the superb Wych room, with its commanding views down the valley.
Returning to the town to get our bearings it wasn’t long before we were sampling the hospitality of the Black Lion Royal Hotel, with its massive inglenook fireplace being a good place to relax with a glass of wine and an a sip of Cardiff-brewed Rev James beer.
If we’d have been staying in the town it would have been a tempting place to have an evening meal but, since we were booked in at the Falcondale, we returned to enjoy a glass of champagne as an aperitif in the comfortable lounge.
For starters I chose the crispy pig’s head with black pudding, asparagus and apple puree, the rich pork offset by the tart puree and flavoursome pudding.
My partner went for the baby monkfish tail with tomato relish and gem lettuce.
By this time the champagne was gone and we moved on to a £28 bottle of Beaujolais-Village 2015.
That went perfectly with my locally-sourced Celtic Pride sirloin steak with triple-cooked chips, pepper sauce, ox cheek and soubise. Jancis chose Brixham brill with butterbean cassoulet and brown butter crumb. Priced at £28 and £25 respectively we couldn’t help marvel at the quality; not cheap but a steal considering the sumptuous, peaceful setting.
Jancis went for the Welsh cheese for dessert, at £9.50, while I was bowled over by the Duo of Chocolate with honeycomb and salted caramel ice cream.
After a meal like that we were glad to find that breakfast was served until a very civilised 10am on a weekday. Well, let’s face it, if you’re on holiday you may not want to be up with the lark… especially if you’ve treated yourself to a brandy or a decent whisky from the bar as a nightcap.
In the interests of research we went for the full-English breakfast and the classic combination of sausage, fried egg and bread, mushrooms, black pudding and tomato were not found wanting in any department, although I did fancy a cappuccino instead of filter coffee. Of course, vegetarian options are available at any meal.
From the hotel we drove a few miles to Llanerchaeron, an 18th century Georgian villa in the wooded Aeron valley with its estate including a walled garden, lake and farm.
Preserved by the National Trust, it offers a glimpse into life lived in the Downton Abbey-era by those well enough off to employ household staff and to be able to spend much of their time fishing, hunting and shooting.
Of course, looking at the lives of those who worked there is just as fascinating as that of the Lewis/Lewes family who lived there for 10 generations. It must have been a hard life ‘below stairs’ with basic living conditions when there was time off, much depending on your place in the domestic hierarchy.
Some of the land at the estate is part of the a scheme to save the UK’s dwindling meadows, just two per cent of those which existed in the 1930s still left.
Resisting the chance to have a snack at Llanerchaeron, keen to see the coast, we drove a few miles on to the pretty port of Aberaeron.
With its colourfully-painted houses and harbourside eateries its fair to say that there’s as much, if not more, on offer here compared to many better-known places in Devon and Cornwall which are besieged by visitors at times.
We enjoyed a drink at the restaurant of the attractive Harbourside Hotel. The hotel is based on a harbourmaster’s house of the 1800s with a revamped restaurant next to it where we were amazed at the quality, quantity and price of the crispy cockles with chilli vinegar ((£4.50) and salt and pepper squid with chilli jam (£8.50) which we tucked into.
With mains including beer-battered haddock, fried and crushed peas (£11.70), seafood risotto (£13.50), sweet potato, spinach and lentil curry (£10.50), pulled Talsarn pork with apple and celeriac (£13) and confit duck (£12.50) it’s safe to say we’d be regular visitors if we were staying in the town itself.
In the interests of research, though, we headed north on the coast road.
Luckily I was a passenger as, while not surprised to see red kites on this leg of the journey, I followed the gaze of three in unusually tight formation and was delighted to see an osprey perched just below the roadside presumably eyeing up fishing opportunities.
Further along the coast, 16 miles from Aberaeron, is Aberystwyth in beautiful Cardigan Bay.
With the sea on one side and Victorian and Edwardian buildings on the other, the seafront promenade is a delightful place to stroll in the early summer sunshine.
The town even boasts the biggest electric cliff railway in Britain, which sounds like a great way to get to a vantage point from which Pembrokeshire, the entire bay and even Snowdonia to the north can be seen.
The weather can, of course, be far more hostile but as Visit Wales says the town has ‘only’ 50 pubs left and a huge variety of restaurants there is plenty to keep visitors occupied.
All too soon we were heading back for further treats at the Falcondale Hotel served by the friendly staff but with Aberystwyth is high on our list of places to return to for a longer stay… all in the interests of research. Of course!
Lampeter, Ceredigion SA48 7RX
Call 01570 422910 or email email@example.com
Top rooms, with views along the Teifi valley, are £195 bed and breakfast for two sharing (£170 per night advance purchase) ranging down to the smallest double room at £125 b&b for two sharing (£100 advance purchase) or £110 for one person (£99 advance purchase).
Ciliau Aeron, Ceredigion SA48 8DG
National Trust admission rates apply; free admission for members
1 Quay Parade, Aberaeron, SA46 0BT
Find out more at www.aberystwyth.com