Caer Beris was originally a motte and bailey castle built in 1093 by Phillip Brewys. Over the centuries the fortification fell into ruin until all that remained were the hints of earthworks and the grounds, on which Captain Harcourt-Wood built the manor house in 1896. In 1923, Lord Swansea remodelled the grounds into what is there today. The house was converted into a hotel in the 80’s when the present owners restored the grade 2 listed building.
In 2012, we turned up and spent a relaxing night there, rounding off the fascinating history, although it is unlikely we will feature in any future records of the place.
On the way, we stopped off at the Sugarloaf, an inconveniently place hill that forces the road to detour around it (although had the road been built recently, I suspect a gap would have been knocked straight through the hill, or a tunnel bored through the centre). This Sugarloaf was easy to get to from the road, being considerably lower than its more well known namesake near Abergavenny. But the views from the top were spectacular, stretching back along the route we’d taken and encompassing the Brecon Beacons, Bannau Brecheiniog and Llandovery.
We were soon at the turn off to the hotel, situated at the end of a leafy drive, in the bend of the River Irfon. Inside, we were made welcome and Rufus was keen to check out the room. The layout of the hotel was quirky as you would expect from a converted house, giving it loads of character. The rooms were characterful too and I particularly liked the smoking room, where we had coffee and lunch. I could just imagine being there 90 years ago when Lord Swansea was in residence.
We explored the grounds next, and Rufus was happy when he found that access to the river was simple. While he paddled, we found a wooden suspension bridge and by the time he’s realised we’d moved on, he couldn’t see us. There was a moment of frantic searching for us followed by a sprint to the bridge when he spotted us again.
Emma went off for her spa treatment and Rufus and I settled into the room. Then it was my turn to sample the clay pigeon shooting. I’d shot rifles before but never shotguns and I was a little wary of the recoil. But it wasn’t as bad as I expected and I ended up hitting 4 out of the twelve clays that were sprung. The instructor said that was good for a first attempt. I’m not so sure!
We headed off to the Elan Valley reservoirs later in the afternoon but as we got there, the wind picked up and a fine drizzle started. But it was a nice drive and we planned on going there the following morning.
Dinner was a splendid affair in the dining room – the original dining room of the house. Oak panelling on the walls dated back to the 16th Century, as did the fireplace. On the walls were the coats of arms of the Swansea family. Service was all we expected and my five courses consisted of a goat’s cheese risotto, lemon sorbet, roast vegetable tagliatelle, Welsh rarebit and strawberries dipped in chocolate. It was all delicious but required the adjustment of my belt at the end of the evening. A final stroll around the grounds in the pitch dark for me and Rufus saw an end to the day and the easing of the strain on my belt.
The following morning Rufus and I went for a walk along the river bank before heading off for a delicious, locally sourced cooked breakfast. Reluctantly, we left the hotel but we were making our way back to the Elan Valley reservoirs, where we drove an walked for a couple of hours. It’s a beautiful part of the country and we were lucky enough to see the water overflowing two of the dams (as it is supposed to do when the water level rises). In the distance, we watched a flock of sheep being herded down off the hills. They charged through a gap in the woods at a terrific rate before coming to a halt at the farm.
Then it was time to head home, as it always is when you’re enjoying yourself.