Palé Hall Hotel: Classic luxury in the beautiful surroundings of North Wales

Who wouldnt want to call this beautiful place home for the weekend?
Who wouldn't want to call this beautiful place home for the weekend? | Courtesy of Palé Hall Hotel
Gethin Morgan

Content and CRM Executive

You’re winding along the pencil-thin roads of Snowdonia’s scenic border, steering wheel squeezed by tightening hands when suddenly, like an oasis in the desert of North Wales’ rugged hillsides, the lights of Palé Hall Hotel emerge amid the autumn leaves, guiding you towards the warm embrace of good old-fashioned luxury.

At least that was my experience as I arrived late one Friday evening onto Palé’s pebbled driveway. The night lights of this Victorian country house made for an atmospheric entrance, although the full grandeur of the building and its surrounding 16 acres of garden were not to be revealed until morning.

Awaiting me inside the main building was the warm reception of Tom, just one of the hotel’s exceptionally trained members of staff, and a deliciously crisp glass of Champagne – a welcome treat after hours at the wheel.

By the time my glass was empty, and before I’d managed to completely take in my elegant new surroundings – I was mainly staring at the epic Scottish landscape painting, brought to Palé by its original owner, industrialist Henry Robertson – my bags had already been transported to the room and I was being whisked over to Bracken, my cosy garden suite for the weekend.

Opt for the Bracken suite for that extra bit of space and privacy

The two storey space, formerly a Victorian Coach House but generously renovated, features a homely living room, fit with electric stove fire, TV and a welcome bottle of Welsh Mead. Upstairs is spacious enough to make the superking bed seem modest, at least until you start rolling around in it – those middle of the night elbow digs from your partner can finally be avoided. The room also boasts a beautiful dressing table and a sleek adjoining bathroom, featuring a high-powered shower, towel-warming rails and a stunning roll-top bathtub.

Despite my late arrival there was a table waiting for me at The Huntsman Bar & Bistro – an early sign that my every need would be catered to, further displayed when a fellow guest realised they didn’t have any dog food for their furry companion. “Kibble”, asked one larger-than-life staff member as he rushed off to grab some from his own canine’s snack cupboard.

The Huntsman is an ornate room but a relaxed space, where an extensive drinks catalogue is accompanied by a three-course menu full of delights.

The gravadlax with rye bread, pickled cucumber, dill and lemon mayonnaise is light but punchy, the perfect way to start. For main will you opt for 50-day dry aged Welsh Black beef sirloin? Veggie’s will adore the rich creaminess of the butternut squash risotto, laced with apple, sage and rosemary. Perhaps the pick of the bunch, however, is the meltingly tender duck breast with braised red cabbage, duck leg boulangère, honey and five spice sauce – a real soul-warmer.

Not to forget dessert, when the deep sweetness of Palé’s chocolate fondant tart, cut through by mind-blowingly good miso ice cream, is hard to beat.

You can also opt for a 5- or 8-course tasting menu, overseen by Head Chef Gareth Stevenson, who takes you on a culinary journey focused heavily on local produce, crafting dishes with bold, identifiable flavours that dance together in a tango of textures and temperatures. The restaurant boasts a AA 3 rosette rating, as well as a Michelin Green Star for sustainability, an honour no other establishment in Wales can claim.

Head Chef Gareth Stevenson picking fresh herbs from the hotel’s own garden

Sustainability is ever-present at Palé, not just through culinary offerings that embrace local produce, like delicious gins made in Bala, locally farmed livestock and the organic herbs, fruit and veg grown onsite. Much of the electricity used here is supplied by the hotel’s own hydro-electric generator, which has used local water sources to generate power since the 1920s. It’s continually refurbished and progress is being made to allow the hotel to feed surplus power into the grid. Even the still and sparkling water in my room was filtered onsite.

Waking from the best sleep I’d had all year, I slipped on a bathrobe and enjoyed morning views of my auburn surroundings until a member of staff (at a previously agreed time) popped by to deliver a basket of pastries, accompanied by fresh orange juice and a copy of the morning paper. I could get used to this, I thought, as I lazed my way through the morning until it was time for second breakfast at the Huntsman. This time it was a hearty full Welsh breakfast, which was to keep me energised until afternoon tea.

In the meantime I made the short journey, less than 10 minutes by car, to Bala, a Welsh-speaking town that makes for a perfect base when exploring North Wales. The town is dotted with independent shops and cafes, but is most famous for being on the shores of Llyn Tegid, the largest lake in Wales. This was a relaxing weekend for me, so the natural splendour before me was more than enough on a Saturday afternoon, but more adventurous holidayers will be thrilled with the lake’s wild swimming, wind-surfing and kayaking opportunities.

Llyn Tegid, also known as Bala Lake, is a must-visit for any trip to Snowdonia National Park

Adventure, and incredible natural beauty, is found in abundance throughout Snowdonia, from coasteering on the rugged cliffs of the west to underground cave trampolining, and the world’s fastest zip line at stunning Penrhyn Quarry. Then of course there’s Yr Wyddfa, the UK’s tallest mountain south of the Scottish border.

No time for all that this weekend though, my afternoon tea was waiting. So, after warming up in that roll-top bath – when you see it you’ll understand why I had to make use – it was time for me to indulge in some classic baked pageantry.

When the bathtub is as roomy as that, it would be rude not to, right?

The setting was immaculate. A grand room, a view of the gardens and a vintage china set that made my every movement as delicate as the sweet treats that were soon to follow. As well as a selection of finger sandwiches there were scones, still warm from the oven and topped with jam and cream.

Countless cups of tea followed to wash down a spectacular platter that included a lemon financier, a mini apple crumble tart and a chocolate and vanilla choux bun that, when first introducing itself to my tastebuds, genuinely felt like it changed my life. The crunch of the chocolate coating, the lightness of the pastry, the explosion of cream and chocolate waiting inside. Truly joyous. Although in fairness it didn’t actually change my life in any way, other than the fact I’ve thought about that bun every day since.

A laid-back afternoon followed and as night drew in I began to reflect on my time at Palé. Thoughts that continued as my room service came – the risotto certainly travels well – and went, and as my glass of red slowly evaporated I mused on what makes a place like this so special. Yes the building is beautiful, the food exceptional, and yes being made to feel special, be it via a buggy-lift back to the suite or by slowly forgetting what it’s like to hang up your own coat, but those lovely superficial things alone do not make an experience as thoroughly heartwarming as the one I had here.

It’s the warmth of the place, the passion and the care. So much of that is generated from the staff, each and every one so brilliantly attentive and thoughtful. But not like robots, not as if they’ve been created in a lab with the sole purpose of providing good customer service. Each and every individual has their own distinct personality and is allowed to show it. They’re personable, chatty but not overbearing, professional but not rigid to the point of making you nervous.

The whole team at Palé Hall Hotel make guests feel at home right away, even if they have four legs!

Perhaps it’s also the size of the place. It’s incredibly grand but not huge, so with just the 18 rooms, plus four garden suites, there’s a sense of calm exuding throughout. Between the multiple lounges, dining areas and vast outdoor space there is plenty of room to share, so much so that there’s a real sense of privacy, like you’re having your own personalised experience.

It’s easy to feel intimidated by a place like Palé Hall. As if you don’t belong, don’t deserve, like luxury is only to be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet with guilt and moderation. The hotel’s greatest strength is that it totally extinguishes those feelings as soon as you walk through the door.

So, after another perfect night’s sleep, more morning pastries, a flick through the paper, eggs benedict and an espresso, it was time for me to check-out, take my complimentary goodie bag with freshly made flapjacks and hit the road. As my attention abandoned the shrinking Victorian manor in my rearview mirror, pulling focus to the majestic countryside that made the long-drive home easy on the eye, I felt a warm glow of rejuvenation. A serene escapism that made a weekend away feel like a lifetime of luxury.

This is a five star hotel with five star prices, a very rare, very special treat for most people, but boy did it feel priceless on that journey home.

Find our more about Palé Hall Hotel and book a special weekend away in Wales – you deserve it, and you won’t regret it.

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