Ten miles of tiny winding lanes separate Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog from the noise and stress of the modern world.
These single-track roads swoop and clamber over rollercoaster hills and require regular reversing to allow oncoming vehicles to pass. It’s awkward but feels like you’re heading into another time zone. In some ways, you are.
The ex-Prime Minister Lloyd George called this valley ‘a little piece of heaven, fallen to Earth’. And its deep-green curves have lured in Welsh poets over the years, giving it the nickname The Valley of the Poets.
Idyllic: The Hand is located in the Welsh village of Llanarmon (above). ‘There’s a church, a phone box and a handful of houses. So you might not expect to find an award-winning sophisticated hotel,’ writes Simon Heptinstall
According to Simon, The Hand offers a rare mix – fine cuisine amid authentic muddy countryside
When I finally reached the hamlet, I double-checked the map because it is so small. There’s a church, a phone box and a handful of houses. So you might not expect to find an award-winning sophisticated hotel.
The Hand offers a rare mix – fine cuisine amid authentic muddy countryside. Is there anywhere else you’d find Michelin-listed food and a pool table?
This quirky combo reflects the colourful character of owner Jonathan Greatorex, who is also a consumer-rights campaigner, photographer, musician and pilot.
Above is the hot tub in the hotel’s garden. The surrounding valley’s ‘deep-green curves’ have ‘lured in Welsh poets over the years, giving it the nickname The Valley of the Poets’, Simon reveals
Guests can book spa treatments in their rooms during their stay. Above is one of the 16 bedrooms available
It’s still an old village pub with Welsh-speaking farmers in the homely bar, but it also attracts guests escaping from far-off cities.
They book in for a foodie break but many join the country pursuits offered by the hotel, such as shooting, fishing and riding.
During my visit, two women arrived on horseback for lunch, with their riding hats plonked on their table, right next to a smart couple who pulled up in a supercar.
Heavenly: The hotel’s chef, Grant Mulholland, wins awards for food that includes roast lamb with parsnip and smoked cheddar puree, and sea bass with samphire and lobster sauce. Above is the oak-beamed dining room
Simon finds that The Hand is still an old village pub with Welsh-speaking farmers in the homely bar (above)
‘The Hand is destination dining at its best,’ says Simon. Above is a culinary delight from the kitchen
Walkers can explore from the doorstep. The best trails head into the adjoining Berwyn Mountains, which are gentle but offer spectacular views. A little further down the lanes is Pistyll Rhaeadr, the highest waterfall in Wales.
Four ‘superior’ rooms at the front of the hotel are part of the old farmhouse and overlook lanes where tractors trundle past. Nine rooms at the back are smaller but provide views up a glorious hill. Three rooms in a converted outbuilding are dog-friendly.
There’s a hot tub and sauna in the garden and spa treatments can be booked in your room.
The Hand is destination dining at its best. Chef Grant Mulholland came here to escape the rat race 18 years ago.
He’s still here, has written a cookbook and wins awards for food that includes roast lamb with parsnip and smoked cheddar puree, and sea bass with samphire and lobster sauce.
The hotel’s game comes from the nearby National Trust Powis Castle Estate (pictured)
The best walking trails from the hotel head into the adjoining Berwyn Mountains, which are gentle but offer spectacular views, Simon reveals. Above is the view from the highest peak in the range, Cadair Berwyn
Guests at The Hand can set out to explore nearby Pistyll Rhaeadr (above), the highest waterfall in Wales
The ingredients are mostly supplied by local farms, while game comes from the National Trust’s nearby Powis Castle Estate.
Choose to eat under high oak beams and hunting trophies in the dining room or outside, watching red kites being chased by rooks.
At breakfast, tuck into local bacon, eggs and home-made marmalade.
But take care with the hearty porridge served with a dash of whisky if you’re driving later.
The Hand, Llanarmon, Wrexham. B&B costs from £130 per night, dinner from £25 for two courses (thehandhotel.co.uk).