After a long journey back from Devon to Wales, we made a reservation at the Celtic Manor in Newport for a night of relaxation, dining and fun activities for the girls.
It’s been several years since we last stayed there and after a multi-million pound refurbishment since our last visit, we were interested to see what the hotel had to offer a 7 and 9 year old during the half term break, especially as it has just been awarded the best hotel in the UK. This is our review of the Celtic Manor Resort.
The Celtic Manor is one of Wales’ leading 5 star hotels. If you have ever driven into Wales on the M4 it’s hard to miss this iconic hotel which, from its hillside location, dominates the landscape, like a Welsh dragon guarding the gateway to Wales.
Although iconic for its golfing facilities having hosted the Ryder Cup in 2010 and the NATO conference in 2014, you don’t have to be a golfer or a politician to enjoy the hotel’s impressive range of family friendly facilities.
The Celtic Manor resort is the vision of Welsh tech tycoon Sir Terry Matthews who bought the site in 1980 – he was born in the original manor house on the site in 1943 which was the local maternity hospital and is now part of this huge 5 star property.
He had a vision of creating one of Britain’s best 5 star resort hotels, taking inspiration from some of the best hotels in the world.
As we arrived at the hotel, we could see some of these influences as it reminded us of similar 5 star hotels in the USA, and you are struck by the sheer scale of this luxurious resort. A bellboy greeted us as we arrived and took our luggage providing a great first impression of the hotel.
It was disappointing to find that the Celtic Manor charges guests to self-park in its plentiful car parks as I feel this should be incorporated into your room rate.
There are two self-parking options available priced at £5.00 and £15.00 respectively for an overnight stay along with valet parking.
The towering atrium lobby is very modern and luxurious, flooded with natural light. What catches your eye as you enter are the two impressive Celtic dragons expertly carved from wood which straddle either side of the lobby adding to its elegance.
Beyond the grand lobby area is the Celtic Mall, an avenue of shops stocking Welsh inspired gifts and clothing from Joules to Hugo Boss, whilst the toy store is a favourite with the kids.
The walls around the hotel are decorated with lots of golf related artwork, photographs and notices where historic Ryder Cup moments took place, which my husband loved looking at.
Kids are welcomed on check-in with Celtic Manor bags filled with activities much to the excitement of the girls. Even though the hotel was extremely busy because of half term, check-in was friendly, fast and efficient and provided us with our room keys which was great service as we had arrived before the official check-in time.
The Celtic Manor is a huge hotel with 330 rooms. We stayed in the exceptionally spacious Resort Grand Deluxe family room with balcony, which is the largest family room available at the hotel and exceeded our expectations.
Our room at the Celtic Manor had recently been refurbished, tastefully decorated, rich in colour with modern and elegant décor.
With two extremely comfortable king size beds and a double sofa bed there was more than enough room for us, in fact our room was large enough for 2 adults and up to 4 children.
A large wall mounted television, dvd player, plenty of electrical sockets to charge ipads and phones along with high speed complimentary wifi provided all the entertainment options that a family would need for a comfortable stay.
As we opened our balcony door we were taken aback just how big our dual aspect balcony was, providing excellent views over this vast resort.
Within our room were tea and coffee making facilities but I felt that little extra touches that we have had in comparable hotels were missing.
Having welcome amenities such as complimentary bottled water for guests would have been a welcoming addition. There was also no turn down service each evening.
Strangely the Celtic Manor has yet to follow many other leading hotels in scrapping their overpriced minibar. I much prefer the option of having the option of a fridge in our room allowing us to chill what we require.
The bathrooms were one aspect of the rooms that have yet to see a makeover. However clad from floor to ceiling in sumptuous marble it was well-equipped with a bath, separate shower plus delightful Elemis toiletries which are one of my favourites.
The Celtic Manor encompasses 2,000 acres of the Welsh countryside and there are very few hotels in the UK that offer so many activities for both adults and kids.
With activities ranging from archery and clay pigeon shooting to Go Ape style high ropes and adventure golf it’s a place that a child should never get bored. With the activity guide in hand the girls started planning their activities inspired after watching the kids on the high ropes and archery from our balcony.
What we didn’t realise was that everything gets booked up very quickly resulting in no activities for our two disappointed kids and that included the hotel’s main swimming pool (more on that later).
In fact many guests pre-book their activities weeks in advance of arrival which I didn’t expect to have to undertake at a 5 star hotel even during half term.
What we didn’t need to book for was the adventure golf. Consisting of two 9 hole courses inspired by famous holes in golf including St Andrews and Pebble Beach, it was great family fun.
Apart from a hole in one for Chloe, their highlight was when we had to float across the lake on a Celtic inspired raft to complete one of the holes.
Other activities for kids at Celtic Manor that we were able to use were at Dylan’s Den – a soft play and Nintendo Wii machines made it a popular stop off point for the girls.
Whilst we were waiting for the family swim times (4pm to 8pm ) at the Forum Spa pool we had a late lunch at the Forum Café.
The kids were so excited to use the impressive pool at the hotel and after a quick change in our room and donning our complimentary white fluffy robes and slippers we made the short journey to the Forum Spa.
Whilst I didn’t envisage having to book the kids activities, I certainly didn’t envisage having to be added to a waiting list to use the swimming pool. When we arrived just after 4pm, there were queues of families waiting to use the pool reaching maximum capacity by the time we got to the desk to sign in to use the pool.
With the option of joining a waiting list of over an hour to use the pool we decided to use the hotels second pool at Dylans Health and Fitness Club which is located in the Celtic Manor Golf Club
This pool is truly a hidden gem and after a complimentary transfer in one of the hotels fleet of black minibuses, we arrived at a virtually deserted pool.
The kids loved the Romanesque inspired 18 metre pool thinking they were in the Roman Baths which we had recently visited. Along with the impressive pool there were also spa baths, a sauna and steam room for adults to enjoy.
There are a wide range of family friendly dining options at the Celtic Manor. However the biggest problem we faced, was getting a table at one of the restaurants at the hotel.
Once we checked into our room every restaurant that we tried to make a reservation at was full unless we wanted to dine at 9pm.
Having wasted precious family time trying to resolve this dilemma, it was eventually sorted after numerous calls and time spent with the front desk management and we had a lovely family meal at the Grill which boasts spectacular views over the golf courses.
After a great night’s sleep we managed to use the impressive Forum pool with its dome night sky effect ceiling the next morning (families can use the pool between 8am – 10am.
The kids had great fun practicing their swimming in such an iconic pool which more than made up for yesterday’s disappointment.
Breakfast is served at the Olive Tree restaurant offering an impressive buffet selection of hot breakfast items, small pastries, fruit and cereals.
Many of the breakfast options are locally sourced and some of our favourites were the homemade Welsh cakes and Welsh yoghurts.
The Celtic Manor is an impressive resort hotel that is really family friendly.
The only flaw was that the levels of service across the hotel during our stay were not great and very inconsistent.
This was disappointing and not something we would expect from such an iconic hotel especially when compared to comparable hotels across the country such as Gleneagles and the Old Course in St Andrews. However any issues that we encountered were resolved by the hotels management.
I just hope that the hotel can get to grips with the influx of guests that the hotel attracts with their cut price offers and promotions which eliminates its exclusivity and creates occupancy rates that at present it just cannot cope with.
Even with these issues the Celtic Manor is still one of our favourite hotels in Wales, we just might not visit during the school holidays next time.