Lindors Hotel, near St. Briavels, Wye Valley
A last minute decision - we spend a night away this weekend. Now - where will you find a room for just a Saturday night, in the busiest part of the holiday season? Web sites were coming up with no availability, and when we phoned one place, they said they would look and just cut the phone off.
Then we chanced upon Lindors Country House Hotel
Set in the woods above the River Wye near Tintern, with a postal address of St. Briavels, it's just 40 miles from us in Melksham. To our surprise and delight, yes, they did have a double and a single available for the Saturday night, and at a very reasonable Dinner Bed and Breakfast rate too. We went for it - after all, St Briavels has fond memories for Lisa and I as we first met when Lisa was on a trip to the UK to stay at the Castle / Youth hostel there, oraganised by the alt.good.morning newsgroup. But that's a story for another day.
I don't know where to start to tell you more about Lindors. It's a Victorian building, but there's little history of the building quoted prior to 1942, when it was bought by a Christian group, and it remains a Christian hotel to this day. Just as English history doesn't seem to exist before 1066, Lindors didn't before 1942.
The views of the surrounding countryside from the gardens are spectacular. Wooded slopes with a maze of narrow roads and footpaths run from Tinter, Llandogo and Brockweir in the valley bottom up to St Briavels and Bream on the top. The gardens at Lindors include a putting green, a bowling green, tennis courts, a swimming pool and a bible garden.
A stream runs through the gardens, which are magnificent - my photographs cannot do justice to the mature trees, the system of ponds, and the flowers and other plants, and even though the ground was sodden we took a walk, and pictures. The house, hiding up amongst the trees, probably dates from between 1860 and 1870 and has been much extended and changed since, we're pretty sure. Gables fly out at odd angles, some windows match and other don't, and inside is a warren!
Inside, the floral wallpapers and wood panelling make some aspects of the hotel feel like it's a place that time left behind. But some aspect have been updated - our rooms were ensuite (according to the literature, that was very recently done and, alas, not very sympathetically to the history of the building). And there were tea and coffee making facilities too. But some other apsects of the hotel were a little less conventional.
We knew ... something ... of what to expect when we were told as we booked that the evening meal is at 6:30. Yes, that's it - a single sitting, and with long tables, New York Deli style where everyone groups together rather than being separated. I don't actually object to that - in fact I'm somewhat in favour as we intentionally share a breakfast table at Well House Manor
- though we don't insist on everyone eating at the same time. And I'll admit to being taken aback when the last family to arrive - Mum, Dad, babe in arms and two girls of about five, were split up among the remaining seats - I felt that was really harsh, but no-one else apart form the parents seemed bothered, and there was no way that I could see that if we had moved we would have solved anything. Perhaps I was too concerned, though - the young ladies sat at our table, spoke politely with Lisa, Dad and myself and perhaps were quite used to it.
Most of the guests were there for the week, as were our other table companions. It seems they go to the Sidmouth hotel in the same group every year for two weeks, but they were a bit upset that this year they couldn't as another group had blockbooked Sidmouth for a week ... so they had to do a week at Lindors then a week at Sidmouth.
The hosts for the week introduced themselves to the room, and told us all of some of the events to come, and of the availability of morning and evening prayers, grace was said, but no other 'push' on the religion. But it was friendly, old fashioned, polite - you didn't walk past people but rather you greeted them.
I suppose we should have guessed - but as a "retreat" hotel, there were no TVs in the bedrooms, and the nearest shop for books and newspapers was a mile and a half away (and hundred of feet below and across the border into Wales!) ... and the only books and magazines around were distinctly on the Christian theme. There was
wireless internet access - and we knew this ahead of time; Lisa marvels at what BBC iPlayer can bring you on a remote Welsh hillside, for we hadn't had the foresight to bring our own reading material, and after dusk were somewhat too tired to go into the lounge and start chatting to the other guests, and not inclined to join them for prayer.
Would we stay there again? It's a definite "yes", and for more that just the one night, I suspect. We would
take some of our own reading material. We would each
take a laptop to avoid that fight of "I want to Blog" and "I want to watch the TV". And I'm pretty certain that we could come away grateful for meeting some very sincere and lovely people, admiring their committment, but certainly not sharing their views.
Further weekend pictures:
• St Briavels
• Forest of Dean Railway (written 2008-08-18, updated 2008-08-17)
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