This former country manor with extensions is a part of the Best Western chain, and it's a spa hotel. Two good reasons for us to book it when we had something to do in Llanelli and decided to use it as an excuse to have a long weekend in Carmarthenshire.
We did know that if we arrived late in the evening, reception would be closed and we would have to check in at the bar. But we were a bit taken aback when we arrived in ... let's call it a very lively place. There was live music, the place was packed, and it was hard to catch the attention of the people behind the bar. And once they knew we were checking in, they still gave priority to people ordering drinks, which we found a bit odd. They were friendly enough, mind you. Eventually they got us checked in, and we went to our room. The room was in the old building, not in one of the newer extensions. Apart from the newish-looking carpet the interior was quite dated, both of the room itself, and of the bathroom, including the furniture. The rather odd placement of a chest of drawers in front of a door was explained when we saw that this was a connecting door between our room and the next. I had my concerns about that arrangement, and I was proved right once we were in bed. Quite soon after the couple who had the other room came in, and ... well, I'll spare you the details, but let me just say that I could hear and understand every word they said, and could hear all that ... went on.
The old beds were creaky, but comfortable enough. The same applied to the bathroom - tired, but perfectly usable. Just not up to the standard we're used to in Best Western hotels.
Reception, the restaurant and the parts of the rest of the ground floor that we saw actually looked quite good. If the rest looked this good, it might get the hotel more stars.
At first I thought that the question how good the different parts of the hotel looked, depended on whether they were in the old building or not. But after having seen and used the spa, I wasn't so sure anymore.
The spa is in a modern extension, and the spa reception area actually looks quite good, with a luxury finish. But when go further, things go downhill. The male changing room looked poor. First of all, no effort was made here to go for the same luxury effect that was used in the spa reception area. I think that's a big mistake, because even though it's 'just' a changing room, the finish there does influence how people feel about the whole facility. First of all, the place is boring - everything is white, there's nothing nice about it. Secondly, there's a poor finish. Take the toilet. Instead of a decent skirting board, there's a cheap-looking plastic strip, which looks it was installed by someone attempting DIY for the first time (or someone who just didn't care). The walls next to the open walk-in shower area in the changing room have wallpaper that's peeling off (which idiot came up with the idea of using wallpaper in a room with open showers?). And some of the doorposts clearly suffer badly from a lack of maintenance, they're rotting away fast, something that I could see even without putting my glasses back on.
Going into the spa the first impression is good, more of an effort was made here. The sauna has a temperature that I found a bit on the low side, but I know that Brits aren't Fins and they don't like it too hot, so that didn't surprise me. But then I tried the steam room. First impression was good - tiled with mosaic tiles, a good amount of steam, good temperature. And then I noticed some things. One of the corners is a safety hazard since it has tiles sticking out that are quite sharp. But the real hazard is a health hazard, because several mosaic tiles are missing, and I spotted wall tiles that had missing grouting. Both are health hazards because in a steam room these spots are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria. So the second day I only used the sauna, not the steam room.
What's probably supposed to be cold shower across from the sauna and the steam room is actually more lukewarm - is that a British thing again, or just plain wrong? No idea.
The pool is quite nice. Not very large, and if there are three people in there already you as a fourth are one too many, but if you get your timing right it can actually be quite enjoyable as a spa pool.
Back in the changing rooms to shower, I find that there's something very wrong with two of the three showers in the walk-in shower area: as soon as I push the on button, hot water starts squirting horizontally from around the button - hotter than the water from the shower head. Another sign of poor maintenance, that really needs to be fixed.
Having breakfast on a weekend day first, and then a weekday, was an interesting experience, the contrast was quite big. On Sunday the restaurant was packed with people having breakfast, but there were two waitresses, they were quick in getting me a table, and were very helpful. There was a wide range of breakfast foods, including a hot breakfast buffet (although when I got there fifteen minutes before the end of the breakfast period I had to make do with a few measly leftovers).
On Monday it was a completely different experience. No waitress in sight, so after a wait I decided to pick a table myself. That, apparently, was a mistake, according to the waitress who then appeared I had picked an 'evening table'. Huh?
But that's not all. Apparently, the hotel doesn't have a lot of weekday guests (not just the parking area was quite empty, but there only a few guests having breakfast in the restaurant). And I suspect the hotel doesn't want to go to too much trouble for just a few guests, because the hot food section wasn't in use. So I turned around, expecting a range of cold choices on the other side. Well, yes, the other side partially matched my expectations: there were cereals, some fruit choices, Danish pastries and croissants. Bread? Toast? No. No sliced bread, no toast. Er ... oh!
I mentioned this to the (very friendly) waitress, and she got me some toast. I put some jelly on it, because what I would normally have topped the toast with, wasn't there - no cheese slices, no sliced ham or meats, basically no savoury choices at all. None.
I later realised there might have been more possible if I had asked, but I don't know that for sure, because there was no indication that other things could be ordered - no menu for breakfast orders, no sign anywhere that said you could put orders in, and the waitress didn't say anything about it either. So who knows, maybe this really was all there was possible. Which in comparison with the day before was a lot more limited.
I think this hotel is missing quite a few tricks. It's in a good location, being set back from the road a bit and not suffering from traffic noise so much, in an elevated position, on the outskirts of Llanelli. The old building has some charm, and this could be used to its advantage, but instead it's a bit tired. The modern extensions work quite well for the public spaces on the ground floor, but in other places even the modern parts of the complex are quite poor, mainly due to very poor maintenance, and partially due to poor choices of finish.
This hotel could be so much more than a slightly tired three star. Such a pity, it's just a list of missed opportunities. Staff are really friendly, and I think that's what made up for a lot of failings, but that again makes it such a pity that the facilities aren't up to scratch throughout the place.
Management, if I were you I'd get my act together and make this place as nice as it can be, fulfilling its true potential. You won't be sorry. Honestly. less