Plas Dinas in North Wales is the perfect antidote for a frazzled City worker’s brain
A WEEKEND away in the UK conjures up images of Holiday Inns on the outskirts of the M1. Five-star country house Plas Dinas is about as far from this as you can imagine. Set in 15 acres of North Wales countryside, outside the quaint town of Caernafon, it lies against the backdrop of the Irish Sea and the Snowdonian mountain range. It’s about the farthest you can drive west from London and not end up in Dublin; the fresh air batters you in the face the moment you wake up.
The house has quite a heritage. Prince William – well-known for living on nearby Anglesey – swung by for lunch in 2011, and the entire building is a shrine to both Peregrine Armstrong-Jones, its London party planner owner, and Princess Margaret.
The Princess Margaret suite – so named because she was married to Peregrine’s half-brother Antony Armstrong-Jones and used to visit Plas Dinas regularly – is a gorgeous mix of homely and really, really luxe. The four-poster bed has a mattress so comfortable I actually peeled back the cover before we left to check its provenance.
Quintessential British touches (a slightly creepy picture of Princess Margaret staring at you from the nightstand, for example) have been mixed with modcons – there’s an iPod pre-loaded with the latest films and a cavernous bathroom with a free-standing tub big enough for two, with a TV mounted on the wall. “When couples stay in the Princess Margaret suite, they usually hole up for the whole weekend,” the owner tells me coyly. While it seemed a shame to miss the brisk Welsh air to watch a slew of disaster films in a dressing gown, it was very tempting (we did, though, opt for a post-prandial bath complete with candles).
Saturday night is a more formal affair, and guests are encouraged to meet the owners in Plas Dinas’s drawing room for a drink before dinner. Few things beat drinking a chilled Hendrick’s and tonic in front of a roaring fire. Dinner is cooked by co-owner Andy, who, despite having no previous experience as a chef, manages to knock up a decent fish pie and apple crumble (framed menus in the dining room from the day Wills ate there suggest he had it pretty good, too).
We returned to the roaring fire after dinner, bottle of wine in hand, to stare myopically at it. As the only guests in the house for the weekend, we felt like naughty teenagers let loose in an old boarding school.
The setting is idyllic. Just 10 minutes’ drive away across the Menai Straits is the foamy Irish Sea, framed by a dramatic set of snow-capped Snowdonian mountains. We’re only 300 miles away from London, but we could be 3,000; on this particular afternoon we saw a grand total of three other walkers along the beach. Royal town Caernarfon, home to the castle in which Prince Charles had his inauguration ceremony in 1969, is a quaint town to while away an afternoon.
But the scenery is just a bonus. The real joy is simply chilling out at this sumptuous country house. We weren’t the first couple to eschew the many delights of North Wales in favour of sitting zombie-like in the drawing room with a slice of homemade cake and a pot of tea.
Come Sunday morning, we had to be forced out of the property. Plas Dinas was so relaxing I felt it actually rejuvenated some of my frazzled brain cells. All it took was a few gulps of Irish Sea air and a G&T in a room filled with portraits of Princess Margaret.
NEED TO KNOW
■ The Princess Margaret suite at Plas Dinas costs from £275 a night.
■ A three-course dinner with half a bottle of wine costs £45.
■ From London, it’s about a 300 mile drive to Plas Dinas, and the nearest station is Bangor.
■ For more information, visit plasdinas.co.uk.