A 40-bedroom castle, supposedly haunted as well as being a 2005 location for Doctor Who, is on the market for £1.5m. Sure, there may be ghosts roaming its hallowed halls, but by any standard, Craig y Nos Castle, in the Upper Swansea Valley, is going for a song. To anyone used to London prices, the listing begs the question: where else in these fair isles would a home with over three-dozen bedrooms be on the market for the price of a two-bedroom apartment in central London? Craig y Nos is a fine example of Welsh splendour at remote valley prices: built between 1840 and 1843, it was bought by the opera diva Adelina Patti in 1878 and is thought to be the first house in Wales with “private” electricity.
Well, electricity is the norm now in Wales (shock, horror), but so, apparently, is value for money. Peter Edwards, of Knight Frank’s country department, says: “You can get an enormous home in Wales with lots of land for much less than in London.”
So if you don’t fancy braving the stormy seas of foreign exchange in Europe, you should look to our Western neighbour for refuge. It’s wild, beautiful, unspoiled, relatively affordable and quirky. It’s surrounded by sea on all sides bar the eastern one. It’s crammed with castles, dotted with universities and blessed with delicious seafood.
Edwards says its remoteness is its blessing – but also the reason the droves stay away. “Wales is still one of the last great rural wildernesses in the UK, up there with parts of Scotland. It’s relatively inaccessible, with a lack of fast communication to the big centres. It lacks significant cities; infrastructure is relatively bare in terms of motorways and high speed trains and that is why it has remained as it is.”
But of course Wales is not north London. It’s large (8023 sq. m.), with many terrains, building styles and vantage points. You can have a blustery seaside perch or a rural country house, so peaceful you can hear a pin drop. You can live in a village or a university town – Cardiff has a famous university and Aberystwyth is home to a leading agricultural college.
If you want posh, something similar to the Cotswolds in terms of prestige, try Monmouthshire. Anthony Clay, of Knight Frank’s Hereford department, says: “Monmouthshire is just into Wales over the Severn bridge, its proximity to the M4 making it highly popular. The Vale of Glamorgan, or any of the other southern valley towns, are probably most desirable in Wales. You’ve got everything in Monmouthshire: the train takes one and a half hours from London Paddington to Newport, it’s castle-tastic and there are plenty of amentities.”
But the further west you go, the more seductively wild Wales gets. The Pembrokeshire coastline is stunning and relatively untouched (the smart set favours the town of Tenby). Creeping north, you get the gobsmackingly beautiful Brecon Beacons, and further up, Snowdonia National Park.
So is Wales the new (old) kid on the block? “Yes, Wales is on the rise,” says Clay. “But we’re not talking vast numbers of people flocking there. It’s got the appeal because you get a lot more for you money, but it can also be very remote. If you can work from home, then living in Wales becomes deeply attractive.”
NETHER SKYBORRY, KNIGHTON
This late Grade II-Georgian house with lovely views over the Upper Teme Valley is located off a quiet by-road. The four-bedroom house marries a richly elegant interior with an enviable 3.8 acre estate.
Its elevated location makes the most of the views.Contact: Knight Frank on 01432 273087. www.knightfrank.com
HIRRHOS HALL, WELSHPOOL
This five-bedroom house sits in glorious unspoilt countryside, overlooking the rolling hills of the Banwy valley. With a network of footpaths,country lanes and bridleways nearby, the property is wonderfully situated for hill walking and riding. Contact: Savills on 01952 239500.
VILLAGE HOUSE, BANCYFFORDD
A charming, Grade II-listed country house with four bedrooms and four reception rooms, three stone barns and full planning permission for A1 residential development. Overall the house lays claim to around 3 acres. Beautiful rural location and a great example of Welsh value for money.
Contact:Chesteron Humberts on 01584 877778.
THE OLD VICARAGE, PRESTEIGNE
Set on a knoll with a wonderful view over the Radnor Valley, this four-bedrrom house oozes charm. This beautiful area is a mix of fertile farmland and open hills providing superb riding and walking country. Paddocks and outbuildings come with the property.
Contact: Knight Frank on 01432 273087. www.knightfrank.com