The Perfect, Romantic Sea View
The bottom line:
Great sea views from every room, a restaurant with an accomplished way with fresh caught fish, and an outdoor, heated horizon pool in which to hang out over Saundersfoot Harbor and Carmarthen Bay - what more can you ask for? The aptly named St Brides Spa Hotel in southwest Pembrokeshire, Wales, is an ideal spot for a honeymoon or a romantic escape.
Location Location Location
Forget about calling in the Feng Shui expert. When you've got a clifftop location like this one, you just point all the windows at the view and leave it at that. If a ravishing spectacle of sea and sky is part of your equation for a romantic hotel, this is the place. Saundersfoot Beach, ringed by the village's pastel colored houses,spreads out below and beyond it, Carmarthen Bay as far as the eye can see.
Handily, most of the 34 rooms have a sea view and a balcony from which to enjoy it. Once a traditional British seaside hotel, the St Brides has been thoroughly modernized to a stylish, contemporary standard that manages to be luxurious without being stuffy. Rooms are spacious, with breezy decor and large, modern bathrooms - some with freestanding bathtubs, designer basins for two and stall showers.
Inside the room's well-lit hall cupboard, there's a safe, a chest of drawers, proper hangers, and all the makings for tea, coffee and midnight biscuits. The hotel also provides very generous-sized terry robes - just the thing for wearing down to the spa, and handily, you can take the elevator there right from your guest room level.
Rooms have plenty of power sockets with which to connect and recharge all your electronic toys. If I had any cause for complaint at all, it was the unreliability of the hotel's broadband connection in some of the rooms during my visit. And late at night, when I was deeply engrossed in a Johnny Depp film I had never seen before, the hotel's cable cut out and I missed the crucial ending. To be fair, staff were on the case the next day and distributed notes to all the guest rooms about technology repairs, engineers visits and so forth. They made a very great effort to resolve the matter and keep guests happy so high points for that.
Next: The St Brides Spa.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, TripSavvy.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.
The Infinity Hydro Pool Steals the Show
As I floated outdoors in comfortably warm turquoise water above Camarthen Bay, on a particularly windy day during one of the coldest UK Junes in weather recording history, I dreamed that I could simply float right off the horizon edge into the sea. And I was thinking that 90 minutes was just not enough time in this wonderful, soothing, sun dried salt-infused hydrotherapy pool. That's the maximum length of a session in the St Brides thermal suite and hydro pool available to hotel guests and the experience left me wanting more.
The marine spa has a sauna, steam rooms, rain showers, and an ice fountain, all tiled and immaculately maintained. One of the steam rooms, the "salt infusion room," alternates moist heat with burst of sea salt infusions that are meant to do all sorts of good things for your circulation, reduce congestion, eliminate toxins and ease muscle tension. The "aromatic" steam room intended to ease breathing and cleanse the lymphatic system. Then there's the "purifying" herbal rock sauna and the "sensation shower", alternating tropical rain, cold mist and a "gush shower" to "refresh mind and body."
Whatever. All I know is that it all feels terrific. And while I'm not much on taking on all the theory behind various spa treatments, I do love splashing around in hot and cold water and scented steam when the spa is comfortable, clean and not crowded. The spa at St Brides scores top marks on all three. That's partly down to the 90 minute sessions, which have to be booked in advance and keep the flow of people going through the facilities to a manageable level.
The spa offers a full range of other spa treatments and treatment packages based on marine products and sun-dried sea salts. Visit their website for the full range and prices.
Next: Dining at St Brides Spa Hotel
Hotel and Beachside Dining
If you are interested in dining with a sea view in Saundersfoot - without hiking a mile and a half over the beach in your finery to nearby Wiseman's Bridge - the owners of the St Brides Spa Hotel pretty much have it all sewn up. They operate the Cliff Restaurant and Gallery Bar in the hotel itself, the Mermaid on the Strand on the beach below and the The Marina, a fish and chips restaurant on the harbor.
We didn't have a chance to sample the Marina, but tried out the other two restaurants.
The romantic view and high aspirations of this restaurant make it a definite date destination or the special night out of your vacation. The entire place is wrapped in floor to ceiling windows and just about every table can watch the play of light and clouds on bay water. There are also several outdoor terraces for dining and drinking in good weather.
The service was prompt and attentive with the wait staff knowledgeable about the locally sourced food. Our loin chunk of halibut wrapped in herbs had been landed earlier that day in Milford Haven, about 20 miles away.
Nowadays it is rare enough to find halibut on menus, but to find it so perfectly cooked and garnished was a an exceptional treat. This is a chef who definitely knows his way around a piece of fish. The rest of the meal was tasty but failed to reach the heights of the main course. A plate of smoked salmon with cucumber salad was accompanied by crème fraîche so luridly colored with saffron that it looked like American hotdog mustard. The tuile that accompanied my crème brulée was something of a clunker. Nevertheless, faults aside, I would return to sample such wonderful fish cookery again.
ESSENTIAL FACTS: The Cliff at St Brides Spa Hotel, St Brides Hill, Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, Wales, SA69 9NH; Telephone +44(0|)1834 812304 booking recommended; Price (in 2013) £45-£55 ($68-$83) per person for three courses with coffee and wine; Sample menu.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services at the Cliff Restaurant for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, TripSavvy.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.
Mermaid on the Strand
Three of us walked down the very steep hill to this beachside outpost of the St Brides establishment. (You can drive of course, and there is plenty of parking but we all thought we'd walk off the calories). The family-friendly restaurant is upstairs, above a beachside souvenir, surfing and ice cream shop. The atmosphere is seaside casual with leatherette padded booths, wooden tables and catch of the day specials on a chalk board. The menu leans toward traditional fish and seafood favorites as well as steaks and grills, chicken, burgers, hot sandwiches, salads and some vegetarian specials.
Service is friendly and unstuffy. I tried the smoked mackerel paté and kedgeree - a lightly curried dish of rice, smoked haddock or salmon, boiled eggs and butter. It was the kind of meal that would be satisfying and filling after a day out walking on the beach, not particularly ambitious but well prepared and tasty. So I was a bit surprised, after adding a glass of house white wine and three small scoops of ice cream, to be handed a bill for about £35/$53 per person.
ESSENTIAL FACTS: The Mermaid on the Strand, Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, Wales, SA69 9ET; Telephone +44 (0) 1834 811 873, booking recommended; Price (in 2013) £30-£35 ($45-$53) per person for three courses with coffee, wine and gratuity. Lighter meals for substantially less are also available; Visit their website.