The deer lifted its head and sniffed the air, sensing a slight shift in the breeze. The light was fading rapidly and he knew he should be heading back to the forest, but the lure of the long grass in the shadow of the ancient gatehouse was just too strong. High above him, ancient oak trees creaked in protest as the wind toyed with their branches, sending a flurry of midsummer leaves spiralling down towards the earth. The moon looked like it was having a turbulent time, tossed around on inky clouds as they raced ominously across the darkening sky. A family of rabbits scattered like bullets back to their burrows as a strong gust ploughed through the field and snaked possessively around the castle walls, heralding the start of a long and wild night out in the lonely Welsh Borders. Deciding it was time to call it a day, the deer silently but swiftly picked his way through the undergrowth back into the safety of the woods. The grass would still be there tomorrow.
A rather unusual place to stay in Wales
On the other side of those gatehouse walls Hubbie and I were curled up on the sofa, beside a half-empty bottle of red and a pleasantly crackling fire. The doors were bolted and the heavy curtains drawn against the menace of a stormy night. We were snug as bugs in rugs, with the thick stone walls doing a grand job of keeping the elements at bay. We felt safe. From the weather, and any potential marauders that might be lurking outside. Because you just never know!
We were staying at the Welsh Gatehouse, a 700 year old grade II listed building not far from Chepstow, and one of the most unusual places to stay in Wales. Being quite partial to sleeping in castles, we were excited to be adding another one to our list, especially since we had it all to ourselves.
The Welsh Gatehouse
Built more as a folly than a strategic place of defence, the Welsh Gatehouse sits grandly at the other end of an attractive walled garden from what is known today as Courtyard House, where the owners live. A ravishing medieval manor, the house is possibly the most hauntingly beautiful dwelling we’ve ever seen. It wouldn’t be out of place in a fairy tale, or perhaps even a ghost story.
This is the view that greets you when you step through the secret little door to enter the grounds and access the gatehouse. Stunning.
Munching our oatcakes smothered in bright red strawberry jam for breakfast in the mornings, we’d gaze out of the gatehouse towards the manor, wondering if we could see shadowy figures moving around behind the windows. Still half asleep our imaginations ran wild, but that’s what this place does to you.
It’s like living in your very own historical novel.
Inside the Welsh Gatehouse the story is a little different. Here is where past meets present, and behind every restored piece of stonework, and each regal gold and red curtain, you can feel the weight of history. When it comes to furnishing and comfort, it’s almost contemporary in style, whilst blending surprisingly well with the heritage of the gatehouse. A perfect mix.
There’s nothing rustic about the living spaces inside the Welsh Gatehouse. In fact they’re rather luxurious, with an open plan living and modern kitchen area, and a couple of mezzanines for the bedroom and dressing room up in the eaves. The lofty ceilings show off as much as possible of the gatehouse structure and give it a spacious, airy feel.
It’s perfect for couples looking for a quirky romantic retreat in Wales.
When it comes to bedtime at the Welsh Gatehouse you have to negotiate a rather steep stair-ladder up to the mezzanine, which just adds to the fun of the experience. Just don’t go needing the toilet in the middle of the night! The bed was really comfy, a lovely cosy nest to curl up in whilst the weather did its worst outside.
The only disappointment was the bathroom, a tiny wet room that felt like it belonged in a hospital from the 1960s, but when you think of the space that was available to work with, it’s actually pretty impressive there’s a bathroom in here at all! And it does the job perfectly well.
We loved scrambling up the spiral stone stairs to reach our abode, and if you climb up another level to the top of the Welsh Gatehouse, there’s a fun little trap door and access to the roof of one of the towers. Definitely one of the most unusual places to stay in Wales!
The rooftop is the perfect place for your morning cuppa, boating views that extend out towards the Wye Valley and the surrounding countryside. You can also see both the new and old Severn Bridges, as well as the distant Brecon Beacons on a good day.
Have a Look Around the Welsh Gatehouse
The Welsh Gatehouse makes a perfect base for exploring South Wales and the Wye Valley. Conveniently located just 10 minutes off the M48 near Chepstow in the Welsh Borders, it’s super easy to reach yet feels a world away from pretty much anywhere. There are walks from the door if you don’t feel like jumping in the car, and the gatehouse is just 5 minutes from the largest ancient woodland in Wales, as well as the famous Offa’s Dyke. If you can’t be bothered to cook, the Miller’s Arms in nearby Mathern village rustles up simple yet cheap pub grub.
One of our favourite excursions was visiting Tintern Abbey just 12 miles away. It’s one of those places you hear a lot about but never really know where it is. Founded in the 12th Century by Cistercian monks and Abbot Henry who was a reformed robber, the abbey became a Gothic masterpiece and remains a national icon today. It suffered greatly at the hands of Henry VIII, succumbing to the dissolution of the monasteries, and now stands as a majestic ruin, one of the finest in the UK.
Where: Near Chepstow, in Monmouthshire
Who: Couples who love a bit of history and romance
Owners: They don’t come and meet guests in person, but are at the end of the phone if needed. We actually quite liked this approach, as we’re quite antisocial types who like to pretend that the incredible places we stay in are ours, if only for a few days. There was a lovely welcome basket waiting for us, filled with Welsh goodies, and there are a LOT of instructions available, from how to use the heating to where to go for dinner. They’d really thought of everything, and not meeting them in person just added to the layer of mystery and intrigue that ran through the whole stay.
An incredible and unusual place to stay in Wales, and one we’ll definitely be returning to. Especially as the prices are surprisingly reasonable for such a stunning property.