The trouble with booking a hotel online is that you have very little idea of what you are going to get. Sure, there may be reviews that give an idea of service and quality, but that actually tells you very little about the ‘feel’ of the place. We don’t need much. It is usually just an overnighter with something to eat and drink, so as long as it is clean, comfortable and hassle-free, that will do. Sometimes, though, we get lucky.
Okay, our idea of lucky may not be the same as everyone else’s. We don’t go in for shiny chrome and glass confections, any more than we do formality. Our idea of changing for dinner on these trips probably just means something less muddy on our feet, although I may remember to drag a comb through my hair and apply a bit of lipstick. I liked the place as soon as I saw the bar. A tad unusual. ‘Quirky’ is the buzz-word that comes to mind. Plus, I’d spotted a Stowfords pump…
The landlady, Penny, was friendly, down to earth and smiled. Always a good start. She showed us upstairs with obvious pride. You could see why… a lot of thought and care has gone into the place in the few years she has been there. The eigthteenth century inn has a character all its own. You can usually tell how well a place looks after its guests by the little touches… like how many biscuits they leave… and Penny had stocked the trays well.
We pretty much went straight down to dinner. I was initially disappointed… the Stowfords was off, but the local cider was at least as good. We went for a vegetable curry which elicited an immediate enquiry about whether we wanted vegetarian breakfasts, and then a fruit crumble with loads of proper custard, not these fancy little milk jugs with a spoonful of the stuff. Lashings of it. See, that’s the kind of thing that makes all the difference. Apart from the fact we were so stuffed we could barely breathe. So, we went out for a walk as the sun was going down to let gravity aid digestion. The hills, even in the fading light, were beautiful.
Back in the main bar, the regulars welcomed us in and told us wonderful stories about the village’s past… of shipping Christmas geese to London overnight by train, of the way the village had changed with the loss of the railway, of childhood and winters long gone. We could have stayed there talking all evening, but it had been a long, long day.
It is places like this that remind you that a public house was always just that… a home opened to welcome travellers. We were made to feel very much at home and would have happily stayed longer if we could. After a breakfast designed to fuel a small army for the day, Penny told us a bit more about the inn and its other ‘residents’.
The name, Mid-Wales Inn, is not fanciful, as the geographic centre of Wales, according to one method of measurement, is situated right in the centre of the dining room. Which might help explain some of the ghostly activity, from hoses that switch themselves on, to terrified chambermaids and sightings by guests. Now, we would have taken all this with a pinch of salt… a great set of tales to tell credulous guests. Except for the tangible presence I had felt in the hallway… and the self-opening doors in our room… You can see why we felt we’d fallen lucky. So, if you’re ever around Rhyader and Pant y Dwr… and you are looking for a place to stay where you don’t mind the company of the odd unseen guest… you won’t be disappointed.
N.B. In case anyone is wondering… we were not asked for a review, we neither asked for nor received a discount, this is simply a personal account of a stay we really enjoyed, in a very warm, welcoming and very friendly place.