The Eco Weekender: Grove of Narberth in Wales

Eco Weekender: The Grove of Narberth, Wales  (The Grove of Narberth)
Eco Weekender: The Grove of Narberth, Wales (The Grove of Narberth)

The back story

As the tale goes, it was a serendipitous wrong turn in the Narberth Hills back in 2007 that caused Neil and Zoe Kedward to chance upon, and swiftly fall in love with, a derelict centuries-old manor house. In June 2008, the Grove of Narberth opened with just four bedrooms and a simple vision: to provide a comfortable place to stay for mountain bikers here on this former farmland. Over the years, the property has matured into a more elevated offering that now includes standalone suites with glass-box porches, though the heartfelt hospitality that the husband-and-wife team injected at the beginning remains a strong draw. The professional, personable team hail from some of the very best restaurants and hotels around — and it shows. Service of this standard is a rare find in remote hideaways, and a reminder that heart and soul are as much about having considerate owner-operator hosts as scenic settings.

A charming luxury escape in Wales’ Preseli Hills (The Grove of Narberth)
A charming luxury escape in Wales’ Preseli Hills (The Grove of Narberth)

Look and feel

The original stone building dates back to the 15th century, though the Kedwards have transformed it with a multitude of loving enhancements: the property now spans 25 bedrooms, suites and separate solar-powered cottages. Martin Hulbert’s imaginative interiors can be held up as a lesson in creating the perfect boutique eco-hotel. Every interior wall has a story to tell, with hanging hand-loomed upholstery, textured wool cushions, original artworks and dramatic black-and-white photography all evoking the tones, terroir and topography of Pembrokeshire’s postcard-perfect countryside and coastline. Many of the Persian rugs were sourced from Welsh antique shops, and the grand second-hand armchairs were refurbished from salvage to luxury hotel standard. If only all hotel dressers could work such upcycling magic. Tactile and tasteful to a tee at every turn here in the misty Preseli Hills, it’s little wonder Grove of Narberth is the winner of Small Luxury Hotels’ Hotel of the Year Award and a part of its Considerate Collection.

The green credentials

Naturally and intuitively sustainable, the owners restored the buildings in an environmentally sensitive fashion, earning them accolades from Green Tourism UK. The natural surroundings are equally as impressive. The 26 acres are a patchwork of wild meadows and grasses, a groomed knot garden, woodland and bat-friendly roof spaces. The hotel also has its own borehole, which allows it to be responsible and self-sufficient with water, with 50p from all filtered-water bottles going to a children’s hospice. If a retreat run on renewables is your benchmark for green, here the biomass boiler is fed by local chippings with solar panels showing that Wales can deliver enough sunshine to keep the water heated for the cottages. Plus, there are EV-chargers in the car park. The super-sexy ground-floor master suite, Bramble, is fully accessible as it’s wheelchair friendly and suited to the visually impaired.

The perfect boutique, eco hotel? The Grove in Pembrokeshire (The Grove of Narberth)
The perfect boutique, eco hotel? The Grove in Pembrokeshire (The Grove of Narberth)

The eco-USP

The sustainable feeding and watering of their guests is a highlight, with staff able to explain the provenance of the menu with aplomb, many of the ingredients coming from the walled herb-filled kitchen garden and polytunnel tended to by four full-time gardeners. Chef Douglas Balish showcases the nourishing terroir, alchemising local and seasonal ingredients through first-class eating and drinking that peaks in the form of the Michelin-worthy tasting menu at the Fernery — yet, as high-end as its parade of courses, the flavours and mood always feel friendly rather than formal with best-in-class hospitality. Every delicate morsel is presented with a theatrical explanation around what you’re eating, acting as an encyclopaedia of Wales’ and Britain’s rich bounty.

Fernery Restaurant, Grove of Narberth (The Grove of Narberth)
Fernery Restaurant, Grove of Narberth (The Grove of Narberth)

Out and about

You’re in the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park reminding us why Wales is famous for its walking, hiking and mountain biking. We rented e-bikes from Tenby Bike Hire, and while this hilly terrain is a training ground for Iron Man competitors, a quick turbo-charge of electric-assisted pedalling makes the inclines seem easier. It’s only 10 minutes by car to the coast, where you can take in the watery views from Pembrokeshire National Coastal Path — by e-bike, it’s a breezy circuit to the seaside and back in a few hours. The Coast Saundersfoot, by Coppet Hall Beach, is Grove’s sister seafood restaurant and part of the Seren portfolio. If you like a look at a listed landmark, Pembroke Castle and Picton Castle are worth poking noses around.

Stays at Grove of Narberth start at £390 in a Classic room; also available on an exclusive-use basis.