Melissa Barker visits the Vale Resort and Hensol Castle

Hensol Castle Following (far too) many lockdowns and ever-changing restrictions, I hadn’t been able to travel to South Wales for more than a year; so when the Vale Resort in Hensol invited me to come visit, I jumped at the chance. My fiancé, Dave, and I adore South Wales and were really excited to see the area and explore the hotel.

Dave and I started our stay in true style with a gin tour at Hensol Castle, located just outside of Cardiff, in the heart of the beautiful Vale of Glamorgan countryside. I had heard about the new distillery located in the cellars of the 17th-century castle and was excited to see it for myself. I’m ashamed to admit – much to my colleagues’ disgust, that I don’t know much about gin but I was eager to learn more. The Guided Distillery Tour and Tasting lasted for an hour-and-a-half and our guide, Peter, was very knowledgeable and made the whole experience enjoyable and very informative. He showed us around the distillery, explained the history of the castle and (of course) the gin, and showed us the botanical room where we learned what ingredients are used to make the delicious drink. My favourite part was the tutored gin tasting, where I discovered that I love Strawberry Hensol Gin – a must try. This was followed by a relaxing drink (or two) at the bar. After the tour, we took a walk around the grounds and visited the 15-acre lake. Even in the strong winds, it was still beautiful and would make the perfect backdrop for wedding photos. We can’t wait to visit again and try the Gin School and make our very own bottle of gin!

After we walked around the Hensol Castle grounds, we made our way over to the Vale Resort. The Vale is a short walk away from the castle, and has an impressive exterior and gorgeous interior. The friendly receptionist answered all the questions we had with ease and a level of professionalism matching the high standard of the hotel and she made sure we settled in comfortably.

The space went beyond our expectations; with a super king-size bed, a TV, and grand windows that overlooked the grounds. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we saw the en suite bathroom, boasting a walk-in shower, fluffy towels, complimentary toiletries, and my favourite, a luxurious bath.

After a few hours’ rest, we decided to try out the hotel’s health club that we’d heard so much about. Boasting three squash courts, three tennis courts, a fitness studio, a state-of-the-art gymnasium, and a spa – we were spoilt for choice. We started with the 20-meter swimming pool, which was lovely and quiet. We were able to relax after the long drive in luxury – I didn’t want to get out. I couldn’t leave without testing out the sauna and steam and whirlpool bath. The bath was amazing, and I could have easily spent the day there. After a few hours, we made our way back to the room, where we relaxed in comfort until it was time for dinner.

Gin making TO DINE FOR
Lounging around on our unbelievably comfortable bed, it was a struggle to drag ourselves out of the room for dinner, even though I couldn’t wait to taste the food I’d heard so much about. The delightful staff escorted us to our table where we were presented with the menu and our first course. We both opted for the vegan Brazilian black bean and sweet potato chilli. It was lovely, and Dave was still talking about it several days later. For the main, I chose the roasted Welsh pork fillet and Dave opted for the pan-seared sea bream. The meal was delicious, and it was the ideal size to fill me up but leave enough room for what I consider to be the main event: dessert! I finished with the hazelnut fudge brownie – I have a sweet tooth, so for me, this was perfect. It wasn’t too heavy, and I could have happily eaten more. The service was impeccable, and the staff went out of their way to ensure we were enjoying ourselves and had everything we needed.

After dinner, we wearily headed to our room, and I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

We awoke after the best night’s sleep we’d had in a long time, feeling like royalty. We had breakfast in the main restaurant, where there was something to suit everyone, from pastries and cereal to a full-Welsh fry up. Everything was delicious, and there was so much food that I think I ate enough for two!

We were sad to be leaving after such a luxurious stay, having fallen in love with the Vale Resort and Hensol Castle. It’s safe to say we’re planning on visiting again soon!

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