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Enter the Dragon’s Den…

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What is it? A 5* hotel, complete with 3 golf courses, a spa & health suite, plus a kids club to occupy the little ones whilst you relax

Where? Celtic Manor Resort, near Newport, South Wales

Description: [view_from_the_terrace.jpg] The resort looks incredibly imposing as you approach it, set up high above the road and built into the hills. Their mascot is Dylan the Dragon, and as you enter the underground car park there is certainly a feeling that you are entering the dark Dragon’s Den at Celtic Manor Resort.

A world-class 5* resort, set in 1400 acres of parkland. Apparently it is the most complete resort in the UK and Europe, providing a luxurious hotel, convention centre, exhibition hall, spa, golf courses and leisure facilities. Also the venue for several high profile events, including The Wales Open (golf!), The Elemis Invitational Championships (tennis) and Ant and Dec’s All-Star Cup, where celebrities from Europe & USA battle it out for golfing supremacy.

Golf, golf and more golf, including lessons at The Academy, the main centre of excellence for golf teaching in Wales. Or if (like me) you have absolutely no interest in golf, then there’s the health club & spa, tennis, mountain biking or shooting. The hotel can also recommend, and arrange, plenty of other activities & excursions off-site.

On site, there’s not a great deal. The Olive Tree restaurant features live entertainment from the resident pianist on some evenings, and a jazz band on Sunday afternoons.

The Hideaway Club features a fantastic & fully supervised creche for under-5s, a soft play area for kids up to 8 and a cinema and games room for all ages. The Hideaway Team, led by Dylan the Dragon, run activities during the weekends throughout the year, and during the week in the school summer holidays.

The Forum Health Club & Spa is amazing! The surroundings of the pool and spa bath/jacuzzi (Europe’s largest apparently!) just make your stresses melt away as soon as you go in. Plus the Health Club has 16 treatment rooms, very friendly staff and products from Elemis, Payot, Clarins, La Therapie and NaturaSun. Plus a Redken Hair Salon if your tresses need some TLC.

Local activities: Techniquest, Megabowl and Greenmeadow Community Farm are very local, plus there’s a whole range of castles close by to explore (Penhow Castle, Tredegar House, Caerphilly Castle & Tintern Abbey). The resort is surrounded by some lovely walking country, is within an hour’s drive of both the city of Cardiff & the coastline of The Gower Peninsula. So there should be something for everyone!

Wish we had known: That there isn’t live music every night. It was too late, after eating in the restaurant, to change our plans and find some evening activities outside of the resort.

Our top tip: Don’t take your pushchair if you go to any parts of the Manor House (adjacent to the main resort hotel where there are more restaurants & bars) as it doesn’t have any lifts and there are lots of stairs.

Kids say: There’s another dragon Mummy (Luke aged 2)

Getting There: M4, junction 24. Superior double rooms from L130 per night. Larger family rooms around L250 per night, or suites ranging from L500 – L1,500 per night. The cost of the Forum Health Club is included, but treatments, the creche, and any other golfing activities at The Academy are all charged separately.

About our stay: As you enter the hotel, this atmosphere couldn’t be more different to that of the underground ‘dragon’s den’ car park. A huge, light & airy foyer and very welcoming staff, who showed us to our family room featuring 2 Queen Size beds, a separate TV viewing area and desk, complete with a balcony on two sides of the hotel, and amazing views over two of the resort’s three golf courses.[our_bedroom_chill_out_time_for_Luke.JPG] You can’t quite appreciate the sheer scale of the resort from any one place, as the buildings and the surrounding green areas are on many levels. Thankfully the concierge provide golf buggies and a courtesy bus to transport you from the main resort to the Academy, where we enjoyed a lovely meal in The Lodge, and didn’t have to concern ourselves with being too energetic! There are 6 restaurants in the resort, we sampled three, and didn’t have a bad meal in any of them. Owens fine dining restaurant has even won 4 RAC dining awards and 2 AA Rosettes, although we didn’t enjoy that one as ‘fine dining’ and ‘toddler’ aren’t usually words you find together! However all the restaurants try hard to cater for children with a separate children’s menu (with some healthy options too) & highchairs also available. We’d planned the main day of our stay around our activities. Gregg (my husband) was booked in for a golf lesson at the Academy. I was booked for a facial in The Forum, and Luke was booked into the Hideaway Club creche. Gregg was pretty nervous, as, although he used to play golf quite a bit when he was young & single, he’s probably only had chance to play golf about 3 times in the last 10 years! I think he was convinced he would be laughed out of the place! As it went, he had a fantastic 90 minutes or so. First warming up on the driving range, then being videoed by all the hi-tech equipment, which can measure the angle you stand at, can freeze your swing so you can analyse it, and can even compare you to some pros. Gregg’s claim to fame now is that he stands at the same angle as Tiger Woods – shame he can’t get the rest of it right![looking_up_to_the_lodge_from_our_bedroom_balcony.jpg] Meanwhile, I deposited Luke in the creche, was shown around the facilities by the staff, to allay any fears I may have had – although that’s not me at all, or Luke for that matter, who spotted the toys and was off! – and after signing all the necessary information and medical forms, I checked into the reception at The Forum. I find it’s a funny thing that, as soon as you put on your fluffy white towelling robe and those daft flip flop slippers, you start to float around the place, immediately calmer & more relaxed. Whilst I was waiting for my therapist, I sank into the huge wicker chairs in the conservatory, overlooking the green fields and rolling hills, and sipped some ice cold lemon-infused water. By the time I emerged, an hour or so later, from the treatment room, my Royal Chocolate Cocoon facial had worked a treat. And I still had a spare 30 minutes to go and soak in the bubbly spa, before I went to collect Luke. He’d had a fantastic time and had even made Daddy a card for Father’s Day. Celtic Manor is not exactly a family hotel, having quite a corporate feel about it. However they do try hard to cater for children & families. It’s a lovely place to go for a couple of nights, to have a bit of ‘me-time,’ whilst indulging in the leisure facilities and taking advantage of the daytime childcare facilities. In our house, ‘me-time’ has to be booked into the diary, and so I’ve already pencilled in another couple of dates where I can escape & take refuge in the Dragon’s Den! [Kirsty McGregor is site editor & chief exec of entertainthekids.com, is married to Gregg with one son, Luke and lives in Halifax]

Created: 2006-07-14 13:52:46.580

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