When the planet’s most famous contemporary travel writer declares somewhere ‘the loveliest’ you are inclined to at least give it a chance. So Bill Bryson said of charming little Fishguard’s Manor Town House and this was, frankly, more than good enough for us. We went, of course, in the knowledge that the esteemed in the travel writing profession do often receive above-average treatment and that the reality for the rest of us can be very different – they do, but here we are on Undiscovered Wales, corroborating that Mr Bryson was spot on in this particular burst of praise. He just didn’t go far enough.
The first time we got to stay at this lofty sky-blue lodging towering above Fishguard’s Lower Town of candy-coloured fishermen’s cottages, it was in-between lockdowns late last summer. The lingering impression from our two days then was that Manor Town House firmly belonged to the breed of ‘destination accommodations’ – places to stay that warrant a visit to a destination in their own right. Stay here and have nothing else go right for you in Fishguard, we thought, and you would still come away considering your trip a worthwhile one.
Fast-forward to this so-far-lockdown-less summer and last week, with St Davids booked solid, Fishguard still had space for a summer sojourn, and we jumped at the chance for a return stay at the Manor Town House, rediscovering everything we most loved about it: exemplary service from owners Chris and Helen, who have harnessed their previous experience in the interior design business to hand-pick the stunning room decoration, views that frame the Lower Town and harbour exquisitely and some of the finest and most original breakfasts we have ever tried.
Why we love it…
It is as if superhosts Chris and Helen imbibed every trick of the hospitality trade to give guests the perfect intro to their time in Fishguard – they are mild-mannered, easy-going and outstandingly professional to the degree that the oddest of requests is deemed no trouble and the most frazzled of arivees relaxes. Then there is the gasp-inducing sea views that hit you as you are shown to the rooms (two rooms are town-facing but we recommend bagging sea-facing digs if you can). And the detail in the rooms themselves needs a mention – it is evident the colours, fabrics and furniture have been chosen by people with interior design insights – elegant 19th-century wardrobes and dressing tables, bed headboards upholstered in the nearby Preseli hills, window seats where you can just curl up and gaze out at all that coast. The rooms have the look and feel, in short, of upmarket country hotel lodgings. You will eat well here, too: Helen concocts fabulous breakfasts (see below). And between all that sleeping and eating, stroll down the garden to the terrace for more vistas, this time with a drink in hand, to see the steep woodsy combe dropping to the harbour in the most winsome and romantic way imaginable.
As places that are high up and looking down on the sea often feel, the Manor Town House has an aurora of calm enhanced by its laid-back owners and its peaceful, lovingly-landscaped garden. You feel up above it all here, yet you are also spectating on the harbour goings-on, the boats plying in and out and the holiday-makers strolling along the pier.
Professional and courteous, ladies and gentlemen: Chris seems as though he has devoted his whole life to studying the art of how to treat just-arrived visitors to make them feel at home.
The building itself harks back to the mid-1700s: a pastel blue, rambling abode straddling many floors and a fine showcase for the capaciously elegant rooms. These are fetchingly filled with mid-Victorian walnut furnishings, including graceful dressing tables, but also feel light and contemporary too: think country mansion chic with a maritime flavour. The two biggest and best sea view rooms have spacious separate sitting areas with glass tables and window seats looking seawards. Views peep out onto the leafy, rolling Fishguard hills, the chocolate box harbour and the fort on the promontory. The unique bed headboard upholstery – geometric sea blues or mauve tones, depending on whether you have the upper or lower superior room – were fashioned by an upholsterer in Woodstock in the Preselis. Little touches like foot stalls, bathrobes (including baby bathrobes should you be travelling with a little one), Noble Isle toiletries, bottles of mineral water and a range of biscuits including gluten-free ones for nibbles help maintain the sense of refinement.
This keeps on soaring from strength to strength. Those accustomed to samey fried breakfasts on weekends away in guest houses, think again: Helen produces the likes of crispy banana pancakes scattered in pistachio, berry-packed yoghurt and granola pots and tempting selections of pastries, as well as a strong hit of coffee. These are served in the rooms on trays at the moment (a legacy of Covid-19) although the two beautiful entrance reception rooms (see the top pic) may be again used for breakfast by the time you book. Another plan is to introduce charcuterie boards, available Sundays and Monday nights, for guests who don’t want to eat out.
What’s here and nearby
You may already be aware that Undiscovered Wales is a huge fan of Fishguard – it is one of our special star destinations, no less! History-wise there is the story of the last-ever invasion of Britain: you can have a drink in the pub where the French invaders were rounded up (the Royal Oak) or hike out along the beautiful cliff-scored shoreline where the invaders landed. It is also really lovely just sauntering around the historic Lower Town, not forgoing a pint in the old-school Ship Inn, or walking up the hill from here and along the coast path to Fishguard Fort.
A little further outside town the coastline out to the lonely lighthouse of Strumble Head is frequented by seals, and there are several prehistoric sites from burial chambers sites such as Garn Wen on the edge of town to storied hillforts like Garn Fawr.
You could spend a good hour or two lingering over drinks on Manor Town House’s wonderful garden terrace, too.
Fishguard is one of our special star destinations. Scroll to the bottom for our mini guide to access all our Fishguard content in one place – at the bottom of each of our Fishguard articles – meaning you don’t miss anything we’ve written about the destination!
NEXT ON THE JOURNEY: From the Manor Town House front door, it is 5.5 miles southeast to the Dyffryn Arms in Cwm Gwaun, one of our favourite untouched-by-recent-decades pubs
At a glance
Snooze factor: 9 The sea view superiors get a straight ten, the town-facing rooms let in some very minor noise.
Food factor: 10 Excellent and one-of-a-kind.
Eco-friendly factor: 7 We especially appreciate the locally-sourced goodies on the breakfast menu.
Location factor: 9 You couldn’t ask for a more characterful town setting.
Overall: 9.25 (and if you’re in a sea-facing room, closer to 10)
Price: Town-facing doubles from £125, Sea-facing doubles from £160.
FISHGUARD MINI GUIDE: