Parkway Hotel & Spa, Cwmbran: A Very Honest Review

Parkway Hotel and Spa Cwmbran Review, South Wales

Hey Owlets,

If you’ve been following me on Instagram you might remember our trip to South Wales late last year. It seems a lifetime ago now between multiple lockdowns and English people basically being banned from crossing the boarder into Wales, but it was such a good trip that I wanted to chat about it some more, particularly now we’re actually able to go to hotels again. Honestly, I’m so excited - I’ve got three trips booked already!

 The Parkway Hotel and Spa is the most hidden of hidden gems that you could possibly hope to find. Driving there I genuinely thought we had taken a wrong turn as we made our way through an industrial park, until we spotted a gap in the hedge and a sign. As you turn in though, you instantly forget where you’ve just been as you’re transported into an oasis in the countryside. You drive down a tree-lined road and despite the surroundings outside the hotel you could easily believe that you were in the middle of nowhere. You end up with the perfect combination of secluded but actually quite well connected, with it only being 18 miles from Cardiff and having it’s own train station in the centre of Cwmbran. The first impressions were a very good sign of what was to come.

Outside the Shepherd's Hut with a fire pit and chairs at Parkway Hotel and Spa, Cwmbran

When we checked in we were told that we would be staying in the “Shepherd’s Hut” and I will freely admit that my first reaction was a little lacking in enthusiasm. To me, the phrase “Shepherd’s Hut” conjures up images of roughing it in a field with bugs and no running water and I am NOT an outdoors kind of girl. But if you’re like me then don’t let the name fool you because you’re about to have your mind totally changed. As we walked up to a little unassuming metal box I wasn’t sure what to expect, but even my highest expectations were blown out of the water.  As I opened the door I was met with the most luxurious “hut” I’ve ever seen (calling it a hut really isn’t fair!). It was full of thoughtful little touches and cosy elements. It even had it’s own little kitchen area, which is more than you would expect in a normal hotel room. 

Inside the Shepherd's Hut facing the bed at Parkway Hotel and Spa, CwmbranThe kitchen inside the Shepherd's Hut at Parkway Hotel and Spa, Cwmbran

Now you know I’m always totally honest with you, and nowhere is ever 100% perfect. The cups provided for the coffee machine didn’t actually fit under it so you couldn’t make a coffee, we both got a splinter from the raw wood headboard over our stay, the bed was a little short (we’re both about 5’10 and fit exactly on the bed) and the water pressure wasn’t the best. Having said that, those are the only issues I had and things like water pressure are something you kind of expect when you’re staying in a more unique space. Honestly it was fine for a shower, but maybe just wash your hair before you go if you’ve got long hair like me! For those to be the only issues in such a unique space is honestly great and definitely not something that bothered me. 

The only issue that I really had was that the main hotel has WiFi but the Shepherd’s Hut didn’t, and I felt like this could’ve been easily solved by getting a portable WiFi dongle for about £10 per month but I know that’s not a big issue to a lot of people. We tethered to my phone when we wanted to watch Netflix and, to be honest, it was such a nice night that we spent most of our evening sat by the fire pit drinking wine and chatting. It was kind of nice to disconnect for a while. I know WiFi might be a dealbreaker for some people, and I know I was gutted to start with but in the end I was glad we weren’t able to be on our phones constantly.

Parkway Hotel and Spa Cwmbran, South Wales

Parkway Hotel and Spa Cwmbran, South Wales

Moving on, when we arrived we were offered a massage and I don’t know what possessed me to say yes because if you’ve followed The Owlet for a while you’ll know I’m really not big on people being in my personal space, but I’m so glad I said yes! We’d moved into our home a few months earlier with the world’s worst mattress and were on bed number 3 by this point so my back was a mess. The spa area was absolutely stunning and connected onto an equally beautiful swimming pool with areas to sunbathe and a connection to an outside patio area. You’re asked to fill in a form about your mental and physical health before the massage and they’re really understanding if you’re nervous - I actually dragged Jack in with me and they were absolutely fine with it, but they made me feel so comfortable that I really didn’t need him there. Half an hour later I left feeling totally relaxed and my back was fixed, although I did have to laugh when she commented about being able to feel tension in my shoulders - I am a master of being able to stress about absolutely anything so it was no great surprise! After my massage we ended up spending a good hour swimming and sitting in the sunshine on the terrace. We actually spent so long there that we had about 20 minutes to get ready for dinner!

Inside the restaurant at Parkway Hotel and Spa Cwmbran, South Wales

The food situation was a bit of an odd one if I’m honest. You can have dinner served in the main restaurant or the lounge area, and within that you have the option of an A La Carte menu or the carvery. We chose to sit in the restaurant which was absolutely beautiful, and ended up having a starter from the A La Carte menu and then went for the carvery for our main course because I was craving a roast dinner. There was nothing wrong with our roast, it was tasted great and was cooked perfectly, but it just paled in comparison to the starter from the A La Carte menu and left me feeling a little underwhelmed after being blown away by the starter. It was clear that the chef loved his job because so much care was put into everything on the plate - it made me regret choosing a roast, just because I wanted to see what they would do for mains. It felt a little like they were trying to cater for the cheaper rooms and the more luxury suites at the same time and it left me a little confused. Honestly, the roast was great but if you really want to feel special then order from the A La Carte menu - it’s pretty much the same price but a whole other ballpark for quality so you won’t regret it! We were way too full after dinner but the waiter insisted that we should try the desserts, so they sent us back to our room with a box of cakes for later. Honestly, the service was faultless and nothing was too much trouble.

Starters in the restaurant at Parkway Hotel and Spa Cwmbran, South Wales

You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned about being gluten free yet, and that’s purely because it deserves it’s own paragraph. Every time I go somewhere a little more rural in the UK I end up hungry, so I came armed with gluten tablets just in case but they weren’t at all necessary. The menu detailed just about every allergen you could think of and the waiter talked us through what could be adapted to be made gluten free too. I was brought fresh gluten free bread that was so good that Jack stole some off of my plate, and even though I said contamination wasn’t an issue for me, they insisted on carving the meat for my roast dinner from a fresh piece in the kitchen. I honestly couldn’t believe how knowledgeable everyone was about allergies, when I fully expected a hotel in semi-rural South Wales to not even know what gluten was.

Full of gluten free goodies, we settled down for the night and despite us both being the same length as the bed we had a really good sleep. The bed was very comfortable and our surroundings were incredibly peaceful. In the morning we were up bright and early ready to figure out how to make the cups fit under the coffee machine and get ready for our exciting delivery.  As part of your package staying in the Shepherd’s Hut you can order a continental breakfast basket delivered to your door. On arrival I fully expected to be told it wasn’t possible but I was reassured that they could do a gluten free basket, and after my experience at dinner I woke up ready for the best gluten free continental breakfast ever - the reality was somewhat different to my mental image.

Breakfast Delivered in the Shepherd's Hut at Parkway Hotel and Spa Cwmbran, South Wales

Jack, the resident gluten-eater, was spoilt for choice with blueberry muffins, pain au chocolat, croissants and a breakfast bar, then to share we were given some fruit, two yoghurts, two slices of cheese and some ham, and I was honestly thinking “where’s mine then?”. I’m pretty sure the ham and cheese was meant for me, but what was I supposed to eat it with? I appreciate that I can’t expect gluten free pastries etc, but honestly I just wanted SOME breakfast - a slice of toast shouldn’t be luxury. I honestly would’ve preferred that they said they couldn’t do a gluten free breakfast basket than deliver something so underwhelming - it definitely felt like style over substance which I don’t think it would if you were a gluten eater. If you’re gluten free I would recommend just skipping the basket, however cute the idea sounds, and heading to the main hotel breakfast which is also an option as part of your stay. The difference was absolutely night and day. 

We walked over to the restaurant, explained what had happened and asked for some toast for me to have with the ham and cheese. We were shown to a table and asked to sit down, then a few seconds later we somehow ended up being poured a coffee and it suddenly dawned on us that we were being treated to a second breakfast in the restaurant, having only asked for a slice of toast to take away! I’m one of those people that always feels like a terrible human when I have a complaint but the person I spoke to was so lovely and just wanted to fix it for us, in such a way that we didn’t even realise what was happening until we were already sat down. The breakfast was a simple full English or there were some options for continental breakfast, which was perfectly nice but again kind of played into the weird luxury/affordable struggle from the dinner service that we felt like we were caught up in. There’s nothing wrong with offering both but if it’s going to overstretch and not quite work then I’d rather they focused on doing one part of it really well, but I appreciate that limits their clientele a little so I completely understand why they don’t. 

Girl sitting on a swing at Parkway Hotel and Spa Cwmbran, South Wales

Yet again the staff were incredibly knowledgeable on what I could and couldn’t have, but I did notice that awareness of cross-contamination had gone out of the window a little in the morning light. While we were being served, the waiter moved the bacon lid onto the mushrooms, the lid from the sausages onto the tomatoes etc etc. While this isn’t an issue for me, I could imagine that if you’re vegan or Muslim you don’t really want pork fat dripping onto your vegetables. Yes it was a bit of an oversight, but I honestly think that if you were concerned and told someone they would bend over backwards to make you happy. The service was second to none at all times, I just wanted the evening kitchen staff back for breakfast!

After breakfast we headed back to pack our bags ready for check out and got changed into swimwear for a last minute dip before we left. Even though we had already checked out, the receptionist made sure to tell us that there was absolutely no rush to leave and we could use the pool for as long as we liked, at the same time as giving us a list of recommendations for where to visit while we were in the area. 

Parkway Hotel and Spa Cwmbran Review, South Wales

You probably think I’ve been quite harsh, but honestly it’s because the whole experience was so incredible and let down by a few small oversights. I know how difficult having dietary restrictions can be and I was so amazed by how well I was looked after in the evening that where the morning disappointment would’ve just been normal life for a GF person it felt like more of a let down. The confusion I felt between them trying to offer an affordable and premium product isn’t a big deal to me, I only mention it because it might be for you. A standard double room averages £98 per night, with suites going up to around £160 for the dates I checked, which for a premium product is an amazing price.

I always think the biggest test when I’ve been invited to review somewhere is if I would spend my own money to stay there again. The honest answer to that question? I’ve already tried to book for my birthday and our anniversary but there was no availability. Please Parkway Hotel and Spa, take my money so I can come back!

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 
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