Sleepover: Llanthony Priory

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The Independent Travel

It's in the middle of nowhere, or more precisely in the middle of the Vale of Ewyas – or the Llanthony Valley, as it is also known – in the Black Mountains. Take the A465 from Hereford towards Abergavenny and look for signs to the hotel, turning off on to the unmarked road towards Hay-on-Wye.

Where is it?

In the middle of nowhere. Or more precisely in the middle of the Vale of Ewyas – or the Llanthony Valley, as it is also known – in the Black Mountains. Take the A465 from Hereford towards Abergavenny and look for signs to the hotel, turning off on to the unmarked road towards Hay-on-Wye.

What's it like?

A 12th-century abbey, in a state of near decay, now officially graded as an Ancient Monument. The hotel occupies the one tower that remains intact. There are just five rooms – best to book in advance – each leading off a spiral staircase. A pub sits at the base of the tower; next to it is the restaurant, which is for guests only.

What's its USP?

The abbey, for starters, which oozes history from its every fissure. The priory was completed around 1200 and was built on the site of a 6th-century hermitage. Surrounded on three sides by mountains, it is about as romantic and rugged as you could imagine.

Ambience?

For lovers of medieval ruins, isolation and mountains, there may not be a more wildly romantic spot. For others, it may just be a little creepy. Especially at night. Tales of ghosts and ghouls abound. The manager used to hear bumps in the night but says he hasn't noticed a presence for a few years now.

Service?

Laid back and with a smile. Ivor and Noreen Prentice have managed the hotel for 16 years. They are happy to offer help if you ask for it and know the area intimately. Otherwise you are left pretty much to your own devices.

Rooms?

Just five of them, all with four or two-poster beds, antique furniture and absolutely no mod cons. The one bathroom and two toilets are shared by guests if they can find them in the night. Guests who don't want to make a long, potentially perilous trip, should book rooms 1 or 2, which also enjoy the best views of the abbey. All rooms are charged at £50 a night. The weekend rate is £120 for two nights.

Food?

Good, hearty, uncomplicated fare. The portions are huge and very good value at about £7 for a main course. Vegetarians are well catered for and the cooked breakfast is included in the price.

Clientele?

Mixed, ranging from honeymoon couples to hardy ramblers, plus a smattering of Continental tourists.

Things to do?

Walking, walking and walking. Or else pony trekking. Hay-on-Wye is a startling drive north through the Gospel Pass; while away the hours going round the town from book shop to book shop, before returning to the abbey to wander in the ruins at dusk and drink real ale in the hotel's pub. Bliss.

Address?

Abbey Hotel, Llanthony Priory, Llanthony, near Abergavenny, Monmouthshire NP7 7NN (01873 890487; www.llanthonypriory.supanet.com).

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