Elm Grove Country House: B&B With Bells On
Mark Bibby Jackson’s tour of the countryside and castles of Wales, concludes in the peaceful village of St Florence, just outside Tenby where he relaxes at the excellent Elm Grove Country House.
As we pass along the tree-lined driveway from the village of St Florence to Elm Grove Country House, it is clear that this is no ordinary bed and breakfast. The glorious house is surrounded by some 15 acres of greenery – lawns, orchards and fields where horses are munching. This is a quintessentially idyllic Welsh pastoral setting – only the sheep are absent.
History of Elm Grove Country House
We are greeted by Alan Rees-Baynes who co-owns the property with wife Jane, and taken on a quick tour of the house before being shown to our rooms.
The building dates back to the mid-19th century, and was used as a home for evacuees during the Second World War before being acquired by the Rees family in 1957 as a family home.
For six decades three successive generations of the family have welcomed guests to their country home, attracted by both the magnificent building and the spacious grounds. Jane doubles up as the Chair of Visit Pembrokeshire, while Alan is an accomplished artist.
Rooms and Facilities
The latter becomes apparent as we are escorted around the property. Elm Grove has 11 individually decorated en-suite rooms, with a mixture of modern amenities and period antique furniture. All have views of the green surrounds or down the Ritec valley towards Tenby.
My room has a four-poster bed, beautiful period wallpaper, and a peaceful view of the horses in the neighbouring fields. Several of the rooms have been recently upgraded during the lockdown.
The house also has a number of large public rooms, as well as a magnificent staircase. Throughout the decoration has kept faith with the age of the building with original plaster cornicing, wood panelling, chandeliers and even Adams fireplaces. The attention to detail is quite astonishing, right down to the original service bell pulls still visible in the public rooms.
You can either relax in the Lounge with its array of local guides and library, dine in the restaurant or try a local beer or gin in the bar. We opted for the latter, but capitalising on a fleeting glorious summer evening, decided to take our gins on the terrace outside.
For, if anything the exterior space at Elm Court is even more impressive than the interior.
While waiting for our drinks to arrive I go for a quick wander. There is a tennis court and croquet lawn, but it is the wonderful gardens and orchard to its rear that catches my eye. Apparently, there are ten different species of trees in the gardens, including naturally elms and a wonderful macrocarpa tree which Jane used to climb as a child.
Local produce plays an important role in the Elm Court story, including local Welsh beers and spirits. It is a Welsh gin that we savour as we soak in the surroundings.
As we had not checked in for dinner we had the opportunity to explore the village, quickly deciding to dine at one of the St Florence pubs, the Sun Inn just across the road. I had a fish pie while my companion enjoyed an excellent steak, but the highlight of this local was the hospitality. Chatting with the incredibly friendly staff and locals, we immediately felt drawn into the local community.
This feeling continued into the morning as we settled down for breakfast at Elm Grove – where I enjoyed some kippers cooked by Jane, but served by the woman who had cooked our dinner in the Sun Inn the night before and had recognised us.
“Bed & Breakfast with bells on” is how Jane and Alan describe Elm Grove, “offering an extra level of service to the traditional B&Bs in Pembrokeshire, while feeling more relaxed and personal than a hotel.” I for one would certainly not disagree with that.
Elm Grove Country House Photo Gallery
Things to Do in Pembrokeshire
Although St Florence is your typical picturesque one church, two-pub type of village, the surrounding area has much to offer. From St Florence to Tenby it is just three miles. The latter is a great town with a long history and a wonderful annual Blues Festival. A similar distance leads you to Pembrokeshire Coast Path with its wonderful walking opportunities, and spectacular beaches. Alternatively, you can visit local castles in Pembroke and Carew, or the beach-side fortress at Manorbier. Finally, you can take a boat trip to beautiful Caldey Island and pop in on the Trappist monks. For more ideas on for things to see and do in Pembrokeshire, go to: www.visitpembrokeshire.com.
To discover more about Pembrokeshire, read Jane’s article on the tourism department’s more sustainable approach to tourism.
Elm Grove Country House
St Florence Tenby Pembrokeshire, SA70 8LS
T: (01834) 871255
Elm Grove is also featured in the Great Little Places Collection from Welsh Rarebits with rooms from £120 per night B&B for two sharing.