Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The lost Welsh coaching Inn (Operation cobra part 5)

(DISCLAIMER: As an overall nice human being, I do not force entry, vandalize, steal, or disclose means of entry or location if it isn't obvious. I do this to protect locations and respect them. Trespass without forced entry is a civil offense rather than a criminal one, which isn't worth acting on unless one causes damage, steals, has ill intent, etc. I simply photograph and leave everything as I find it. I do not condone breaking and entering, and I do not condone what I do. I'm a danger to myself and a terrible role model )

As a quick recap, Operation Cobra was a silly name given to a road trip of abandoned places into Wales, immediately making the blog title inaccurate. But in my defence, I didn't think we'd be doing this sort of thing when I started the blog in 2014...

In the depths of Wales, near a place that translates to something like "Farm near a cross," my adventure buddies and cohorts sought out a place to hide from the Welsh Mafia, who are the series antagonists and totally real. And we found shelter in a disused hotel that was undergoing some kind of restoration.What would we find? It was a Sunday so we could just stroll in like the reckless buffoons that we are.
Construction sites are dangerous places to explore, what with exposed bits of constructioness (Thats totally a word!) and all that, so keep in mind, I'm a terrible role model.
Here's the lost hotel.

A quick search of the hotels name proved fruitful. This is an old Welsh coaching inn, and retains a lot of its older charm and design. However, the dates of its construction vary depending on who one speaks to. A Welsh tourism website made mention of it dating back to the 17th Century. A Welsh History website lists it as a 19th Century inn. And the most recent owner, a chap called Derek, made mention in a 2010 response to a review on Trip Advisor that it was 550 years old, taking it back to the 15th Century. So we have time discrepancies there of only a few hundred years.

Prior to its time as a coaching inn, it was a mail drop point and resting spot for the Royal Mail, and older photos of this place show it placed innocently next to a small country lane, which has since evolved into a busy main road.

 Entering through the front door, we found that the place still retained a homely vibe from its glory days, the wallpaper was still up, and the walls were decorated with maps of Wales.

Thanks to the reviews on Trip Advisor, it is possible to pinpoint that this place closed down in September 2015, and probably remains largely untouched since then, with the exception of the recent work being done to some parts of it. Presumably it has been purchased and may even reopen in the near future.

Trip Advisor was actually a surprisingly valuable asset for researching this place. As far as reviews go, they are mixed to the extreme, with people either really loving it, or really hating it. And the majority of negative reviews mention that the staff are great, the service is great, the free wifi is nice but the range doesn't stretch beyond the bar, due to the owners not wanting to be responsible for anything dodgy being looked at in the privacy of the guests rooms, and also the plumbing sucks and, uh, so does the owner. And I was amazed, because the owner is actually given a hilarious level of notoriety. I actually felt sorry for him. Look at this snippet! This review is even titled "Beware the owner"

The place was a family run business, fronted by the notorious Derek, his wife, Linda, and their children and grandchildren. It's said that their grand daughter worked behind the bar, and was inexperienced but friendly. Although one review did refer to the bargirls as St Trinians rejects, and call them out on gossiping about the customers in Welsh. On this review, Derek himself, or someone claiming to be him, mentioned that sometimes they offer local teenagers work experience, so it's not necesarily a dig at his family.

A lot can be learned from the reviews and Dereks responses though, such as his claim that the hotel is a former coaching inn, and that it is over 500 years old, and in a 2013 response to a review he makes mention that it's been a family run business for the last ten years. If he's to be believed then that means that this hotel was run by his family from 2003, give or take the odd year or two. He also refers to the hotel as their home, so it seems that the family actually lived here.

Prior to this, in the 1950s, the hotel was a hotspot for anglers wanting to fish in a nearby river, but in recent years it became a popular spot for mountain bikers and hikers.

I think thats actually the remains of the bar in the middle of this room.
 Here we are in what was once a homely bar area, with an open fireplace. Reviews spoke highly of this fireplace, as it gave a sense of old world atmosphere to the place. Of all the interior rooms, this is the one most commonly photographed. Doing a bit of lurking on the internet, I was able to find this gem, although I'm not sure who the people in the photo are. They are, however, sat in this very same room during the hotels glory days, to give you a sense of what has changed.

(Photo not mine)

One notable change is the wall on the right, which is sadly modernized in my own photo, a sad prelude to the building losing its historic character.

From what I can tell from old photographs, the bar was to the left of the fireplace.

(Photo not mine)

There are two doors on either side of the fireplace, one on the left and one on the right. The one on the left would have been for staff.

The above photo is taken from around where the bar would have been, and shows additional doors to other customer areas, toilets, the cellar and on the far right, a beer garden at the back of the building.

 All of the keys are still hanging up.

 Sitting casually on a shelf next to some CDs were a couple of unopened bottles.

So regarding the Trip Advisor reviews, I mentioned that Derek had allegedly responded to a review. Well, he responded to the vast majority of negative reviews, often with his claws out, often claiming that the reviews are done falsely by people who were never actually guests, being vindictive for no reason, or often insulting the former guests, choosing to counter the negative reviews with keyboard warrior bickering rather than taking criticism, which is often along the lines of describing the owner (him) as rude, thereby confirming the negative reviews. For example, one such negative review resulted in the owner responding "Moan! Moan! Why would I want someone like you staying?"
Now, any business owner, or anyone with customer service skills, will have an opinion on that, but nevertheless the Trip Advisor reviews, as such, led to an amusing read, taking me back to my teenage years when internet flame wars were all the rage.

And yet this was always in huge contrast to the positive reviews, but even then Derek would respond with comments like "Thanks, it's nice to know that some people appreciate us, not like those other people who reviewed us before!" It's like the claws are always out with this guy. And yet some reviews do say that he was a pleasant man, so maybe he's just one of those marmite people, who you either like or you hate. I can relate! Derek states in another response "I seem to be an easy target for triteness" which gives me the impression of a victim complex, or someone perhaps completely unaware of how their behaviour is percieved, when they themselves might simply be lacking in social skills. But without knowing him, who can say? In my personal opinion, arguing with negative feedback time and time again in a customer service role, when all the complaints are focusing on the same thing, only makes the person running the business look a bit silly. 

In Derek's defence he did say in a lot of his responses "Why didn't you raise this concern at the time? If you were unhappy we could have done something about it."
But then another review says "the demeanour of the owner makes you fearful to complain about anything, so we just lived with it."

Unsurprisingly, the majority of negative reviews complimented the service and the hotel, and the staff but said that Derek let the place down, even mentioning him bitching about guests to other guests, bitching about the food hygiene in other businesses to pressure guests into eating at his hotel, and then even waiting tables barefoot. That seems unprofessional to me, but what do I know? I don't run a hotel.

Continuing further we discovered a large room that would have once perhaps had tables and chairs.

Over at the side, by the door, is a piano.

I'm no piano expert. Could this be fixed back up and put back to use? It seems a shame to waste it.
The room also had a dart board and a pool table, and was known as The Game Room.

There's a water dispenser here. Allegedly the hotel had its own water supply, which might have put more emphasis on the plumbing issues.

These ceiling lights gave this room some atmosphere and a sense of refinement amongst the clutter.

Evidently the downstairs toilets were being worked on, as the doors actually served very little purpose.

Notice the numerous toilet brushes in the corner. It's as if everything was just left here when the hotel closed down and was all collected when work began on the place. It makes me wonder how amazing this would have been to explore had we gotten here before the work began.

The urinal is as you'd expect- filthy but still in better condition than the toilets in some active pubs and clubs.

I presume this was the kitchen. According to the reviews, the food was really good, but complaints were often about the size of the portions in comparison to the price. But otherwise, the reviews were positive.

I'm going to assume that this was an office for the owner, Derek. The television in the corner was likely hooked up to CCTV cameras.

These stools all placed around a central table led me to conclude that this was where the people working on the building sat during their breaks.

In the other ground floor rooms we found clutter galore!

Here are some leaflets for local attractions. These probably would have been on display back when the hotel was open.

Meanwhile, onto the cellar!

It's a pretty cavernous cellar, and that's everything I hope for in a building that covers so much surface.

Modern blocks indicate that some structural repairs have been done at some point in the buildings past.

The bottle racks are still down here, and would have once been filled with wine bottles.

Again with the structural repair, this central pillar is a lot more modern than its surroundings.

And here's the delivery hatch that pubs tend to have in their cellars.

Having covered the cellar, it was time to venture upstairs.

I had hope for the upstairs, because the steps were still carpeted, giving it a homely vibe.

However, the upstairs was still pretty bare.

All the various things one usually finds in a hotel room, such as televisions and coffee-making facilities, were crammed into this bathroom. Again, it's almost as if this place was just left exactly as it was prior to workers coming in.
 The size of the televisions in the hotel rooms was also a cause for criticism in the reviews, but I feel that this is just nitpicking. 

For all the clutter, the rooms still had a homely vibe to them, often retaining little details such as lampshades and sometimes wallpaper.

Each hotel room had an ensuite bathroom. As you can see, the toilet has been removed from this one.

People complained about damp in the rooms, while other people said that they were lovely. It's very much a case of one extreme or the other, just as it is with the customer service given by the mysterious Derek.

The vast majority of barstools and chairs, and tables, were piled up in this room, which we theorized based on the ornaments and books above the fireplace. might have actually been lived in by the owners. Further evidence is that the door to this room doesn't have number on it, as hotel rooms tend to have.

There's a stack of bibles here, collected from the various rooms. They're in English, and not as huge as the one we found in that derelict church.

Here are the remains of the beds, piled up neatly. The hotel didn't have any double beds, but instead put single beds together.
 Interestingly, one complaint that popped up in the reviews was a lack of double glazing windows. Allegedly the owner stated that being within Snowdonias National Park, they weren't actually allowed double glazed windows. I'm not sure why that would be a rule, but the placement of cheap transparent plastic over the glass as a double glazing alternative was more indicative of an owner simply not wanting to modify an old world pub whose age and history he was evidently quite proud of.

 Reading the reviews, it becomes apparent that these little notes were all over the hotel rooms, offering instructions on various things, and how to conform with how the hotel was run, although people still struggled to get the showers to work.

This sign is a remnant which offered a lot of information for guests in regards to rules, regulations, the time in which meals were served, and what to do in the event of a fire.

 As mentioned, the ensuite bathroom facilities got a lot of complaints for dodgy plumbing. Lets hope they fix it while they're working on this place!

A lot of work is being done here, slowly stripping the hotel of its former character.

The majority of wallpaper remnants were floral but none match the rooms depicted in any photos I found of this place when it was open. Presumably these rooms were stripped prior to our visit.

Here's the dart board that would have once hung up in the Game Room.

Overall, this room has a very homely old-world vibe to it that I loved. Had this place been open, I might be tempted to tempt the wrath of Derek and stay for a night.

But things took a creepy vibe when we went into the attic.

The walls are pink, and these stairs are unlike any stairs I've seen before, with steps for individual feet instead of just your standard row of wood.

The attic was eerily untouched, and had likely been lived in by a girl, although if a boy lived here, that's cool too, just unusual for rural Wales. Most notably, Derek makes mention of having a young grand daughter, who was too young to serve alcohol but still helped at the hotel serving food.
Did a younger grand daughter live up here?

While we were up here, Riggy, who fancies himself as a bit of a ghost hunter, claimed that he was picking up the presence of a small girl who was hit by a car on the road outside of the hotel, and carried into the hotel, where she died. Riggy claimed that she died here, in the attic.

Hmm... You know, that's a lot of stairs to carry a girl up when she's dying of being hit by a car. But I politely let Riggy have his moment. After all, Riggy is a self-proclaimed urban explorer and his urban explorer nature was probably urging him to find more relatable company, and finding frustration in the fact that the zoo had shut five minutes ago.

So is the hotel haunted? Oddly a negative review dated October 2015 was responded to by the owner who claimed that the review must be false as they shut down in September, and sarcastically pointed out that they must have been served by ghosts.
At least Derek's not opposed to trespassers then, if he's comfortable with these people getting served by ghosts. That totally gets me off the hook for casually strolling in.

The girl who lived here clearly had a love for horses.

In the little doors at the end of the attic, I found a warning sign, as well as a box full of the former residents posessions.

Out of context it is creepy, but in context it's still bizarre. So presumably the hotel closed down and was sold on. It's understandable that bibles, beds, bar stools, and whatnot are all still here, but these are the personal belongings of a child, and should really have been taken away when the family left. Were they stored away up here and forgotten?

To my delight there was rooftop access, giving us a great view of the Welsh countryside.

We're so remote out here, with only a bus stop as an indicator that we're actually near any form of civilisation, and I love it. Being at least five miles from the nearest town, this place was popular with hikers and mountain bikers, and also for dog owners, since the place did take dogs for £7 a night.

We didn't stop on the roof for too long because we were on the main road, and visible to everyone driving by, including the Welsh Mafia, who surrounded us upon our exit from the hotel.They're our totally real series antagonists, due to the fact that stories of this sort usually require some form of drama to make them believable. As it happens, the Yacusio were just after our totally real friend, Ouija LeMay, who totally really stood her ground, and dared them to even try to harm her. Keep in mind she was unarmed. Ouija LeMay is sharp of tongue but who knew she was such a badass? We had to wrestle her into the car, and drive off into the hills to escape.

And that is all we have on this particular spot. The hotel closed down in September 2015, and is obviously being fixed up, and will likely reopen in the future. I do feel sorry for Derek, in spite of what the reviews say, because looking at the positive reviews it does just seem that Derek may just be an acquired taste, and that he's blissfully unaware and unintending about how he comes across to people, although he should probably stop waiting tables barefoot. Let's hope Trip Advisor clears off the past reviews before the new owner reopens it, so that this awesome little hotel can enjoy a prosperous future.

As for me, I have a prosperous future too, and you can make sure you don't miss out on an adventure by following me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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