Meet the owners – Manorhaus hotels
As Further Afield marks its 10 year anniversary of working with amazing partners who celebrate and believe in inclusivity as much as we do, we meet two owners who very much embody the ethos of inclusivity and our belief in the importance of community. Christoper and and Gavin run the Manorhaus hotels in Llangollen and Ruthin, Wales, and have become a integral part of the community in which they chose to make their home.
Have you always lived and worked where you are based now?
Having studied at The Royal College of Music, Christopher was a successful West End musical director in London working on numerous major shows including Sunset Boulevard. Gavin had studied at The Welsh school of Architecture and following a few years working on The Getty Centre project in Los Angeles, returned to London to work on award winning projects such as Thames Barrier Park. We both had successful careers, but felt like ships passing in the night and were getting tired of the endless commuting and congested tube journeys.
How did you end up running your business?
We decided to give up the rat race and take on a lifestyle business that would allow us to work together. On various travels we had enjoyed staying in a number of then newly defined ‘boutique hotels’ and liked the idea of creating something similar. We did a few searches and found the Ruthin property (below) for sale online. We decided to visit and fell in love with the building and the town straight away. We didn’t go and see any other property. It was also in a great location, – a beautiful part of Wales (Gavin is originally from Gwynedd and speaks Welsh), yet very convenient being just an hour’s drive from Manchester (Where Christopher’s family live).
How did you end up getting involved with your local politics and what kind of reaction did you have as someone involved in a same sex relationship?
Once we both moved to Ruthin in 2002, we quickly got involved in various groups or initiatives, in particular arts and cultural events in which we still have an interest despite a change in career, and also to be a part of the community and demonstrate our commitment to the town we had chosen to set up business. Chris has in the past been chair of Ruthin Festival, The North Wales International Music Festival, and is now Chair of North Wales Tourism.
Gavin first joined the Town Council (the equivalent of a community or parish council with 15 voluntary councillors) in 2007. He felt his Architectural and Urban design background could be helpful to encourage a strategic approach to how the Town developed and implemented ideas to reach its potential. He was proud to be made Mayor for the first time in 2009, and was conscious to reflect that he was gay and (as far as we are aware) was the first Gay Mayor in Ruthin. Mayoral events included the UK premier of a film Out in the Silence which explored the coming out of a young man living in a rural Pennsylvania town (not dissimilar to Ruthin), and was honoured with the attendance of the film makers who offered a question and answer session for the audience.
Following a four year break from the Council and other organisations whilst we established Manorhaus Llangollen in 2012, Gavin returned to Ruthin Town Council in 2017, and was again made Mayor in 2019. He is working hard to deliver a number of initiatives including the creation of a community, civic and visitor hub in The Old Courthouse (built 1401) which will form a focus to revitalise the town square. He hopes to stage a number of events that reflect the full diversity of the Ruthin community and ensure everyone feels engaged and valued in the town.
Tell us a bit about the pursuits that are on offer either through you or through providers in the immediate area that you work with
Whilst we are in great locations (both Ruthin and Llangollen) for the traditional country activities such as walking etc, North Wales has been recognised for its World class outdoor activities and both properties provide a great base to explore things like Zip World, Surf Snowdonia or the many other high adrenaline attractions. For cultural activities, Ruthin boasts one of the UK’s pre-eminent centres for Applied Arts – with the Internationally acclaimed Ruthin Craft Centre staging amazing Free exhibitions in an award winning concrete and zinc building built in 2008. For heritage Ruthin and Llangollen have an abundance ; Visit a Pentonville style prison at Ruthin Gaol, or discover the stunning home of the Lesbian Ladies of Llangollen at Plas Newydd. Ruthin’s Nantclwyd y Dre (below) is Wale’s oldest timber townhouse, and showcases a stunning Mediaeval garden with wild flower meadow and oak framed garden structures. Or for those who want to chill gently – take the steam train or canal boats in Llangollen, or just have an afternoon in watching a great movie on our private cinema at manorhaus Ruthin. all linked via manorhaus.com
What’s your favorite walk and are you a dog friendly place to stay?
Both manorhaus Ruthin and Llangollen are dog friendly. Our dog Alfie loves a walk in Ruthin up to the cunning green – a walkway that skirts the walls of the castle, then drops down into Cae Ddol (below) – the town park (winner of a Fields in Trust best park nomination in 2019), then on across public footpaths past fields circling Ruthin’s mediaeval castle, before looping back into town along historic Castle street. Llangollen is also great for dog walking and Alfie’s favourite is along the Canal towpath to the Horseshoe falls – but we have to be prepared to end up bringing him back wet.
Do you have a favorite pub / bar or restaurant nearby?
Ruthin still has a great collection of characterful pubs, all offering something different, but the same friendly welcome. The Feather’s is the place for sports lovers but expect to join in the singalong when Wales play in the Rugby. The Wine Vaults has a great veranda and seating area on the corner of the square where you can watch the world go by, or The Castle Hotel for its great outdoor terrace with views across towards Moel Famau. Likewise the town has a small yet high quality collection of restaurants and eateries, including a very popular bistro at On The Hill, the Small Plates restaurant, and in a very historical building The Myddleton Grill. We also have our own restaurant at manorhaus Ruthin which has been Michelin listed for 10 years.
Llangollen, as a busy tourist town also has a great mix of pubs and restaurant but our favourite is The Three Eagles, or The Cornmill which is stunningly located perched above the River Dee.
If you’re looking for a bit of culture where do you head to?
Ruthin Craft Centre, Theatre Clwyd, Cor Rhuthun Choir practice
What’s the best thing about running your business?
Having the ability to work together but also be able to schedule in time off that we then utilise to travel and continue our ‘research’ in hospitality.