10 - Top 50 UK & Ireland Stay and Play Celtic Manor
Travel the M4 into Wales and you can't fail to notice the imposing edifice perched high above this bustling thoroughfare just outside Newport. Should you choose to leave the motorway here and embark on the short, sharp climb to Celtic Manor's entrance, you'll find an equally bustling golf resort on a scale virtually unprecedented within these shores.
Step into its vast, imposing atrium and you'll be temporarily stopped in your tracks. There are some 400 rooms and suites in total, so there's always a lively feel, with people heading up to the golf courses, into the shopping mall, off to the award-winning Forum Spa, into one of the restaurants or outside to enjoy anything from archery, laser combat, and Celtic-themed Adventure Golf, to the treetop Forest Jump for those with a head for heights.
Big resorts demand extensive facilities, and this long-time European Tour venue and now Ryder Cup host certainly delivers in style, whether you're seeking relaxation or energy expenditure. You can take on the challenges Graeme McDowell et al faced on that tension-packed final Monday three years ago, on a Twenty Ten course simply made for Ryder Cup drama, with its many risk-reward holes and carries over water.
This epic layout is ably supported by the Robert Trent Jones Snr-designed Roman Road course, which itself hosted the Wales Open for three years during Ryder Cup preparation works. It plays over lush, undulating hilltop terrain, offering glorious views of the Severn Estuary and across to Somerset and Devon. The greens are always immaculate, and there's a strong cast of par 3s.
The third 18-hole layout is the eponymous handiwork of Colin Montgomerie, a par-69 test incorporating holes from the former Wentwood Hills layout down in the Usk Valley. It boasts some thrilling holes - most notably the par-5 3rd, which plays so steeply downhill that even moderate hitters will be flattered! - and is characterised by its spectacular views and deep, penal pot bunkers. The original Manor House, set below the main Resort hotel, has a country-house feel with period rooms for those after a slightly more traditional stay and play experience.
Le Patio bistro here adds a touch of French chic to a wealth of dining options at the Resort, which range from the informal Olive Tree and Garden Room to Terry M's, a three AA-Rosette fine-dining restaurant christened in honour of owner Sir Terry Matthews, who was born in the Manor House during its maternity hospital days in the 1940s.
Perhaps Celtic Manor's greatest asset is that its range of facilities allows it to cater for people of all tastes and preferences, both on and off the golf course.
Rooms & suites: 400 Courses: 3 - Twenty Ten, Roman Road, Montgomerie Golfbreaks.com best Mar/Apr 2014 deal: One night's B&B and two rounds from £93pp. Visit www.golfbreaks.com
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