This charming little pub in my native Wales looked to be the perfect base from which to enjoy the last weekend of the Hay Book Festival. I really wanted to be able to rave about the place for all the right reasons. Sadly, all I can say is, don't bother.
It was a good start, the staff member who greeted us was friendly, handing us a key and saying to come and go as we pleased. The room and en-suite were very clean. I would have been willing to accept the fact that any noise from the rear car park (even someone whistling) was audible from the room, but being asked to specify an exact time for breakfast was a bit odd. After a long journey, thinking of a lie in, I asked what time breakfast was served until - usually there's a window of opportunity. The response was that the chef liked to cook all at once so if other guests wanted theirs early it would be early… OK…
The next morning we went for breakfast at the appointed time to be told that there was one bit of bacon left for two cooked breakfasts. Given that this was an advanced booking of the room and the pub is off the beaten track I can't help thinking that they had an idea of how many guests they were catering for? Still the waitress was polite and quite apologetic…
It was that night that really sunk the whole experience, having been told to come and go and having mentioned to the staff we were going to Hay for the festival events I didn't think anything of the fact that we arrived back 1215pm on a Friday night. Bear in mind, the only guests the place caters for are adults. When we arrived we found the doors locked and that the key didn't fit any of the entrances. Knowing that the rear windows were paper thin I can guarantee that the landlord will have heard the car pull up on the gravel and the noise when I knocked on the door and I'm sure he would have heard the phone when I rang twice and left answer phone messages... Certainly there were lights going on and off in the staff section upstairs so someone was about (unless the Roast Ox has a particularly active poltergeist?) Still, he seemed to feel it was reasonable to leave two paying guests out in the cold in the middle of nowhere.
We were lucky enough to find a hotel down the road where the manager was kind enough to let us have there D of E camping dorm for the night (The Baskerville Hall Hotel = lovely staff!), but by this pint we had lost most of a nights sleep. The ridiculous bit was that, whilst we should have been warned that the doors would be barred come the witching hour, we both would have forgiven this little incident and laughed about it if there had been any attempt at service recovery. Instead when we returned, whilst the waitress looked on horrified, the manager told us that he hadn't let us in because he had already locked up and he only runs a country pub that happens to have a couple of rooms (10 to be precise) so we should have told him we were going out, oh and the answer phone was dodgy so he couldn't make out my messages . What he pointedly didn't claim was that he had no idea we'd been outside.
If there had been a single other place to stay in Hay or the surrounds that night then I would have left that night, but there wasn't so we stayed the final night. The bill when it came was a staggering £45 per person per night or £90 per night for a double room (Oh and having requested payment by card when I made the booking they then told me that they didn't have a card machine). The manager had at least taken the disrupted night off the tab, but I have stayed in boutique hotels for less money and had cracking customer service to show for it. To quote the guy running this heist, "I run a country pub that happens to have a couple of rooms love"…Quite.
All in all, I felt I got two nights sleep for the price of three and the service was truly quite special! Beautiful location, lovely building, just can't recommend the atmosphere...
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Geo Requested 9-3-10 ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Roast Ox Inn Painscastle, Wales