It was love at first sight when the Southwick family arrived at Caer Beris Manor Hotel in Builth Wells this summer.
The family – parents Peter and Angie and their daughter and son-in-law Kimberley and Omar – had put in an offer on a Ross-on-Wye hotel after visiting earlier in the day and had begun to drive home to Tamworth when the availability of Caer Beris Manor Hotel pinged up on Kimberley’s phone.
“I said ‘Stop the car, this is the one for us’,” recalled Kimberley. “There and then, we decided to drive up and take a look at the hotel. My exact words to my mum as we pulled up outside Caer Beris Manor were ‘Welcome home’. I just knew it was our next home.”
That was back in June and, on August 1, they took over the historic, 22-bedroom country house hotel.
The Southwicks were looking for a hotel to run as a family, as they all have a hospitality background. Peter and Angie had run successful pubs for around 20 years and still own one in Tamworth. Omar and Kimberley had worked in the Middle East for six years.
“Caer Beris Manor needs people who are going to love it and we are passionate about it,” said Kimberley. “The more we learn about the hotel, the more we are convinced that it is perfect for us.
“We are learning things about the history of the hotel and its grounds every day. We had a gentleman here the other day who was born in one of the rooms when his parents worked for Lord Swansea.”
She loves the “magical” setting – the hotel is set within 18 acres of parkland alongside the River Irfon, which has abundant wildlife, including otters.
“It’s a big change, because Omar and I have gone from fast city life to a much slower pace of life, which we love,” added Kimberley. “Our aim is to put Caer Beris Manor on the map because a lot of people don’t know we are here.”
That’s one of the reasons the family has become a member of MWT Cymru, an independent organisation that represents around 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and Meirionnydd.
Business has been good for the Southwicks since taking over and they are now preparing for a busy festive season. A new head chef, Mike Evans has been recruited together with his partner Natalia, the pastry chef, and they are developing a mouth-watering, new taster menu.
A phased renovation programme has begun with the initial aim of adding an extra star to the three the hotel currently possesses for “affordable luxury”. The long-term ambition is to achieve five stars.
The family has held its first weddings, earning a rave magazine review from a happy bride and there are plans to make the hotel as environmentally friendly as possible. Five staff are being supported to take apprenticeships delivered by Cambrian Training as part of an upskilling drive.
“We are very lucky that the staff we have taken on are fantastic,” added Kimberley. “They are nice, hard-working people who are very friendly to our guests.”