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Feeling ruff? This is just the tonic.

Byline: CAROL LEVITT

FIVE-YEAR-OLD Jack Russell Toby (right) gives his view of a luxury country hotel in rural mid-Wales where dogs can check in alongside their owners. CAROLE LEVITT gave him some help with the words.

With a demanding job like mine - guarding the house, announcing the arrival of visitors, keeping the garden free from cats and squirrels - a chap needs a holiday every now and then.

Only trouble is, not many places seem to want the custom of four-legged guests like me. Can't imagine why - I'm terribly well-behaved and my master always insists I wipe my feet when coming in from my outdoor adventures.

So when I heard about the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel, a luxury pad resembling a large country house where they put out the welcome mat for pets (and their owners), I jumped at the chance to check it out. Kid brother Jack tagged along too, but as usual, I was in charge.

First impressions through the car windows were pretty impressive. While master and mistress were muttering about the fabulous views, I took in thousands of acres of unspoilt Welsh countryside and tried to calculate how many rabbits lived there.

While master and mistress were signing us in, I found out some of the history of the place. Apparently some clever humans built a huge dam in the 1880s to create a lake to provide a water supply for Liverpool, and to control the purity of the water in the catchment area, the bosses also bought the surrounding 24,000 acres. Now the Vyrnwy Estate is owned by Severn Trent Water and is a mix of craggy hillsides, moorland and forests, much of it a nature reserve.

The Lake Vyrnwy Hotel was built in a superb position to command spectacular views of all this and the surrounding Berwyn Mountains. It also has sole rights to game shooting on the 24,000-acre estate and sole fishing rights on the five-mile long lake.

With all this lovely countryside and 56 miles of forest tracks and trails, it is not surprising some guests like to bring their dogs along. For pounds 10 a night dogs can stay in bedrooms, which according to the master and mistress are very attractive and relaxing, individually furnished with antiques. However, because Jack is an expert digger who has been known to practise his skills on carpets, they decided we would be better off in the complimentary kennels in the grounds. Compared to the humans' plush surroundings of plump cushions, glittering mirrors and grand fireplaces, our accommodation was somewhat basic, but clean and secure. There was the added comfort of individual heat lamps. Why wasn't I told to pack my shades?

The hotel will even provide a special doggy menu for demanding diners, but we stuck to our usual dried fare.

Trouble is, we then had to listen to master and mistress going on about their outstanding food - cooked to perfection, full of flavour, beautifully presented and served by friendly and efficient staff. There was even talk of hand-made chocolates at bedtime. I'm sad to report that the kennels missed out again here.

I had better mention that the hotel also admits cats, but as they are my sworn enemy, we'll skirt over that.

The view from our "room" mostly comprised the hotel's quad bikes, but there were lots of interesting places to explore whenever we were taken out. We could also hear the shouts of "30-15" and "out" as master and mistress worked up an appetite on the hotel tennis court. The next day, the sounds changed to "pull" and loud bangs on the clay pigeon shooting stands. Afterwards, we joined the master and mistress for lunch on the terrace of the hotel's pub and got to see that breathtaking lake vista the humans kept going on about. Then we tried some of the lovely walks in the area and had a mosey round the visitor centre and workshops in the village of Llandwddyn, which had to be moved when the valley was flooded.

On the last morning we drove to the far end of the lake to try out a different trail. After the first couple of fields, the path took us to an area where at last the master decided we could go off our leads without any risk to sheep or pheasants, so we had a great time showing off our climbing skills scampering up and down the hillsides while the humans made appreciative noises beside a spectacular waterfall. It was a wonderful end to a very enjoyable short break.

By the way, the two-legged guests said it was a fantastic place too, and would not hesitate to recommend it.

FACTFILE

Use of the hotel's tennis court and equipment is free, and there are maps detailing walks and bird hides. Activities for which there is a charge include fishing, game shooting, canoeing, cycling, quadtrekking and air rifle and clay shooting. For groups, abseiling, archery, orienteering, rock climbing, white water rafting and four-wheel driving can also be arranged.

The hotel offers a special Vyrnwy Break rate for stays of at least two nights. For two people sharing a room with countryside view, this starts at pounds 146 per head for two nights bed, breakfast and dinner. For a room with a lake view, the equivalent is from pounds 170. Normal b&b rates start from pounds 110 for two sharing a double room.

Lake Vyrnwy is a two-hour drive from Coventry and Warwickshire.

Local attractions include Powis Castle,Bodnant Gardens and Portmeirion.

CAPTION(S):

SUPERB LOCATION: The hotel's commanding position above Lake Vyrnwy and (inset) looking out from one of the bedrooms with a lake view
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Dec 23, 2000
Words:945
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