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Delighted visitors rank three Welsh hotels among the top 25 in the UK; TripAdvisor ratings reward busy owners.

Byline: Darren Devine

ONE has built its reputation on offering every conceivable luxury from Egyptian cotton sheets to handmade oak furniture, while the other two have cornered the market in bargain getaways for budget-conscious travellers.

But all three Welsh hotels have been ranked as among the top 25 in the UK, according to reviews on website TripAdvisor.

Llandudno's Can-y-Bae has been ranked the highest of the three as fourth best in the UK, while in nearby Conwy the Castlebank was rated seventh and the Gwesty Cymru in Aberystwyth, 17th.

It's the second year in a row the Can-y-Bae has featured prominently in the TripAdvisor top 25. Last year it was ranked the best in the country - beating off competition from the world's top chain hotels like The Savoy and The Ritz.

This year it's also been ranked ninth among the top 10 budget hotels in the world.

While the Can-y-Bae (Song of the Bay) and the Castlebank cater for those looking for quality on a budget, the Gwesty Cymru is pitched at guests with an uncompromising attitude to luxury. Michael Thompson, 43, who runs the pounds 40 per person per night Can-y-Bae with partner David Preece, 49, said they were "delighted" by the on-going recognition from TripAdvisor's contributors.

Mr Thompson, whose hotel includes 16 double and three single rooms, said: "We're absolutely delighted that over the last 12 months our guests have nominated us, enabling us to achieve what we have."

TripAdvisor reviews referred to its "spotlessly clean rooms", "attentive and jolly service" and "delicious breakfast".

Henrique Fino, 43, who runs the Castlebank with wife Joanne, said the survey vindicated their decision to opt out of the hotel star rating system two years ago after being told they would be downgraded from three to one.

Mr Fino and his wife featured in the Channel 4 series Risking It All after they and partners Jose Mendes and Irene Robinson gave up secure jobs and sold their Manchester homes to buy the run-down Victorian premises.

Now the Finos run the business alone after buying out Jose and Irene, who returned to Manchester.

Mr Fino said: "It's all about the way you look after people. We're only a small place with nine rooms (eight doubles and one single), but it's all down to the way you deal with people."

Guests at the hotel, where rooms vary between pounds 60 to pounds 85 per night depending on the season, praised its "stunning views", "friendliest of service" and "excellent breakfast cooked to order".

Beth Roberts, 39, who runs Gwesty Cymru on Aberystwyth's promenade with husband Huw, said they have been trying to provide something upmarket and distinctively Welsh.

The couple, who left their jobs with the BBC to run the accommodation, began the venture by operating as a guesthouse before upgrading.

She said: "Our main aim was to offer a contemporary Welsh experience and I think that's what the guests feel like they've had when they stay with us.

"The food and produce is sourced as locally as possible and with the language as well; 90% of our staff are Welsh speaking and there's always one on shift."

Critics have long suggested that holiday and accommodation review websites must be treated with caution as they're open to abuse by operators submitting their own to create a favourable impression.

But TripAdvisor spokesperson Emma O'Boyle said safeguards are in place to guarantee the integrity of the site and its reviews. "There are various measures in place that all suspicious reviews have to go through.

"But we don't give out the exact details of how the screening works because that would open us up potentially to abuse."

CAPTION(S):

HIGHLY-RATED: Owners David Preece and Michael Thompson at the Can-y-Bae Hotel in Llandudno LUXURY: The Gwesty Cymru in Aberystwyth SERVICE: Henrique and Jo Fino, who have now bought out Irene Robinson and Jose Mendes, believe in friendly service at the Castlebank
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 20, 2010
Words:652
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