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Wynnstay Arms Hotel Machynlleth Powys Wales
A hotel to be proud of.
The Wynnstay Arms Hotel is located on Maengwyn Street in Machynlleth. It has held this prominent position since 1780 but has only had the name since some time in the mid 1860's. It was originally a townhouse but had become the Unicorn Hotel by 1798. (To add to the confusion, the original Wynnstay was on Penrallt Street near the current town clock). The Unicorn also had the distinction of being the stopping point for the stagecoach that went from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth. Sometime in the mid nineteenth century, the original Wynnstay closed and the name transferred to the then Unicorn hotel to become the Wynnstay we know today.
Wynnstay Arms Hotel
Into the twentieth Century
Once the name changed to the Wynnstay, the history of the hotel becomes a little clearer. There is a record of a very young Beatrix Potter wanting to stay but she visited during its major two year renovation and so stayed at the nearby Lion Hotel. The official name of the hotel at this time was the Wynnstay, Herbert Arms and Unicorn Hotel. It played host to much of the entourage of Edward VII in 1896 and George V in 1911. David Lloyd George stayed at the Wynnstay on August 3rd 1910 (and again in 1932 and 1937), the hotel had shortened its name sometime around the turn of the century, although this was confused by the fact that people continued to give it the full name in correspondence. In later years the hotel had little notoriety but it did win 'Hotel of the Year' in 1974. Today it is owned by the Johns brothers, Paul and Gareth and remains a key participant in the life of the town.
My thanks to David Wyn Davies from whose Book 'The Wynnstay Hotel' the above information was garnished.
The Wynnstay and Me
My own interest in the Wynnstay stems from 2005 when I visited the hotel for lunch with a favoured Auntie Rose, her granddaughter and my mother. They were trying to find a place to meet for lunch and the Wynnstay was selected. I was aware of the hotel as a prominent building on Maengwyn street but until that time I had paid little attention. The great thing about the hotel is that while it has most modern conveniences, it has retained much of how it always was, the floorboards are uneven and the couches are rustic and mismatched but this gives the place its charm. We had a lovely meal in the snug at the back and then as luck would have it, we went out into the courtyard for photographs. That date is therefore captured for posterity and discretely displayed below.
Aunt Rose, Bethan and Hilary Broster at the Wynnstay
We go to Machynlleth most Wednesdays to enjoy the fruits and vegetables on display and the numerous stalls selling artifacts. Being creatures of habit, this generally starts with parking at the Co-Operative car park and then making a bee line directly to the Wynnstay for morning coffee. We are always greeted with a smile and asked where we will be sitting. Nine times out of ten this will be in the comfy chairs in the front lounge overlooking the street. Coffee quickly arrives and, as mentioned, it is a unique blend unavailable in shops and a big draw for us. Payment is very much an honour system and you settle up as you leave the hotel, not when you make the purchase. This routine has now persisted for six years and I cannot envision it ending any time soon. The rest of the day involves wandering the market stalls and finishing off back at the Co-op for essentials not found in the market.
The Mach Market is a real social event and we often see friends either in the hotel or on the street. The Wynnstay is popular with tourists and has a generous menu. One criticism is the lack of public wifi but I am sure this will be remedied in years to come.
The Machynlleth market has been held most Wednesdays since the charter was granted by Edward I in the late 1200's. I have only ever known it cancelled in torrential rain or bitter snow. We have visited it many times over the years and particularly since we moved to Tywyn, it has been our regular Wednesday outing. And we always start with coffee at the Wynnstay.
I once asked the proprietor where they get their coffee blend and they tell me it is only available commercially and comes from the Carolinas in the USA. So we have no choice but to go to the hotel to get our weekly fix.
Feet in the past, head to the future
I have come to love the Wynnstay with all its nooks and crannies. Its quirky ways and friendly staff. I love to imagine the past with Gentlemen dressed on top hat and tails, ladies dressed in huge dresses with multilayered petticoats and parasols. The bustle of cases and trunks being loaded and offloaded outside the doors of a busy hotel. Many such images are probably the result of reading too much Dickens especially Pickwick Papers and the illustrations that go with them. But if you look at the modern images I have included of the front view of the hotel, you can still imagine the Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth coach pulling up outside and all the mayhem that would ensue, never mind the need to change, feed and rest the weary horses.
The Wynnstay is a lovely hotel catering the needs of the modern traveller yet retains sufficient old world charm to lure its clientele back year after year.
To say that the internal decor has preserved the feel and look of a coaching inn is probably an understatement. While the hotel has all modern conveniences, the inside has not been modernised in any way and the you truly feel like you are in a real coaching inn. In fact if the horses stopped outside and neighed you would not be surprised. Likewise the courtyard behind is equally well preserved. Either someone had some major forethought or an incredible stroke of chance has blessed this building.
Enjoy a coffee in the lounge, parlour or dining room, there are actually five seating areas, six if you include the nook by the stairs. The coffee is specially imported and not available in stores.
In October 2015, the Wynnstay closed its doors as a result of a bank foreclosure. This left a huge hole in the community as an empty building in such a prominent place looked dreadful. Fortunately, with the help of a private investor the hotel was saved. It opened briefly for the Christmas season to fulfill obligations to people who had booked to stay. Then the hotel reopened again in the spring with a minimal staff contingent. Finally opened fully in May and along with some improvements, has regained its position at the heart of the town.