Case Study: The growing success of Pembrokeshire’s Priskilly Forest Country House

22 Aug

Set in Haverfordwest, within the idyllic Pembrokeshire countryside amongst rolling green hills, the five-star Priskilly Forest Country House and Golf Club couldn’t be more charming if it were written into a Jane Austen novel.

Kept in the Evans family for four generations, since Gwilym Evans bought it over 60 years ago, Priskilly Forest is owned and run by his grandson Phil Evans, Phil’s wife Joy and their son and daughter Rob and Rebecca.

Last year, Priskilly Country House won a Visit Wales Gold Award, which recognises outstanding quality, comfort and hospitality – something Joy attributes to their standard of service:

“As a five-star accommodation and a high-end provider, I think what makes us unique is that we’re still very traditional,” says Joy. “The house has been kept within its era, which sets it apart from modern hotels, where guests could feel like they are anywhere in the world. I think one of our main attractions, though, is the good service we offer and the fact that we have kept our high standards over the years.”

Rob adds: “We have a lot of returning guests and I think they come back to us for the welcome. A lot of our visitors will spend time chatting with us and getting to know more about the area.”

The high standard of food served at Priskilly is another string to its bow. Rebecca, who runs Priskilly’s restaurant, Y Cabin, has seen her own-recipe slow cooked belly pork dish featured in Welsh Rarebits’ Great Little Places Guide for the past nine years.

The family’s passion for food dates back to the 1950s, when Woman’s Own magazine ran an article on cooking at home, which featured Phil’s mother’s own recipes, some of which are still used in Y Cabin today. All food is homemade by Rebecca using fresh Welsh produce from local suppliers. Her philosophy towards cooking is very much focused on the needs of guests:

“We serve traditional, hearty Welsh meals that appeal to the golfer who has been on the course all day, as well as more contemporary dishes,” says Rebecca. “One of my favourite dishes is the goat’s cheese and fig salad, which I garnish with fresh rosemary picked from the garden outside the kitchen.”

Since its humble beginnings in the 50s, and much like the menu at Y Cabin, Priskilly Forest Country House has seen a number of developments over the years.

“I like to take on a new renovation project every year and at the moment we’re working on the dining room,” says Joy. “We’re also in the middle of renovating a vaulted cellar at the house, which is due for completion at the end of the summer.”

A more recent addition to Priskilly is the golf club, which was established in 1992 and now has 100 members. The course has played host to a number of famous faces, including amateur championshipwinning golfer Garrick Porteous, who used to frequent the club as a boy with his grandfather. Joy recalls a conversation with Porteous’ grandfather: “He’s going to be a good golfer you know, Joy!”

With the golf course coming up to its 25th anniversary, the family plan to develop the course, which boasts panoramic views over the Preseli Hills, by adding more tees. They are also keen to diversify into other outdoor pursuits, in keeping with Pembrokeshire’s active outdoor lifestyle:

“Work is currently underway to create a site where our guests can fish in the river Cleddau, something which will hopefully be completed in the near future,” says Phil.

“We have beautiful woodland walks on the farm and we want to extend them to include routes around the golf course and down to the river. Also, with it being Visit Wales’ Year of Adventure, and with us being just a few miles from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, we hope to incorporate cycling routes soon.”

Thomas Carroll and Priskilly Forest – Working together

Thomas Carroll has provided insurance cover for Priskilly Forest Country House and Golf Club for the past three years and Phil and Joy have a close working relationship with Simon Lawrence from Thomas Carroll’s office in Pembrokeshire.

“Simon has been able to offer us good service for a good price and we are confident that we could turn to him whenever we need him,” says Phil. “It’s a big help to know the person you’re dealing with and to put a face to the name.”

Simon comments: “As we are based locally to Priskilly Forest, we have a good knowledge of the area and have a strong local presence. People want reassurance more than anything when things go wrong and I think it’s important to be only a phone call away.”

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