Hotel trekking through England and Wales, Part 2By Cortney Litwin

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    After exploring London, Brighton, Salisbury and Bath on our 10-day trip in May, my husband, Al, and I traveled by BritRail into Wales.

    Cardiff, South Wales

    Our next stop was the Lincoln House Hotel in Cardiff, within walking distance of magnificent Cardiff Castle.

    Stepping into the entryway of the beautifully refurbished Victorian, I immediately felt the warm, personal ambience of a family-owned hotel. To the right was a bright rose- and gold-colored drawing room, and across the hall, a small dining room and bar-lounge.

    Owners Neil and Kathy Howard, who have owned Lincoln House since 1997, converted what was once a pair of adjoining houses into an intimate hotel. When I spoke with Neil by phone that evening, he described the extensive work involved, which was obviously a labor of love. He said the construction included adding small bathrooms to each of the 23 bedrooms. Some of the rooms have fireplaces, four-poster beds, and bathtubs in addition to showers.

    Our stay included a complimentary full Welsh breakfast. Room service was also available, and the Howards have an arrangement with several local restaurants where your meal can be billed directly to Lincoln House.

    From the hotel, we walked through a lush park along a river path into town, which has an abundance of shopping and restaurants. Hopping on a tour bus, we breezed through the city, past the Civic Center and on to Cardiff Bay, which is experiencing a burst of visitor-serving development. But it’s sprawling Cardiff Castle that is the amazing centerpiece of the city.

    Cardiff is a short train ride to the gorgeous city of Bath. On our departure, we headed in the opposite direction, traveling north through the slumbering green hills of Wales, which became one of my favorite parts of our trip.

    Shrewsbury

    From the Victorian we went back in time to Sandford House Hotel, a Georgian townhouse built in 1760 in the quaint town of Shrewsbury, England, near the Welsh border.

    For me, the most remarkable feature of Sandford House was the sculpted plasterwork throughout the hotel. The drawing room ceiling had a beautiful, white frieze of human figures and cherubs.

    “A plasterwork specialist was brought in from Italy in 1760,” Ceri Richards said. He and his wife, Jackie, own the lovely hotel, which offers 10 en-suite bedrooms plus three family rooms that sleep five, a guest lounge and dining room.

    Our comfortable bedroom was an octagonal-shaped room that also had a circular frieze sculpted upon the ceiling, and intricate flower designs carved into the wall moldings. Decorated in dramatic earth tones, the room included a king-size bed, antique wood furniture and a spacious bathroom with a tub and shower. In the morning we enjoyed a full English breakfast.

    Sandford House Hotel is located in the center of Shrewsbury, a market town with plenty of history and, for the modern-minded traveler, restaurants and shopping. A footpath overlooking the River Severn runs alongside it. And what English town would be complete without a castle, albeit a small one-Shrewsbury Castle, in this case. And nearby Shrewsbury Abbey, built in 1083, is impressive.

    Since Shrewsbury is so close to Wales, Al and I took a train toward the coast to the tiny market town of Welshpool, where we stumbled upon one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever seen. Walking along a winding trail through vast acres of woodlands surrounding a small lake, we saw colorful pheasants running along the ground and herds of grazing deer in the distance.

    At the end of the trail, perched on a hill was medieval Powis Castle, which was closed when we were there but does offer tours.

    London

    Our final destination was The Pelham Hotel, an elegant townhouse in London-and what a glorious finale to our trip!

    Al’s exclamation of “Wow!” when we entered our room says it all about our luxurious king suite. As with all five of the Firmdale Hotels, owner Kit Kemp’s designing expertise was what made the room so special.

    Double mahogany doors divided the nearly 40-foot-long room. On one side was a burgundy- and cream-colored bedroom with a king-size bed, his-and-hers mahogany armoires and a marble fireplace. On the other side was the chic sitting area with plush furnishings and oil paintings on the wall. The floor-to-ceiling windows overlooked the rooftops of London. And like the Covent Garden Hotel where we stayed at the beginning of our trip, our room had a safe, mini bar, TV, VCR, cell phone, modem outlet, and a bathroom with solid granite countertops and gleaming chrome fixtures.

    The Pelham has 51 rooms and suites, a wood paneled drawing room and library and, of course, the delightful Honesty Bar with its array of treats.

    As for dining, room service is available, or you can just walk downstairs to Kemps Bar and Restaurant, where Al and I had a scrumptious dinner, followed by a divine breakfast the next morning.

    Located in cosmopolitan South Kensington, the hotel is just up the street from Harrods, near the Natural History and Victoria & Albert museums, Hyde Park and divine shopping in Knightsbridge.

    Actually, with the Tube station directly across the street, all of London is accessible from The Pelham Hotel.

    Just the facts:

    Lincoln House Hotel: 118 Cathedral Rd., Cardiff; Tel (011) 44.29.2039.5558; www.lincoln hotel.co.uk; twin/double rooms from $117

    Sandford House Hotel: St. Julian’s Friars, Shrewsbury; Tel (011) 44.17.4334.3829; www.sand fordhouse.co.uk; double/twin rooms from $98

    The Pelham Hotel: 15 Cromwell Place, South Kensington, London; Tel (011) 44.20.7589.8288; www.firmdale hotels.com; double rooms from $300; suites from $458

    Our Virgin Atlantic airline tickets were purchased on www.SkyAuction.com.

    Train travel was via eight-day BritRail Passes for $269 each: 877.677.1066; www.britrail.com