House-party haven in the Brecon Beacons
Tall John’s House B&B offers luxury accommodation for parties small and large: comfortable with four and equally happy with twenty, it’s a magnificent mansion overlooking Wales’ most beautiful landscapes, a rare opportunity to combine Georgian comforts in the midst of natural beauty. It’s unusual as a B&B in that it doesn’t encourage single visitors or even a couple travelling alone: it takes more than that to make this house ‘sing’ and bookings are generally for four or more. Having said that, it’s generally pretty booked out between April and October – especially at weekends, when it’s a popular wedding venue.
Prime accommodation at Tall John’s House is in the main house, where there are five guest bedrooms: three have views to the Black Mountains while the other two look out over the Victorian walled garden. All rooms are elegant, light and spacious with large Georgian windows and are beautifully furnished in country-house style. Each has its own recently renovated, large and well-equipped bathroom; one has a large walk-in power shower, three have power showers over the bath and one has a tub and separate walk-in shower. Two of the bedrooms have superking beds that can be split to make twins and the other three bedrooms have king-sized beds.
Further accommodation is in the converted stables, a few yards across the lawn from the main house, which has five double and single bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms, except for a separate double and single bedroom on the ground floor that share a bathroom. All rooms have plenty of large, fluffy towels and a range of soap, shampoos and shower gels, and there’s wifi throughout.
Guests are not confined to their rooms: the house has a large hall and drawing room that lead into a library with television, all with woodburning stoves, and there’s a games room slightly apart from the main house with billiards and ping pong – perfect for teens. There’s even a bar, though as Tall John’s House isn’t licensed you’ll need to stock it yourself. Outside the grounds are extensive, with a walled Victorian garden with a rose bower, stepover apples and silver birch circle, endless lawns for croquet, and the Brecon Beacons on every side. Walks, in every direction, are from the door and there’s grazing available for any visiting horses. The Brecon Beacons are a ‘Dark Sky’ reserve, so on clear nights the sky takes centre stage.
Breakfast is a daily highlight: cooked to order and served around a communal table in the dining room. Special diets are catered for and there’s usually a little extra to add a finishing touch to your meal. There’s a resident chef at Tall John’s House, making it easy to organise two – or three – course evening meals, glorious celebrations of local ingredients served with taste and style.
Tall John’s House was originally built to celebrate the 1588 defeat of the Spanish Armada. The naval connection continued when, in the 19th century, it was comprehensively updated by Admiral Hamilton, thought to be the role model for ‘Master and Commander”, though so far without benefitting from electricity or very much plumbing. In the 1950’s it was further updated by another naval grandee, this time Admiral Watson. It remains in the Watson family who have since added all the sophistication of the 21st century while retaining the character the manor has built over 600 years.
Preview the property by watching a 2017 edition of Channel 4’s ‘Four in a Bed’, the competition that pits rival B&Bs against each other. Despite being in its first year of operation as a B&B (it had previously been a language school) Tall John’s House did, of course, win. Watch it here.
Tall John’s House B&B suggests:
Couples travelling alone – or with dogs – are welcome to stay at the Coachman’s Cottage that offers spacious and self-contained accommodation within the grounds. Though it’s let on a self-catering basis you can book a breakfast kit or evening meal, home-cooked for you to heat and serve. This semi-catering service is also available at Honeysuckle Cottage, a 3/4 bedroom property with its own paved courtyard that suits parties of up to eight.
- Children by Arrangement
- Dinner by Arrangement
- Dogs by Arrangement
- Free off-street parking
- Free Wifi
- Ground Floor Bedroom
- Packed Lunch
- Snooker/Billiards Room
- Air Sports (gliding/ballooning etc)
- Bird Watching
- National Park
- Nature Reserve, Wildlife Park/Area
- Places of Historical Interest
- Train Station
- Water Activities
- Wild Swimming
Prices per room for two sharing, including breakfast
Bedrooms in the manor house - £200
Ensuite rooms in the Stables and Saddlers - £150
Single room in Saddlers - £100
Dinner - two courses £35, three courses with canapes £45pp
Exclusive use of the staffed Manor House, Stables & Saddlers for up to 16 guests is £2000 for one night or £1600 a night for multiple nights, including breakfast.
Tall John's House is big, and not really suitable for just one or two guests: it takes more to make the house sing. Couples travelling on their own are advised to look rather at booking the Coahcman's Cottage. Families or small groups might also consider the Cottage, with three or four bedrooms.
Coachman's Cottage (self-catering) nightly rate - £100 weekdays, £150 at weekends, £20 cleaning fee.
Honeysuckle Cottage (self-catering) nightly rate - £300 weekdays, £350 weekends, fourth bedroom £75, cleaning charge £35
Tall John's House is right in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park, that stretches from Llandielo to Hay on Wye and down to Pontybridd. Views are off the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains, with walks from the door. The entire park was, in 2013, designated as a Dark Sky Reserve and nights can be spectacular. It's close to Llangorse Lake, the largest glacial lake in south Wales, which is a haven for wildlife. The area is rich in castles and caves, active options include horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, hiking and wild swimming, and if that's not enough in nearby Llangorse there is a multisport centre with climbing, zip wires, tunnelling and also the only coal mine open to the public anywhere in the UK. At the same time the park is home to countless thriving small businesses and communities: there's always plenty going on. The nearest airports are Cardiff and Bristol, both 90 minutes by car, while Heathrow and Birmingham airports are a bit further.
Postcodes tend to lose their precision in rural Wales: to find Tall John's House's the detailed directions are these. When you get to BWLCH on the A40 between Brecon and Crickhowell turn by the War Memorial signed LLANGORSE and go down there for 1/4 a mile before taking the first lane to the left signed PENNORTH. Follow this lane into open country for a mile and just after a wide layby bit and a blue sign saying Llangasty Tallylyn, we are on the left with white gates standing open. Go up the semi-circular drive to the big white house and parking is on the left. Please don’t park on the grass.
Alternatively, you can use 'what3words', which are: yummy. neckline. ranch.
What can you say about this old house,it's a fabulous place to stay if you like the quaint and quirky with added squeaky floorboards thrown in. The staff, ken and Liz can't do enough for you, a nice little touch for us was as we had booked dinner on first night Ken thought the garden would be a lovely setting.(how right he was). We only stayed 2 nights but it felt much longer,so a really big THANK YOU to you all for making us feel both really welcome and for a most relaxing couple of days we've had in a long while.
Colin Cranness, 2021
2017 Winner of Channel 4's Four in a Bed. Watch it here.
Robin, Liza and Archie
- Bio : Your hosts here are Robin and Liza, Watson ably assisted by Archie,. On inheriting Tall John's House they ran it as a language school for forty years before converting it into a luxury B&B in 2016. They are natural hosts and ensure every guest enjoys their stay.