Outdoor lifestyle pioneer and staycation retreat favourite – fforest – will open its first hotel across two Grade II listed former warehouses this August. Alive with historical treasures, the hotel is themed around Cardigan’s maritime past and the local legend of the brig, Albion, which sailed 180 passengers from Cardigan to Canada in 1819. The hotel will provide a permanent legacy of that voyage and the spirit and endeavour of those aboard.
Located in West Wales, in the increasingly popular town of choice for creatives and laid-back living – Cardigan – The Albion sits directly on the River Teifi waterfront. In this first phase of opening, there will be 12 double bedrooms (en-suites, no family rooms) in the ‘Bridge’ warehouse with 11 further rooms and family suites available in the second Granary warehouse building next spring 2023. The 12 rooms have been designed around the existing historic features of the building, all restored to full heritage standards with views over the river from all rooms. Each room will honour those original emigrants and take its name from a log of the original settlers in New Brunswick.
Interiors are designed around the theme of ships cabins, but much more luxurious than the conditions that the Albion voyagers would have experienced two centuries ago. The cabins are lined entirely in wood panelling and this, together with most furnishings, has been repurposed and fashioned from reclaimed timber in fforest’s own workshops.
All rooms are designed individually and feature Welsh wool blankets, cushions and bedhead covers made from 100% pure new wool, woven just upstream from the Albion at an old mill, ‘Melin Teifi'. The mill used to be powered by the same waters that run into the river Teifi, and past the Albion before heading out to the sea. The textile motifs are based on traditional designs, but bespoke to fforest, designs perfected over 15 years with local craft legends. The bedding is certified British wool Duvets sourced from Devon – Devon Duvets – the first bedding company in the UK to achieve accreditation from British Wool. The wool blankets, textiles, socks, knitwear and enamel tableware in rooms are all also available to purchase.
Albion’s reception welcomes guests with a lounge area featuring relaxed seating and ‘The Galley’ cocktail bar, which will be open to the public and will have an extensive slate flagged riverside courtyard. The first floor has a guests only lounge/workroom which will also serve breakfasts prior to the restaurant opening later in the year. Yr Odyn restaurant (The Kiln in English), named after the remnants of the Lime Kilns forming part of the wharf complex, will open in the autumn of 2022 and will serve the best of local and seasonal cuisine, including meat from animals reared at fforest farm, with an emphasis on cooking over fire and influences from Scandinavia and Japan. Announcement on head chef to follow.
Other features to come will include an outdoor sauna and onsen (Japanese inspired bathing facility which fforest farm is known for) in a private elevated woodland glade housed discreetly behind the hotel. This is planned to open in December 2022. The amenities partner for the hotel is cult luxury skincare brand Aesop, featuring their recycled bottles and range of products for hair and body care plus fragrances to scent the communal spaces. Uniforms for the staff have been designed in collaboration with Neem, a climate conscious brand producing workwear shirts made from recycled shirts. Guests can walk directly into town over the bridge or along the river straight into the wildlife reserve and even up to fforest farm.
The design of The Albion has been meticulously planned to retain as much of the original buildings as possible, leaving parts raw to tell their own story. A highlight is the historic graffiti etched into the original limewash walls of the third floor – pencil sketches depicting tall ships, signatures, calculations for rope and sail cloth – dating back to the second half of the 19th Century.
The interior design of each room has the essence of a captain's cabin: reclaimed wood lines the walls, whilst 150 year old beams make up the flooring. The furniture has been custom-made using Welsh-grown cedar and beeswaxed cement boards, complete with luxurious king size beds and hand-picked reclaimed fixtures.
James Lynch, founder of fforest and chief designer for The Albion said:
This has been a real pasison project of mine over the pandemic. With funding from the Development Bank of Wales, the ambition was to restore the existing building; to emphasise its heritage qualities, its original and unique features, then design and craft spaces within the open floors that would embrace and complement those qualities. To fold rooms into the shell created, that deliver on comfort and beauty as standard, but make every stay a special experience of its own. Contemporary services, comfort and style with the particular qualities of these heritage buildings: historic, high quality, unique; the essence of place, and of history, embedded in the fabric. We have a mantra at fforest for the accommodation and experience we provide: ‘Warmth, Craft and Comfort’. To the Albion we can add ‘Heritage’.
Steffan Walker, General Manager of The Albion, added:
As a local to Cardiganshire, I am thrilled to be opening a world-class venue on my doorstep and to encourage more visitors to beautiful West Wales. I look forward to welcoming our guests from near and afar this summer.
Richard Easton of the Development Bank of Wales said:
Working with our colleagues in Welsh Government, we are working hard to fund projects that help to boost our vital tourism and hospitality sectors in Wales. Our continued support for James and the wider team at fforest is a reflection of our belief in their business and the opportunities that they are bringing to Cardigan. Their creativity combined with business acumen means that they have made a long-lasting impact in the local community, creating much needed jobs and putting Cardigan firmly on the map.
fforest is a family-run business, conceived by husband and wife who had a lifetime of creativity in Shoreditch before making the move to West Wales in 2003 – James Lynch and Sian Tucker. They run the three fforest locations across Cardigan – fforest Farm (200-acres with 8 accommodation options), fforest Coast and, in town, apartments and culinary venues such as Pizzatipi. Started in 2004, with help from their four sons, guests of fforest have always been encouraged to be a part of the family and visit any and all of the spaces. The Albion is the next iteration of this and will offer a more refined experience to guests whilst maintaining the down-to-earth and simplistic luxury that fforest embodies.