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Welsh hotel defends £200 membership fee after being overrun with visitors instagramming the sunset

18 Sep 2021 3 minutes Read
The Druidstone Hotel. Photo by gwallter, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

A hotel on the cliffs of Pembrokeshire has defended charging a £200 membership fee after being overrun by visitors Instagramming the sunset.

The Druidstone Hotel, overlooking Druidston beach in St Brides Bay, occupies one of the most spectacular locations on the Pembrokshire coast, and has been a haven for holidaymakers as well as musicians, actors and artists since the days of its founders Jane and Rod Bell in the early 1970s.

But this year, following the ravages of the pandemic on the hospitality industry, and the marked increase in families holidaying in the UK, the area saw an explosion of pop-up campsites and holiday homes meaning the hotel has received a large influx of visitors.

Owner Angus Bell said that he didn’t like walking into his garden and finding 60 people there that he didn’t know, and blamed pictures of the sunset on Instagram for the sudden onslaught.

With a shortage of staff and concerns that the hotel’s relaxed and welcoming atmosphere was being overwhelmed, the current owners, Angus and his partner Beth decided to re-establish the members’ club that was a feature in Angus’s parents’ day.

“We have decided to return to the good old days of The Druidstone Club,” he said.

“The reasoning behind this is much the same as when Jane and Rod made that same choice, back in the Dark Ages – it’s about wanting to make sure that we look after the people who are the heart of this place. The Dru Crew.

“The Dru Crew is the extended family who have recognised something within this place that speaks to them as a home away from home.

“They are the friends who come to stay annually for the same dates, same cottages, same rooms; the local friends who support us throughout the year; our staff both past and present; the musicians, actors and artists who have performed and exhibited here over the years.”

Prior to the pandemic the hotel hosted exhibitions and regular themed feast nights, musicians, Ceilidhs, and ‘stripped back’ or solo theatre performances.

It was often the highlight accommodation for a theatre company on a tour of Wales, a real moment of comfort in an exhausting schedule, and a continuation of the ethos of arts patronage established by Jane and Rod.

Balance

On the website they say: “We have been increasingly anxious that we are not striking the right balance between our residents and loyal locals versus the passing trade, temporary campsite and holiday cottage visitors. Rolling out Club membership again allows us to give priority to Crew.”

Criticised by some who suggest the scheme creates a cliquey atmosphere, the membership, which starts at £200pa can be met in kind by locals who wish to trade goods or services.

They hope it will protect them from seasonal highs and lows and allow them to run throughout the year, and offer their core staff continued employment as the furlough scheme ends.

Referring to the tough times during the pandemic when the hotel has had no income, they say: “Mortgages and rent are not seasonal. When the furlough pay is gone, our commitment to our staff remains.

“As we face new challenges for maintaining profitability while accepting a reduced turnover, starting the Club could make the crucial difference for the survival of the Druidstone beyond these strange times.”

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