Times hotel review that describes Machynlleth hinterland as ‘Welsh backwater’ sets teeth on edge
The “hinterland of Machynlleth” has been described as a “Welsh backwater” in a hotel review in the Times that has set some teeth on edge.
The review of The Royston, Llanbrynmair by James Stewart, who says the hotel’s decor “could be Brighton”, has been described as “absolute b*ll*cks” in responses on social media.
“In 2019, when the former Londoners launched the Royston in a handsome Victorian house, hipster style in a Welsh backwater probably seemed like madness,” the newspaper declares.
The review begins in Under Milk Wood style: “It’s dusk in the bucolic hinterland near Machynlleth, Powys. Outside the Royston a fire crackles in the pit, crows caw to their roosts and clouds sail above the Twymyn Valley, a sea of tiny fields and woods, here and there a white farmhouse raised aloft on a swell of grass.
“Yet the lounge inside could be Brighton, with cocktails poured at the honesty bar, limited-edition prints on inky blue-black walls and objets trouvés in a vintage cabinet.”
Twitter user Owen Williams responded: “Nothing to see here, just a journalist from The Times describing Machynlleth as ‘a Welsh backwater’, transformed into ‘Brighton’ by a London couple.
“I mean, the absolute b*ll*cks on James Stewart to come up with that.”
Owen ab Lonker was also unimpressed, asking: “Why on earth would anyone see fit to laud the transforming of a property nestled in one of the most historic and unique areas of the UK into what sounds a generic, run of the mill B&B?”
Another social media user added: “I’m amazed he stopped short of saying people were speaking English before switching to Welsh when he arrived in the bar.”
The reviewer, James Stewart, however also responded to defend his review.
“‘Backwater’ as defined by OED: ‘an isolated or peaceful place’,” he said. “There is no mention of ‘transformed’ in copy. But don’t let either fact affect your prejudices.”
He said that the review “suggests that a couple created a B&B somewhere bucolic but chose to style it inside in way that’s more akin to a city stay. There’s nothing condemnatory about Wales in that. Sorry if you don’t see that.”
“Backwater” was later changed in the copy to “back-of-beyond”.
Editor’s note: This article originally claimed that the author called Machynlleth a “Welsh backwater”. The author of the Times article has requested that we clarify that he was calling nearby Llanbrynmair a Welsh backwater. We are happy to do so.