If your idea of a perfect country break is to have breakfast in the sun on a terrace overlooking a spectacular view, followed by a day lounging in a luxury spa, then Danesfield House hotel and spa in Buckinghamshire is just the place for you.
To say that it reminded me of Cliveden, just a few miles away, is high praise indeed: while it doesn’t have the grandeur, scale or history of its neighbour, there are many similarities: they both have a beautiful terrace surrounded by ornate gardens, a view of the river Thames sparkling below, a light and airy restaurant which makes the most of their locations and both have excellent spas with proper swimming pools and outside loungers for those perfect summer days.
Just a few miles from the pretty town of Marlow, Danesfield House with 79 rooms and suites is set in 65 acres of grounds, and the entrance is rather impressive, a gravel drive passing beneath a stone archway into a courtyard.
Some hotels just get it completely right – and Hambleton Hall is one of them. From the traditional and immaculate bedroom, to the excellent food, lovely gardens, cosy bar and superb attention to detail, I can’t think of a single negative comment to make about my recent stay. Except that it’s not just round the corner from where I live – but I can hardly blame Hambleton Hall for that.
If this all sounds too gushing, then I defy anyone to not come away from a night’s stay without feeling incredibly content.
Part of Hambleton Hall’s charm must come from the fact that it is rather small compared to some other country house hotels, with just 15 bedrooms in the main house, so it all feels rather luxurious and exclusive. There is still ample room for you to find a little corner all to yourself, either in the downstairs living room, bar and reception area – all beautifully furnished – or in the gardens where little seats and tables are dotted around to make your own.
There are some places that are so lovely you can’t stop thinking about them after you leave, and Gravetye Manor is most definitely one of those.
It probably helped that I visited during one of the most glorious weekends of the summer, so even though I arrived all hot and bothered after three hours crawling along the M25, a mere five minutes later I was feeling wonderfully soothed and relaxed thanks to being in Gravetye’s fabulous gardens (the gin and tonic probably helped too).
The gardens are stunning, a riot of different colour and sizes and far removed from the formality of grander establishments. There are some tables on the main lawn but we – my mother was my lucky plus one for the stay – were shown to a lovely table round the side of the manor, in a beautiful courtyard overlooking a wild flower meadow beyond which was a sparkling lake.
With the traffic delay I had worried I would be too late for lunch but no, at Gravetye Manor food is served in the gardens or lounge from 10am until 10pm which is extremely civilised, especially for a Sunday in the middle of the West Sussex countryside. The menu wasn’t just a ‘light bite’ option either but top-quality British food, from wild cress and nettle risotto to salad of seared pigeon breast. I had dressed south coast crab followed by the fish of the day, pollock, with summer garden vegetables and they were both as wonderful as the view.