I really hope that Meghan Markle gets another chance to spend the night at Cliveden, the historic country house hotel where she is spending the night before her wedding. While the luxury five-star Berkshire hotel with its 376 acres of stunning countryside will be a great haven of calm for her before the madness of the big day itself, as a nervous bride-to-be I’m not sure how much she’ll be able to take in of the hotel itself: its sumptuous rooms, its luxury spa, its fine-dining restaurant and most of all, the atmosphere of history and celebrity which is soaked into the very walls.
Throughout my own stay at the rather fabulous Cliveden House Hotel, there was one question which I found almost impossible to answer. Would Cliveden still be as fabulous if it wasn’t, well, Cliveden? Would it seem as special if it were just a very nice 17th century country house in which Winston Churchill and Noel Coward hadn’t stayed, for example? Would its gardens still be as pretty if you weren’t thinking that Lady Astor had strolled these very grounds with George Bernard Shaw and Charlie Chaplin?
And would the beautiful outdoor swimming pool in the walled garden still be quite as marvellous to swim in if – well, you get the idea.
The thing about Cliveden is that it is almost impossible to judge it on its own merits by separating it from its quite incredible past. The Great Hall with its portraits and grand fireplace is stunning, but it feels even more so because you know that some of the most accomplished people in recent history have discussed art and politics over cocktails exactly where you are sitting.
The swimming pool would be a talking point in its own right, but it is particularly amazing to swim in because you know it is where John Profumo met Christine Keeler and precipitated a whole chain of events which scandalised the nation and eventually led to the fall of the Government.
With every cloud there comes a silver lining and the missing of our flight to Cape Verde meant an unexpected overnight stay in Bristol and my first experience of Hotel du Vin.
I’d long been aware of the hotel chain founded by Gerard Basset and Robin Hutson back in 1994 (they had met while working for the excellent Chewton Glen, one of my first reviews for ALadyofLeisure.com and still a firm favourite). Hutson has since gone on to found the Pig hotel chain (see my review The Pig near Bath: Impossible not to love ithere) so frankly I should have got round checking out Hotel du Vin much sooner! However I had my doubts, as the chain was sold, first to Malmaison and then to private equity outfit Frasier Hospitality, so I had thought it might be a touch corporate and soulless now.
Thankfully judging by my experience at Hotel du Vin Bristol at least, that doesn’t seem to be the case. A ten minute taxi ride from the station and we were dropped at its pretty courtyard entrance which declared itself to be the site of Bristol’s last remaining sugar house, a legacy of the city’s years as a trade centre and Britain’s second city, when instead of the current view of the road there would have a river crowded with boats unloading their goods for refinement and distribution.
This sugar refinery was built in 1728 and operated until 1831, becoming a warehouse and then lying derelict for years until being sympathetically restored, opening as a Hotel du Vin in the now Grade 2-listed building in 1999. The inside of the hotel is like a cosy rabbit-warren due to being made up of several buildings knocked together over the years, and in keeping with the wine theme, each room is called after a different type of wine, with a little glass case containing a bottle outside each door. Continue reading An unscheduled stay at former 18th century sugar house, Hotel du Vin Bristol→
I hadn’t meant to embark on an impromptu Champagne cocktail-tasting session just after breakfast, but in keeping with the overall spirit of relaxation and pampering at The Greenway hotel and spa Cheltenham it seemed the right thing to do.
It was my first time at the luxury Cotswolds hotel and indeed my first time at any hotel owned by The Eden Hotel Collection (there are eight in total) and I hadn’t a clue what to expect. It was only once I was there that I actually told anyone I was going, and instantly a friend posted on Facebook: ‘Lucky you! I think it’s the best spa in Cheltenham’, which was a promising indication I was in the right place.
The signs had been good from the very start. There was an imposing gate and lengthy driveway – the hallmarks of a country house hotel – and the instant we parked two people came out to greet us and help with our bags. The concierge, Chris, checked us in and showed us to our room with the minimum of time and fuss, which meant that, much to my surprise, I was bang on time for my spa appointment. Handily the Elan Spa at Greenway is located inside the hotel, so it’s incredibly convenient, unlike others where a spa visit is a trek to another building (in fact our bedroom was just above the spa).
If the England rugby team need somewhere to recharge their batteries after this year’s bruising contest in which they finished a lowly fifth, then they needn’t travel very far: their training ground at Pennyhill Park luxury hotel in Surrey is just a drop kick away from one of the finest spas in the country. Covering 45,000 sq ft and with eight indoor and outdoor pools (one with underwater music), saunas, steam rooms, bubbling hot tubs, ice-cold plunge pools and a salt scrub ice cave, the spa at Pennyhill Park is one of those places where you could happily spend a whole day (and night – sitting outdoors in a jacuzzi as the sun goes down makes for a memorable evening).
For guests – or rugby internationals – who like to work a little harder, there’s a gym, nine-hole golf course, tennis courts and 120 acres of parkland with paths and cycling trails, while those who want to fully indulge can pad to the spa’s restaurant in their fluffy towelling robes for a spot of lunch, or have drinks and snacks delivered to their loungers from the al fresco poolside bar.
Pennyhill Park has been the training home of the England rugby team since their World Cup-winning performance in 2003, but the hotel itself dates back to the 19th century. After a succession of owners, Pennyhill Park was bought by Exclusive Hotels in 1982 who expanded it considerably from its original 17 bedrooms.
Now there are more than 120 bedrooms ranging from doubles to suites and junior suites, some with four-poster beds, balconies, private patios and even a Roman-style marble bath. (See their website for all the different styles). This expansion does mean that the hotel is vast – you definitely need the map you get at check in, which reveals the various wings, terraces and gardens at Pennyhill Park. Continue reading Pennyhill Park – a luxury hotel fit for the England rugby team→
I was feeling rather Christmassy anyway after ambling through Covent Garden with a glass of mulled wine and admiring the Christmas lights, but even the most Bah Humbug of Scrooges would have felt full of festive cheer arriving at the five-star The Royal Horseguards Hotel. The lobby was brimming with decorations, from a massive tree with presents and teddy bears underneath, to Christmas wreaths behind the reception, yet more teddies and presents in a central display and a roaring fire.
The 282-room hotel has an incredibly central location, being just across the Thames from the London Eye big wheel (great views for the New Year’s Eve fireworks), next door to Embankment tube station and just a few minute’s walk from Trafalgar Square, the Strand and Leicester Square.