Throughout my 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.
It isn’t often you plan on spending the night at a rather grand country house hotel and find yourself sleeping in a treehouse on stilts in the middle of a forest. But the treehouses at Chewton Glen, the five-star hotel and spa located deep in the heart of the New Forest in Hampshire, are about as far removed from the rickety wooden contraptions of one’s childhood (or Bart Simpson’s) as you could get.
In fact, they probably shouldn’t really be called treehouses at all, but maybe ‘luxury forest lodges’ probably didn’t sound, well, as much fun. The hotel’s own blurb describes them as secluded and romantic with the ‘exterior architecture in perfect harmony with the surrounding treescape’ and ‘on stilts, delicately balanced between the valley and tree canopy.’
I would probably describe them as ‘a really posh and gorgeous set of rooms which for some reason are plonked in the middle of a forest.’
They might be on stilts but thankfully they didn’t feel at all delicately balanced and indeed once you were inside, it was easy to forget that you were hovering several metres above the forest floor.
To arrive at Langshott Manor hotel is to jump back in time. One moment you are in urban Surrey, passing through towns like Redhill and Horley and driving though a modern housing estate, and then all of a sudden you arrive at a building unlike no other – with chimneys, mullioned windows, gables, a bell tower, patterned brickwork and basically looking as if it has come straight off the set of a film about the Tudors.
What is amazing is that Langshott Manor is the genuine article: a 16th-century manor house which has miraculously survived centuries of redevelopment even though it is just a few miles from Gatwick airport. As an airport hotel it must stand alone in the world as a way to jump forward 400 years between checking out of the hotel and the airport check-in desk and Langshott Manor certainly stands alone as a destination in its own right as well as a pre-holiday stopover.
Those used to spacious boutique hotels with endless corridors and acres of land might have to adjust to 16th-century dimensions: while Langshott Manor used to be surrounded by a moat and parkland, meadows and pastures just a semi-circular lake and a pretty garden at the rear of the hotel remain.
If you like visiting beautiful English stately homes but hate the queues, the drive, the parking and the general hassle which usually goes with such visits, then Bowood hotel, spa and golf in Wiltshire has the perfect solution: its own fleet of golf buggies will whisk you across its 18-hole championship golf course to Bowood House, home to the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne, in a matter of minutes.
You might arrive a little windswept but you don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot and even better, entrance is free for hotel guests. When you want to return, you merely ask at the ticket office and your mini-chariot will have you back drinking cocktails on the terrace at Bowood hotel before you know it.
The 4-star boutique hotel was opened just eight years ago and was the brainchild of the current Lord Lansdowne. In a summer where the weather hasn’t been too great, our arrival at Bowood was in rare but welcome glorious sunshine, so having dropped our bags off at the hotel, we wasted no time in jumping in a buggy to make the short drive (stopping for the occasional golfer to take a shot) to explore Bowood House. Continue reading A classically English estate at Bowood hotel, spa and golf→
If your idea of a perfect summer’s day is afternoon tea (or a gin and tonic) on a beautiful lawn in the sunshine, The Manor House luxury hotel in the pretty Cotswolds village of Castle Combe, Wiltshire, is the place to be.
There you can immerse yourself in the Sunday papers (or even a game of lawn chess) with nothing to disturb you but the gentle chirp of birdsong, the occasional splash from the herons fishing in the stream running through the grounds and occasionally someone coming to ask if you’d like something more to eat or drink.
A circle of little hills wraps around The Manor House’s 365 acres, making the hotel feel cosy and protected from the outside world. Little seems to have changed here for centuries. The same can be said of the village of Castle Combe itself, a vision in pale Cotswold stone. From the stone bridge over the babbling brook at the bottom of the village to the 14th century market cross at the top, Castle Combe looks as if it has come straight out of a Cotswold calendar or the lid of a box of chocolates.
If it seems familiar, that’s because it is: Castle Combe has been the setting for a host of films and TV series, from Doctor Dolittle and War Horse to Doctor Thorne and most recently the hugely popular Japanese anime series Kiniro Mosaic, also known as Kinmoza.
The grounds of The Manor House itself circle the village like a warm embrace, with its driveway sweeping from its gates at the southerly end of Castle Combe village to the lawns in front of the hotel, past an ornate Italian garden and a row of workers’ cottages (now converted into bedrooms) before emerging at the top of the village. Continue reading A picture-perfect Cotswolds stay at The Manor House, Castle Combe→