After being trapped in for hours in Bank Holiday roadworks hell, the five-star hotel Rockliffe Hall Darlington in in County Durham was a more than welcome sight. Set in 375 acres of parkland, the original building dates from the 1800s, but over the years the 61-room hotel has been extended to include a highly-rated 50,000 ft spa and three restaurants, two of which overlook its 18-hole Championship golf course.
Thanks to the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the A1, my visit turned out to be a flying one, with no time for a round of golf or even a stroll round the lush-looking gardens.
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However I could admire them from my vast hotel room, which had a huge bed, massive amounts of storage space, a separate bath and shower and French windows which opened out onto my very own patio.
When it’s hot in the city, your first instinct might be to run for the hills (or the coast) but I was pleased to discover last week that just steps from the sweltering heat of Tottenham Court Road tube station, The Bloomsbury hotel was the perfect spot in which to cool down.
Its hidden secret is the Dalloway Terrace which runs along the side of the hotel: from the outside it doesn’t look like anything special, but those who ascend the steps will find a perfectly lovely two-tiered terrace with lush plants – the perfect place in which to shelter from the boiling sun and enjoy afternoon tea, a cocktail or two, or even an al fresco dinner as night descends.
My bedroom at The Gore hotel in Kensington was definitely one with the ‘wow’ factor. There were oil-paintings and gilt-edged mirrors and the bed itself was so vast and so high it felt as if I needed a footstool to climb aboard.
The epic theme continued into the bathroom which was decked out in a pink marble effect with pillars, a high ceiling and a loo which was more like a throne – possibly something that Gandalf might use. It didn’t look the most comfortable of seats but was certainly one of the most memorable conveniences I’ve seen in a hotel room – or anywhere else, for that matter.
While some hotels try and emulate the look and feel of a historic country house, the Gore hotel, which opened in 1892, can’t help but feel seeped in history. Many of its paintings and furniture date back to the 19th or early 20th century, although it certainly doesn’t feel tired or dated.
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.
My heart often sinks when I discover my room is in a separate building to the main hotel – this usually implies some modern, soulless extension – but at Sopwell House luxury hotel near St Albans, our room’s outside location was really quite special.
Just across from the hotel reception, a tap of our room card opened up a gate beyond which was a totally enclosed courtyard – the newly refurbished mews suites. Around the outside of the courtyard were the suites themselves, looking like designer apartments, while in the space itself was a hot tub, sofas, trees and water features. It was like having your very own VIP enclosure.
The five-star Sopwell House hotel is no stranger to VIPs, particularly of the footballing kind, and indeed just the night before my visit the entire England football team had attended a gala dinner at the hotel with sporting legend Pele. I felt rather like a VIP myself when I entered my room, which is one of the nicest I’ve ever stayed in.