Just when you think you’ve stayed in the best hotels in the Cotswolds, along comes Whatley Manor and tops the lot. From the moment the gates opened to reveal a beautiful cobbled courtyard, the entrance garlanded by wisteria and lavender, through to the spa, private cinema, two Michelin-starred restaurant and superb gardens, Whatley Manor didn’t disappoint in any way.
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.
The wonderful thing about writing the ALadyofLeisure.com blog is that I’ve discovered so many new places which I would never in a million years have come across otherwise, and Ynyshir Hall is a perfect example. Not only is it in a remote (to me) corner of West Wales, the nearest towns being Machynlleth to the north and Aberystwyth to the south, but thanks to spending teenage years hiking around Snowdonia I tend to associate the Welsh countryside with Youth Hostels and food cooked on a camping stove.
However it wasn’t the food that stays in my memory as much as the wonderful setting and the fabulous welcome I received. Some hotels can pay lip service to the idea of customer service and treating guests well but you can’t fake genuine warmth, and Joan Reen, who has owned Ynyshir Hall with her husband Rob since 1989, was a lovely and welcoming presence.
It was halfway through dinner at my first two-Michelin-starred restaurant experience at the Fischers Fritz in Berlin when I realised I was far more a ‘drinkie’ than a ‘foodie’ (assuming ‘drinkie is even a word.)
I was dining at the Fischers Fritz restaurant in the Regent Berlin, and had already been thoroughly over-excited at the arrival of my pre-dinner drink in the hotel bar. This was a Prince of Wales cocktail, a €23 Champagne cocktail which contained liberal servings of cognac and Grand Marnier, topped off with Angostura bitters and brown sugar and served rather incongruously in a silver goblet which grew almost freezing to the touch as the ice inside melted.
I was happily piling into that when I was invited into the dining room with the most wonderful phrase in the English language: ‘And you must really try our martini trolley.’
Walking into a really gorgeous hotel room can be such a bittersweet moment.
There is the initial reaction of ‘Wow! This is really, really nice….!’ and delight that this is actually all yours for the next 20 hours or so.
Then there is the sudden realisation of ‘Oh, but then I’m actually going to have to leave here and go home…’
Followed by: ‘Why can’t I live here forever?’
Such is the effect of walking into a room at Ockenden Manor Hotel and Spa, a 17th century old country house set in nine acres of land, which has recently invested millions in its new luxury spa facility neighbouring the hotel.
While the rooms in the hotel itself are older and more traditional, I was staying in ‘Clara’, one of the newly-done up rooms above the spa itself. The room instantly gave off a feeling of impeccable luxury, but in a nice, comfortable, relaxing way, rather than a starchy, soulless, hotel sort of a way. Continue reading Ockenden Manor Hotel and Spa: serious pampering→