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 a first-class luxury spa facility neighbouring the hotel.
It’s been receiving guests for more than 60 years but Park House hotel and spa is only now making the transition from well-kept local secret to firm fixture on the British country house hotel scene. With a new general manager – Mark Yates, formerly of Harbour Hotels and Careys Manor – and its spa PH2O being shortlisted for the ‘Best Boutique Spa’ category in the prestigious Good Spa Guide awards, Park House hotel is making a name for itself and, judging by my recent stay there, seems more than up to the task.
Hidden deep in the West Sussex countryside – if you drive up from nearby Goodwood then the journey takes in single-track roads with high hedges and invariably a tractor coming the other way, the easier route is down from Midhurst – Park Hotel hotel isn’t vast but manages to pack a lot into the space it has.
The grounds behind the hotel are surrounded by lush green Sussex countryside and offers two lawn tennis courts, a bowling green, a small but perfectly-formed six-hole golf course, two helipads, and a croquet lawn. The spa has both an indoor and an outdoor pool – the weather was warm enough at the beginning of October for me to swim in the outdoor pool – as well as a jacuzzi, a steam room and sauna and a gym and fitness studio. Continue reading Park House hotel and spa: a West Sussex secret (but not for much longer)→
There is always a worry when it comes to revisiting a hotel which you totally adored on the first visit – what if it’s not going to be as good as you remembered it? I know people who won’t go to the same place twice for that very reason, and others who, having found the perfect place, refuse to go anywhere else.
Thankfully Cotwolds luxury hotel Whatley Manor was every bit as good as I remembered it to be from my first visit. Whatley Manor is certainly not a budget option, but there are few hotels who can offer a luxury spa, private cinema, Michelin-starred restaurant and acres of beautiful gardens, which means a stay here is more than worth it.
The drive into the courtyard at Whatley Manor sets the scene for a memorable stay; the large wooden gates sweep open for you as you approach, as if welcoming you in to a secret world. This time I even looked the part, as Vauxhall had kindly lent me a brand new Astra for my jaunt (more details below) which looked much smarter than my bright yellow Fiat.
Staff miraculously appeared out of nowhere to welcome us, take our bags and valet-park our car, and a very indulgent stay had begun. General manager Sue Williams has now been at Whatley Manor for just over a year, having previously run the equally grand Cliveden House hotel, and has thankfully resisted any drastic obvious changes (although much work has been going on behind the scenes).
There is still a lovely country house feel to the hotel, with its stone floors, mullioned windows, sprawling grounds and little touches here and there, from chess boards set up ready to play, wellies to borrow and cosy sofas dotted all around.
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.
It is hard not to start off a review of Noble Rot restaurant – as practically every other reviewer has done – with a nostalgic look back at days gone by, spent in the various pubs and wine bars of Lamb’s Conduit Street.
It seems that every journalist used to work or live just round the corner (I did both). In spite of being stuck in the no-man’s land between Holborn and King’s Cross, Lamb’s Conduit Street still retains a quirky feel – with cafes, independent book shops, the Lamb pub still there after roughly a gazillion years – and a trip back there does feel like going back in time.