There is something rather special about a rooftop bar in London. The views might not be spectacular – we’re not taking Rio or Hong Kong harbour here – but to rise above the traffic and gaze down at the crowds from on high feels incredibly luxurious. Good rooftop bars in the capital are few and far between, so the arrival of a new one is cause for celebration. Enter the Aviary, the rooftop bar and restaurant on top of Montcalm luxury hotels group’s sixth and newest hotel, Montcalm Royal London House.
I visited on a cold winter’s evening, so my friend and I had the pick of dozens of comfy sofas and retro chairs on the deserted terrace, while more sensible patrons enjoyed their cocktails in the warmth of the restaurant inside. However there were heaters and thick blankets so we were able to enjoy the delights of the Aviary’s eclectic cocktail list al fresco – a sour cherry bomb with Sipsmith vodka and rhubarb bitters was especially tasty.
If you are looking to start off the New Year with some bracing countryside walks, a hearty pub meal and then a nightcap in front of a roaring fire, then The Old Swan and Minster Mill must surely be high on your list.
Located in the pretty Oxfordshire village of Minster Lovell – and set in 65 acres of Cotswolds countryside – the exterior of the Old Swan alone is so picturesque that it could go straight on a chocolate selection box or feature in a Cotswolds calendar.
Its twin, the Minster Mill which is just across the road, isn’t too far behind in the ‘quintessentially English’ stakes. The surrounds here are stunning and perfect for weddings: the River Windrush runs – as you’d expect – right alongside the Minster Mill (there’s even a fish-friendly Archimedes screw turbine which harnesses the power of the running water) and there is outside seating so that guests can fully enjoy the view in warmer weather.
Of the two, the Old Swan is definitely more of a classic pub inside, with a low roof, flagstones, warming log fires, cosy sofas and classic pub fare served in the restaurant. There are some small but pretty gardens and upstairs there are 15 rooms, some with four-poster beds.
You have to be deeply relaxed to nod off during a massage, so falling completely asleep, not once, but twice, during my treatment at the Lime Wood hotel spa shows how totally unstressed I was.
This was quite an achievement considering that on the drive through the New Forest to get to Lime Wood, my car’s windscreen wipers packed up just as it started raining and so finding the way up Lime Wood’s winding country drive was a matter of guesswork.
However the warm welcome I received on entering the spa – staff seemed genuinely pleased to see people arriving, which is certainly not true for every spa – went a long way to alleviating the travel tension. Within 10 minutes I was tucked up in a fluffy white robe on a lounger overlooking the indoor pool and well on my way to spa bliss.
Herb House – to give the spa at Lime Wood its proper name – is a constant presence on top hotel spa lists and it’s easy to see why. While it isn’t the biggest of hotel spas, it makes great use of its space and its attention to detail and little personal touches are what you would hope for from the team behind the excellent Pig hotels. The changing room is immaculate; the lockers are stocked with towels, robes and slippers, there are rainfall showers, mirrors, all manner of luxury products and even a room with a tin bath in for that home-from-home experience. Continue reading A deeply relaxing day at Lime Wood hotel spa in the New Forest→
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.
Calling a hotel ‘family-friendly’ often means that those travelling without children run a mile in the opposite direction, but the luxury Foxhills spa and golf hotel is so vast that all ages and groups can thoroughly enjoy themselves without crashing in on someone’s else’s peace and tranquility.
Set on a 400-acre estate in Surrey, handily just a few miles from the M25 and M3 motorways, Foxhills is such a size that your room key comes with a very useful map of the grounds. It’s perfect for sporty types as there are two 18-hole championship golf courses and a smaller 9-hole one, 11 tennis courts, three swimming pools (one indoors, two open-air) and a spa, all surrounding the main building, the 19th century Manor House.
I arrived in the pouring rain which meant that the tennis courts were empty and the clubhouse was packed with people who would have rather been out on the fairway. However in the classic British summer way, within half an hour the sun was shining and Foxhills was transformed. Check-in was quick and friendly and a jug of a refreshing non-alcoholic cocktail for guests was a nice touch.