Tag Archives: spa

Whatley Manor review: a Cotswolds gem revisited (with added oxygen)

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.

Whatley Manor review
The entrance to Whatley Manor is in a beautiful courtyard

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).

whatley manor review
Touches such as bright yellow wellies and beautiful artwork makes Whatley Manor a lovely place to visit

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.

Built in the 19th century, Whatley Manor became a hotel in 1987 and is now owned by hotelier and keen equestrian Christian Landolt, but still has the feeling of a grand home – although the private cinema and a high-end spa make it a cut above your usual manor house. Continue reading Whatley Manor review: a Cotswolds gem revisited (with added oxygen)

A classically English estate at Bowood hotel, spa and golf

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.

Bowood hotel, spa and golf
Bowood hotel, spa and golf is located in the middle of the 2,000-acre Wiltshire estate belonging to the Lansdowne family
Bowood hotel, golf and spa
Bowood hotel has its own fleet of golf buggies and a friendly member of staff will scoot you across to Bowood House whenever you like

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

Rooftop cocktails and a spa make Montcalm Royal London House a top to toe destination

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.

Montcalm Royal London House
The roof terrace at the Montcalm Royal London House in Finsbury Square is one of the biggest in London (and would look even better on a sunny day)

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.

montcalm royal london house
The terrace is on top of the Montcalm Royal London House and adjacent to the glass-walled Aviary restaurant

Continue reading Rooftop cocktails and a spa make Montcalm Royal London House a top to toe destination

A stay at The Old Swan and Minster Mill, a classic Cotswolds country inn

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.

Old Swan and Minster Mill review
The Old Swan in the Cotswolds village of Minster Lovell is picture perfect

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.

Old Swan and Minster Mill review
The Minster Mill is just across the road from the Old Swan

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.

Old Swan and Minster Mill review
The cosy lounge at the Old Swan pub

Continue reading A stay at The Old Swan and Minster Mill, a classic Cotswolds country inn

A deeply relaxing day at Lime Wood hotel spa in the New Forest

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.

lime wood hotel spa
There is a 16-metre indoor pool at the Lime Wood spa and an outdoor hot tub on the adjacent terrace

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