A Lady of Leisure

News, reviews and opinions on everything to do with leisure, from hotels and holidays to food and fitness, by national newspaper journalist and author Sarah Bridge.

Arranging a hotel and parking at Gatwick airport: testing the APH offer

Arranging a hotel and parking at Gatwick airport – or indeed  Heathrow, Luton or Stansted as well, I travel frequently from all of them – is always a major headache. This could be to do with the fact I usually leave it to the very last minute, pretty much just before I set off,  or sometimes the night before if I’m particularly organised. Either way, it’s usually a case of panic-Googling until I find something that looks not too expensive or too cheap (you read horror stories of cars being dumped in a field or driven for miles while the owner is away) and then just going for it.

airport parking
You won’t be short of choices when it comes to airport parking, but that could make it hard to know which option to go for
Organising airport parking

So when I was given the chance to try out Airport Parking and Hotels (APH) I thought this would be a chance for me to be organised for once. The concept is simple enough: you go online and put in the details of your trip, where you’re flying from, whether you want to include a hotel stay the night before and whether you’d like off-airport parking or a meet-and-greet service. APH has its own off-site car parks at Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham airports but also offer on-site parking and meet and greet services via third parties and has been going since 1980 so that seemed reassuring, plus the fact it won the ‘Best Airport Parking Company’ award at the British Travel Awards 2018 for a ninth year running.

The first time I’d used APH

Having tried everything from parking at Gatwick’s own official car parks to meet-and-greet at the airport itself, to other off-site airport parking services, this was the first time I used APH but the booking process and emailed instructions were very clear. As my flight was at stupid o’clock in the morning (check in at 5am) I was put up in a nearby hotel, the Crowne Plaza Felbridge – and I was given two booking codes – one for the hotel and one for the parking. Each code accessed detailed instructions online of how to get to each location and how much time to leave for each journey (APH recommends you get to the parking site 45 minutes before the earliest check in time) so I felt in safe hands.

Crowne Plaza Felbridge
I spent the night (well, until 4am) at the nearby Crowne Plaza hotel in Felbridge
Staying at the Crowne Plaza Felbridge

The hotel was far smarter than I’d expected, with a 116 bedrooms and even a indoor pool with sauna, steam room and jacuzzi. My room wasn’t vast but had everything I needed – TV, bath, kettle, iron etc – and my only complaint would be that it was up quite a lot of stairs and there wasn’t a lift – which meant hauling my luggage up and down to my room. As  it was such an early start the next day there was just time for a quick swim and sandwich in my room (my stay was room only) before all too soon it was 4am and time to get up and out.

indoor pool
The indoor pool at the Crowne Plaza Felbridge
hotel bedroom
My bedroom at the Crowne Plaza Felbridge hotel
Getting to the APH car park

The APH car park was ten minutes along some winding Sussex lanes and next to the Wyevale garden centre which was a handy marker. There I parked my car, checked my car keys in – there was a lot of activity for that time in the morning but the short queue moved fast – and then hopped on the transfer bus which was handily waiting to take me and my fellow travellers the 12 or so minute journey to Gatwick.

APH car park
Checking in at the APH car park near Gatwick Airport
Getting my car back after the holiday

After a very enjoyable week wine-tasting in Cyprus (article to follow later) the return journey was equally smooth. I’d been given a card with instructions on what to do when I landed, namely text my booking reference to a phone number and then follow signs for the off-airport buses. A short wait at the bus stop later and then the transfer bus arrived to take us back to the APH car park.

transfer bus airport parking
The transfer takes around 12 minutes to Gatwick Airport

Overall the whole process was very smooth and there were no hiccups on the way. It’s definitely an option to consider, although people with children or lots of luggage might prefer an on-airport car park or even a meet and greet service where you just drop your car off at the terminal itself, cutting out the transfer buses. However there’s no denying that at around £100 for a hotel stay and a week’s worth of parking (prices vary depending on time of year) it’s very good value compared with parking-only options which are of a similar prices but without the night in the hotel beforehand. Whatever you decide – enjoy your holiday!

My hotel stay and car parking were courtesy of APH hotels. Airport Parking and Hotels (APH.com) offers a wide range of parking and hotel options at major airports in the UK. One week of parking at APH Gatwick with an overnight stay at Crowne Plaza Felbridge Gatwick costs from just £102 per room. Price is based on travel in June 2019. To book, visit www.aph.com or call 01342 859442.

Also travelling from London Gatwick? Here’s a link to some other hotels recommended by APH: https://www.aph.com/community/holidays/gatwick-guru-aph-gives-the-lowdown-on-gatwicks-best-airport-hotels-for-different-types-of-travellers/

Plus how about some ALadyofLeisure.com favourites? If you stay at one of these before your flight, it’s like having an extra holiday…

Just 9 minutes away from Gatwick…

Langshott Manor, Surrey: regal luxury in an Elizabethan manor house

20 minutes away from Gatwick…

Gravetye Manor – fabulous foodie heaven in a beautiful setting

31 minutes away from Gatwick…

Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club: a classic country retreat



Bond, Bridget and me: my stay at Stoke Park luxury hotel

It’s where James Bond beat Goldfinger in possibly the most famous golf match in cinema history, where Bridget Jones ditched singleton life for a weekend away with boss Daniel Cleaver and where Teri Hatcher and Pierce Brosnan (as another Bond) danced the night away in Tomorrow Never Dies, so a stay at Stoke Park luxury hotel and country club certainly comes with high expectations.

stay at Stoke Park luxury hotel view from tennis courts
The Grade-1 listed hotel was built in 1908 and is instantly recognisable from its many film appearances

Thankfully the five-star, 111-year old hotel is more than able to live up to its reputation and manages the tricky task of combining country house hotel relaxation and country club sporting energy with aplomb. Continue reading Bond, Bridget and me: my stay at Stoke Park luxury hotel


The Good Hotel Guide’s 10 beautiful hotels with pools for the summer

Guest post from the best-selling Good Hotel Guide – their top 10 beautiful hotels with pools for the summer

Summer’s here and with any luck we’ve all got summer holidays booked in. Come rain or shine, no holiday would be complete without a little swimming included, even if the sun doesn’t always shine on a UK holiday. Helping us to relax and unwind from spas to outdoor swimming pools, here the Good Hotel Guide shares 10 of their most beautiful hotels with pools… (for more pools in the Good Hotel Guide check out https://www.goodhotelguide.com/hotels-with-pools/)

Hartwell House, Aylesbury
swimming pool at Hartwell House beautiful hotels with pools for the summer
The indoor pool at Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire

This exquisite Jacobean mansion was once the refuge of the exiled Louis XVIII and his court. Today it continues to be fit for royalty and that includes the leisure facilities. The spa includes a pool that’s in a space fit to be a ballroom. Complete with Neo classical statues in a building within the grounds of the hotel, it’s a little haven of pampering complete with a spa bath, steam room, saunas and treatment rooms where therapists use Aromatherapy Associates products. 

Read ALadyofLeisure.com’s review of Hartwell House here

Hambleton Hall, Oakham
gardens at Hambleton Hall beautiful hotels with pools for the summer
The stunning grounds at Hambleton Hall overlook Rutland Water

Surrounded by landscaped gardens, this hotel is a place where everything is done to perfection. Somewhere to visit with your partner because it’s exquisitely romantic, everything from the ornate fabrics to the home grown fruit and veg is a treat. Part of the experience is enjoying your leisure time, and as such the hotel has an outdoor pool that’s nestled in a secluded spot under mature trees with space to relax on a lounger around it.

Read ALadyofLeisure.com’s review of Hambleton Hall here

Chewton Glen, New Forest
Chewton Glen loungers beautiful hotels with pools for the summer
Chewton Glen in the New Forest has an award-winning spa

Chewton Glen is known for many wonderful things. Croquet on the lawn, luxurious treehouse suites, exquisite food, and its exquisite spa. Complete with a 17 metre indoor pool, hydrotherapy spa pool, a nail studio, aromatherapy saunas, crystal steam rooms and twelve individual treatment rooms, they also offer more than 50 spa therapies. That’s in addition to the tennis courts, dance studio, gym and nine hole golf course at your disposal.

Read ALadyofLeisure.com’s review of Chewton Glen here

Middlethorpe Hall and Spa, York
Middlethorpe hotel
Middlethorpe Hall in Yorkshire has a separate spa set in two Edwardian cottages

A red brick National Trust mansion, Middlethorpe Hall and Spa is a pretty, elegant and uplifting 17th century pile that offers the best of old world elegance as well as contemporary hospitality. Very much somewhere you can imagine the landed gentry coming for their country retreats, it includes a spa set in its own private garden opposite the hotel, and made up of two Edwardian cottages.  It includes a gym, a large indoor swimming pool with views onto the enclosed garden, a spa bath, steam room and sauna as well as offering treatments and personal training for total relaxation.

Porth Tocyn Hotel, Abersoch
Porth Tocyn
Porth Tocyn is on the Welsh coast – but has a heated outdoor pool for a swim in comfort

A welcoming Welsh retreat on Cardigan Bay, this family friendly hotel is a homely space brimming with fresh flowers, log fires, cosy nooks, and lots of books and trinkets. There’s a joyful eccentricity about it that children in particular love, and for those not quite prepared to brave the sea for a swim, there’s a heated outdoor pool and superb afternoon teas to tuck into after that dip.

The Nare, Veryan-in-Roseland
The Nare swimming pool
The Nare in Cornwall has indoor and outdoor pools for a luxury break

On the Roseland Peninsular in Cornwall, The Nare is an old fashioned hotel in all the best ways.  With impeccable views of Gerrans Bay, carefully tended gardens, and filled with fresh flowers, it is simultaneously stylish, comfortable and welcoming.  Crucially, you will never be short on things to do. Aside from being a stone’s throw from the beach, the hotel’s yacht and elegant motor launch is available for use or skippered charter, and their classic Morgan sports car, which you can take out for a jaunt. There’s also a spa, a heated outdoor pool that’s open seasonally, an indoor pool with its own jet stream, a hydrotherapy pool, and an outdoor hot tub. Pass the Champagne, you’re in for a treat.

Bedruthan Hotel and Spa, Cornwall
Bedruthan pool
Another Cornish treat, Bedruthan hotel is just minutes from a sandy beach

An award-winning, four star hotel, Bedruthan Hotel and Spa is a superbly elegant escape for families, offering the best of all worlds.  Contemporary and stylish, it has pampering for mum and dad and caters to families with a kids club and activities, swimming pools and surf lessons available. The hotel is perched just above the beach, so you don’t have to go far to reach soft sand that’s perfect for building sandcastles.

Cliveden House, Berkshire
the swimming pool at Cliveden
With possibly the most famous hotel swimming pool in the country, Cliveden has recently updated its impressive spa facilities

Having hosted the Duchess of Sussex the night before her wedding, Cliveden has continued its tradition as a royal host.  The hotel, surrounded by National Trust grounds, has hosted kings, queens and politicians. It’s even known for scandal as well as luxury, with its pool playing a pivotal role in the Profumo Affair of the 1960s.  That pool in the walled garden is still very much part of the leisure experience today, alongside a spa with treatments named after former resident Nancy Astor, an indoor pool, two outdoor hot tubs, a fitness studio, tennis courts and a Spa Kitchen for healthy lunches.

Read ALadyofLeisure.com’s review of Cliveden House here

The Scarlet, Cornwall
swimming pool at The Scarlet beautiful hotels with pools for the summer
The pool and hot tub at The Scarlet boast some great coastal views

Best known for being amongst the best of luxury eco spas, The Scarlet is somewhere for special people in your life, and special occasions. Perched on a clifftop and boasting a hot tub with possibly the best views in the country, it is a bucket list destination of the highest order. The contemporary, glass-dominated architecture houses a spectacular pool that’s bathed in natural light, Ayurvedic inspired treatments, a rhassoul where you can slather yourself in mineral rich muds, and a relaxation room with cocoon-like pods hanging from the ceiling.

Cary Arms and Spa, Devon
Cary Arms and spa
The perfect summer getaway, Cary Arms is on Babbacombe beach in south Devon and has incredible beach side cottages

Brave the twisty and steep descent to this cliff face hotel and you’re rewarded with spectacular sea views and a hotel that feels as though it’s in its very own bubble.  Cary Arms and Spa is a warm and welcoming hotel where you can practically fall out of the hotel onto the beach and relax in chic beach huts, dine on hearty local fare and spend the evenings watching the dolphins go by from your private terrace or balcony. Meanwhile, indoors the seaside theme continues with large sea-facing windows, a waterfall hydrotherapy pool, relaxation area, steam room, sauna, exotic experience shower, gym, three treatment rooms and marine inspired treatments from the Thalgo product line.

Read ALadyofLeisure.com’s review of Cary Arms and spa here

Thanks to the Good Hotel Guide for this article – and are there any others which you think should be added to the list? Do you agree with their choice of 10 beautiful hotels with pools for the summer? Let me know in the comments!


Drama and country house charm during a stay at Kilworth House hotel

You don’t often hear the cast of a West End musical warming up when going for a walk in the grounds of a country house, but that’s what you’re likely to get during a stay at Kilworth House hotel.

The unique outdoor theatre in the grounds of this Leicestershire Grade 2-listed building means that not only can you enjoy all the delights of a night or two in a country house hotel – fine-dining, stylish rooms, great hospitality and country walks – but just a few minute’s walk through a wooded glade (or a buggy ride) takes you to a 550-seat auditorium which hosts productions throughout the summer months. Continue reading Drama and country house charm during a stay at Kilworth House hotel


Luxury on a grand scale at the five star Corinthia Hotel London

The first thing that struck me about the five-star Corinthia Hotel in London when I stayed there was how utterly huge everything is. From the vast central lobby lounge with its soaring dome and chandelier made of 1,001 crystal baubles, to the high-ceilinged pillared restaurant, to the  enormous breakfast room, huge ballroom, conference rooms and outside courtyard, everything at the Corinthia is super-sized. Continue reading Luxury on a grand scale at the five star Corinthia Hotel London


Medieval magic with a modern twist at The Swan hotel and spa in Lavenham, Suffolk

Returning to The Swan hotel at Lavenham in Suffolk several years after my original stay, I was relieved to find that it was just as lovely as I remembered it. This time it also had the added attraction of its new (to me) Weavers’ House Spa which had been seamlessly added to the original hotel and included an outdoor hot tub and treatment rooms as well as a steam room, sauna and relaxing conservatory. Continue reading Medieval magic with a modern twist at The Swan hotel and spa in Lavenham, Suffolk


Disco lights, friendly staff and great location at Point A hotel, Kings Cross, London

It might possibly be the first hotel room I’ve stayed in which had a ‘disco lighting’ option but it was typical of this Point A hotel, which was full of quirky, thoughtful and useful touches.

Continue reading Disco lights, friendly staff and great location at Point A hotel, Kings Cross, London


News, reviews and opinions on everything to do with leisure, from hotels and holidays to food and fitness, by national newspaper journalist and author Sarah Bridge

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