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.



Trying out Park House hotel’s new Germaine de Capuccini treatments

Fans of Germaine de Capuccini treatments in the UK will be delighted to hear that award-winning hotel Park House hotel and spa in West Sussex is the latest hotel to introduce the treatments from the skin care specialist.

Park House hotel West Sussex
Park House hotel is a charming country house hotel set in the West Sussex countryside

Founded in Spain in 1964, Germaine de Capuccini offers therapies suitable for cancer patients and people on intensive medication – which might lead to skin-related side effects – as well as anyone in need of a de-stressing spa experience.

indoor swimming pool Park House hotel and spa
The award-winning spa at Park House hotel has two swimming pools – one indoor, one outdoor – as well as a hot tub and plenty of places in which to relax
Germaine de Capuccini treatments in the UK

Continue reading Trying out Park House hotel’s new Germaine de Capuccini treatments

My stay at Cliveden House luxury hotel (favourite of poets, players and princesses)

Throughout my own stay at Cliveden House luxury hotel, there was one question which I found almost impossible to answer. Would Cliveden still be as fabulous if it wasn’t, well, Cliveden? Would it seem as special if it were just a very nice 17th century country house in which Winston Churchill and Noel Coward hadn’t stayed, for example? Would its gardens still be as pretty if you weren’t thinking that Lady Astor had strolled these very grounds with George Bernard Shaw and Charlie Chaplin?

And would the beautiful outdoor swimming pool in the walled garden still be quite as marvellous to swim in if – well, you get the idea.

Cliveden Meghan Markle Royal Wedding
This is the first sight of Cliveden and its bell tower as you come up the lengthy driveway
Cliveden’s impressive history

The thing about Cliveden is that it is almost impossible to judge it on its own merits by separating it from its quite incredible past. The Great Hall with its portraits and grand fireplace is stunning, but it feels even more so because you know that some of the most accomplished people in recent history have discussed art and politics over cocktails exactly where you are sitting.

It most recently hit the world headlines when Meghan Markle chose to spend the night before her wedding to Prince Harry and it would be nice to think she’ll get another chance to stay at Cliveden. While the luxury five-star Berkshire hotel with its 376 acres of stunning  countryside was no doubt a haven of calm for her before the madness of the big day itself, as a nervous bride-to-be I’m not sure how much she was able to take in of the hotel itself: its sumptuous rooms, its luxury spa, its fine-dining restaurant and most of all, the atmosphere of history and celebrity which is soaked into the very walls.

Cliveden House Megan Markle Royal Wedding
Cliveden is set in 376 acres of countryside, including some impressive ornate gardens
‘That’ swimming pool

The swimming pool would be a talking point in its own right, but it is particularly amazing to swim in because you know it is where John Profumo met Christine Keeler and precipitated a whole chain of events which scandalised the nation and eventually led to the fall of the Government.

Cliveden House Meghan Markle Royal Wedding
Yes, it’s THAT swimming pool…

The gardens and the drive leading up to the house are spectacular enough anyway without the backdrop of history to set them off, but there is a thrill which sparkles through the very air at Cliveden which makes a visit there seem far more than just a night away in just any old stately home.


To book directly with the hotel, go to:  Cliveden House hotel
To compare the latest prices for Cliveden House hotel on: HotelsCombined – Expedia Hotels.com
To read more reviews and for the latest prices click here to go to Cliveden House Hotel on TripAdvisor


A night in the Prince of Wales Suite

I arrived one balmy summer’s evening, tyres crunching up the gravel drive to the house where Sebastian the footman (I loved typing that) was waving me in. He kindly parked my yellow Fiat, which looked somewhat out of place in such a grand setting, and I was shown to my room, or more accurately, set of rooms. We had been given the £1,500-a-night Prince of Wales suite, named after Frederick, the eldest son of George II and it was, as you’d expect, incredibly grand.

Cliveden House Megan Markle Royal Wedding
Our personalised nameplate for the night

There was a huge entrance hall, in which a bottle of champagne was cheerfully chilling, a vast lounge with a spectacular view of the gardens, a bedroom ante-chamber, the bedroom itself and then a dark red bathroom decorated with intricate frescoes.

Cliveden House Megan Markle Royal Wedding
Our view of the stunning gardens from the £1,500-a-night Prince of Wales suite

There was an antique writing desk, a dozen oil paintings on the walls, a decanter of port next to the tea-making facilities, endless robes and fluffy towels and best of all, it actually felt like genuine, lived-in room in a country house, rather than a brand-new but rather soulless room in a posh hotel.

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If you like grand country house hotels then you’ll love:
Luton Hoo: a classic country house (with Hollywood glamour)
Lucknam Park: my very own Palladian mansion for the night
Hartwell House: a luxury stay with the Downton Abbey factor
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As I walked around and around thinking that this really was the life, I switched the radio on and the song playing happened to be the theme tune to Brideshead Revisited. It seemed extremely appropriate.

Cliveden House Megan Markle Royal Wedding
The lounge in the Prince of Wales suite – it’s smart but cosy and relaxing at the same time

My mum was my plus one for the night, and she was practically speechless. I wasn’t much more eloquent, wandering around saying things like ‘Wow!’ and ‘Look at this!’ until I decided to open the champagne and really get settled into the good life.

Cliveden House Megan Markle Royal Wedding
Our rather impressive bath in the rather impressive bathroom
Cocktails and Cliveden’s past

Downstairs in the Great Hall we drank gin and tonics with Cliveden’s general manager Sue Williams (who has since gone to work her magic at the excellent Whatley Manor) and, surrounded by portraits and tapestries, discussed Cliveden’s amazing history. It was built in 1666 by George Villiers, the Second Duke of Buckingham, and passed down the line before being sold by the Duke of Westminster in 1893 to William Waldorf Astor, a wealthy American who had decided to make England his home.

Cliveden Meghan Markle Royal Wedding
Cliveden at dusk

He later gave Cliveden to his son, the Second Viscount Astor, when he married Nancy Langhorne. It was thanks to Lady Astor and her love of gathering intellectuals and artists around her such as Lawrence of Arabia, Henry James, George Bernard Shaw, Amelia Earhart and the most notable politicians of the day such as Churchill and Macmillan that Cliveden became known for its parties and the Cliveden ‘set’.

cliveden house hotel reviews
The fireplace in the Great Hall with the John Singer Sargent portrait of Lady Astor in the far corner
From scandal to student digs

After the Profumo scandal which saw the Cliveden name dragged through the mud, the Astors decided it was time to depart. The house, which they had previously given to the National Trust on condition they could still live there, rather incongruously became on overseas campus for Stanford University, and students still return nowadays to check out their old digs.

In the late 1980s it was converted into a hotel and after several years languishing in obscurity, it was leased by property developers Ian and Richard Livingstone who have spent upwards of £20 million restoring it to its former glory.

cliveden house hotel reviews
It’s all very Downton…the old servants’ bells, sadly no longer in use

After a quick tour of the house, including a newly-refurbished bust-lined hall, Lady Astor’s boudoir and the totally over-the-top French Dining Room based on Madame de Pompadour’s own, it was time for dinner in the terrace dining room. This is a light and airy long room overlooking the gardens – or parterre, as it is known – and has three chandeliers.

cliveden house hotel reviews
Madame de Pompadour had a dining room very much like this one, apparently
cliveden house hotel reviews
This is the more restrained guest dining room at Cliveden – just the three chandeliers
Dining at Cliveden

We started with the seared Isle of Skye scallops with pea shoot veloute, and crab with a basil bisque, coppa and melon, both of which were delicious.

The same applied to the main course of new season Devon lamb which came with lettuce, young garlic and an onion puree and boulangere potatoes, and it was all washed down by a very nice Portuguese red wine recommended by the sommelier. We finished off with mille-feuille with passion fruit, mango, fromage frais sorbet and I devoured most of the vast cheese board.

It was all rather sumptuous, but to be honest, sitting in the Cliveden dining room looking out onto acres of beautifully-kept gardens while the sun set over the Berkshire countryside, we could have eaten almost anything and been happy. There is something very calm and tranquil about Cliveden which makes you feel as if you have been transported back a century or two.

cliveden house hotel reviews
It had been rather a nice evening…

We finished the wine and some petit fours back in the Great Hall before retiring to our sumptuous suite, where we stayed up until 2am playing Scrabble, unwilling to waste our stay here on something as dull as sleeping. The twin beds (there is usually a double there) were extremely comfortable, and I snoozed on till past eight. However my mother, too excited to sleep, was up and out at six, exploring the grounds and the rest of the house as I slept.

cliveden house hotel reviews
The early-morning mist rolls down from Cliveden to the Thames in the distance
cliveden house hotel reviews
Cliveden and its grounds look great from every angle
Time for a morning swim

I had just one plan for the morning – a swim in the pool. I was the only one in there and the refreshing dip in the morning sunshine was the perfect start to the day. Would it have been as good if it had been just any old pool? Probably – but the knowledge that I was swimming in one of the most famous pools in the country certainly gave it an edge. Cliveden has since totally revamped its spa building and even won best ‘new or back on the scene’ spa at the recent Conde Nast Johanssen awards so is going from strength to strength.

Cliveden Meghan Markle Royal Wedding
I couldn’t resist an early-morning swim in the pool made famous by Christine Keeler

After breakfast back in the main restaurant, there was time just for a stroll across the terrace and around the grounds where the National Trust day trippers were already roaming, and then, extremely reluctantly, we said farewell.IMG_0248

Cliveden Meghan Markle Royal Wedding
A reluctant farewell to a remarkable hotel
Cliveden House Hotel, Clivedon Road, Taplow, Berkshire SL6 0JF
Phone: 01628 668561
Cliveden House is part of the Iconic Luxury Hotels group which also owns Chewton Glen and the Lygon Arms in the Cotswolds
Cliveden is part of Relais & Chateaux hotels
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To book directly with the hotel, go to:  Cliveden House hotel
To compare the latest prices for Cliveden House hotel on: HotelsCombined – Expedia Hotels.com
To read more reviews and for the latest prices click here to go to Cliveden House Hotel onTripAdvisor
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If you liked this review then you’ll love:

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

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

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

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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