Category Archives: Hotels with fine dining restaurants

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

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

The Crown and Castle Orford – it’s a Suffolk spot of food heaven

The Suffolk village of Orford might be tiny but it packs in pretty much everything you’d expect from a classic English location. It’s got a medieval church – the massive 14th century St Bartholomew’s – a handful of shops (including an honesty box newsagents), a couple of pubs, a restaurant, a cafe and even its very own castle.

Continue reading The Crown and Castle Orford – it’s a Suffolk spot of food heaven

Maison Talbooth: an almost perfect stay at a lovely Essex country house hotel

The key to a memorable hotel stay is a great welcome and such was my arrival at the excellent Maison Talbooth hotel on the Essex/Suffolk border was that within ten minutes I felt utterly at home.

Continue reading Maison Talbooth: an almost perfect stay at a lovely Essex country house hotel

A festive round-up of the best luxury country house hotels for Christmas

Luxury hotels could be made for Christmas.  Think of the best luxury country house hotels for Christmas and instantly you can picture the festive scene: comfy sofas, roaring fires, beautiful decorations and acres of grounds for the Boxing Day walk (or a top spa for some serious pampering). A country house Christmas break is a real treat and even though it’s only August, people are already starting to book their Christmas hotel stays.

Many luxury hotels, especially the best British country house hotels, offer two- or three-night festive breaks which wraps up the whole of Christmas in a Christmassy package, often starting with welcome drinks, carol-singing and dinner on Christmas Eve, followed by a Champagne cocktail and Christmas Day breakfast, the all-important Christmas Dinner with all the trimmings, and then a Boxing Day buffet. Sprinkled among all this festivity will be  Christmas films, time for presents and the Queen’s Speech (Christmas at a luxury hotel is nothing if not traditional).

Added to this might be a luxury hotel spa, activities such as falconry, wine-tasting, treasure hunts, black tie dances, cocktail classes, Christmas games and quizzes (Father Christmas could even make an appearance) and probably the best thing of all: absolutely no washing up. You will be looked after, pampered, indulged and thoroughly cosseted and while all this comes at a price, well, it’s only once a year after all. However each hotel chooses to celebrate Christmas, you can be sure of three things: it will be memorable, it won’t be cheap, and there’ll be a massive Christmas tree. Feeling festive yet?

Below is a round-up of the best hotels for Christmas in the UK and what the best hotels are offering for Christmas 2019. [The prices are a guide only as Christmas offers vary, but it will give you an idea based on 2018 Christmas prices]. If any take your fancy then be quick as many of these will sell out  fast. Good tidings to all!

Cliveden House, Berkshire

best luxury country house hotels for Christmas
Cliveden House

The hotel: A 350-year old country house set in 376 acres of magnificent formal gardens and woodland, Cliveden is one of Britain’s grandest country houses and fittingly promises an ‘iconic’ Christmas house party. The hotel where Meghan Markle spent the night before marrying Prince Harry is a Grade 1-listed stately home complete with antique furniture and a thoroughly modern spa and guests can expect a Christmas celebration worthy of Downton Abbey.
The Christmas package: Christmas Eve starts with mulled wine and mince pies and a champagne reception with carol singers followed by a three-course gourmet dinner with wines, while there’s a three-course Christmas lunch with wines on the big day itself. On Boxing Day there’s a brunch buffet followed by a ‘butler’s tour’ of the stunning building, then dinner with wines and dancing.
Cost: Prices start from £3,585 per room based on two sharing.
Read what it’s like to stay at Cliveden here

Bovey Castle, Dartmoor National Park

best luxury country house hotels for Christmas
Bovey Castle

The hotel: A stunning but welcoming grand historic hotel in the heart of Dartmoor
The Christmas package:
Arrive on Christmas Eve for lunch and a host of festive activities including cider and sloe gin making, plus afternoon tea with carol singing.  The evening includes welcome drinks, a candlelit dinner and the opportunity to attend Midnight Mass at the local church. On Christmas Day take part in Bovey Castle’s scavenger hunt, then enjoy the beautiful scenery with a guided walk followed by a drinks reception and Christmas Day lunch.  A buffet will be served in the Great Western that evening, then a nightcap while a storyteller weaves tales in front of the fire. After brunch on Boxing Day, sign up for the golf tournament or a guided walk, enjoy ferret racing or nearest the pin golf competition, with hot chocolate and mulled wine. The day finishes with a five-course black tie dinner and entertainment in the Great Western Restaurant.
Costs: From £2,730 per person for a three-night stay based on two sharing
Read what it’s like to stay at Bovey Castle here

Ockenden Manor, West Sussex

best luxury country houses hotels for Christmas
Ockenden Manor

The hotel: In the pretty village of Cuckfield, 28-room Ockenden Manor combines the history of an Elizabethan manor house with a first-class modern spa
The Christmas package: Start off with an indulgent afternoon tea, a Sussex sparkling wine reception with carols around the tree then dinner in the elegant restaurant on shared party tables, Midnight mass followed by mulled wine and home-made mince pies. For Christmas Day there’s a continental breakfast, sparkling wine reception with canapés followed by a six course lunch, tea and Christmas cake, light buffet supper with harpist accompaniment in the evening. Boxing Day: Full English breakfast with Sussex sparkling wine, full afternoon tea with Christmas Cake and cocktails  before a gourmet dinner – plus full use of its award-winning spa and swimming pools
Costs: From £1,025 per person based on two sharing
Read my review of Ockenden Manor here Continue reading A festive round-up of the best luxury country house hotels for Christmas

My stay at Cliveden, a hotel fit for a Princess-to-be (and why I hope Meghan gets to return)

I really hope that Meghan Markle gets another chance to spend the night at Cliveden, the historic country house hotel where she is spending the night before her wedding. While the luxury five-star Berkshire hotel with its 376 acres of stunning  countryside will be a great 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’ll be 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.

Throughout my own stay at the rather fabulous Cliveden House 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

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.

Cliveden House Megan Markle Royal Wedding
Cliveden is set in 376 acres of countryside, including some impressive ornate gardens

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. Continue reading My stay at Cliveden, a hotel fit for a Princess-to-be (and why I hope Meghan gets to return)

14 wines at dinner and a spa to recover in: a memorable stay at The Vineyard, Newbury

Halfway through our meal at The Vineyard hotel and spa, Newbury, I was beginning to wonder if I knew as much about wine as I thought I did. Not only could I not guess what grape variety I was drinking or what country it came from, I couldn’t even work out what colour it was, this particular wine being served in a black glass which made the wine inside completely invisible. Was it rosé…? Or maybe it was red? No, it was definitely rosé.

The answer was white. This was worrying. If my judgement was all over the place now, what on earth would it be like after I’d tried all 14 wines scheduled for the evening? Thankfully by the end of the meal I was so replete and content that my success or otherwise in identifying the wines no longer seemed important – the evening had been so interesting and memorable that my lack of wine knowledge could be safely overlooked.

Vineyard hotel Newbury Judgement of Paris
The Vineyard, Newbury, site of a nightly recreation of the Judgement of Paris wine-tasting

The Vineyard – which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary – is a hotel serious about its wine. Privately owned by the Michael family, which also owns the highly-regarded Peter Michael Winery in California – it has an award-winning cellar (with a mere 30,000 bottles), offer 100 wines by the glass in its restaurant, hosts wine-tastings and wine courses and even wine-themed treatments at its spa (including its Red Grape pampering body wrap).

However it really stands out for its epic ‘Judgement of Paris’ wine-tasting dinner which aims to replicate the notorious (for wine buffs) event in 1974 when Californian wines went up against French wines in a blind tasting. To the shock of the French, and indeed much of the wine world, the Californian wines won the day, and oenophile Sir Peter Michael has recreated the experience at his hotel. Continue reading 14 wines at dinner and a spa to recover in: a memorable stay at The Vineyard, Newbury