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
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
It isn’t often you plan on spending the night at a rather grand country house hotel and find yourself sleeping in a treehouse on stilts in the middle of a forest. But the treehouses at Chewton Glen, the five-star hotel and spa located deep in the heart of the New Forest in Hampshire, are about as far removed from the rickety wooden contraptions of one’s childhood (or Bart Simpson’s) as you could get.
In fact, they probably shouldn’t really be called treehouses at all, but maybe ‘luxury forest lodges’ probably didn’t sound, well, as much fun. The hotel’s own blurb describes them as secluded and romantic with the ‘exterior architecture in perfect harmony with the surrounding treescape’ and ‘on stilts, delicately balanced between the valley and tree canopy.’
I would probably describe them as ‘a really posh and gorgeous set of rooms which for some reason are plonked in the middle of a forest.’
They might be on stilts but thankfully they didn’t feel at all delicately balanced and indeed once you were inside, it was easy to forget that you were hovering several metres above the forest floor.
Spas in luxury hotels are big business and over the last few years owners have been making multi-million pound investments in providing the latest in pampering experiences.
But like hotel bedrooms, hotel spas come in all shapes and sizes and if you’re expecting a proper swimming pool then a hot tub and a massage table just really isn’t going to cut it. So here are some of the best luxury hotel spas I’ve been to – proper swimming pool guaranteed!
The owners invested millions in the spa at Lucknam Park and it shows. There’s a 20 metre indoor pool which leads to an outside hydrotherapy pool and sunbathing terrace, while back indoors alongside the pool are a whole variety of little cabins housing the sauna, steam room, tepidarium and even a Japanese salt room and an amythest room. There’s a restaurant and bar next door where you can pad about in your fluffy robes feeling all warm and cosy.
Constantly making the ‘best spas in the UK’ lists, the hotel’s leisure facility boasts a 17 metre indoor swimming pool, one of the largest hydrotherapy pools in Europe, a steam room, sauna and jacuzzi and various treatment rooms offering anything from reiki and hot stone massages to oxygen facials and Manipura body treatments. I had an extremely pleasant full body massage (one hour, £96) and what made it memorable was the womb-like warm and dark treatment rooms which were incredibly relaxing. Continue reading Which are the top luxury hotel spas around? Here’s some of the best to get you in the mood
From Michelin-starred dining to London’s most decadent pancake, grand country houses, brand new cruise ships, boutique hotels and celebrity hangouts (not to mention cocktail classes, private cinemas and hot tubs in the Cotswolds), it’s been a life of luxury for me and ALadyofLeisure.com.
I’ve reviewed just under 50 amazing hotels, restaurants, bars and holidays – which were read by several thousand unique readers a month, plus shared across Twitter and Facebook – and have loved writing about the very best of the British hospitality industry, from Llandudno to the English Channel and all points in between.
Huge thanks to all the venues that made such an exciting year possible (full list of reviews below) and looking forward to reviewing the best in hotels, restaurants, holidays, bars and all things leisure-related in 2016!
All the best,
Old-style charm in a perfect country setting – Bailiffscourt hotel and spa, West Sussex
Impossible not to love it – The Pig near Bath, Bath, Somerset
Relaxed country living – Huntsham Court, North Devon
Location, location, location – Compleat Angler, Marlow
A home rather than a hotel: Cheval serviced apartments
A relaxing stay in Queen Elizabeth I’s bedroom: Spread Eagle, Midhurst, West Sussex
A classic country retreat – Ashdown Park, East Sussex
Calm behind the commuter chaos: Amba Hotel Charing Cross, London
Fine country living: The Grove, Hertfordshire
A stay with the Downton Abbey factor – Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire
A classic country house with Hollywood glamour – Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire
Friendly, fun hotel on a budget – Qbic London City hotel, Aldgate
Fine dining and an £1,600-a-night suite – St James’s Hotel, London
£20,000 wine and the Judgement of Paris tasting evening – The Vineyard, Newbury
Discovering hidden treasures – The Stafford hotel, St James’s London
Fabulous foodie heaven in a beautiful setting – Gravetye Manor, Sussex
An oasis of loveliness miles from anywhere – Ynyshir Hall, Powys, Wales
An imposing building with impressive views – Bodysgallen Hall, Llandudno, Wales
A Capital place for a cocktail masterclass – The Capital Hotel, Knightsbridge, London
Unshowy but smart – The Arch hotel, Marble Arch, London
A wonderfully cosy Cotswolds hideaway – Barnsley House, Gloucestershire
A family-friendly escape in the Cotswolds countryside – Calcot Manor, Gloucestershire
Lunch with a view – Gillray’s Steakhouse and Bar, South Bank, London
A Hidden Culinary Gem – Bourne & Hollingsworth, EC1, London
High quality Italian food in Covent Garden – Four to Eight, London
Lacks Gordon Ramsay’s fire – Heddon Street Kitchen, central London
Hop this way for good food – Rabbit restaurant, King’s Road, London
Posh pancakes for Shrove Tuesday – The Botanist, Sloane Square, London
New England comes to Fitzrovia – Lobster Kitchen, London
Art and food at the Saatchi Gallery – Gallery Restaurant, King’s Road, London
The friendliest tapas in Mayfair: El Pirata, Mayfair, London
Pisco Power! Getting into the Peruvian spirit – Senor Ceviche, Soho, London
A lunchtime favourite revisited: Olivo, Belgravia, London
A hat-trick of Konik’s Tail martinis at London’s best hotel bars – Duke’s, the Connaught and Claridges
An indulgent evening – Jimmy Garcia’s Secret Garden in Clapham
Lunch at London’s latest hotspots – Kitty Fisher’s and Ham Yard Hotel
Smart, modern food with style – Percy and Founder’s, Fitzrovia, London
Hearty, meaty, boozy – One Sixty City, Liverpool Street, London
Loud, brash, bling and fun – Sexy Fish, Berkeley Square, London
Holidays and spas
Forget gambling in Las Vegas, it’s all about the food and drink – Las Vegas Uncork’d annual food festival
How to go solo without being lonely – Mark Warner holiday, Rhodes
My first cruise – a week on P&O’s new cruise ship Britannia
A holiday for the mind and the body – Skyros holistic holiday, Greece
First glimpse of Britannia, P&O’s new cruise ship
The Queen launches Britannia
A hard day’s relaxing – Nirvana Spa, Reading
Interviews published in The Mail on Sunday
‘My £125 million Travelodge transformation’ – Travelodge chief executive Peter Gowers
A coffee and a chat with Sir Rocco Forte on religion, politics and hotels
Sir Richard Branson on stunts, sky-diving, launching Virgin Hotels Chicago and being a grandfather
Travel pieces published in Mail Online
A relaxing stay in Nevis, an exquisite island paradise
Why Gravetye is fast building a reputation as one of best foodie hotels in the UK
No coffee, no sweets, but a lot of hiking on the NuBeginnings bootcamp in Devon
For those who love the idea of recently-reviewed boutique hotel Barnsley House (and who wouldn’t?) but are travelling with children in tow, its sister hotel Calcot Manor, just the other side of Circencester, is the ideal alternative. A country retreat with an element of luxury.
While you don’t have to have children to enjoy Calcot’s charms – lovely rooms, good food, massages and beauty treatments and so on, situated in the glorious Cotswolds countryside – you might find your morning swim isn’t quite as relaxing with small infants splashing about, or that breakfast time is somewhat louder than usual.
However the prevalence of small ones does give it a more relaxed and casual air: there is a pub on one side of the house – The Gumstool – and the bright and airy Conservatory restaurant on the other – and they are more in the ‘wear whatever you feel comfortable in’ category rather than the smarter dress code of a boutique or grand country house hotel. Continue reading Calcot Manor: a family-friendly escape to the Cotswolds
As beautiful settings go, Ashdown Park Hotel East Sussex certainly has the ‘wow’ factor. Walking through a stone arch to the garden terrace, the view suddenly opens out in front of you: acres of rolling green countryside, two fountains bubbling away in a carp-filled lake at the bottom of the hill, an imposing converted chapel, the sweep of the hotel itself and colourful clumps of rhododendron bushes as far as the eye could see.
The hustle and bustle of the outside world just melted away and I felt as if I could just sit and admire the view for hours. Which, aided by a G&T and the Sunday newspapers, I promptly did.
Owned by Elite Hotels which also owns Luton Hoo, Tylney Hall and The Grand in Eastbourne, Ashdown Park, once part of Ashdown Forest, was built in 1867 by Durham MP Thomas Thompson, who when he died left in his will a black suit to each of his employees so they would be smartly dressed for his funeral. Continue reading Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club: a classic country retreat