After being trapped in for hours in Bank Holiday roadworks hell, the five-star hotel Rockliffe Hall Darlington in in County Durham was a more than welcome sight. Set in 375 acres of parkland, the original building dates from the 1800s, but over the years the 61-room hotel has been extended to include a highly-rated 50,000 ft spa and three restaurants, two of which overlook its 18-hole Championship golf course.
Thanks to the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the A1, my visit turned out to be a flying one, with no time for a round of golf or even a stroll round the lush-looking gardens.
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However I could admire them from my vast hotel room, which had a huge bed, massive amounts of storage space, a separate bath and shower and French windows which opened out onto my very own patio.
When it’s hot in the city, your first instinct might be to run for the hills (or the coast) but just steps from the sweltering heat of Tottenham Court Road tube station, The Bloomsbury hotel is a great spot in which to cool down.
Its hidden secret is the Dalloway Terrace which runs along the side of the hotel: from the outside it doesn’t look like anything special, but those who ascend the steps will find a lovely two-tiered terrace with lush plants – the perfect place in which to shelter from the boiling sun and enjoy afternoon tea, a cocktail or two, or even an al fresco dinner as night descends.
My bedroom at The Gore hotel in Kensington was definitely one with the ‘wow’ factor. There were oil-paintings and gilt-edged mirrors and the bed itself was so vast and so high it felt as if I needed a footstool to climb aboard.
The epic theme continued into the bathroom which was decked out in a pink marble effect with pillars, a high ceiling and a loo which was more like a throne – possibly something that Gandalf might use. It didn’t look the most comfortable of seats but was certainly one of the most memorable conveniences I’ve seen in a hotel room – or anywhere else, for that matter.
While some hotels try and emulate the look and feel of a historic country house, the Gore hotel, which opened in 1892, can’t help but feel seeped in history. Many of its paintings and furniture date back to the 19th or early 20th century, although it certainly doesn’t feel tired or dated.
Calling a hotel ‘family-friendly’ often means that those travelling without children run a mile in the opposite direction, but the luxury Foxhills spa and golf hotel is so vast that all ages and groups can thoroughly enjoy themselves without crashing in on someone’s else’s peace and tranquility.
Set on a 400-acre estate in Surrey, handily just a few miles from the M25 and M3 motorways, Foxhills is such a size that your room key comes with a very useful map of the grounds. It’s perfect for sporty types as there are two 18-hole championship golf courses and a smaller 9-hole one, 11 tennis courts, three swimming pools (one indoors, two open-air) and a spa, all surrounding the main building, the 19th century Manor House.
I arrived in the pouring rain which meant that the tennis courts were empty and the clubhouse was packed with people who would have rather been out on the fairway. However in the classic British summer way, within half an hour the sun was shining and Foxhills was transformed. Check-in was quick and friendly and a jug of a refreshing non-alcoholic cocktail for guests was a nice touch.
It’s where Donald Trump and his family are staying during the Presidential visit to London and fittingly, 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 Corinthia Hotel London: luxury on a grand (even Presidential) scale→
With the wildly inconsistent British summer, I was extremely fortunate to have timed my stay at the Alexandra hotel Lyme Regis for one of the hottest days of the year so far. While the hotel would be a perfectly nice place to stay in during all sorts of weather, it really comes into its own when the sun is shining.
Overlooks the Dorset coastline
For a start, it boasts a vast lawn at the back of the hotel where guests and visitors can have lunch, afternoon tea or just soak up the rays on one of several cushioned loungers dotted about. Dinner is served in a long glass-walled conservatory which overlooks the lawn and is a great place to watch the sun go down.
Last week, at home, I had some of the best bread I’d ever eaten. It was a soft, brown loaf and tasted marvellous. Was it the ingredients, I wondered – organic wholemeal stoneground flour. Or was it the fact that I’d made the whole thing myself, under the expert guidance of the River Cottage cookery school? Either way, it taught me two things: one, that there is something really special about eating something which you’ve created from scratch, and two, there’s no way I’m ever buying a shop-made loaf again.