Home / Country house hotels / Luxury after lockdown: a Covid secure stay at Fawsley Hall hotel, Northants

Luxury after lockdown: a Covid secure stay at Fawsley Hall hotel, Northants

After months in lockdown I was as keen to get back to doing hotel reviews as the hotels were to open, but there was an element of caution too. What would a hotel stay in the time of Covid-19 look like? Would it be like the scene in ET where everyone is dressed in hazmat suits and there’s plastic sheeting all over the furniture? This didn’t seem like my idea of a relaxing stay, but the other extreme, where people mixed freely, pretending that coronavirus never happened, didn’t seem like a great idea either.

fawlsey hall luxury hotel

The four-star hotel and spa Fawsley Hall is set within 2,000 of Northamptonshire parkland

Thankfully my first hotel stay in months was at Hand Picked Hotel’s flagship hotel Fawsley Hall hotel and spa in Northamptonshire near Daventry. This grand old county house hotel – and we’re talking at least 600 years old here – has withstood all manner of wars, plagues and famines and turned out to be perfectly capable of dealing with coronavirus as well.

fawsley hall exterior

The hotel has 60 bedrooms, including 11 ‘feature suites’ and massive Great Hall dating back hundreds of years

Set in acres of beautiful green Midlands countryside down a quiet country lane, Fawsley Hall is in a bubble at the best of times – like the best country house hotels – and made the most of its ability to create a safe and secure environment.

anti-bac at Fawlsey Hall

The anti-bac station outside the entrance to Fawsley Hall was unmissable

Unmissable by the front door was an anti-bac station – the first of literally dozens which were all about the site – and the moment we stepped into the foyer we were temperature-checked (receptionist Shannon politely wielding the gun) and then asked five Covid-related questions before being allowed in the hotel and shown to our rooms around the one-way system.

I would be temperature-checked at the spa too, and asked to wear a mask, and my bedroom had a sign confirming that it had been cleaned and sanitised.

I had to also book a swim time at the spa, which was a first – Fawsley Hall is allowing six people into the pool at a time, two per lane – and we booked not only times for dinner but breakfast too. Everywhere we went we saw anti-bac stations, and waiters constantly using them, and all in all it felt extremely safe.

Thankfully all these measures – vital as they are – did in no way detract from what is a really lovely and traditional hotel. Built by the prestigious Knightly family, who came over with William the Conqueror and whose descendants were knighted by various Kings of England, Fawsley Hall has hosted all manner of monarchs including Elizabeth I and Charles I.

My earlier fears about a too-antiseptic environment were swept aside on entering the Great Hall, and never has a hall been so aptly named. The ceiling is possibly one of the highest hotel lounge ceilings in Britain and still contains some original beams from its construction in 1537 as well as the original Tudor fireplace, where you can see the coat of arms of Richard I and the 26 knights who accompanied him on his first crusade.

Great Hall at Fawsley Hall hotel

The aptly-named Great Hall at Fawsley Hall hotel

These days the Hall is a popular place for afternoon tea and every socially-distanced sofa was occupied by friends and relatives enjoying a long-awaited catch up over scones and clotted cream, under the watchful eye of Tudor portraits.

The Great Hall is a popular spot for afternoon teas and at Christmastime there’s a massive Christmas tree in the hall.

It felt very fitting that I had bought with me Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy to read and in fact, my bedroom (Louisa Mary Bowater, aka room 42) was the perfect place to read it in – a vast, grand but relaxing space with not only a huge bed but a sofa, huge bay windows and a walk-in closet area so you could keep the main area pristine.

To book directly with the hotel, go to: Fawsley Hall hotel and spa
To compare prices for Fawsley Hall click on: Trivago – HotelsCombined – Booking.com
To read more reviews and get the latest prices click here to go to Fawsley Hall on TripAdvisor

My lovely room, Louisa Mary Bowater, was on the first floor and was vast, with huge windows (there’s a set of bay windows and a dining table which I couldn’t fit in the picture) and an air of tradition and opulence

Bay windows with original wooden shutters opened out to views of carefully planted gardens and the fields and lake beyond and the whole room exuded opulence and calm – perfect for Covid times. I had a peek into another room, Sir Francis Wolsingham, which was darker and more traditional in feel – four-poster bed and a lot more oak – so the rooms do vary in style and for me, room 42 was just perfect.

bathroom at Fawsley Hall

My en-suite was also of a considerable size, with free-standing bath, separate walk-in shower and lots of fluffy towels and complimentary toiletries

robe Fawsley Hall

My individual robe-and-slipper-and-lotions bundle

The bathroom was immaculate, with a roll-top bath, walk in rainfall shower, tonnes of large fluffy towels and toiletries and great views across the field to the parish church beyond. It was like going back in time to hundreds of years before coronavirus was even heard of.

My booked swim and spa treatments called so, as requested, I donned the robe and slippers in my room and padded across to the spa which is a minute’s walk from the main hotel building. There I was greeted by another temperature check, more anti-bac and asked to wear a mask during my back, neck and shoulders massage – another Covid first for me.

The indoor pool at Fawsley Hall

The indoor pool at Fawsley Hall.Up to six people are allowed to swim at any one time and there’s also a gym and outside hydrotherapy pool.

The treatment by the cheerful, visor-wearing Jodie was excellent – far more thorough than I was expecting – and I was completely unknotted by the time I headed to the pool for my first swim in months. Only two other people were swimming at the same time – we exchanged happy smiles at the novelty of it all – and while the sauna and steam room were closed, the large outdoor hydrotherapy pool was open and two people allowed at a time. I was so busy chatting about how lovely it was to be back in a hotel again to a fellow bather that Jodie had to come and fetch me for my pedicure. An hour of gossip (the masks no barrier to chat) and foot therapy later, me and my transformed feet were heading back to the hotel to change for dinner.

dining room at Fawsley Hall.

The dining room at Fawsley Hall. This picture was taken pre-Covid and there are far fewer tables here now due to social distancing.

Dinner was in one of several smaller rooms and probably the only room I thought could have done with a touch of improvement: it was very dark, not especially packed with atmosphere, and a few thoughtful design touches to give it a touch of life would work well here – maybe some quiet music or some better lighting. There was just one other table dining that night so social-distancing wasn’t a problem and it was more of a novelty than an annoyance to discover what Covid measures the hotel had put in place.

menu Fawsley Hall

The menu for dinner at Fawsley Hall. Menus as well as newspapers and magazines were also available on the hotel’s app

There were paper menus, no salt and pepper on the table and our waiter, Allen, apologised but said he wasn’t allowed to pour the wine or water. The menu, as in other Hand Picked Hotels I’ve stayed in, including New Hall and Brandshatch, was clearly written and a good range of modern British cuisine, and we started with Caesar salad and British charcuturie.

My excellent baked sea trout

Our starter of British charcuterie

I then had baked sea trout, brown shrimp, fine beans, parsley and caper butter, while my dining companion had 10oz Herfordshire beef sirloin with chunky chips. There was also an extra course thrown in with eggs confit. All were very well done indeed, the mains being particularly tasty. However the first time ever – I’m probably out of practice – I couldn’t even look at the dessert menu because I was so full, and indeed I had to go for a walk around the grounds after the meal before I was genuinely scared I was going to go ‘pop’. How lockdown has changed me! The upside was that it was a beautiful evening and I had the hotel and grounds to myself which was a delight for me but a shame for the hotel – many people are still understandably cautious about venturing out.

My morning walk took me along the quiet country lanes next to the hotel and over the fields along the Knightly Way footpath

My disturbed night’s sleep was certainly a result of over-eating and not a fault with the immense and comfortable bed, but it did mean that I was determined to walk off a few more calories before breakfast. On the dot of 7.30am I headed out for a the perfect Sunday morning walk; first down the winding lane to be greeted by dozens of grazing sheep, then across the fields along the well-marked Knightly Way, and then back across the neighbouring field to the hotel which contained the charming little church of St Mary the Virgin.

St Mary the Virgin Fawsley

Sheep safely grazing next to the lovely historic parish church of St Mary the Virgin which is the final resting place of many of Fawsley Hall’s former residents

The sign showing the Knightly Way footpath

A popular place for weddings – although you’d have to persuade the sheep to go someone else for a few weeks beforehand I’d suggest – the little parish church is the final resting place of many of the Knightley family, but sadly not of its copper roof which made headlines when it was stolen in 2015 – an appeal raised £100,000 to replace it. It’s well worth a visit though and is full of fascinating facts such as the bells date from 1440 and are possibly the oldest set of still ringable bells in the country.

After a palate-cleansing yoghurt and granola breakfast (there were many cooked options too but no buffet thanks to Covid regulations) it was time to head off to North Yorkshire to see how another hotel was coping with life after lockdown – but it couldn’t have been a better or nicer place to break my reviewing fast.

Fawsley Hall hotel and spa, Fawsley, Northamptonshire, NN1 3BA

Rooms start from £270 for a classic room and from £508 in a Master Suite.

To book directly with the hotel, go to: Fawsley Hall hotel and spa
To compare prices for Fawsley Hall click on: Trivago – HotelsCombined – Booking.com
To read more reviews and get the latest prices click here to go to Fawsley Hall on TripAdvisor

Hand Picked Hotels is a collection of 19 luxury hotels in the UK and the Channel Islands. Other Hand Picked Hotels reviewed by ALadyofLeisure.com are:

New Hall hotel and spa, Birmingham 

New Hall historic hotel in Birmingham with a spa

The historic New Hall hotel has its very own moat

Brandshatch hotel and spa, Kent

Brands Hatch Place review

It’s named after the motor racing circuit but Brandshatch hotel is a relaxing stay in the slow lane

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