If you like visiting beautiful English stately homes but hate the queues, the drive, the parking and the general hassle which usually goes with such visits, then Bowood hotel, spa and golf in Wiltshire has the perfect solution: its own fleet of golf buggies will whisk you across its 18-hole championship golf course to Bowood House, home to the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne, in a matter of minutes.
You might arrive a little windswept but you don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot and even better, entrance is free for hotel guests. When you want to return, you merely ask at the ticket office and your mini-chariot will have you back drinking cocktails on the terrace at Bowood hotel before you know it.
The 4-star boutique hotel was opened just nine years ago and was the brainchild of the current Lord Lansdowne. We arrived at Bowood in glorious sunshine, so having dropped our bags off at the hotel, we wasted no time in jumping in a buggy to make the short drive (stopping for the occasional golfer to take a shot) to explore Bowood House.
Bowood House is a Grade 1-listed Georgian country house built in 1725 and has been home to the aristocratic Lansdowne family since it was purchased by the 1st Earl of Shelburne in 1754. With interiors by Robert Adam and a garden designed by the famous Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, the house itself is full of history – Joseph Priestly discovered oxygen in the chapel here in 1774 and it contains hundreds of years of family treasures.
It’s also the perfect size to explore in an afternoon, from its sweeping grounds with an endless lake, to the tapestries and sculptures inside. There’s even an impressive adventure playground where children can expend energy while parents and grandparents soak up the sunshine and an 300-year old arboretum with more than 360 species of tree and which is a spectacular riot of colour in the Autumn – perfect for a spot of New England-style ‘leaf peeping’.
After thoroughly immersing ourselves in the experience (literally in the case of my friend who, entranced by the lake, fell into a nearby bog and had to dry off in the loos) we golf-buggied back across to the 43-room Bowood hotel, our home for the night.
The hotel is positioned perfectly so that its sweeping terrace catches the afternoon rays and we relaxed with G&Ts and the Sunday papers while watching golfers finish their rounds for the day. Our modern and smart bedroom also overlooked the golf course and surrounding countryside which made for a very relaxing view, and even after just a few hours there we felt very much at home.
While it has the grounds of a posh country hotel hotel, complete with an imposing gate house and sweeping drive through the grounds, Bowood is more informal than you might expect, with many visitors here for the golf, Bowood House or just a spa weekend away.
However that’s not to say there weren’t the personal touches and high quality of service that you’d expect from grander hotels: there are wellies in the entrance hall for guests to borrow and the daily newsletter delivered to our room had the weather forecast, golf and spa availability and suggestions of things to do in the local area.
Dinner in the hotel’s Shelburne restaurant was a relaxed affair, with hearty traditional food rather than fine-dining. We started with Cornish mackerel and dill rillettes (£10.50) and scallops with broad beans (£13) and then had impressively-sized portions of Welsh lamb with roasted turnips (£23) and guinea fowl supreme with bacon mash (£20.50) – all were excellently cooked.
Being a Sunday evening we had the restaurant almost to ourselves and after sharing a plate of local cheeses we had a relatively early night – there was the spa to check out the next morning.
As well as a 16-metre swimming pool – it’s indoor but feels outdoor as it has all-round views of the ground and golf course – there’s a sauna, steam room, spacious gym and treatment rooms offering massages, facials, manicures and pedicures. I had an excellent one-hour Sundari facial (£80) which exfoliated, massaged and moisturised leaving me ready to face the journey home.
Bowood hotel, spa and golf resort, Derry Hill, Calne, Wiltshire, SN11 9PQ
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