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.
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.
A treat for golfers (if not Goldfinger)
More than half a century after Sean Connery and Gert Frobe traded insults over four-irons (there’s a corridor full of fascinating memorabilia about the filming of Goldfinger in the hotel), golf is still a major part of Stoke Park life. Golfers were out in force when I arrived at the start of my stay at Stoke Park, spread out on the course or crossing the winding driveway which led up to the hotel; I later found out that my visit coincided with one of its many popular golf days which explained the numbers.
If you are a keen golfer then you will be in golfing heaven here, with a 27 hole championship golf course which has been the inspiration for famous courses around the world, including Augusta in the US.
Click below to discover more great luxury hotels with golf courses:
However there’s more to Stoke Park’s 300 acres than just golf and guests can grab a map from reception and head off to explore the beautiful grounds designed by Capability Brown and later upgraded by Humphry Repton (after whom the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant is named), or just enjoy relaxing in the many lounges in the hotel itself.
The bedrooms – and Bridget
The main hotel building – called the Mansion, to distinguish it from the more modern Pavilion hotel – is a Grade 1-listed Palladian mansion, completed in 1795 and originally the private home of the Penn family, who gave their name to the US state of Pennsylvania. There are 21 traditional bedrooms here, many with four-poster beds and vast balconies, and if you want to replicate Bridget Jones’s night with Hugh Grant’s Daniel Cleaver in the film Bridget Jones’s Diary then ask for the Pennsylvania suite, one of the hotel’s top bedrooms with sweeping views over the grounds at the back to the hotel.
I stayed in the Coke suite (pronounced Cook), named after previous owners Lord and Lake Coke and found it to match Bridget’s suite in every way: there was a massive four-poster bed, a large sofa, writing desk, huge bathroom with freestanding roll-top bath and a massive balcony overlooking the putting green and course at the front of the hotel.
Well-equipped hotel rooms
The room was full of everything you’d need and expect from a luxury hotel suite, including Nespresso machine and kettle, two sinks and posh toiletries, lots of information about the hotel including some very smart looking books on its history, iron and ironing board, hairdryer, proper hangers in the wardrobe and a welcome fruit basket and selection of chocolates.
The spa at Stoke Park
I could have happily spent all afternoon there, soaking up the view from my balcony, but the spa was calling. This is in the Pavilion hotel, just a short walk away, which has 28 modern bedrooms but also where the spa and sports facilities are. I was surprised about how vast the sports side of things was – no idea why, when it bills itself as a country club and obviously had a thriving regular membership as well as hotel guests – but there was a lot to take in.
There was a vast gym, complete with ultra-modern body scanning machine, fitness studios (guests could join in the classes), indoor and outdoor tennis courts, an indoor swimming pool, hot tub and steam rooms (the steam rooms are in the changing rooms so couples won’t be able to steam together), a creche, a restaurant and outdoor loungers.
A mud massage
It was all rather overwhelming but when I arrived at the spa I was instantly looked after, given a shown the changing rooms and given my own locker stocked with slippers and a robe. I’d opted for a Thalgo Mud Ritual (55 mins, £95) which was a full body salt exfoliation followed by being covered in mud, a scalp massage and then being thoroughly moisturised. Unlike a massage, which is very relaxing but doesn’t last long, I still felt super-smooth days after so I’d highly recommended it.
Walking back to the hotel I discovered an usual trick of Stoke Park thanks to its unique material: it dramatically changes colour in the sunshine so every time the sun came out from behind a cloud I had to dash round to the sunny side of the hotel to photograph it. This meant several circuits of the hotel but at least it meant I worked up an appetite before dinner!
Fine-dining at Stoke Park
Dinner was in Humphry’s, the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, although guests looking for something less formal can dine in the Orangery instead. The menu was clearly laid out and offered a good choice, with starters ranging from scallops, trout, quail, ham hock and asparagus dishes and mains including halibut with squid ink risotto, ballantine of chicken with truffle and lamb cutlet and loin with sweet breads and black garlic.
I opted for the scallops followed by fillet of Brookfield farm beef, with pomme puree and bone marrow crumb, but before these arrived I was treated to an amuse-bouche of mini horseradish and beetroot blinis and a tiny seafood salad on a bed of chicory, served in a replica mackerel can. There was also the occasional touch of the theatrical as well, with my scallops arriving in a dome of wood smoke (which was evocative of warm summer evenings but didn’t seem to fit in with the scallop theme).
The dishes, as you’d expect from a triple AAA rated restaurant, were of a high standard and the scallops were particularly good, but overall, and this is me being really picky, lacking the ‘wow’ factor which makes for a truly memorable meal.
On the theme of being picky then, a few other points to balance this otherwise glowing review: I was surprised to find I didn’t get a turndown service in a hotel of this quality, so after dinner I spent quite a while wrestling with the sets of heavy curtains in my room (some people hate turndowns but I love finding my room prepared for night time). On the plus side however, I did get an extra newspaper in the morning in addition to the one requested.
Many doors leading to the gardens couldn’t be opened from the outside, so for example staff had propped open the doors leading from the Orangery to the terrace with a salt cellar so people could get back in, and some inviting steps leading up to the restaurant from the terrace led precisely nowhere. Finally, the plain beige carpet in the main lounge and Orangery did nothing but show scuff marks and I think the steps up to the hotel entrance could do with a bit of TLC to really make for a grand entrance.
These are, however, really minor points on what is a top hotel in Buckinghamshire and it really came into its own on the final morning of my stay. The Orangery, where breakfast was served, was been bathed in light, showing the grounds off to its best, and when I walked through the central lounge after breakfast there were already some very contented guests settling in for a full day’s relaxing. The hotel suddenly seemed very calm and quiet and belonging entirely to the guests which is as it should be. Having wanted to visit Stoke Park for a very long time now, I’m delighted that my stay more than lived up to expectations.
Hotel information and to book Stoke Park hotel and country club
Stoke Park hotel and country club, Park Road, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire
Room prices are from £240 bed and breakfast (Classic Mansion) up to £ 750 B&B for the Pennsylvania Suite). Stoke Park’s Master Suite is from £ 1,060 B&B. All prices based on two people sharing.
Every year Stoke Park hosts The Boodle Tennis Tournament where tennis fans get to watch world-class tennis players in action in Stoke Park’s stunning grounds, with Champagne, Pimms and a gourmet lunch making it a fixture on the summer social scene. Visit www.theboodles.com for ticket and more info.
Stoke Park luxury hotel and country club is a member of Small Luxury Hotels. If you enjoyed this review then do check out other reviews of Small Luxury Hotels by ALadyofLeisure.com including: