As befits a hotel which shares its name with famous motor racing circuit, guests to the Brandshatch Place hotel and spa are greeted with the hum of traffic when they park at the front of the hotel. Rather than superbikes and touring cars on the racing circuit however, the sound is actually coming from the nearby M20 but don’t worry – not a sound or squeak from the motorway actually penetrates the hotel or adjacent spa at all and a night in Brandshatch Place will see you securely insulated from the outside world.
The hotel itself predates the motor age by almost a century, being built by the Duke of Norfolk in 1806 and it remained a private home until 1977 when it was transformed into a hotel and country club. Now owned by Hand Picked Hotels, the 19-strong hotel company owned by Julia and Guy Hands, Brandshatch Place has 38 bedrooms and a restaurant plus a spa with a gym, indoor pool, hot tub, steam room, sauna and treatment rooms. Continue reading Relaxing in the slow lane at Brandshatch Place hotel and spa→
It isn’t often I embrace a hotel gym so wholeheartedly but there was something about the brand spanking new gym at Mallory Court which made it irresistible. England were playing rugby, so I could be inspired by their fitness feats from the treadmill, there was a lovely spa to sooth my tired limbs in afterwards and as we’d just come from feasting at sister hotel Brockencote Hall and were about to enjoy another hefty dinner here, it seemed sensible to try and work off a few calories in advance. And, excitingly, I had the gym all to myself, so I could pretend I was a millionaire working out in my own home.
All most unlike me, I have to say, and within a couple of hours normal service was resumed as I lounged in the outdoor hot tub and wondered whether to visit the pool, the steam room or the sauna next?
It was a bright February afternoon and the sun was shining on Mallory Court and its 10 acres, its gardens in hibernation now but promising to be stunning in summer. Mallory Court, part of the Eden Hotels Collection, is just a few miles from Warwick and its spectacular castle and was built around 100 years old, being converted from a family home into a hotel in 1976.
The key to a memorable hotel stay is a great welcome and such was my arrival at the excellent Maison Talbooth hotel on the Essex/Suffolk border was that within ten minutes I felt utterly at home.
The signs were good from the start, with a smooth check-in done in seconds in the entrance hall on an iPod, rather than having to stand at a reception desk filling out endless forms. Even better, once I was shown to my room I was invited to explore the rest of the 12-bedroom hotel as all the as yet occupied rooms had their doors left open, meaning you could have a good old nose around.
In hotels as individually-designed as Maison Talbooth, it’s great to be able to see what else is on offer for future trips (or even to change if you prefer another room which is free) and so I spent a happy half hour wandering between Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Betjeman and other poets who had given their names to each bedroom. Framed poetry from the bedroom poet was hanging on the bedroom wall, so being in Wordsworth, we got On Westminster Bridge and Daffodils, while our neighbours got Shakespeare’s sonnets.
If you’re going to spend the night in a castle, then it’s appropriate to look the part, which is why it felt very fitting arriving at the luxury hotel Bovey Castle in the heart of Dartmoor in a £150,000 Aston Martin DB11.
A trio of valets clad in tweed plus-fours sprang into action to help us unload our luggage and admire the car (and point out that we seemed to have acquired a fair amount of the Devonshire countryside on the DB11, thanks to the incredibly narrow lanes we took to get there). However there wasn’t long to spend drooling over the car. Quentin, our archery instructor, had arrived for our lesson. See what living in a castle does to you?
Five minutes later we had walked through some of Bovey Castle’s rolling acres and swapped our very modern motor for a rather more traditional bow and arrow. The patient and friendly Quentin took us through the basics of how to shoot safely and accurately, and now it was up to us to put it into practice.
I managed to hit the target more often than not and even fluked a shot to the gold centre of the target. Flushed with success, I moved onto rifle shooting. This was much harder, with the tin cans and hanging yellow bath ducks proving much more elusive targets, until my friend Lisa suddenly ‘got it’ and was firing away like a modern Annie Oakley.
I left her to it while I made my way to our room, and when she returned half an hour later she was so pumped from her pinpoint accuracy with a lethal weapon that she barely noticed what a sumptuous suite we’d been given for the night: number 50, which was so vast we could probably have continued our target practice indoors.
There was a huge lounge with a walk-in closet, a vast bedroom, an equally large bath with freestanding tub and the whole suite was imbued with the air of luxury that only plush furnishings, epic views, a decanter of sloe gin and an ice bucket of Champagne can give. I could have happily spent the whole stay in our room.
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.