Returning to The Swan hotel at Lavenham in Suffolk several years after my original stay, I was relieved to find that it was just as lovely as I remembered it. This time it also had the added attraction of its new (to me) Weavers’ House Spa which had been seamlessly added to the original hotel and included an outdoor hot tub and treatment rooms as well as a steam room, sauna and relaxing conservatory. Continue reading Medieval magic with a modern twist at The Swan hotel and spa in Lavenham, Suffolk
Lewtrenchard Manor is one of those classic country house hotels which actually feels like someone’s home (a rather impressive stately home, that’s true) rather than a hotel. Tucked away in the Dartmoor hills between Tavistock and Okehampton, Lewtrenchard Manor is a grand, historic building and has grand, historic rooms to match: there’s a sweeping staircase, wood panelling, stained glass windows, open fireplaces, tapestries and even a vast upstairs gallery full of books, antique furniture and a piano but which is long enough to serve as an indoor bowling alley.
That it is actually a hotel rather than a private home comes in little hints such as a reception desk, but even that is hidden out of sight when you first arrive at Lewtrenchard (there’s a lounge instead) and there is no bustle of staff here, no official notices, none of the paraphernelia of hotel admin which means you are left completely to your own devices.
If you fancy a drink then wander into the empty bar and someone will soon arrive to take your order before leaving you to it – and if you think there’s something familiar about a room featured in one of the magazines left lying around you’ll soon see it’s because you are sitting in that very room.
We arrived in style, in an Aston Martin DB11, and the ultra-modern car looked rather good at the gates to the Manor and outside the building itself, a Jacobean manor which dates back to the 1600s.
Having taken several hundred pictures we finally checked in and found our room, which was on the first floor just off the upstairs gallery. It was a good size, with a separate lounge/study, and was furnished in a classic if not overly luxurious style. The window seat was a great perch to admire the gardens and the bathroom was on the moderate size but still managed to fit in a jacuzzi-style corner bath and separate shower.
The brochure for The Montagu Arms in the New Forest encourages guests to ‘take your cue from the ponies: graze, wander and enjoy the quiet.’ I did all three during my stay at this 200-year old hotel and emerged feeling as relaxed and content as the beautiful ponies which roamed freely around the surrounding roads and meadows.
The picturesque village of Beaulieu (fittingly, the name means ‘beautiful place’) is tiny, and seems to have more ponies than people living there. A handful of Georgian cottages line the few streets but it is certainly far less built-up than its New Forest neighbours such as Brockenhurst and Lymington.
This means that The Montagu Arms, located right at the heart of the village, is quite a striking landmark, rivalled only by the 13th century Beaulieu Abbey Church which lies across the river.
The hotel’s charming and traditional exterior is replicated inside: this is no modern boutique venue but old-fashioned in the nicest sense of the word- the reception is oak-lined, the lounge with its view of the pretty garden was full of people enjoying afternoon tea and the overall atmosphere is of quiet refinement. Continue reading The Montagu Arms, Beaulieu: a New Forest feast
For horse-racing fans, the location of Ellenborough Park is hard to beat. Just a few hundred metres from the front door of the grand 15th century Cotswolds building is Cheltenham racecourse itself – and the hotel will even run you down its own private track to the course on race days in its fleet of Land Rovers, meaning you miss the crowds and have more time to study the form (or celebrate your wins).
Small wonder that during the four-day Cheltenham Festival itself, Ellenborough Park is one of the prime places to stay. However while the hotel does have a horsey theme – the suites are named after famous racehorses such as Arkle and Kauto Star – you don’t have to be an equine enthusiast to enjoy your stay here.
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Perched high on top of the hill overlooking Cheltenham and its famous racecourse, the hotel has a lovely country feel, an outdoor pool for the summer months and 60 rooms – some in the main house and others in separate buildings around a courtyard – designed by Nina Campbell in the classic country house style.
Staff are incredibly attentive – the moment I drove up to the gates the affable Tim zoomed out to valet-park my car and help me with my bags – and there was no shortage of people inside on a Saturday afternoon dispensing drinks and afternoon tea. Continue reading Ellenborough Park: the perfect place for a day at the races
The Arch hotel is not a flashy hotel. For a hotel which is seconds away from the maelstrom which is Oxford Street and just across the road from Madonna’s London home, the Arch is neat, calm, and quiet.
It doesn’t have the grand entrance or huge lobby of its immediate neighbours, the Montcalm Marble Arch or the Cumberland Hotel, but instead favours a far more refined welcome: a small reception with just the occasional burst of colour from the artwork on the walls.
The staff were efficient and friendly, escorting me to my room, where the air of quiet refinement continued. The furnishings are immaculate and the finish is impeccable: my room, an executive double, felt more like a small suite with a separate office space in the hallway, and the larger suites also come with their own mini-kitchens complete with hobs and microwaves.
There were some nice touches such as the modern smart TV which included the full Sky package including films, box sets and every Best Picture Oscar-winning film from the last 50 years. Continue reading The Arch hotel, London, unshowy but smart
As beautiful settings go, Ashdown Park Hotel East Sussex certainly has the ‘wow’ factor. Walking through a stone arch to the garden terrace, the view suddenly opens out in front of you: acres of rolling green countryside, two fountains bubbling away in a carp-filled lake at the bottom of the hill, an imposing converted chapel, the sweep of the hotel itself and colourful clumps of rhododendron bushes as far as the eye could see.
The hustle and bustle of the outside world just melted away and I felt as if I could just sit and admire the view for hours. Which, aided by a G&T and the Sunday newspapers, I promptly did.
Owned by Elite Hotels which also owns Luton Hoo, Tylney Hall and The Grand in Eastbourne, Ashdown Park, once part of Ashdown Forest, was built in 1867 by Durham MP Thomas Thompson, who when he died left in his will a black suit to each of his employees so they would be smartly dressed for his funeral. Continue reading Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club: a classic country retreat
It isn’t often you get to share a sink with Hugh Grant but the sign in our bedroom at Luton Hoo hotel and spa proclaimed it to be true: the rather quirky sink-in-a-cupboard in the corner was indeed the very same one that Hugh balanced precariously on in Four Weddings and a Funeral while some rather saucy post-wedding celebrations were happening in the room – our room! – outside.
While I was tempted to recreate Hugh’s famous perch, the fantastic view from our window was calling us out to go for a walk in Luton Hoo’s seriously large 1,000-acre estate. But then, as if by magic, there was a polite knock on the door and a bottle of champagne was delivered. That settled it. We would admire the view from afar, while pretending to be Hollywood stars ourselves.
Luton Hoo, it turned out, is no stranger to the big screen, having featured in a whole variety of features: as well as the mega-hit Four Weddings it can also be seen in War Horse, Eyes Wide Shut, Enigma and The World is Not Enough.
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However for such a celebrity location, Luton Hoo is far from diva-like and is in fact an almost perfect rendition of a traditional country house hotel, which is only to be expected from a building whose credentials are so impeccable that Winston Churchill addressed a crowd of 110,000 after the end of the Second World War and where the Queen and Prince Philip spent part of their honeymoon here in 1947. Continue reading Luton Hoo: a classic country house (with Hollywood glamour)