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.
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.
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.
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.
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)→