A historic National Trust gem, just an hour from London
Hartwell House – a historic manor in the Vale of Aylesbury – wins the award for the most jaw-dropping hotel room. Hands down.
I’ve stayed in quite a few special locations, from fairytale cottages in rural Suffolk to sun-drenched villas on the Mediterranean, but I’ve never stayed in a room quite as grand as our royal four poster. The room, which once played host to members of King Louis XVIII’s royal household when he was exiled from France, was easily bigger than my entire London flat, and boasted six bay windows with impressive views of the hotel’s grounds. Bay windows that are perfect if you fancy pretending to be Jane Eyre while reading your paperback. Just saying…
Hartwell is owned by the National Trust, and upon arrival it feels just like a manor house temporarily opened to the public, but there are no roped-off areas. In fact, you’re positively encouraged to make yourself at home on the sofas in the grand hall, morning room and library. I spent hours wandering around National Trust properties as a child, so the six-year-old inside me found this very exciting.
A few minute’s walk (though not close enough to run in your bath robe) from the hotel lies Hartwell’s spa, which is also a must-visit. Housed in a bright and airy orangery, it boasts a large pool, gym, steam room, sauna, whirlpool bath and outdoor hot tubs that’ll ensure you wind down during your stay. I also went for an Aromatherapy Associates treatment. You know, just to make sure I was properly relaxed.
Dinner at Hartwell House is a super-refined affair. You can sip a pre-dinner drink while channeling Lady Mary from Downton Abbey in the drawing room while the kitchen prepares your supper. There are two menus to pick between, one which changes to suit the season. Both have a fixed-price two or three course option, but feel free to go rogue if you prefer.
We had the seasonal option which was clever, delicate and thoughtfully presented. And I must say, the rhubarb panna cotta I finished my meal with was easily the prettiest pudding I’ve ever, ever eaten.
Here’s the evidence:
Hartwell House and Spa, Oxford Road, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP17 8NR, hartwell-house.com