We escaped the capital city and put our feet up at the countrified stately home of Hartwell House in Aylesbury
Gazing out over the manicured grounds from a wood-panelled suite the size of several studio flats, I felt very Lady Mary Talbot (Downton Abbey) on arrival here. And, settling into this National Trust-owned, 46-bedroom Jacobean and Georgian country pile, an hour’s drive north-west of London, that feeling grew all the stronger. Because the real draw of Hartwell House, which served as the French royal court for the exiled Louis XVIII during the Napoleonic years, is its authenticity: lounging about in any of its grand public rooms, you get a realistic feeling of what it would be like to live in such a grand, ornate edifice in centuries past – the oldest part of Hartwell House dates back to the early 17th century.
Staff are attentive but in a congenial, rather than starchy way; the beds cocoon you in a warm, silky cloud; the food is unfussy and consistently delicious. And then there are its business liaison credentials, which drew heavyweights of global finance here for a 2013 G7 summit meeting. The meeting rooms, which accommodate between 16 and 90, are neatly appointed, while the hotel’s regular arboretums – walks during which you identify tree specimens – make for a refreshing break from the work-related exchanges.
Near the main building a beautiful spa with a pool offers guests further opportunity to unwind. Housed in a beautiful orangery, Hartwell Spa has all the pampering essentials, including an all-weather hydrotherapy hot tub situated on the sun terrace. Its 28 hydro jets that massage and soothe the body are a welcome treat after a trip to the spa gym, while the generous Aromatherapy Associates’ treatment menu only adds to your elation. Read the full review of my spa experience here.