There’s no place like the stately homes of England for a deliciously decadent taste of country life as it was in the pampered days of yore. Fortunately so many have been turned into luxurious hotels by now that you can savor the feeling even if you aren’t to the manor born.
Here’s a trio of super-stars where the picturesque settings and solicitous care are hard to beat – including a lesser-known find with a 200-year-old Canadian connection and surprisingly affordable prices.
They’re all within easy touring distance of each other in the scenic southeast, but all delightfully different in their soothingly quiet way.
BEAUPORT PARK HOTEL
Near Hastings, East Sussex
One doesn’t expect to find a stately English home named after a remote village in Canada in 1763.
But Beauport Park in Sussex was called after Quebec’s Beauport, instead of the more usual other way around, by Gen. James Murray. He fell in love with the beguiling pioneer settlement when he was Governor of Quebec and later Governor of Canada, and wanted something to remind him of it after he returned to his home in England.
Stroll through the 33 acres of private woodland surrounding the handsome Georgian manor that is now Beauport Park Hotel, and you’ll know how it must have felt when Murray lived there – except that he owned 2,000 acres then.
The original mansion was swept by fire in the 1920s, but restored in almost identical style. And except for a thoroughly modern swimming pool, the formal gardens where you can loll the day away when the weather co-operates are just as they were too.
You can relax by a roaring log fire in the elegant lounge on cooler days. Or putter round the putting green, play tennis, golf or squash; or join the horsey set for a brisk trot along quiet country lanes.
It must be admitted that the food served in the romantic dining room overlooking the statue-studded Italianate terrace isn’t up to the haute cuisine peaks that have won the other two hotels in this trio their clusters of stars and mentions in so many Best Restaurants of the World lists. But it’s remarkably good by most country hotel standards – they dote on flambes and prepare them with loving flourish.
Their prices aren’t up to the high standards of the other two either. It’s about $96 a night for two in a regular bedroom, which includes such nice touches as hair dryers, trouser press and tea-makers along with the usual modern conveniences; up to $124 for a suite with a four-poster bed.
Beauport Park is halfway between the twin-named towns of Battle and Hastings (close by the site of the Battle of Hastings). If you aren’t driving it’s easier to find a cab for the five-kilometer drive from busier Hastings. But if you’re going on by train when you leave, get the hotel to arrange for a cab to Battle – it’s a shame to miss the quaint old railway station in a converted church there.
CHEWTON GLEN HOTEL
Near New Milton, Hampshire
You can’t say the nice people who run the Chewton Glen Hotel don’t do everything they can to make life easy for you.
They know many of their jet-set guests pick up a drive-yourself car when they arrive at the airport, to go to Chewton Glen. They also know how tiring unfamiliar roads can be after a long flight. So they thoughtfully suggest you have your drive-yourself car delivered directly to the hotel “to await your arrival,” and they’ll send their chauffeur-driven Jaguar to meet you at the airport and whisk you to their sumptuous Hampshire hideaway bordering the New Forest “so you can complete your journey in calm and comfort.”
It costs $290 from Gatwick, $250 from Heathrow. But it does mean you arrive in style as well as calm comfort.
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