Autumn weekend escapes
PUBLISHED: 13:42 25 November 2014 | UPDATED: 13:42 25 November 2014
It's autumn - Herts' countryside is beautiful, our towns are packed with cultural events and shopping, seasonal fare is being served in top restaurants and health resorts are thriving. So plan a relaxing weekend away before the Christmas rush begins, the perfect retreat is close at hand
Brocket Hall near Welwyn boasts one of Hertfordshire’s most delightful dining experiences – the award-winning Auberge du Lac restaurant. And rather than just eat and go, you can make a luxurious night of it for less than you might think. With The Auberge Experience package at Melbourne Lodge – the elegant hotel in the same grounds – you’ll dine in style and then stay the night. You also get a bottle of wine on arrival and breakfast the next morning. It’s £315 per couple, and well worth it. There are golfing packages too.
Radlett’s newest dining destination is The Pantry, the restaurant at The Red Lion Hotel, where its Foodie Club events are proving very popular. Most recently, they had a cider and food matching dinner, with tickets a very reasonable £19.95. At those prices, you might as well treat yourself to a night in one of the hotel’s 13 individually-appointed, very comfy bedrooms – a double starts from £85 per night.
The Wellington in Welwyn has a reputation for its trendy British cuisine and great selection of d’Arenberg wines, while upstairs you’ll find six equally pleasing rooms, boasting oak beams, open fireplaces and – in some cases – slipper baths. Prices start at £100 – but sign up to their newsletter for the occasional half-price deal.
Just a couple of streets away is the 4 star AA-rated White Hart Hotel, with 13 stylish rooms, including three boutique rooms with added luxuries such as a hydrotherapy bath. There is also a mouthwatering menu – including tapas and a range of platters – The White Hart knows its drinks - from real ales to a wine list with an impressive 15 ‘by the glass’ options, and even a cocktail menu.
If you’re looking for a real escape, there are some unique stays in Hertfordshire that are truly unforgettable. For vintage fans, The Pit-stop B&B near Bishop’s Stortford is a dream stay. Owned by the same couple who run the Morgan sports car hire shop next door, there are plenty of retro cars on display, and each bedroom is themed around a different era, from Art Deco to the Raj of India. Guests can enjoy breakfast in the fabulous 50s-style American diner and 10 per cent off car hire if they stay two nights or more want to take a Morgan for a spin.
Lovers of the great outdoors might prefer North Hill Farm in Chorleywood, where you can spend the night in a tree house. You reach the accommodation by climbing wooden stairs and then crossing a charming bridge from one tree to another. The forest-inspired décor inside is stylish as well as cosy. Breakfast is delivered to you in a hamper the next morning – and there’s even a little balcony on which to enjoy it among the birdsong. Prices start at £85 per night.
For a true walk on the wild side, try a Snooze at the Zoo at Broxbourne’s Paradise Wildlife Park. Imagine yourself in the wilds of Africa as you stay in an animal-themed room at the park and fall asleep with the sounds of big cats, monkeys and meerkats. The next morning you’ll enjoy breakfast looking out over the tigers in the Tiger Treetops restaurant, then get VIP treatment during a tour of the zoo. Prices start at £399 per couple per night.
Tankerfield House is a boutique B&B in the centre of St Albans that is steeped in history. The foundations date back to the Middle Ages, and the place is named after George Tankerfield, a Protestant martyr who was burned at the stake here in 1555. Today, Tankerfield House is far less gruesome, with a sweet, country-style feel to the guest’s pantry and elegant, spacious rooms overlooking the cathedral and other city sights. Prices start at a great value £70 per double.
Dating back even further, the 14th century Brocket Arms in Ayot St Laurence is a country inn with a delightful range of original features, including a priesthole with a tunnel to the nearby manor house, and even the odd ghostly sighting. There’s a warm and cosy feel throughout, with dark beams and open fireplaces, but the light and airy rooms still achieve a modern chic feel. Doubles start at £85.
On Baldock High Street, Templars Hotel dates back to the early 1700s, and retains much of its 18th century charm. The country-style rooms are simple but chic, starting at a very reasonable £55 per double, and a meal at the carvery will almost certainly guarantee you’ll be back again soon.
If you deserve some ‘you’ time, consider treating yourself to a stay at Champneys in Tring, where the pampering is combined with fitness and wellbeing sessions to really make you feel good. Set in a stately home, there’s a staggering 100 treatments on offer, with various classes and excellent gym and leisure facilities too. The sleek, contemporary rooms make for a luxurious stay – one and two night packages start from around £199 per person including meals and treatments.
The five-star Grove Hotel at Chandler’s Cross is a popular golfing destination as well as an award-winning spa, where the modern design of this converted mansion contains many a nod to the grandeur of its 18th century roots. It is set in over 300 acres of Hertfordshire countryside, so after achieving tranquility in the spa, you can enjoy a bike ride through the grounds, or even visit The Grove’s very own ‘beach’ facility. There’s plenty of packages available too.
You’ll also find spa luxury at Hanbury Manor, St Michael’s Manor and Luton Hoo – see below.
Hanbury Manor is a Jacobean country house nestled within fragrant walled gardens and parkland near Ware. The 18-hole championship golf course is accompanied by an indoor pool and sumptuous spa facilities, as well as four dining options, so there’s something for everyone. A golfing package, including dinner and breakfast for two, is around £264.
Enjoy a round of golf at Shendish Manor in Apsley before retiring to one of its beautifully decorated boutique-style rooms. The accommodation combines a timeless glamour with modern conveniences like air-conditioning and free wifi. The 160 acres of surrounding grounds are stunning all year round – and can even be enjoyed from the warmth of the glass-pannelled Orangery restaurant.
If you want a golfing experience in a smaller, more intimate setting, try Hunton Park near King’s Langley, a Queen Anne house within 22 acres of landscaped gardens. Rooms are in an annexe of the main house, and start at a modest £49 per night.
Also see Luton Hoo below.
Escape to the country
One of Hertfordshire’s hidden treasures is the tiny Springwell Barn B&B near Rickmansworth. Next to the Grand Union Canal and surrounded by nature reserve lakes, its two rooms are stunning, with gorgeous wooden floors and beams and Egyptian cotton sheets. You can borrow mountain bikes, canoes or rowing boats to explore the surrounding area, or stay in and enjoy the table tennis and pool table or just curl up in front of the fire. Double occupancy is £95-105.
Stay at West Lodge Park and you can enjoy honey at breakfast made by bees from the hotel’s own hives, as well as feast on fine dining at the Mary Beale restaurant. The real star attraction here however is the beautiful arboretum with 800 species of trees from around the world. Rooms start at £170 for a double, while diners in the restaurant on Sundays can stay for half price.
Tewin Bury Farm Hotel near Welwyn is set in almost 500 acres of countryside, and is home to a nature reserve, with a nearby hide to watch the wildlife. The rooms are pleasantly spacious and some retain the former farm buildings’ high ceilings and beams. Doubles start from £139. Stay on Sunday and you can have roast dinner included too.
In the pretty village of Datchworth, Coltsfoot is a stylish country retreat with 15 individually-designed suites packed full of luxury features, including under floor heating and grand claw-footed baths. There’s a healthy discount if you book online – a double is as low as £138.
A visit to The Sheene Mill in Melbourn near Royston is pleasant from the moment you arrive – the picturesque mill pond and gardens provide the perfect backdrop to a hotel full of historic charm. The design of the rooms gives subtle hints back to the 16th century water mill origins – and the finishing touches are exquisite. A double is £105.
The recently refurbished Three Tuns Hotel in Ashwell has a stylish yet homely restaurant, with art from a local gallery adorning the walls. The three guest rooms – which start at £90 per night – are individually decorated with pretty wallpapers and sumptuous fabrics.
Situated on Berkhamsted’s busy high street, The Kings Arms was once frequented by the author Graham Greene – and the hotel celebrates this connection by naming each of the fourteen individually-appointed rooms after a character from his novels. The bright and airy restaurant has an open-plan ‘theatre kitchen’, and serves a wide range of tasty meals. Doubles can be booked at £120.
Hertford’s Number One Porthill is an elegant Georgian townhouse just outside the town centre. It features in the Good Hotel Guide and has appeared in the top 10 in hotel features in both The Times and The Guardian. With splendid, romantically-styled rooms, famously friendly service and a resident labrador, it’s not hard to see why.
Also in Hertford, not far away from Porthill is Rigsby’s Guesthouse, which has an effortlessly stylish collection of seven rooms and the best homemade cakes you’ve had in ages. Don’t miss the afternoon tea. Rooms start at £85.
The county town really is spoilt for choice when it comes to gorgeous hotels, and Hertford House Hotel is another central location for a sumptuous stay. The 22 townhouse and loft rooms are contemporary and simple in style, but the deep-slung, stone-topped baths are not to be missed. A double room ranges from £55-94 per night.
With the benefit of a central St Albans location, Fleuchary House is also a surprisingly quiet, relaxing place to unwind after a day exploring the city. Owners John and Linda pride themselves on their welcoming, personal approach. The comfy rooms, which have an understated style, start at £45.
Opposite St Albans’ magnificent cathedral is the Clarion Collection Hotel. The grand hotel is housed in the Grade II listed Ryder House, purpose built in an art deco style to house the offices of Sam Ryder, the creator of the Ryder Cup. The contemporary rooms are snug but stylish, with king-size beds and plenty of modern amenities. Rooms start at £86.
Staying at Redcoats Farmhouse hotel in countryside between Hitchin and Stevenage feels very much like being lord of the manor for a night. It’s a cosy manor house decked out in traditional country finery, and you are treated like royalty. Each of the rooms is majestic and spacious, and dogs are very much welcome too. Doubles from £52.
St Michael’s Manor in St Albans has its own lake, and the grand grounds are matched by the classical décor. You can also use the nearby Verulam spa (by arrangement). Rooms start from £125.
The Manor at Elstree was the first Laura Ashley hotel, and the 16th century Tudor house is decked out in typically contemporary Laura Ashley home furnishings and décor - the feature rooms are particularly pretty. Rooms start from £95.
Hallingbury Manor near Bishop’s Stortford is another Tudor style manor with a modern, stylish interior. Many of the comfortable rooms overlook the beautiful lake and manicured gardens. Rooms start from £130.
Aubrey Park Hotel at Redbourn is a dose of urban chic set within glorious woodlands and offers up fantastic meals in the brasserie restaurant. Rooms start from £99. Do look out for frequent offers, including the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour package.
Hitchin Priory is a popular spot for afternoon tea, but this former Benedictine priory in the heart of the in-demand market town is also an idyllic escape, with rooms looking out over 19 acres of landscaped grounds. A double starts at a very reasonable £60.
Afternoon tea is another popular feature at Letchworth Hall Hotel, on the edge of the garden city, which can be had in The Grand Hall or the light-filled elegant dining room. The 17th century country retreat has original beams adorning the comfy reception rooms, and 87 bedrooms overlooking the eight-acre grounds.
Luton Hoo is the home of Jenson Button’s popular triathlon, but if you’re looking to unwind rather than compete, it’s also a renowned five-star hotel with a history of Russian aristocracy and movie stars. Stroll through spectacular grounds and retire to traditional country-style rooms and a feast of grand dining options. Rooms start from £280, but a romantic break (from £167.50 per person) is an unforgettable, decadent experience. It also provides spa and golfing breaks.
Five delights over the border
Hotel du Vin, Cambridge is one of the most beautiful examples of this UK-wide chain’s collection of wine-loving hotels. Rooms feature roll-top baths and lavish fittings.
The Windmill B&B, Thurleigh, Bedfordshire Stay in a converted windmill in an idyllic rural location. An unforgettable experience.
The Manor at Weston-on-the-Green, Oxfordshire Less than an hour from West Herts, this luxurious country hotel is worth visiting for the stunning landscaped gardens alone.
Down Hall in Hatfield Heath on the Herts-Essex border is a perfect dose of grandeur to brighten a dull November weekend.
Crazy Bear, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire Quite simply spectacular. The dramatic architecture and design of this hotel is breathtaking.