By Diane Small
With its sprawling gardens, heirloom furniture and glimpse into how life was lived in the past, it’s no wonder the hit series Downton Abbey sparked a fever for English countryside tourism. There are many fine estates in the UK that once served as stately homes, but have now been transformed into hotels. The Down Hall country house hotel is a good example.
This is a well-established, wonderfully preserved country house hotel in Hatfield Heath that really offers a bit of ‘Downton’ living, despite being a mere 45 minutes from central London. Dating all the way back to 1322, the Italianate mansion really is a sight to behold. Featuring luxury interiors, ornate ceilings, century old fittings and plenty of natural daylight, Down Hall and its 100 acres of surrounding woodland and parkland are truly a feast for the eyes. Particularly lovely is the spectacular fountain, which has been the backdrop of many fabulous weddings.
But the eyes are not the only things that can ‘feast’ here: The Grill Room offers a modern British menu bursting with the finest of locally-sourced ingredients. The food is so good, in fact, that it recently picked up an AA Rosette – but don’t just take their word for it; try it for yourself. There’s nothing processed here; just good, honest food comprising a diverse menu: think new potato and rocket salad; fresh mackerel with horseradish sauce; freshly baked tomato and herb quiche, and homemade carrot cake or chocolate brownies. When the weather is good, the hotel will pack picnics so guests can enjoy their food directly on the grounds.
Featuring Italian wood flooring and dark wood tables throughout, the restaurant’s antique decor is reflected throughout the hotel’s lounges, reception, and 99 rooms, some of which feature canopied beds, a la Lady Mary. What breaks from tradition, however, is the spa.
Choose from a wide variety of facials and massages to suit all needs, or get beautified with a manicure, pedicure or brow tidying session–perfect for both men and women. The product of choice in the spa is ESPA, which we were happy to hear is absolutely devoid of any chemical nasties. There’s also a hammam, pool and sauna to relax in, but if you feel like expending a bit of energy, the hotel’s gym is fully equipped with a wide selection of modern cardio equipment and weight stations.
City living can be stressful, and that can take a toll on our health. To recharge and relax, going back to simpler times at a fine estate like Down Hall, where your every whim is catered to as though you were a Crawley back in the day, is something we can certainly all benefit from.