“Why wouldst thou leave calm Hartwell’s green abode…Apician table and Horatian Ode?”
– Lord Byron 1814 of Louis XVIII’s departure for France to assume his throne.
I can see what Byron means. Hartwell is exquisite.
Hartwell House and spa is a beautiful, quintessentially British hotel nestled in the Buckinghamshire countryside. The stately home houses 48 expertly designed rooms all filled with paintings, antiques and treasures as well as a relaxing spa and pool.
When we arrived we were greeted by several smiling faces at reception and we were shown to our room by David who told us lots of facts about the building and its previous lives. For example, before becoming a hotel the stately home was a girl’s finishing school in the 1960s as well home to Louis XVIII of France for five years during the 1800s. It wasn’t until 1989 that the house was run as a hotel and became part of the Historic Hotels Group.
We stayed in one of seven Royal Rooms located on the first floor of the Main House, which overlooked the impressive grounds. It was filled with period features and antique knick knacks as well as a very comfortable queen-sized bed, writing desk and sofa. We also had a note from Director and General Manager, Matthew Johnson and some homemade shortbread in our room, which was a very welcome treat when we arrived.
The en suite was finished in a modern way, but had features in keeping with the 17th century decoration. I really didn’t want to leave the bath I ran, but I managed to tear myself away from the bubbles and read through the pack of information left for us in my Hartwell House robe and slippers before we left for dinner.
I could have spent the whole day staring wistfully out of the enormous windows pretending I was in a 1920s story, but I dragged myself away from the view to go and walk around the glorious 90 acre grounds. We grabbed the map from the pack left in our room and made our way outside to see what we could find.
Designed in the 1800s by a contemporary of Capability Brown, Richard Woods, the garden now boasts a huge selection of plants and trees and Head Gardener Richard Jones provides as much fresh produce for the restaurant as possible from the vegetable gardens and orchard.
We walked past a beautiful river with swans, geese and ducks offering a pleasant soundtrack to our sunny wander. The gardens are designed in a formal style and include avenues of trees, buildings, obelisks and statues and we had a great time getting lost and happening across different things.
Once we’d changed for dinner we made our way down the extraordinary staircase to the bar and dining room. The balustrade is flanked with 400 year old carved wooden statues, which make you feel that bit more special as you head down for dinner!
After being shown to the Morning Room, our gin and tonics were brought to us with a selection of nibbles and canapes (a delicious croquette and a smoked salmon bruschetta each).
Our very attentive waiter offered us the menus and I ignored my boyfriend for a good 15 minutes while I took in everything that was on offer! We moved to the dining room, decorated in a sunny yellow with pristine tables dressed with bright white cloths. I finally plumped for scallops with cucumber and squid ink crackers to start, guinea fowl with pancetta, wild mushrooms, spinach and baby onions for main and a delicious, melt in the mouth chocolate fondant served with caramelised banana, hazelnut brittle and banana ice cream to finish. My boyfriend was much more decisive and chose the chicken cannelloni served with a crispy quail’s egg and mushrooms to start, Aylesbury duckling with parsnip puree, baby vegetables, fondant potato and anise jus for main and lemon tart served with mascarpone ice cream, stem ginger and a sesame seed tuile for desert.
We retired back to the Morning Room for tea and our lovely waitress brought us a selection of sweetmeats to try, a passionfruit macaron, blackberry jelly and a caramel truffle. Even though we’d had so much food already these were too tempting not to have and actually they rounded off our wonderful meal very nicely.
Before we retired, we had a look around some of the other rooms on the ground floor. As it was a Sunday night it the hotel was fairly empty which made for much better photos! Being a bookworm the library was my favourite. A dimly lit, brooding, but exquisitely decorated room, the library has several floor to ceiling bookcases filled with row upon row of dusty titles – I loved it!
The next morning, the complimentary tea that we’d ordered the day before arrived promptly at eight o’clock (I was in the incredible shower at this point though, deliberating whether I could get one installed in my flat…). We finished the rest of the shortbread left from the day before then headed downstairs for breakfast. Setting ourselves up for the day with fruit and yoghurt from the breakfast bar, I ordered scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, while my boyfriend went for a selection of things from the full English menu.
We sat in an alcove facing the large windows looking towards the gardens and the yellow walls really did make the already very sunny morning brighter!
After breakfast we headed down to reception to check out, where Director and General Manager Matthew personally greeted us and asked about our stay which was a lovely touch.
My spa treatment was a Bioeffect Cellular Hydration Facial and was done by therapist Paige. It included several steps using Hartwell’s pioneering EGF serums and custom designed massage techniques. During the relaxing 55 minute treatment my face was cleansed, exfoliated and toned, and I really enjoyed the hydrogel intensive hydration mask – I could almost feel my skin being revitalised! I also had a face, neck and décolletage, hand and arm massage, which was lovely – I felt so relaxed! For someone whose skincare routine leaves a lot to be desired, I learnt a lot and I came out feeling refreshed and very de-stressed.
We had a brilliant time at Hartwell and were looked after brilliantly by all the staff, I’m already looking for an excuse to go back.
- Rooms can be booked in the Main House, Hartwell Court or The Old Rectory; all prices can be viewed on their website.
- The hotel has dog-friendly rooms in Hartwell Court which back onto the courtyard or garden.
- Find out about all treatments on offer.
- Hartwell also offers several spa packages ranging in prices for all budgets.
Food and drink
- Hartwell offers a traditional afternoon tea at £32 per person (bubbles can be added for an extra charge).
- Hartwell Cafe offers both residents and non-residents a delicious all-day menu.
- There are various lunch options from £27 per person, and dinner menus from £45 per person.
- The venue also offers several rooms which can be used for private dining or special occasions.
Have you ever stayed here? What are your memories?