Hartwell House is straight out of a Jane Austen novel. The Grade I-listed red brick manor is reached via a sweeping driveway that winds its way through 90 acres of grounds. There’s even a picture-perfect lake for your very own Mr Darcy moment. With original Georgian features (plus a few luxe mod cons like air-conditioning and flat-screen TVs) we were captivated by the grand staircase and elaborate book-lined drawing rooms, perfect for cuddling up by a roaring fire.
Room for romance
We stayed in the Lee suite, which was grand, luxuriously decorated and had the biggest bed we’ve ever seen. There was also a huge, portrait-lined living room, two bathrooms and even a DVD library, though your time might be better spent padding through to the large bathroom in fluffy white robes to indulge in the deliciously scented Crabtree & Evelyn products in the massive tub. The opulent dressing table was also a pretty touch and perfect for a spot of preening before heading down to dinner.
Food for thought
The elegant dining room serves up a menu of sophisticated British classics: cod and crab fishcakes made for a light and fresh starter and the braised Oxfordshire beef was melt-in-the-mouth good. Passionfruit soufflé is also worth treating yourselves to while the resident pianist plays romantic classics, adding an extra-special touch to your dining experience. Finger sandwiches and pastries served at afternoon tea are the perfect antidote to the mid-afternoon hunger pangs you’ll have worked up exploring the grounds.
If the sprawling gardens, restaurant and bar aren’t enough to keep you occupied, there’s a spa on-site with an indoor heated swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. Despite visiting on a very chilly March weekend, we’d recommend braving the cold to try the outdoor hot tub. The super-powerful jets will work those W-day stress knots out of your back in no time. A spa treatment is also a must with Clarins and ESPA goodies to sample, we recommend the classic full-body massage which will leave you feeling like you’ve had a week’s holiday.
We loved…taking a stroll at dusk across the bridge over the lake – the grounds look almost mystical and the house is spectacularly lit up.
We wished we loved…the buffet-style breakfast. After a weekend of decadence and fine dining, it seemed an abrupt end to the magic the next morning when we had to stand in line for our self-served scrambled eggs.
Double rooms from £290, suites from £500. Hartwell House Hotel & Spa hartwell-house.com
By Claire Smith
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