Half term beckoned and discussions over where to go were underway. I fancied a few days in Paris; my husband was keen on exploring Amsterdam and our son wanted to be by a pool (with no sightseeing!) No prizes for guessing who won!
Juggling two work diaries until the last minute and late availability added to the challenge as everywhere we looked at was either unavailable or ridiculously expensive. I was also keen to avoid flying as we only had four days.
As the weather was glorious in the UK, we decided upon a ‘staycation’. Our requirements were simple.
A luxurious hotel in picturesque surroundings, with great food and the all important pool. We decided to return to the Cotswolds with its immaculate villages and lush countryside and came across Ellenborough Park in Cheltenham, that seemed to fit the bill.
First impressions were very positive as I received excellent service from Sarah Spencer in the reservations team. She sent me lots of information about nearby pubs, restaurants and activities, so that I could book things in advance. The day before our visit, we persuaded my parents to join us and the hotel was most accommodating as we needed a room adapted for disabled access.
Ellenborough Park is a few furlongs from the famous Cheltenham racecourse and is situated at the foot of Cleeve Hill. Set in 90 acres of countryside, we left our cares behind as we drove down the driveway, passing honey stone buildings that led to the manor house. I half expected to be greeted by a butler and his retinue of staff!
The heart of the building dates from 1495 and was the seat of the Earl of Ellenborough. The hotel is adorned with period features and has been lovingly restored into an award winning hotel, without losing its heritage. The great hall framed by glorious stained glass windows, serves as a gracious sitting room and is a perfect place to read the papers or relax with a drink after dinner.
The sixty one bedrooms have been designed by Nina Campbell and are all individually furnished. The three suites are expansive and indulgent, each all with its own characteristics. We stayed in the Woodland Close that has the benefit of overlooking the pool and is a perfect way to keep an eye on children from the comfort of your terrace.
Our room was very well appointed with more than enough space for an extra bed. My son was delighted with his welcome gift and child sized robe and slippers. The beds were extremely comfortable and we all slept like proverbial babies. The bathroom was similarly spacious and I loved the toiletries from a company called 100 Acres that use natural botanicals from the English countryside. I will be ordering some of these from their online shop as they smell divine. Christopher Robin would definitely approve!
Breakfast is served in the Beaufort Dining Room. The quality of the breakfast is high with a wide variety of items that are cooked to order as well as a selection of fruit, pastries, cereals and charcuterie. Due to the intimacy of the hotel, you are not surrounded by masses of people and can enjoy a leisurely breakfast without feeling rushed, which has got to be the most civilised way to start the day.
For those who want to have a more casual lunch or dinner, the Brasserie serves classic dishes with all the requisite crowd pleasers. The bar area is inviting and has a selection of gins from distilleries in the Cotswolds. I enjoyed a refreshing aperitif of Cotswold Dry gin and tonic that was garnished with coriander, pink grapefruit, black pepper and lavender.
During our stay, I had the pleasure of spending time with the charming Business Development Manager, Debbie Purvis, who gave me a tour of the hotel. A highlight was the boot room that is fully stocked with waxed jackets, Hunter wellies and Dubarry boots that residents can borrow for hiking or riding. I also liked the opulent Indian inspired spa with its jewel colours.
Debbie, like all the staff we met, is genuinely passionate about the hotel and customer service which is something that singles out Ellenborough Park. Nothing was too much for the staff, from setting up croquet on the lawn to remembering the way we liked our coffee. A special mention to Jonathan Furzeland, for his exemplary service and tips of all the best places to visit.
Debbie kindly arranged dinner for us at The Beaufort that prides itself on using locally sourced produce. The high ceilings, dark panelling, rich furnishings and Oriel windows do lend a formality to the room. Saying that, our son was made very welcome and several families were dining with children.
We enjoyed an amuse bouche of carrot and ginger soup served with a dome of irresistible freshly baked bread and a melt in the mouth leek tartine. We started with al dente Wye Valley asparagus that sported a jaunty duck egg ‘hat’ with shavings of black truffle; succulent smoked quail and my favourite; Cornish crab with a cannelloni of roasted red pepper served with a piquant dressing. The crab was as beautiful to look at as it was to eat.
Head Sommelier, Cinthia Howell selected a bottle of Luigi Bosca Gala 3 from Mendoza. Being more familiar with reds from this region, I was keen to try this blend of Viognier, Chardonnay and Riesling from a producer that Cinthia said was ‘experimental and a bit crazy!’. The result was an elegantly balanced and aromatic wine that was a perfect accompaniment to our main course.
We all opted for the king of fish which was such a good choice. The pan roasted turbot sat majestically on a bed of peas, broad beans and baby gem, flavoured with lovage and a foam of mussels, it was perfectly cooked and full of the joys of spring. One of the best dishes I have eaten this year.
Desserts were similarly pleasing. I had a little taste of the apple tarte tatin with a surprising pink peppercorn ice cream and a rhubarb chibouse cream with stem ginger, from the rest of the table. Instead I indulged with a selection of British cheese from the well curated trolley. Just as well I had promised my son a swim the following morning to work off some of the excesses!
The pool was a big hit and is heated to an attractive 30 degrees. It is perfect for children as it is not deep, but is also nice for adults.
Whilst it is easy to enjoy the comforts of Ellenborough Park, there is so much to do in the surrounding area and the hotel can organise a whole range of activities from clay pigeon shooting, hot air balloon rides, picnics and horse riding. There are plenty of trails for hiking or grab one of the hotels Bainton bikes to explore the countryside. The hotel doesn’t currently have bikes for children but Debbie said they are looking to get some. Stop by Food Fanatics, a gourmet deli in the neighbouring village of Winchmore, for tasty treats for a day out.
A highlight for our son was a pony trek at the Jill Carenza riding school in nearby Stanton. He certainly looked the part in his Dubarry boots and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. As we were waiting for him, we fortuitously stumbled upon The Mount Inn, a pub at the top of the hill that has the most glorious views over the hills.
As our stay came to an end, we concluded that this was a place that we would return to. The quality of the accommodation, food, beauty of the surroundings and the superlative service make this a really special place. Whilst many of us are looking forward to summer holidays (still a work in progress in our house!), I stumbled upon the Christmas brochure. The festive packages look amazing and so well priced relative to London hotels, or opt for the New Years Eve party, coupled with a trip to the races on New Years Day. Both would be perfect for families or groups of friends.
We returned home feeling refreshed and looking forward to our return visit. Please mention Catwalkschoolgates and this review if you book and let us know how you get on.
Gloucestershire, GL52 3NJ
This review was not sponsored but dinner at The Beaufort was complimentary.
@NuzySayani / nuzy_sayani
Nuzy Sayani is Catwalkschoolgates restaurant reviewer. Nuzy lives in Marylebone with her husband and nine year old son. She is a technology lawyer and loves the theatre, cinema, is an avid reader and likes nothing more than trying out restaurants. Nuzy will be sharing her dining experiences with us and would love to hear from you with your recommendations.