Adrian Mourby

Back to Inspirations
With Easter just around the corner, April is the ideal month for a spring break. Daffodils and lambs are now giving way to longer sunny evenings and eruptions of blossom in the British countryside, an event that the painter David Hockney referred to as “Action Week”.  Renewal is never so spectacular as in Britain at this time of year. And there are so many great hotels to stay at as you head into springtime. Here are just ten around which you can plan your journey.

Holme Lacy is a splendid sandstone country mansion in the county of Hereford. It began its life in medieval times as a simple manor house but it was then successively remodelled by the Viscounts Scudamore, the Dukes of Beaufort, the Dukes of Norfolk and the Earls of Chesterfield until it reached its current august proportions in the nineteenth century.

Well almost. In 1909 the house passed out of the hands of the old aristocracy when it was bought by Sir Robert Lucas-Tooth, an Australian brewing millionaire who funded its last blaze of glory. Sir Robert built the oak-panelled ballroom (now the hotel’s Bistro 32) for a family wedding, and to impress the British toffs. Lucas-Tooth also built the splendid grand staircase that still stands today.  The company he employed fitted out great ocean-going liners like the Titanic and it shows.

Sadly all three of the nouveau baronet’s sons were killed in World War I, so in 1919 – with no one to hand Holme Lacy on to – the Lucas-Tooth estate sold it to Mr Noel Wills (of Wills’ Tobacco fame). In due course his widow passed the mansion to Hereford County Council who found various uses for it -including a women’s hospital-  before Warner Leisure took over in 1995 to run it as the current dazzling  hotel you see before you now.
While restoring Holme Lacy to its former glory, Warner have also introduced fun with a capital F. Most guests stay for four nights (starting on Monday) or three nights (starting on Friday) and from the moment they arrive there is plenty to do. It’s as if a cruise liner with plenty of food and round-the-clock activities has berthed itself inside Downtown Abbey.

Holme-Lacy guests get breakfast and dinner included either in the brasserie 32 (à la carte) or the Market Kitchen (self service buffet), plus an over-the-top afternoon tea as an extra. There are also great pastimes such archery, target-shooting, line-dancing, salsa lessons, film screenings, and trivia quizzes, all for free. Extras include excellent spa treatments, gin-tastings, trips into Hereford, and that abundant afternoon tea with sandwiches, several kinds of cake, cream and scones.  There is also live entertainment all day long to accompany the bar service in the elegant drawing rooms constructed for Sir Robert Lucas-Tooth.

In the evening the hotel’s night club, known as the “Pavillion” there is another bar with nightly entertainment, which can range from a cheeky comedian to an Abba tribute band via an evening of Neil Sedaka’s greatest hits. Buy the hotel’s VIP experience and you get your own designated table for the floorshow with a table lamp that you switch on whenever you want another cocktail.

Even if you just want to relax in your bedroom or walk in the grounds and count the snowdrops, or indeed settle down with a pot of tea and just the day’s papers - Holme Lacy can cater to your every need.

The Wiltshire estate of Lucknam Park is centred on a splendid eighteenth-century mansion which is welcoming at any time of year. It’s rather like visiting the country home of a wealthy friend who lives somewhere very grand - but not off-puttingly so. 

Lucknam Park has 42 bedrooms in the main house and a very splendid dining room. Recently however it has been developing its self-catering cottages in the grounds. There are nine so far and more on the way. Even the old gatehouse has become a one-bedroom hideaway. It’s a lovely space with a modern kitchen and bathroom but steep stairs up to a romantic writing room aloft on the first floor so it’s perfect for couples who want to get away this spring to work on their novels – but not for anyone with young children.

All nine Lucknam cottages are designed along traditional Cotswold lines, with honey-coloured stone casements, slate roofs and small windows. Some are converted out of genuine old buildings on the estate – garages, lodges, and offices – while others are niftily disguised new-builds. With log-burning stoves, antique furniture, modern kitchens, and comfortable new sofas by T. R Hayes of Bath they are a perfect place to hide away – or perhaps have a family party. The largest of them – Squires – sleeps at least eight.

While the cottages are self-catering, should you decide you want to go out to eat then the hotel’s fine dining room or the cheaper brasserie (attached to the modern spa) are on hand.  Dinner in the Hywel Jones Michelin-starred restaurant is a seasonal and sumptuous seven-course tasting menu, with the option of dramatic wine pairings.

This dining room is decorated with early nineteenth-century depictions of Athens and the Acropolis by German painters on their  Grand Tours. It’s the one nod to the Greek Lascaridis family, who own Lucknam Park as well as the very splendid Grande Bretagne in modern Athens.

Should you be looking to get a little fitter this spring then the hotel provides an excellent walking and jogging map that covers all the grounds. There is also horse riding: Lucknam Park is the only hotel in Britain with its own stables. Future projects include creating a Japanese water garden in 2024 based on the hotel’s own borehole. Lucknam Park is never short of ideas.

For a golfing break this spring Tewkesbury Park is ideal. The hotel sits on a rise south of Tewkesbury Abbey. A manor house has stood on this spot since the fourteenth century but the present brick mansion, with conical turrets, dates from the eighteenth century. John Ward and his wife, the extravagantly named Mary Brilliana commissioned the current house. Their new home face faced south over the beautiful Severn Valley but when Tewkesbury Park was turned into a hotel and golf club in 1976, its new commercial lobby was built between the stable blocks to the rear of the mansion and a new driveway leading to that lobby was constructed. 

Today guests enter a large and attractive reception and piano bar area. Since 2014 the hotel has been owned and run by the MacIntosh family. They have invested a lot of money in the hotel, extending its number of bedrooms to 93 and introducing cozy dog-friendly rooms as well as bringing in an excellent young chef, Anuj Thakur from northern India who will be launching a tasting menu in the summer. Thakur will be working with the hotel’s sommelier Martin (who prefers the less formal title of Martin the Wine Guy)  providing creative and intuitive wine pairings.

The golfing experience here has been developed in recent years by the celebrated course designer Peter McEvoy. But even if you are not a golfer, there is plenty to do at Tewkesbury Park. The perimeter of this164 acre golf course makes for a healthy pre-breakfast walk.  A map is provided at reception and you should allow 45 minutes. You can also walk into Tewkesbury to visit the ancient abbey. The route from the bottom of the hotel’s drive takes you past Bloody Meadow where hundreds of Lancastrian troops were massacred after the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.  This famous battle which ended the Wars of the Roses in the Yorkists’ favour would have been visible from Tewkesbury Park. When the Lancastrian line broke Queen Margaret’s troops fled towards the River Severn but were slaughtered by Edward IV’s soldiers as they made their way to the river down through Bloody Meadow. If you follow the town’s “Battle Trail” walk, you’ll pass through Bloody Meadow and end up at Tewkesbury Abbey where two senior members of the Lancastrian dynasty were buried after their execution. 

The Duke of Somerset was interred beneath the floor of what is now the Abbey Bookshop and Edward, Prince of Wales – the boy who was fighting to get his kingdom back – was buried beneath the floor of the choir. There is a polished brass plaque to the young prince set in the floor and immediately above it in the beautiful painted ceiling of the abbey is a huge “Sun in Splendour”, the symbol of the man who usurped him, Edward IV.

Just next to the abbey is the John Moore Museum established to commemorate the local writer and naturalist. As well as its celebration of natural history, the museum includes a genuine 15th century merchants’ house and a restored Baptist Chapel where some of William Shakespeare’s descendants are buried in the graveyard.

And finally, do make sure you get a room in the old house if you can. These “historic” suites are spacious and comfortable rooms with great views and champagne buckets thoughtfully attached to their bathtubs. They are all named after those who fought down below at the famous battle in 1471. Tewkesbury Park is where history meets luxury.

This Easter is a particularly good time to visit The Greenway, a sixteenth-century manor house hotel just outside Cheltenham.  The Eden Collection, masters of UK heritage hotels, have just spent £1.2 million on a major transformation of all 21 bedrooms and public rooms at The Greenway.

Each guest room has been given its own unique colour palette and attention has been paid to original period features like the Elizabethan stone casements and the working fireplaces. Interior designer Lucy Yarwood has imported marble bathrooms, roll-top baths and brassware. Craftsmen from the Wreake Valley have created bespoke joinery – bedside tables, desks and wardrobes – while Brintons of Kidderminster have provided bespoke woollen carpets. All the sofas have been re-upholstered with sustainable products.

This charming boutique hotel is set in eight acres of luscious countryside.  The house we see today was built by the Lawrence family who were in the lucrative wool trade during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Records show that later the house was inherited by the delightfully named Dulcibella Lawrence on the death of her husband.

Much later still the brilliant young English architect Alick Horsnell visited and sketched its beauty one summer just before the outbreak of World War I. Sadly, Horsnell was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Today the hotel is owned by Sir Peter Rigby’s Eden Collection. Dinner and breakfast are served in The Garden Room which has wooden floors, silver spoon-backed chairs and expensively embossed Italian wallpaper. The menu is concise, which is always a good sign (too many dishes suggest an overstretched kitchen with meals prepared too far ahead of time!). There are thirteen bedrooms in the old main house, six in a modern coach house over the hotel’s spa, and two in the old gatehouse cottage.

A warm welcome always awaits you at The Greenway, particularly because of the large open log-burning fireplace in reception.

At first sight Bailiffscourt does not look like a hotel, rather it resembles a medieval village on the Sussex seashore. Arrive in the spring mist that sometimes rolls down from Eastbourne and you might think you’ve stepped back centuries to the time to Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General.

But Bailiffscourt is in fact a number of historic buildings that were taken from sites across the south of England in the 1920s and re-assembled on Climping Beach, not far from Littlehampton. Only the thirteenth-century chapel – available for weddings - is in its original place. All the other buildings have been re-erected around it.

The creators of Bailiffscourt were the frolicsome Walter Edward Guinness, 1st Baron Moyne and his wife Lady Evelyn. This hugely wealthy pair built Bailiffscourt village as a place for country house parties during the interwar years. She had her bedroom in Bailiffscourt Manor (above what is now the hotel’s reception) while he had his in the Thatched House, a dismantled and reconstructed medieval barn that he shared with their children. An underground passageway linked the two houses - and still does today - so that Lady Evelyn could visit her family when she wasn’t entertaining an admirer or two.

Over the years, more buildings were added to the estate by the amateur architect Amyas Phillips, whom the Moynes had met and befriended when he was running a Sussex antique shop. After World War II and the death of Lord Moyne, the Guinness family sold the estate to a German refugee, Emmy Birrer who with her husband, Hans turned it into a 39-room hotel. Frau Birrer was still running the hotel well into the 1970s.  

In 1993 Sandy Goodman, owner of two Sussex hotels, The Spread-Eagle in Midhurst and Ockenden Manor in Cuckfield, bought Bailiffscourt to create his small private portfolio called Historic Sussex Hotels. This family chain is now run by Sandy’s daughter Miranda and her husband Pontus Carminger.

Staying at Bailiffscourt can be a very romantic experience at any time of year, especially as seven of the 39 bedrooms have open hearths and real log fires - and there’s always the nearby beach to wander.  The hotel has recently partnered with the Sussex neighbour, Piglet in Bed to create luxurious spring breaks for 2023. This “Spring into Bed” package is available seven days a week in 2023 and includes two sets of  linen Piglet pyjamas, a merino Piglet blanket and a Jacques of London board game (backgammon or cards) so you have something fun to do in that big, oh so comfy bed.

So many beautiful English country houses have been destroyed by fires over the years but the one that ravaged Brockencote in 1940 actually did its owners a favour. When the Butler family rebuilt this rather angular Gothic brick structure down came its ungainly Victorian towers, out came its bay windows and the whole façade was covered in seamless stucco. Suddenly Brockencourt looked like a French chateau, so much so that when it went on the market in 1985 a French couple on their honeymoon, Joseph and Alison Petitjean saw it and snapped it up to create a fine-dining restaurant with eight bedrooms.

In 2011 the Petitjean’s sold Brockencote to the Eden Hotel group and they very cleverly extended the building with a west wing that looks like a second, neighbouring chateau (it is in fact subtly linked to the main building via the hotel’s bar). 

In the main house the reception and library with their log burning grates give off a real sense of early 20th century hospitality in the Edwardian countryside. 
There are also two private dining rooms named Swan and Heron but Heron is the one to book. This medium-sized front parlour commands a corner position and so is full of light during the day. The hotel makes it available for a small fee for groups up to fourteen – but it can also be booked, romantically, just for two people.

The menu at Brockencote has moved away from the French cuisine of its early commercial days to predominantly British fare, much of it supplied from the hotel’s 72-acre estate. Honey for glazes is provided by the hotel’s bees and the hotel rhubarb is turned into a cordial that is stocked in every bedroom’s minibar. “Food is our passion, wine is our pleasure” states the menu, and both are well worth getting excited about. Chef Tim Jenkins changes the menu frequently – even daily – depending on what is available in the kitchen garden.

Sitting on the edge of the Sussex village of Cuckfield, Ockenden Manor is a wonderful hodge-podge of English architectural styles that seems to run all the way from Tudor to Victorian. 

The hotel is committed to getting guests healthy as well as well fed. Cleverly tucked away behind the carpark is a huge modern spa offering all manner of treatments, including a spooky isolation water pod which you’ll either love or hate.

Starting this spring Ockenden will also be resuming its Full Moon & Fabulous weekends. These take place – unsurprisingly - whenever the moon is full and they are conducted in the hotel grounds and in forest nearby. The aim is to help guests “rewild” their senses. Helena Skoog from Sweden spends the full moon weekend leading guests through yoga, meditation, forest-bathing and even tree hugging to reconnect themselves with nature and to re-balance their lives. 

Between bouts of healthy living guests can still dine well in the hotel’s restaurant where the wine list contains some excellent locally-grown sparkling and still white wines from the nearby Bolney Estate.

Situated just opposite the Royal Shakespeare Company's Swan Theatre in Stratford, the Arden is an ideal hotel if you're visiting for a night of drama. This 45-bedroom hotel consists of two old Stratford buildings, one of which dates back to the seventeenth century and was owned by Flowers Brewery before becoming part of the RSC's estate. 

The hotel's club bar displays photos of various actors who have appeared at Stratford over the years including Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Helen Mirren, and David Tennant, but it's the lounge area where afternoon tea is served that’s the place to relax. Here you'll find tea trays with traditional pink, rose-patterned china laid out between leather sofas either side of the fireplace. 

The hotel offers the traditional range of afternoon teas, including full afternoon tea with cake and sandwiches, cream teas with scones, jam and diet-busting clotted cream, and of course “Sparkling Afternoon Tea” with a glass of something fizzy. If you're planning to go to the theatre and eat dinner afterwards, then Afternoon Tea at the Arden is a great way to prepare for the evening ahead. It's also just a delightful way to pass the time in this comfortable, wonderfully-located old hotel close to the River Avon.

The Arden’s Waterside Brasserie with its small zinc-topped Champagne Bar is the ideal place to sit and watch RSC audiences come and go. Even better, take your drink out on to the Arden’s brasserie terrace to enjoy the view. The cocktail list is full of reliable favourites - cosmopolitan, margarita, Singapore sling, Tom Collins, mojito – plus four kinds of martini and the delightful “English Garden”, which consists of Hendricks gin and a number of fruit juices. Shakespeare may have said “The play’s the thing”, but so is the location.

A few miles south-east of Warwick Castle sits Mallory Court. After all the suburban new-building that surrounds the prosperous town of Warwick this oasis comes as a complete surprise. Mallory Court was built in 1916 for James Thomas Holt, who had made his fortune producing cotton in Preston and had decided to retire to Warwickshire.

The architect was Percy Morley Horder who in the early twentieth century specialised what might be called England’s romantic vernacular style. He was famously demanding of his clients with an excessively artistic temprament that earned his the nickname “Holy Murder”.

Morley Horder worked widely across the Cotswolds and Home Counties, designing David Lloyd George’s country home in Berkshire. There is something quasi-Elizabethan about Mallory Court with its stone casements, tall gables, towering brick chimneys, mullioned windows and well-manicured ivy and privet. Many of Morley Horder’s homes were in the style of Edwin Lutyens who dominated early 20th century architecture in this country. There is nothing overly grand here. Just a lot of comfort.

The house which has been a hotel since the 1990s feels like an historic hideaway, full of courtyards and formal gardens.  After James Thomas Holt’s death in 1936, Mallory Court was sold to Captain John Black, Managing Director of the Standard Motor Company who added oak panelling in the dining rooms, an outdoor pool and a squash court.

In 1995, the house – now a commercial venture - was sold to Sir Peter Rigby who happened to be visiting when he was asked if he’d like to buy what was by then only a modest B&B. Under Rigby’s style and design conscious ownership Mallory Court has been significantly developed as a luxury hotel with the addition of a new East Wing of master bedrooms in 1998 and Orchard House, the newest luxury spa in Warwickshire that began operation -just before the pandemic- in 2017.

Inside, the hotel has a feel of good, sensible comfort. Bedroom doors are opened with a metal key on a leather fob. Lights are turned on using a single brass switch. Breakfast tables are big enough for one to read a newspaper, windows open to let in fresh air and the bath has a simple metal plug with two taps, one labelled hot and the other cold. The hotel has resisted the temptation to go down the route of so many that introduced dimmers, mixers, swipe cards and a machine that opens the curtains for you from your bed (and often malfunctions). 

The décor is stylish and colourful but never intrusive. Hints of the 1930s remain in the oak panelling and much of the furniture but the levels of comfort are decidedly 21st century.

Dinner is served in the aptly named The Dining Room at The Manor House under executive chef Simon Haigh and I can highly recommend his tasting menu which uses a lot of ingredients sourced from Mallory Court’s kitchen garden. There is however a cheaper option at Orchard House which is Mallory Court’s remarkable spa. It’s remarkable because it doesn’t look like a spa. It’s just another 1930s, quasi-Elizabethan building in the grounds with the hotel’s more modern bedrooms upstairs and a self-service dining room.  

This website uses cookies. Click here to read our Privacy Policy.
If that’s okay with you, just keep browsing. CLOSE