What has happened to the traditional English hotel? When it comes to hotel`s, I love a bit of modern, contemporary and quirky, but also yearn for something with a little history to it.
Just 12 miles from Gatwick lies Gravetye Manor, an absolute gem of a traditional country house hotel. From the moment we pulled up in the car and were met by a welcoming chap in a tweed overcoat and flat cap, we realised service here would not be an issue.
The entrance is down an extremely long lane, taking you further away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. This is as close to time travel as you are going to get.
Historic Gravetye Manor was built in 1598, a beautiful Jacobean country house famous for its gardens and surrounded by an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The gardens here are stunning, and it`s thanks to previous owner William Robinson – Known as `the father of the English Flower Garden`.
Robinson bought Gravetye in 1884 and transformed the gardens into what he believed gardens should be – naturalising beauty and simplifying how gardens should look and feel. This ethos is being rigorously reinforced by head gardener Tom Coward.
And like the rest of the hotel, the restoration of the gardens have been a huge success.
The hotel is warm and friendly, with wood panelling adding to the grandeur. The smoky aroma coming from the roaring fires really do work wonders.
With such a place ripe for exploring, I went off with one of my sons. This is recommended as we worked through each garden section (using a handy map), we passed the croquet lawn and the azalea bank before having an inspection of the walled garden. Full credit to tom Coward and his team here. This is now a kitchen garden, with many items ending up on our plates that evening.
My two boys (6 & 7) were made to feel as welcome as ourselves (you wouldn`t get that in a cool and contemporary hotel of this calibre), and the hotel was a different experience for them. Somewhere between Hogwarts and a CS Lewis yarn, their imaginations ran wild.
I suspect somewhere in the hotel there is a magic wardrobe, sadly it was not in our suite (I checked).
We ate from the Garden Menu, a little bit more relaxed than the more formal restaurant (although having seen the menu I would love to return to sample – Looks amazing). I can recommend the venison sausages and my wife was raving about the shepherds pie for some time after. It was really good to see produce on the plate that was grown in the garden not more than 2 minutes walk away.
There are just seventeen bedrooms and suites, all named after trees found on the estate. Our suite was of an excellent standard, the only issue being that I had to get up early for a flight from Gatwick, I really didn`t want to leave the bed!
My stay at the enchanting Gravetye Manor was one that surpassed all expectations, that is; excellent service from everyone we encountered, an amazing location, a wonderful garden all set in the most impressive building.
Forget your new style `cool` hotel. For a truly Special Country House Hotel, you just have to check out Gravetye Manor.
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