The Dorchester Collection has added the first country hotel to its stable in Coworth Park, a classical white Georgian mansion near Windsor Great Park and set in 240 acres of manicured gardens, parkland, stables and polo fields. This grand country estate – previously lived in by the Earl of Derby (1899-1948) and more recently Selfridges proprietor Galen Weston – offers a wide range of outdoor pursuits (especially on horseback) and spa treatments, not to mention the good old-fashioned luxury that sets the Dorchester Collection apart from every other hotel group in the world.
On arrival, an awaiting doorman in a tweed cape parks your car while a porter whisks your luggage away to your room. The hall of the mansion is dominated by a bronze sculpture of a tree which stands at the foot of the huge, sweeping contemporary wooden staircase. There, receptionists, doormen and porters, all in matching tweed, moving about efficiently, attend to the running of Coworth Park like a finely tuned army with effortless charm and a lack of rush.
This is a popular spot for entertaining and for weekends away: every linen sofa in the sitting rooms and bar groans with guests ‘taking tea’. There is also a huge terrace running the length of the hotel which should prove very popular for eating outside, that is, whenever the British weather permits it.
The hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, John Campbell at Coworth Park, produced one of my more memorable meals of 2010, a splendid dinner featuring main courses of lobster claw with coconut and halibut with oyster and chorizo, all topped off by an apple and cider sorbet ‘cooked’ in liquid nitrogen at the table, thus providing an element of theatre to match the very high standards of cooking. The dining room is dominated by a huge copper sculpture of melded oak leaves that hangs from the ceiling. The copper emanates a warm glow throughout the room and created a similarly happy welcome as it played with the light when we came down for breakfast.
Our spacious room was on the second floor, looking over the fabulous gardens and down a tree-lined avenue toward the polo pitches. A separate dressing room led into a bedroom that had all the telltale signs of Dorchester luxury: immaculate stationary, Bang and Olufsen TV, generously stocked mini bar, coffee machine and preppy sheets bordered with embroidered horse bits (like the Gucci loafers). Even so, it was the huge copper bath sitting in the middle of the marble bathroom that put the biggest smile on my face. Later that night, our super-comfortable bed was awarded five stars for comfort and doled out a night of perfect slumber despite the howling gale outside.
Horses and polo are just part of the attraction of Coworth Park. The spa building, for example – a sort of half-submerged, futuristic eco-bunker – houses not only a state-of-the-art gym and swimming pool but also vast treatment rooms for guests keen to indulge in the latest relaxers and beautifiers, such as the ‘Insomniacs Dream Massage’ and a ‘Luxury Diamond Facial’.
Although only 45 minutes from Hyde Park Corner, Coworth Park feels a world away from London. During the English summer, with Royal Ascot and polo internationals being played down the road in Windsor Great Park, this classic English country hotel will no doubt be one of the most popular spots to rest your head in Europe.