For those looking for a quintessentially English country garden experience this summer, Tylney Hall, just 60 minutes from London, is the perfect weekend destination. This Grade II-listed building, full of aristocratic charm, dates from 1898 and sits in 66 acres of idyllic landscaped gardens, woodlands and lakes. Today it boasts 112 guest rooms, housed either in the main building or in the Orangery. The grander suites have four-poster beds and original features, along with extra-large baths, ornate fireplaces and seating areas. The rooms in The Orangery are self-contained, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lake, offering guests complete privacy as well as direct access to the gardens.
And what gardens they are: a tree-lined vista holds one of the longest uninterrupted views in Hampshire. At the beginning of the twentieth century Robert Weir Schultz, a follower of the Arts and Crafts movement, added various garden buildings including a boathouse, summerhouse, greenhouses and an orangery; Shultz then asked Gertrude Jekyll to produce designs for a wild water garden, among various other planting plans. These gardens have now been painstakingly restored to their former glory. (Special Open Days are planned for 6 June and 4 July).
Tylney Hall is also the ideal setting and base for a range of activities including archery, clay pigeon shooting, falconry, hot-air ballooning, treasure hunts and even duck herding! For golfers, a challenging 18-hole course adjoins the grounds; there are also tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools and a croquet lawn.
Part of the small, independent UK-based hotel group Elite Hotels, Tylney Hall recently celebrated 10 successful years of coordinating meetings, conferences and events. Its 12 individual suites offer excellent working facilities amid splendid surroundings – for example, the oak-panelled Tylney Suite features a baronial hall with stage and minstrel’s gallery and can accommodate a theatre-style presentation for 120.
Elite Hotels is offering 2-for-1 on rooms when booking on Elite Hotels’ published bed and breakfast rates (from £165) meaning guests can invite a partner, friend or family to join – free of charge! A two-night stay is required on the weekend and guests must dine at the hotel on both evenings (one night minimum stay during the week). Offer available until 30 June.
Tylney Hall Hotel
Rotherwick, Hook, Hampshire RG27 9AZ
T: +44 (0)1256 764 881 www.tylneyhall.co.uk
For foodie fanatics:
As strange as this may sound, a little piece of California can be found near Newbury, Berkshire. Just one hour from Central London, the Vineyard at Stockcross is renowned among UK foodies. Taking its inspiration from the vineyards of California, this self-styled ‘restaurant with luxury suites’ boasts one of the most impressive cellars in the world, housing some 23,000 unique wines. The restaurant is a monument to the culinary and artistic passions of owner Sir Peter Michael, who opened it in 1998. The arrival late last year of Executive Chef Daniel Galmiche, replacing John Campbell after seven successful years, marked the start of a new dining era at this AA 5-Red-Star gastronomic destination.
It is easy to see why so many have fallen in love with The Vineyard at Stockcross’s mix of luxurious accommodation, gourmet food and fine wines. From the outside, I feel like I’m in California: the building is modern and purpose-built, with something of the air of an exclusive motorway inn. Inside, the 49 rooms and suites range from traditional hunting-lodge-style bedrooms through to contemporary and spacious atrium suites. My suite was very comfortable, if uncomfortably named ‘Screaming Eagle’ – each suite is named after a vineyard. But it’s not the accommodation that draws the clientele – this place is for people who love their food.
The heart of the hotel is clearly its dining room, where, from the bespoke linen and chinaware to the original sculpture and art that adorn on the walls, every detail has been meticulously arranged, providing a signal of what is to come. Staff are young, mostly French and extremely charming; most importantly, they know their stuff. They recommended we try the tasting menu, which matches a different wine with each course, and so we did just that.
Galmiche’s modern French cuisine is quite something. An amuse-bouche of leek and potato foamy broth preceded an impressive eight courses, kicked off by my favourite: velouté of pea with smoked bacon foam. This was the lightest and tastiest soup I’ve ever had – there was no evidence of the smoked bacon aside from its rich and creamy aroma. Courses of chicken and foie gras mousse, pan-roasted diver-caught scallops and pan-fried salmon followed; then came the other pièce de résistance, a roasted fillet of Balmoral Estate venison, celeriac remoulade and carrot purée – the most tender, un-gamey venison I have ever tasted. (Daniel himself came out to inform us that the meat had been marinated for two weeks.)
Calvados sorbet, white chocolate pudding and exceptional cheeses rounded off the meal – miraculously, the menu was so perfectly proportioned that we didn’t feel gorged afterward. Wines we tasted included a 2007 Egon Muller Riesling from Slovakia, 2007 Peter Michael Winery Chardonnay from California, 1997 La Spinetta Barbaresco Gallina from Italy and an Ice Cider from Canada. What a triumph.
The Vineyard is certainly an ‘occasion’ venue, ideal for celebrations and romantic dates. One thing is certain – it is a place like no other. If I urge you to do one thing this summer, then it is to stay overnight and sample Daniel’s fantastic French cuisine.