I first came across Hambleton Hall in 1982 when I was looking for somewhere different to spend the first night after my wedding and an hotel where we could arrive by helicopter. There were precious few decent country house hotels in those days, but someone suggested I look at Hambleton Hall, and so I drove up there with my best man whose opinion I trusted in such matters. We had lunch on the terrace on a beautiful summer’s day, and were smitten by the view of Rutland Water and to further my conviction that this was the perfect hotel in which to start my honeymoon, there was a perfect spot to land a helicopter.
A trip to Cornwall would not be complete without a visit to St. Mawes and the exemplary Tresanton Hotel. This is in no small part due to its owner, Olga Polizzi who was destined from birth to create beautiful places for people to stay, being the daughter of Lord Charles Forte. Thankfully for all of us who have been fortunate to stay at Tresanton or Hotel Endsleigh (her country hotel at Milton Abbot near Tavistock), she is very good at it.
In the past year, the Rick Stein story has been turned up a notch as this well-known ‘Brand’ has been developed and promoted throughout the UK, as one new restaurant after another has sprung up in every affluent town.
Our first encounter was at Sandbanks, notoriously known as having some of the most expensive real estate in the world, and then at what was ‘The Depot’ a well-loved riverside restaurant in Barnes, where it is now ‘bedding down’ nicely as a new Rick Stein.
Bearing in mind the extraordinary success of the Rick Stein brand, we thought we would go to where this empire was launched, the internationally recognised Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall.
The Audi S5 Cabriolet driving through the grounds of Hotel Endsleigh at the height of Spring
If you are seeking the peace and tranquillity of nature, shaped by the hand of man, and a temporary escape from the stresses and strains of the 21st century, then I can highly recommend a few days at Hotel Endsleigh, situated on a stunning stretch of the Tamar valley on the edge of Dartmoor.
The house and surrounding gardens and landscape, have all been substantially restored since Olga Polizzi first saw and fell in love with this special place, and bought it in 2004.
It first opened its doors to hotel guests in 2006, and has now established itself as highly desirable hotel surrounded by some of the most beautiful gardens and impressive scenery in Britain.
On first sight Ockenden Manor tucked away in the well-heeled commuter town of Cuckfield in Sussex, might appear to be just another traditional Country House Hotel. It is all these things but it has a delightful surprise in its ultra modern box-like Spa complex that shouldn’t work architecturally, but just does. It makes a startling contrast to the Elizabethan manor but provides all that one could want in the way of a Spa.
The Vintage Magazine, that is the editor and his wife, two daughters with accompanying husbands and their respective two children apiece recently spent a fabulous week skiing at St. Martin de Belleville, actually that is not technically correct, we stayed in St. Martin but skiied in the vast area of the Three Valleys (aka Les Trois Vallées if you are French) which incorporates, Courcheval, Val Thorens, Méribel, Les Menuires, Saint Martin De Belleville, La Tania, Orelle and Brides les Bains; that makes 600 kilometres of slopes to explore and a resort to suit every taste and budget and every level of skiing ability from wonderfully groomed blue pistes to vertiginous couloirs. There are in fact 321 Alpine ski runs made up of 51 green, 132 blue, 106 red and 32 black making this area perfect for families.
We chose St. Martin de Belleville as we had stayed here about 12 years ago and had fallen in love with the authentic charm of this Savoie region village but also because of the high speed gondolas and chairlifts which whisked us off and up into all the other ski areas.
Luton Hoo is yet another example of a once powerful and influential family losing their wealth and being forced to sell the ‘family jewels’. Luton Hoo was one of England’s grandest stately homes, and its sale marked the final episode in the sad story of the Phillips family, who inherited the Grade I listed mansion in 1977.
When staying there one is surrounded by the history of Luton Hoo which plays a major part of the whole guest experience. So it is worth learning a little of the background story to this home and to those who had once lived and loved here.
The Gore hotel in Kensington is the hotel of choice for a stay in London for many reasons, not least that The Gore is so conveniently placed for the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Palace, London’s Hyde Park and the Natural History, Victoria & Albert, and Science Museums, and is a stone’s throw for some serious retail therapy at Harrods and Harvey Nichols.
Well, what a disastrous autumn we are having at least on two main counts: first the rugger World Cup. Not one home country or even a European one through to the semi finals. England failed to overcome their killer of a draw – by far the most difficult group in the entire competition – but my gut feeling is that they weren’t good enough to win the Cup anyway. The same applies to Wales; Ireland had all their best players hobbling around on crutches for their last group match and Scotland were denied victory in the dying seconds by an incorrect decision by the referee. As I write we are being slaughtered by the Pakistanis at cricket with the games being played in the UAE because it is not safe to play cricket in their own country. What is the world coming to? Secondly, our power stations are to be designed and installed by the Chinese. As MATT portrayed in his Daily Telegraph cartoon, if we talk about the Dalai Llama all our lights will go out. Why can’t we build our own power stations? We always used to.