A ROAD TRIP TO CORNWALL
We were recently lent over a long weekend a very special car to review for The Vintage Magazine; a Tungsten Silver Aston Martin Vanquish Coupé. We quite naturally wanted to make the most of this opportunity to drive one of the most iconic sports cars in the world, so we sat down to plan our route and itinerary. We chose to head west and decided to try three very different hotels which would take us from The Manor House at Castle Combe to Budock Vean near Falmouth and back to Hampshire to the Limewood Hotel at Lyndhurst in the New Forest – a round trip of over 500 miles.
We headed north on the A34 to Newbury, and then drove down the M4 thoroughly unperturbed by the Friday evening traffic because we were enjoying the car so much. There must be very few cars in which you are quite happy to drive and not worry about getting to your destination in any particular rush.
Anyway, despite the heavy traffic, we arrived at Castle Combe and the Manor House Hotel in plenty of time to unpack and relax before dinner.
The hotel accommodation includes a row of what must have been estate workers’ cottages which have been very cleverly and imaginatively converted to provide luxury accommodation . Archway Cottage, our home for the evening was a perfect example of the hotel’s unique style. As soon as we stepped through the cottage porch door, and entered into a low beamed sitting room with large Inglenook fireplace with log burner ready to be lit, we immediately felt at home. On climbing the ancient spiral stone staircase we were confronted by an open plan bathroom with a roll-top bath with gentle lighting and plasma television screen mounted on the wall, and to the right, the main bathroom with ‘his and her’s sinks and large walk-in shower. If you turned left, you climbed up three more stone steps to the bedroom with super comfortable king-size bed.
Having prepared ourselves for the evening ahead, we left our cottage and walked to the hotel for dinner, passing the quintessential village church which explains why this hotel is such a perfect setting for a wedding. This evening was no exception as there was a wedding party in full swing which did not intrude on the other guests in any way.
The hotel is typically English country house in style and decoration with a welcoming roaring fire in the entrance hall. The Michelin Star restaurant, named Bybrook after the river which runs through the hotel grounds, is overseen by Executive Chef Richard Davies.
His experience at the 3 Michelin star restaurant Gordon Ramsey in Chelsea and the Vineyard at Stockcross, – we have very happy memories of our stay there two years ago – shines through. As with any modern chef worth his salt he endeavours to use seasonal foods and to source his ingredients from sustainable and local producers or even one step better, from within their own kitchen garden and the hotel’s own brood of ginger nut chickens and quails and Gloucester Old Spot pigs.
The food was delicious and beautifully presented with each course matched to a wine recommended by the sommelier from the hotel’s extensive cellar. After dinner we had our coffee in one of the reception rooms, again with blazing log fire. We met a couple who were not staying at this hotel but had driven a long way just to dine at The Old Manor House – a good recommendation indeed.
We strolled back to our cottage with that lovely feeling of happiness having had a thoroughly pleasant evening with great food, fine wine and great company.
The next morning we could take in a little more of our surroundings –
The Manor House hotel nestles in a stunning valley. The village and its setting makes it ideal as a set for period films and dramas, most famously as the departure ‘dock’ for Doctor Doolittle back in 1967 and more recently for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse when 30 horses were brought into the village.
But apart from taking in this picturesque village and grounds of the hotel the guests have the opportunity to play on its superb golf course designed and created by Peter Alliss and Clive Clark, who, coincidentally designed two 18-hole golf courses for me in 1992, but they were sadly never built but thereby lies another story…….!
However, the course which they designed at Castle Combe is widely regarded as one of the finest golf courses in the South West, voted the number one golf course in Wiltshire and one of the 100 best courses in Britain. We did not have time to play this beautiful course, but we admired the gently undulating countryside which you can appreciate from the photographs of the Aston Martin which we took in front of the Hotel.
We finally dragged ourselves away from this beautiful hotel and village, as we had a long way to go, but were compensated by the pleasure of driving the Aston Martin Vanquish all the way to Cornwall.
We were blessed with almost empty roads which the Vanquish revelled in, and we were able to enjoy its blistering performance; so much so that we arrived two hours early in Cornwall, and went straight to our hotel, ‘ Budock Vean, which is a family hotel just south of Falmouth with wonderful grounds running down to the River Fal.
The facilities at Budock Vean include a 9-hole golf course, 4 tennis courts, and an indoor swimming pool, plus access to boats of various descriptions moored on their private pontoon. Our first impressions were that this is the perfect family hotel but we would have to wait to explore the area until later as we were due to meet my son at Trelowarren, a beautiful estate on the Helford River, which has been owned by the same family for 600 years.
We left Budock Vean at about 3.30pm and took nearly an hour to travel the 40 miles around the Helford River and all the smaller creeks which abound the further you go upstream,- this is Cornwall after all and you should never expect to find a direct route to your destination.
Finally we arrived at Trelowarren where we found my son hard at work preparing for the party that evening to celebrate his 30th birthday. He broke off to show us around the beautiful gardens and grounds, with its many period buildings which have been converted for use as luxury holiday cottages. There is also a wonderful swimming pool and gym within a walled garden. The pool was too inviting not to try and even though this was early October; it was gloriously warm. We were joined by several of the young party guests and after a few sedate lengths on my part, we left the pool to the young. More and more guests arrived and as the party warmed up we made our excuses and discreetly departed to leave the young to their own devices. We headed back to Budock Vean for a more sedate evening .
The hotel was pleasantly busy which always makes for an enjoyable experience at dinner – there is nothing worse than being surrounded by fellow guests all whispering reverently. Our meal was delicious and well presented and clearly designed for the tastes of their prime market, which is that of a family hotel operating to the highest standards, and having to appeal to a wide age group. The same applies to the accommodation which is very comfortable and well decorated with the usual comforts and facilities which we all expect such as wi-fi and flat screen TV.
The next morning we had arranged to meet the hotel PR consultant Louise Midgely, at breakfast, and she explained all about this hotel which is owned and run by the Barlow family, who maintain the high standards at Budock Vean and for their future plans to carry on improving the hotel and co-incidentally she also represents Trelowarren and we are looking forward to experiencing the delights of that family run estate.
We then walked through the grounds and down to the River, where guests were involved in various activities from cross country running and circuit training, to kayaking and sailing in the wonderful Fal estuary which is truly a beautiful place.
An aerial shot of Budock Vean hotel in its wonderful setting, surrounded by classic Cornish countryside
Anyway, having completed our tour of Budock Vean, we left at about noon to drive back to Hampshire, and to the über trendy Limewood Hotel in the New Forest, which has become the country house hotel of choice for the celebrities who flock there to unwind.
These young urbanites like the idea of a country house hotel, but some spend nearly all day in the luxurious Spa which does have a wonderful swimming pool, and numerous ’Treatments’.
The Limewood hotel which is just a mile south of Lyndhurst, off the road to Beaulieu in the most beautiful part of the New Forest.
Limewood was originally the result of a joint venture between New Forest dwellers, Jim Ratcliffe, a billionaire businessman, and Michelin-starred Chef, Alex Aitken, who originally headed up the Hotel’s two restaurants. However, disagreements followed and Alex Aitken departed, and Jim Ratcliffe was left holding a very expensive baby, and so it is a good thing that he has very deep pockets!
It is believed that the project had consumed over £30 million before Robin Hutson was persuaded by Jim Ratcliffe, whom he knew socially, to oversee the balance of the construction, the fitting-out and the training of staff and the general management, and marketing of the hotel.
Robin Hutson was very well qualified for this role having been the co-founder and ex MD of the Hotel du Vin group which was sold to Malmaison Hotels (owned by property group Marylebone Warwick Balfour), for £66 million in 2004, exactly ten years after starting it.
Following the sale, Robin Hutson became the Chairman of Soho House, a chain of luxury private members clubs in the UK, with outposts in New York, LA and Florida in the USA, attracting the movers and shakers in the world of TV, Film, Advertising, and the Media generally.
Robin resigned at the end of 2008, (following the sale of Soho House to Richard Caring), to pursue other opportunities and found himself drawn inexorably into the Limewood project, whose aim was to create one of the best hotels in the UK, which would be a state of the art venue incorporating 21st century design with traditional values of comfort and hospitality.
The Crescent, The Coach House and Forest Cottages and Cabins
The magnificent large bedroom on the first floor of Pavilion 1 with free standing roll top bath in the bay window overlooking the forest and downstairs is the sitting room and bunk bedroom
Different Styles of Bedrooms :- Coach House 5; Room 15 Eaves; Forest Cottage 2; Cosy Room 1
Bathrooms from Room 3 and Forest Cottage 2
Limewood;s acceptance into the Relais et Chateau just seven months after opening in 2010 is testament to Robin Hutson’s outstanding talent as an hotelier and if Limewood is judged on the merits of its design, and the quality of its interiors, and the superlative cuisine, it will continue to gain universal approbation.
The Aston Martin Vanquish outside the Limewood Hotel where it was very much at home!
Monday morning and 500 miles later we reflected on our weekend; three very different hotels offering different experiences but the underlining impression from each establishment was the passion and enthusiasm of the management to provide their guests with `quality care and attention’ – English hotels have come a long way in the last twenty years.
Postscript About the Aston Martin Vanquish 6 litre V12. Warning! the information below is for Petrol Heads only!
The Aston Martin Vanquish is a Grand Tourer, par excellence, and was introduced in 2001 as a successor to the ageing Virage range. The first-generation V12 Vanquish, designed by Ian Callum, was unveiled at the 2001 Geneva Motor Show and was produced from 2001 to 2005.
The Vanquish S was unveiled in 2004 with a more powerful engine and improved aerodynamics. The Vanquish S and V12 Vanquish were replaced by the DBS in 2007. In 2012 the Vanquish name was revived for the successor to the DBS.
Underneath the car featured a strong aluminium/carbon composite construction, bonded chassis with a 5,935 cc (5.9 L; 362.2 cu in) V12 engine. It was available in 2+0 and 2+2 seating configurations.
The 48-valve 60° engine produces 456 PS (335 kW; 450 bhp) and 540 N·m (400 lb·ft) of torque.
It is controlled by a drive-by-wire throttle and a six-speed Electrohydraulic manual transmission.
The standard model had 355 mm (14.0 inches) drilled and ventilated disc brakes with four-potcalipers, ABS, with electronic brake distribution.
Its appearance in the 2002 James Bond film Die Another Day earned the V12 Vanquish the number three spot on the list of Best Film Cars Ever, behind the Minis from The Italian Job, and from DB5 Goldfinger & Thunderball. It also appears in the video games Need for Speed; Hot Pursuit 2 and James Bond 007: Nightfire.
That’s enough of the tech talk, but I can tell you that this is an enthralling car to drive, and has breath-taking acceleration, but remains easy to handle and it literally ‘eats the road up’ on long journeys, as witnessed by our drive from Castle Combe to the Lizard Peninsula, which it did so quickly, that we were two hours early at our destination
The best thing about this superlative car is the throaty roar when you press the ignition button and that 6 litre V12 explodes into life; no other sports car quite matches that marvellous sound of an Aston Martin, and it is impossible to start it up discreetly.
It would be the perfect car to drive south through France, and park at Club 55 on the beach at St Tropez, or to take for a spin in the Alpes Mariitmes, and descend to the tranquility of Hotel du Cap, at Cap D’Antibes.
Of course, the best country to put the Vanquish through its paces is Germany, but the food is not as good!
This is a car to be seen in, and we certainly enjoyed our time in its company.