There is nothing less glamorous than fighting through traffic on the North Circular. Conversely, few things are more indulgent than pulling into the gravel driveway of a romantic country house hotel. Even better if that hotel is only 35 minutes from your doorstep.
Sopwell House in Hertfordshire is a stone’s throw from London – and a world away from the commotion of the capital. The house, the former summer home of Lord Louis Mountbatten, is steeped in history. It is understood that Mountbatten’s sister, Alice, mother to the Duke of Edinburgh, was proposed to by Prince Andrew of Greece in the gardens of the estate.
The Royal connections to the house and land date back even further. It’s believed Anne Boleyn took refuge at what was then the Sopwell Nunnery, following her secret marriage to Henry VIII. It is a truly romantic setting. Present owner, hotelier Abraham Bejerano, purchased the property in 1986 and has created a resort with an eclectic mix of spaces in which to unwind, relax and indulge.
From reading in the expansive gardens to taking afternoon tea on the front lawn, minutes quite easily turn into hours. Sit by the fireplace, take a well-earned G&T in the bar, this place is no ‘over-nighter’. It’s best to treat yourself to a minimum of two.
The adjacent Cotton Mill Spa has the air of a Majorcan house fit for the Love Island cast. Its guests, many of whom live nearby and are members, have the looks to match. Set over three floors with indoor and outdoor spaces to unwind, there’s plenty of room to find your own little oasis.
A large pool, split between indoors and out, features an automatic door that opens as you swim towards it to keep the cold air out. The outdoor terrace features single and double loungers, complete with pool service for that all-important glass of champagne.
Whether working out or relaxing in the spa, lazy-late lunches in the Brasserie offer an extensive menu of healthy options and great British favourites. At night, pre-dinner drinks are either out on the terrace or in the bright conservatory where a delightful wine-menu caters for all tastes and pockets. There are plenty of stellar fine wine choices, while the cocktail bar mixes a mean Manhattan. The restaurant, meanwhile, deserves its two AA Rosettes for a dining experience that is not overly formal with stylish dishes and impeccable, friendly service.
One of the real litmus tests of a relaxing stay anywhere is that time seems to slow down. This is certainly true at Sopwell House where the sumptuous rooms and generous beds call you to enjoy an early night and a restful sleep. It’s hard to leave and more than easy to linger around the breakfast room or in the garden – reading every last piece of the morning newspaper, savouring the fresh juice to the last drop.
The best thing about Sopwell House, for those who live in London at least, is that you can be back home in a jiffy – rested and refreshed and ready to book a return visit.
Double rooms at Sopwell House start from £233/night