Driving towards the winding road that leads to the grand entrance of Down Hall Hotel & Spa gave me a strange nostalgic feeling, as if I had been there before. The impressive nature of the building was alike to the illustrious settings I have seen in period dramas, taking me back to the days where I would lose myself for hours in the world of Jane Austen.
Located in Hatfield Heath, on the Hertfordshire and Essex border, Down Hall is one of England’s most established country house hotels. With its building dating back to 1322 and surrounded by 110 acres of surrounding woodland, it was hard to believe that London was a mere 45 minute train journey away. A country side escape that holds on so gracefully to its history, our stay at Down Hall was delightful, from start to finish.
Arriving on an overcast afternoon, we were greeted by the staff and given a tour around the premises. The romantic that I am, I found myself lost in the wedding party around us as I searched for the bride amongst the guests. A classic pianist played in the background as the guests filled the lounge area, sharing stories of the morning and looking forward to the celebrations ahead. With huge windows akin to the age of the building, impressive chandeliers hung from the ceiling and comfortable seating areas made the room feel almost royal. Large pillars lined the walkway and luxurious curtains hung gracefully, yet effortlessly over the windows. Plush teal velvet seats provided a wonderful view to the gardens and heading up the staircase to our room, we already felt at home.
Down Hall has 100 bedrooms, each designed to reflect the grandeur of the hotel but also provide a comfortable home from home experience. We stayed in a Deluxe Room that looked out upon the entrance of the hotel. Newly renovated, the colour scheme reflected calm as the delicate tones of grey and white worked expertly in sync. A huge comfortable bed stood at the left of the room while a small set of stairs to the right led us up to our completely marble bathroom suite. A flat-layers dream, the marble was crisp and exactly how I would describe a luxurious bathroom. Accompanied by a deep bath and shower which continued the marble theme, the room at Down Hall was comfortable, grand and utterly luxurious.
Once we had settled in, we headed to the adjacent Eden Spa ahead of our treatment times. A relatively new addition to the hotel, the spa is unimposing and sits delicately next to the hotel as if it had always been there. Consisting of a Wet Spa which includes a hydrotherapy pool, steam room and sauna is the centre piece of the spa. The hydrotherapy pool is surprisingly large with plenty of space for guests to relax. It is kept at 36 degrees to ensure that it is at optimum temperature to soothe aches and pains. The accompanying steam room and sauna were of perfect conditions and allowed us to detoxify and truly relax. A relaxation room sat to the right of the spa, with beds that could be adjusted to your liking. Magazines aplenty and reading lights supplied, this little hub was my heaven when it came to truly unwinding and letting go. The spa also has a gorgeous outside terrace, however, graced with British weather we were unable to enjoy the outdoor facilities. We will however be back to experience the spa in the sun.
It was now time for our treatments. Home to ESPA products, the treatments rooms are plush and comfortable. Our therapist introduced herself, allowed us to chat through any aches and pains and directed us to smell a selection of essential oils. Both my partner and I were drawn to the same oil, aimed to completely relax us. With busy London lives, we weren’t surprised and as we settled down onto our treatment beds our worries and tensions certainly drifted away very quickly. Our therapist was an expert, working the tough knots that are constantly rife in my shoulders, yet still managing to maintain the tranquil effects of a soothing aromatherapy massage. Her calm and caring manner mean’t that my partner (relatively new to the spa experience) was truly relaxed and was able to enjoy his treatment to the full. After an hours aromatherapy massage, we spent an extra half an hour in the Wet Spa before we headed back to our room to prepare for dinner.
A pre-dinner walk led us to the gardens where we found a huge chess set, large trees and beautifully placed shrubs. The gardens provided a sense of tranquility as we looked back towards the grand building ahead of us. With our lungs full of healthy air and rumbling stomaches, we headed to the hotel bar and indulged in a cocktail or two. The wedding party still going strong, we sat ourselves on a plush sofa and took in the surroundings. We headed to our table in the AA Rosette The Grill Room restaurant where we were presented with a perfectly chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. A busy restaurant, it was clear to see that it was well regarded in the local area as many tables of two to tables of 14 were enjoying the culinary delights of the restaurant.
Serving dishes of a modern British theme prepared with ingredients sourced from the hotels own vegetable garden, the menu was delectable. An informal surrounding meant that guests were relaxed and the staff worked their way around the busy restaurant effectively and swiftly. With a seasonally changing menu, you can rest assured that only the freshest of ingredients will be served in The Grill Room. Enjoying a fresh soup, with warm bread to start, I was looking forward to my main of Confit Pork Belly, mash, broccoli, almond jus and crackling. Often running the risk of receiving an overly fatty piece of meat (as is the nature of pork belly), this dish was cooked to perfection. The interesting yet mellow taste of the almond jus complemented the salted crackling wonderfully. We finished our meal with a refreshing dessert that was accompanied with a refreshing Basil sorbet. Unaccustomed to my taste buds, but truly a surprising delight.
We retired to our room and were spoilt with a luxurious slumber. Awakened with the sound of birds, breakfast was an informal buffet affair with a huge selection of delights including fresh pastries, bread, cereals and the makings of an English Breakfast. The breakfast at Down Hall takes place with The Grill Room, which now in the day, we could appreciate the array of natural light flooding in to the restaurant – the perfect way to awaken the mind and finish a weekend of luxury.