Hartwell House Hotel is only 40 miles north-west of London in the heart of the Vale of Aylesbury, but it is a long way from real life unless you happen to be royalty. So, if you want modern amenities in magnificent settings and only want to spend an hour on the train, this is the place for you.
From the station, it is only few minutes’ drive by taxi to Hartwell where, on arrival, we were warmly welcomed by the hotel director Matthew A C Johnson and house manager Adam Parsons. Our room was located on the first floor of this stunning historical house with a view overlooking the lush grounds.
Hartwell House has a remarkable history: its most famous resident was Louis XWIII, exiled King of France, for five years from 1809. And once a property hosts royalty, standards are set.
Hartwell House has 30 bedrooms and suites on three floors. All of the ‘boudoirs’ (Louis XWIII’s term) on the first floor, where we were accommodated, have been named after members of the Bourbon family. Many of the rooms have four-poster beds and all are decorated in a style reflecting the character of the house. We stayed in the Duchesse d’Angouleme room, named after the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who resided there with his uncle for five years. I hope she was as comfortable as we were. After settling in, the sunshine called and we set off to explore the 94 acres of parkland, landscaped by a contemporary of Capability Brown.
“Hartwell is the best that can happen to a great house if there is no family to guard it”
– Sir Simon Jenkins
A lengthy stroll around the house revealed various hidden treasures and surprises around every corner, be it church ruins
or 18th century sculptures.
We also discovered two all-weather tennis courts and in the gardens many of the herbs and vegetables are grown for the hotel kitchen.
After a couple of hours walking, we were really tired and that was a signal to enter the Hartwell Spa, housed in a splendid building modelled on an orangery and containing a generous-sized swimming pool, spa bath, steam room, saunas, hot tub and gymnasium.
They also have four treatment rooms providing a wide range of enjoyable massages and facials you only ever have on a mini-break.
The house is an ideal setting for special occasions such as weddings or anniversaries, and might even stretch to hosting a princely barmitzvah.
We ended our first day at Hartwell with a delicious three-course meal by candlelight accompanied by live piano music.
After breakfast the following day, Adam kindly gave us a guided tour around the house, which has both Jacobean and Georgian features. There are outstanding decorative ceilings and panelling, fine paintings and antique furniture in its elegant and spacious rooms. I was most taken with the dramatic Gothic hall and staircase, with its Jacobean carved figures, one of them even featuring Sir Winston Churchill.
After our stay, I was not only fully rejuvenated and relaxed, but keen to tell friends about the place. What I will remember most is the pride and passion of the staff at Hartwell House looking after this historical gem,
where all guests feel like blue bloods, no matter what their pedigree happens to be.