As I melted into a soft sun lounger, the surprisingly warm winter rays blazing through the enormous glass windows onto the perfectly turquoise swimming Pool in the Stoke Park Spa, drifting in and out of consciousness, there was a brief moment when it seemed entirely possible to me that I had in fact died and that this divine sanctuary was Heaven.
As we have started here, let me start by describing some of the facilities that Stoke Park has to offer, which by anyone’s standards, are extremely impressive. Encircling the club’s 300 acre Buckinghamshire parkland Estate, Stoke Park’s famous 27 hole Championship golf course is undisputedly one of the finest in the country. So well loved is the golf course in fact, that it set the scene of the epic golfing duel in the 1964 classic movie, ‘Goldfinger’.
Stoke Park is also famous for it’s tennis. The courts are set within and around the multi award-winning £20 million spa, health and tennis Pavilion and are amongst the very best in the UK, with four floodlit artificial clay courts, three indoor carpet courts and six Wimbledon specification grass courts, ensuring that the game can be enjoyed all year round. Since 2002, the Boodles Tennis Challenge has attracted the world’s tennis elite to play in the most exclusive, intimate and luxurious grass court tournament of the summer season. Held within the grounds, this magnificent Tournament combines world class tennis with a Quintessentally English Summer Garden Party. This year Djokovic turned up by helicopter, and Ivanisevic larked around on court as guests sipped endless supplies of Veuve Clicquot. Yes, it’s pretty special. FYI the grid reference for helicopters is O/S SU 970827. You’re welcome.
As you’d expect, the gym here is absolutely state of the art. A 4,000 sq foot mecca for the fitness fanatic, complete with the very latest in gym technology. It really does has everything you could want, and I don’t say that lightly.
The Spa facility at Stoke Park is second to none, and is complete with a massive and spotlessly clean indoor swimming pool, single sex Italian marble steam rooms, a brand new outdoor Scandinavian Sauna (and soon an outdoor Jacuzzi), a stunning tropical aquarium, nail bar, boutique, and every treatment under the sun. One thing I have noticed about the facilities here is that, unlike so many hotels, it is not just a case of one large initial investment and then 10 years of watching the them start to get tired and grimy. Here, there is constant investment being made. If anything, as time goes on, more and more money is being used to make improvements and advances. That is something that so few hotels can claim. Because of course, normally, hotels are strictly focused on profit. So few organisations are prepared to continually invest in enhancing the guest experience. And this is because Stoke Park is a family owned hotel, and the King family have always made sure to not only honour the 1000 year old history of the house, but have shaped this ancient Estate into perhaps the finest and most advanced sports and leisure facility attached to any hotel in the United Kingdom .
Because of this, and its architectural beauty, Stoke Park has become known as an ideal film location. It has always had a close relationship with nearby Pinewood studios. Apart from ‘Goldfinger’, ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ was also filmed here. Who can forget Oddjob decapitating the statue with his flying bowler hat outside the front of the mansion! The famous ‘mini break’ and rowing scenes from ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ were filmed in the Great Hall, and the Pennsylvania Suite (where I stayed) and on the lakes with Hugh Grant, Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth. In 2004, 3 movies were released, all featuring Stoke Park: ‘Wimbledon’’, Bride and Prejudice’, and Mathew Vaughn’s ‘Layer Cake’, and Daniel Craig comes to a sticky end right on the front steps of the Mansion building. ‘RockNRolla’, Madonna’s ‘W.E’, and Ridley Scott’s ‘The Counsellor’ were also filmed at the hotel.
Stoke Park has 49 bedrooms and suites (21 in the Mansion and 28 in the more modern Pavilion), and each and every one has been individually furnished with fine art, priceless antiques and ultra comfortable beds. It has recently been given the accolade by the Sunday Times as having bedrooms that are amongst the ‘Top Ten Romantic Hotel Rooms in the World’.
Stoke Park are very proud of their fine dining Restaurant, ‘Humphry’s’, and rightly so. Executive Chef, and TV personality Chris Wheeler joined the hotel in 2003 having previously been Group Head Chef, and right hand man to French Chef Jean Christophe Novelli, working in various Michelin starred restaurants. He uses local, fresh and seasonal produce, and his cooking is mainly British cuisine, but with European influences. The restaurant has appeared in most good guides, and Chris’s attention to detail, creativity and skill are legendary. I was absolutely blown away by the Venison with roasted wood pigeon, wild mushroom and chestnut boudin with chocolate, figs and game jus, which is a prime example of Chris’s innovation and experience with flavours. He uses amuse bouches so very skilfully, and the sour cream and lime, balsamic pearls and basil followed by the confit tuna, scallops, dill gel and mango were pure genius. It was not a surprise to anyone when Humphry’s received 3 AA rosettes for his outstanding cuisine and service.
Dining in the Orangery at breakfast, gazing out over the lush grounds, as 1920’s music softly plays, and you sip hot tea poured from silverware you really do feel like you’ve been transported to another era. The Era of ‘Gosford Park’ and ‘Bright Young Things’, when jazz music blossomed and Art Deco peaked. The Era of P.G Wodehouse, and Nancy Mitford, the Era of ‘girl power’, 1920’s style! An era when life was really, really good.
It’s no secret that I love hotels, especially ‘good’ ones, and I have been extremely fortunate, through work and play, to have visited a lot of them. It is, however, extremely rare for me to describe any hotel stay, no matter how ‘good’ the hotel is supposed to be, without pointing out some area of my experience that could have been enhanced in some way. Or so I thought until now.
Im going to say this for Stoke Park. I think it to be the best country house hotel in the UK. Do yourself a favour and go and see for yourself.
To book a stay at Stoke Park, visit http://www.stokepark.com or call 01753 717171.