Where is it? Hartwell is a National Trust-owned Grade I-listed Jacobean and Georgian house in Buckinghamshire, two miles from Aylesbury.
What’s the pull? Set in 90 acres of picturesque parkland and grounds designed by a contemporary of Capability Brown, the hotel is just 40 miles northwest from London. Yet it’s so peaceful and secluded, the stresses of city life quickly fall away. The present building dates to the 17th century, but its history stretches back nearly a 1,000 years, to Edward the Confessor. Behind the Jacobean facade, it has fine Georgian interiors, with rococo marble chimney pieces, decorative ceilings and a grand hall in baroque style. The grand stairway features a brilliantly eccentric mix of carved figures.
How to unwind? There’s aromatherapy, a peaceful swimming pool and a gym. Also tennis courts, croquet, fishing and magnificent tree-lined walks.
Inside story? The French royal family lived here in exile. In fact, it was in the ornate library that Louis XVIII signed his accession to return to the French throne. ‘Why wouldst thou leave calm Hartwell’s green abode?’ asked Lord Byron of Louis’s departure. Indeed.
Star attractions? The Royal Suites and Rooms. We stayed in the Duchess d’Angouleme room, once occupied by the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. It features a sumptuous four-poster bed and cosy window seats from which to view the parkland.
Where’s good to eat? The dining room is formal, old-fashioned, and rather wonderful. For traditional afternoon tea, head to the drawing room or library, for cakes and scones on a silver cake stand.
Where to visit? The Chiltern Hills are on your doorstep, plus Waddesdon Manor and Bicester Village. Oxford is just 20 miles away.
The lowdown B&B starts from £250 per night, but check online for special offers to coincide with the National Trust’s 125th anniversary, which is from £250 per room per night, for dinner bed and breakfast based on two sharing. This special offer is valid Sunday to Thursday until 31 May and 1 September to 23 December 2020. (hartwell-house.com)
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