It is no exaggeration to say that Hampshire hotel Tylney Hall represents a lot of what is great about modern Britain.
For centuries it was a private stately home, most recently rebuilt in 1893 by the shipping dynasty the Rotherwick family as a palatial private residence for a handful of family members (all serviced by 290 staff working the 3,000 plus acre estate and the household).
Unfortunately, the lords, ladies and society stars were forced to move out after the Rotherwick’s lost their fortune during the Second World War.
It then became a residential home owned by Brent Council for 40 or so years, a period of time when its glory faded almost from sight (and when the beautiful Italian Gardens were concreted over to make tennis courts). Back in private hands and following an extensive renovation in 1999 it is now a gorgeous and enormous hotel, with 112 bedrooms and suites catering for a wide array of people from esteemed guests to enormous wedding parties.
Those (like me) who would have previously been confined below stairs can now enjoy its comfort and grandeur (but only as a special treat of course). It’s a nice feeling.
It is a place to come for a good time, not a place to be seen; it’s a place to enjoy delicious food (see below) and large, comfortable, picturesque countryside an hour’s train ride from Waterloo. This really is the hotel that has most things and it is particularly charming how child friendly it is. In the beautiful wood-panelled dining room, prams sit next to the candlelit tables as infants snooze happily while the parents enjoy a romantic dinner together. Now that really is having it all, especially as the super friendly and attentive staff seem to have a knack of catering for every type and size of person who comes under their care.
Another impressive feature; the astonishingly beautiful and enormous grounds. Guests can enjoy 66 acres of glorious parkland with lakes stuffed with carp and ducks, bridges, woods, orchards, woodlands and enough gardens to allow for a decent 25-minute jog or a slightly longer leisurely walk within the boundaries of the hotel. Here, giant redwoods and ancient chestnuts tower over manicured grass and carefully carved box hedges and the longest vista in Hampshire. This really is a place for those disposed towards having a hearty time outdoors.
The interiors are charming too. There are well-appointed morning and sitting rooms where you can enjoy almost as much space as we did on our morning jog in the woods. A highlight is the Italian Lounge, a splendidly restored period room dominated by marble fireplaces, and a ceiling imported piece by piece from the Grimation Palace in Florence.
There is one restaurant, with a certain frayed charm to the upholstery. Those of a particular fussy disposition may notice that it has not been recently refreshed, like sister hotel Luton Hoo, yet rooms are well thought out. Outbuildings such as the stables double as a neat and cosy spa, complete with saunas and an indoor pool and a Jacuzzi under glass panelled roof.
This is good honest hospitality. It’s not cool. Not trendy. But charming, friendly and hugely cosy. If that’s what matters to you, you’ll love it, as I did.
Eating and drinking: The food and drink will be one of the highlights of any stay here, whether you want to enjoy a snack, afternoon tea or whisky in the drawing room. During my stay there was a party of three young women lying on sofas and drinking fizz in the afternoon, this is a place to relax in and not be judged. It was rather sweet how many children were around the place, having dinner with their parents and with babies dosing in their prams.
The dinner service was attentive and friendly, including an extensive menu and the option of a glass of champagne and canapés in the drawing room. Starters included a salad of smoked chicken and mango with cashew nuts, spring onion and a spiced mayonnaise and a warm salad of wood pigeon with apple, radish, watercress and roasted beetroot. I recommend their well-cooked classic melt-in-the-mouth sirloin and Yorkshire pudding from the trolley. Also beautifully cooked (and expertly boned), the grilled Dover sole with smoked salmon dill butter and jersey royals (the warm salmon sauce was gorgeous).
Price: Current deals include a three night stay for the price of two in a deluxe room from £250 per person (based on two sharing) including breakfast and daily newspaper.
Address: Ridge Ridge Ln, Rotherwick, Hook, Hampshire RG27 9AZ, 01256 764881, www.tylneyhall.co.uk
Radio Times Travel rating: 9.5/10
Ben Dowell was hosted by Tylney Hall Hotel, a member of Pride of Britain Hotels, a consortium of 49 privately-owned independent British hotels. All of our contributors maintain editorial independence at all times and conduct first-hand research.