Modern Comforts and Traditional Style in a Luxury Hotel and Spa:
While I don’t always stay in luxury hotels, with family and friends in the area I thought I had a good idea of places around Cheltenham. I’d never heard mention of Ellenborough Park though, although what I found on the internet looked stunning. The reality surpassed my expectations – a glorious manor house that has been carefully extended to provide visitors who prefer NOT to stay in an historic room that choice.
There’s quite an art to making a room like the Great Hall into somewhere that feels ‘cosy’. Somehow Ellenborough Park has managed to achieve that, with an eclectic collection of comfortable seating, rugs and paintings complementing the high ceiling and minstrals’ gallery. Of course, a real fire helps a little too. I was intrigued by the invitation to visit this five star Spa Hotel and wondered why I hadn’t heard of it before. But, refurbishment only started in 2008 and finished a couple of years ago. Built in the late thirteenth century, Southam House, the original manor house, was the home of Sir Richard de la Bere the Sheriff of Gloucestershire. It became the seat of the Earl of Ellenborough, who was responsible for many of the additions to the building in the ninteenth century. And the current Hotel pays tribute to its past with a colonial Indian theme reflecting the Earl’s chequered past as Governor General of India. Even the Spa could be part of some luxury club in the days of the Raj.
Thankfully there’s nothing left to remind visitors of the Girls’ School which later occupied the building although I was told cheerfully that the old girls do still visit and were initially rather shocked to find the stables where they kept their horses transformed into comfortable garden bedrooms.
I took a brief tour around the hotel and discovered that my room, which was quite large enough to be considered a suite, was standard. Robes and Penhaligon toiletries added to the feeling of luxury, and my bathroom ‘throne’ was complemented by a roll-top bath and walk in shower.
Suites offered facilities which ranged from the sublime with massive four poster beds, beamed ceilings and comfortable sitting rooms to the almost ridiculous – in one suite you can watch the horse racing at the nearby race-course from your bathtub.
Although the refurbishment and conversion of Ellenborough Park was only started in 2008, the place has retained a timeless quality and old world charm. And, it’s refreshingly individual too, the wall mural on the staircase is a good example of that English eccentric styling that can be hard to create deliberately.
Dinner in the Beaufort Dining Room is covered in a separate feature, but breakfast, served in style in the same rooms, is worth mentioning. Of course there’s a substantial cooked option, with a range of dishes in addition to the Cotswold Breakfast I enjoyed (without eggs).
There’s also a wide selection of farm yoghurts, fresh fruit, breads and pastries together with fresh juices, tea and coffee.
On to the spa – there are some wonderful treatments on offer including a range using Ila products – a new brand to me – produced in the Cotswolds and already in a number of very notable destination spas around the world. I love the idea of using a locally produced spa product, especially one that ‘goes beyond organic’. Ellenborough Park offers five body treatments.
These treatments go beyond the usual conventions of massage and incorporate products and techniques that address mind, body and spirit.
Ila takes its name from the Sanskrit word for ‘earth’ and its power lies in its ability to encapsulate the earth’s purest healing vibrations. Seeking the utmost natural and ethical purity in every ingredient, process and blend ila treatments see spectacular results.
Ila products are complemented by Babor, a leading German spa range.
Besides treatment rooms there is a suite of spa facilities available to guests, including the most luxurious jacuzzi I’ve experienced, a steam room, sauna and rainforest showers. The outdoor vitality pool was closed when I visited but will be open from April to Autumn (weather dependent) in 2014 and is kept heated to around 30C, so you’ll always be warm!
If you are not staying to visit the races or to shop in nearby Cheltenham Spa, the hotel offers a wide range of leisure activities and will provide guests with gum boots (they really do have all sizes) and waxed jackets so that you can take advantage of the walks whatever the English weather chooses to do. Or you can relax in the stunning Great Hall by the fire and just pretend that this is YOUR place in the country.
I was a guest of Ellenborough Park. There are a range of packages and room rates available – for more information, check the Ellenborough Park hotel website