Country House Hotel: Ellenborough Park Hotel

Ellenborough Park, in the heart of the Cotswolds, with views overlooking Cheltenham Racecourse, had the invaluable quality of feeling like a home from home within moments of our arrival. This beautiful manor house dating from the early 1500’s has been carefully restored over the last 3 years to become one of the most luxurious and authentic of country house hotels, and is part of the Mantis Collection.

Somehow a wintry December weekend was the perfect time to fully enjoy all that Ellenborough Park has to offer. The house was adorned with Christmas decorations: they had truly decked the halls with boughs of holly. The twinkling lights from the Christmas tree and the multitude of candles shone through the slatted windows of the Great Hall and welcomed us as we arrived. Our car was whisked away by the valet while the footman took our bags our room which helped me instantly relax.

Our room was in the old stables, restored by local highly skilled stonemasons using Cotswold stone from nearby. The room was perfect and with an enormous bathroo and Penhaligons bath products. But my favourite part was the full length arched window that looked out into the stable courtyard, over the tiny chapel and out to the Cheltenham Hills beyond.

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The spa at Ellenborough Park offers an extensive range of treatments using Babor products, and my aromatherapy massage almost lulled me to sleep. Tucked away in one of the Manor House’s towers complete with turrets and flag post, I felt quite in my own little world wandering around in my white fluffy robe between the virtuous juice bar, sauna and Jacuzzi. But the best bit was jumping into the heated outdoor pool, under the stars and looking back at the beautiful roofs of Ellenborough Park through the steam rising off the pool.

Once out of the cold night we went to the Great Hall where guests slowly gathered before dinner. We were served Champagne and canapés sitting by a roaring fire in a wood panelled room with a minstrel’s gallery. I didn’t feel as though I was staying in a hotel, but more a part of a weekend party at a country house. Perhaps it was the friendly nature of the staff that put me at ease – the sommelier came and chatted to us as we enjoyed our Champagne and with our menu choice in hand went through the impressive wine list with us and helped us make our choices. Dinner was exquisite, with an amuse bouche sent in from the chef, terrine of confit of duck and fresh seabass from the local fish market. The chef picks his herbs from their own herb garden, and in season fruit grows in their orchard.

We finished the night curled up on the sofa with a game of backgammon in front of the fire with a nightcap and a hot chocolate.

Arising to a cold and sunny morning and a hearty Cotswold cooked breakfast I wondered what is was about this place that was so unique. There is a boot room stocked with Hunter wellies, Dubarry boots and Barbour coats for guests going on a walk in the surrounding countryside. The hotel offers a chauffeur service to and from the Cheltenham races to avoid the famous queues. There is a gun safe for shooting parties, a board room in a beautifully converted barn, and Elizabethan gardens in which a picnic tea can be enjoyed. Essentially there is something for anyone to make them feel at home, but for me, what made Ellenborough Park so unique was the beauty of the place, of the architecture, both interior and exterior and of the surrounding countryside.

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