The countryside escape you can get to in less than half an hour
The Grove hotel and country retreat offers all the trimmings of a weekend getaway but without the Friday night journey from hell out of London. You can be on the terrace with a G&T in less time than your average daily commute.
Just a 20 minute train ride from London in Hertfordshire, The Grove is a glamorously renovated 18th century manor house set in 300 acres of immaculate gardens and quintessentially English countryside. Once the preferred weekend hideaway of Queen Victoria, the five star hotel now boasts a championship golf course, popular kids club and a huge walled garden that reveals a croquet lawn, outdoor heated swimming pool, tennis courts and even a pop-up beach during the summer months. You can also expect a car park stuffed with Ferraris and Lamborghinis and the odd England footballer. But don’t let that put you off.
Book early and choose a room in the Mansion House itself for the swankiest stay. Hidden away down corridors lined with heavy velvet drapes and flamboyant modern art, these rooms boast antique furniture, open fireplaces and stunning countryside views with huge TVs, and modern roll top baths. One even has its own baby grand piano. Rooms in The West Wing are more contemporary and cheaper, if less characterful.
There are three restaurants to choose from but if you’re child-free and want to treat yourself, indulge in fine dining at Colette’s. With 2015 National Chef of the Year Russell Bateman at the helm, it’s full of hidden nooks and crannies for a pre-dinner cocktail and offers a short, elegant menu to showcase the best possible produce. I’m still dreaming about my melt in the mouth Cumbrian Herdwick Lamb rump with aubergine and confit tomatoes, followed by a strawberry tart made with fruit from the hotel’s walled garden and served with divine toasted meringue. What can I say, they’ve very long and strangely specific dreams.
Borrowing one of the hotel’s complimentary bikes. Reception will provide you with a map of the estate’s many bike trails so you can disappear into the countryside for as long as your legs can take – though watch out for the killer final hill on the return journey. Plan ahead and someone can even meet you along the route with blankets, cushions and a gourmet picnic hamper including an antipasti platter, smoked salmon and grilled asparagus.
Suds and all at The Grove
And after that
Do not leave without visiting the exquisite Sequoia Spa, complete with juice bar, black mosaic pool, heat rooms and vitality pool. This is a place that takes relaxing very seriously. I virtually floated back to London after trying The Orangery Experience, a blissful top-to-toe body treatment using Natura Bissé Vitamin C products.
Need to know
Room rates start from £340 per room per night including breakfast for two (thegrove.co.uk).
The Grove is a ten minute taxi ride from Watford Junction, which is a 20 minute journey from London Euston and is also served by the Tube on the Metropolitan line.