STOKE PARK, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, NEAR WINDSOR
With meadows, hopping rabbits and old-school country glamour, Stoke Park is the ultimate five star luxury UK minimoon and wedding venue and the perfect place to unleash all your period drama fantasies in one go.
WORDS: WERSHA BHARADWA
The best of both worlds for exploring the city and majestic Windsor (a 15-minute drive away), Stoke Park is an 18th century architectural dream pile sitting an irresistible 40 minutes from Central London.
Hello, valet parking! It’s rare in the UK except for at a few well-heeled, uber-pricey hotels (mostly based in central London) so this feels an incredible treat for a slice of the high life at incredible value-for-money rates. We are in for a wildly decadent time with 350 acres of Capability Brown landscaped parkland to explore, a 27- hole championship golf course and tennis courts which during the summer are home to The Boodles – an international tennis competition attracting world champions before Wimbledon. Generous staff get it right by being on hand for anything we need and also just letting us be. In fact, don’t be surprised if your beloved accuses of you of morphing into Marie Antoinette during your stay (mine did). My response was frank: ‘When you are this spoilt, how much further can you demand?’ You see, there’s no such saying as ‘too-much-of-a-good-thing’ when you’re in heaven, right?
Our Lancelot suite is WOW. One of 49 rooms, a spacious room featuring a living area, plasma TV, beautifully high ceilings, a huge vintage Victorian wardrobe and dressing table and a super king bed completely brings out our inner king and queen. The down bedding is plump and luxurious – just perfect after a heavy wedding. Another equally gorgeous suite is the Pennsylvania bridal suite – once voted as the most romantic room in the UK and also the setting of a famous love scene between Renee Zellweger’s Bridget Jones and Hugh Grant’s Daniel Cleaver in the first movie. Actually, you’ll love scoping out the entire hotel as so many scenes from the film were shot on location here; the hall doubled up as a reception area, the lakes featured in the legendary boating scene. But before Bridget, it also featured as the backdrop for James Bond and Goldfinger’s epic game of golf. We give ourselves the full royal treatment (the hotel dates back to Doomsday book, and was owned by Elizabeth I in 1581 before becoming the UK’s first country club in 1908) by ordering up champagne to wash down the fruit and chocolate spread and imagine this lavish room, the tapestries and antiques are all ours and this is our regular weekend retreat.Then we take blankets outside and cuddle up on our massive balcony, toasting ourselves under the constellations.
Chris Wheeler is my current favourite in-house celebrity chef and aims to distract patrons of his glamorous restaurant, Humphry’s, away from the gorgeous views (and, Buckinghamshire generally) with his pleasurable feasts. He concentrates on fresh beautifully pared ingredients like pear and venison and painstakingly inventive presentation too. I loved the tasting menu offerings of foie gras, local beef, fresh scallops and various farm cheeses. At breakfast, nothing says love more than a date over a full English and pressed organic smoothies whilst blissfully pouring over the Sunday supplements!
Swanky-central, the spa rightfully stakes a claim as one of the country’s best. The waiting area is warm and friendly and offers a selection of herbal teas. Go for swoon-some couples massages, master Reiki, Pilates and hot yoga or sink into divine herbal baths.
TAKE THE KIDS
The hotel are so on the ball, they called me earlier in the week to ask what the kids are into. Dinosaurs? Princesses? The little people are greeted with goody bags, mini slippers, gowns and bedding according to their favourite fad. Rubber ducks are lined up in the huge sunken tub with organic children’s shampoos and bubble bath. We couldn’t have asked for bigger smiles. Then there’s the chocolate alphabet letters, made by the sous chef, giant cookies and hot milk and teddy night menu. We’ve found serious pampering at this level hard to beat ever since. And though it’s a pretty serious spa, it makes allowances with splash times at the heated pool, tennis courts and junior fitness classes. The shiny new adventure playground is brilliant.
Stoke Park weddings are spectacular – and you can fly in by helicopter! A wedding planner, amazing views, fantastic food and multiple ceremony locations including a grand ballroom for 100 guests or a marquee hosting up to 400 all tend to a happy couple’s desires.
WHAT TO DO
WINDSOR CASTLE: Soak up the quaint antique shops in Windsor before heading into the Queen’s weekend retreat. You’ll hear jaws-dropping to the floor as you pass by HM’s collection of portraits. Book in advance to avoid the big weekend queues. www.royalcollection.org.uk/Windsor
It’s impossible not to be captivated by Mini Land or the Star Wars Museum, an interactive 3-D high tech affair. Serious fun for adults and kids alike. www.legoland.co.uk
F I N D O U T M O R E Stoke Park, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, SL2 4PG
V I S I T www.stokepark.com
C A L L 01753 717171