Relaxation and drama await Sam Lewis at a Buckinghamshire retreat fit for a king
It’s easy to image this 17th century country manor as a setting for a period costume drama and, as I wander round its wood-panelled rooms with soaring ceilings and carved Jacobean fireplaces, staff eagerly tell of its former inhabitants.
Its corridors were once walked by the exiled king, Louis XVIII of France, and it was here in 1814 that he played court and was eventually reinstated to the throne. James Gibbs, Henry Keene and James Wyatt are some of the famous names that have put their stamp on this grand country house, but it is the living that bring it to life today.
Far from stuffy, staff are young and friendly, welcoming guests of the four-legged variety as much as those with only two. I spend the afternoon with my dogs following mapped walks across 90-odd acres of English parkland where deer leap and swans swim, while other guests play tennis on the all-weather walled courts housed in the old kitchen garden.
Forty six spacious guest rooms, many with four-poster beds, offer old fashioned period drama in the main building or in the adjacent 18th-century coach house, handily located next door to the spa. And whilst the spa lacks any ‘wow’ factor, there’s a hot tub, steam room, sauna and a generous sized swimming pool.
The highlight is the excellent treatment menu by British brand Aromatherapy Associates which uses only natural ingredients, the purest extracts and essential oils. My 55-minute full body massage Ultimate Aromatherapy Experience (£62) required me to select one of three fragrant oils that best suited my mood and emotion, but as I had a cold she also selected another to ease my sinus congestion. My therapist set to work, intuitively using Swedish and neuromuscular techniques to relieve muscular tension and carefully applied pressure to stimulate the nervous system.
After an hour I felt revived and invigorated, stresses and strains dissolved away. Also on the menu is a Rose Infinity facial (£92 for 85 mins) where wrinkles and lines are targeted using micro currents that deliver active natural ingredients deeper into your skin.
While most therapists advise you to drink only water after a treatment, following such advice is hard when you see Hartwell’s extensive wine cellar and an excellent range of three-course set menus.
Splash out and whatever the bill, rest assured that you’re doing your bit to help preserve history. Hartwell is managed by Historic House Hotels who donate all profits to the house and the National Trust.