If you’re after a luxury escape in the country, without the day-trip, Down Hall Hotel and Spa is the perfect retreat. Surrounded within 110 acres of countryside near Bishop’s Stortford on the Hertfordshire/Essex border, Down Hall is a mere 45-minute commute from London.
After driving through quintessential country lanes and farmland, we enter the long driveway into the sprawling grounds where a white mansion looms ahead. Dating back to 1540, this impressive stately home is a historic landmark and a real hidden gem. Although the lobby is grandiose with marble pillars and huge crystal chandeliers, it still retains its country mansion charm. Down Hall comprises of 98 rooms, including suites, plush cocktail bar, The Grill restaurant and a gym with sauna and steam room. While it looks modest on the outset, the smell of fresh paint indicates its ongoing £8.5 million refurbishment, which shows in its contemporary-chic interior design mixed with traditional heritage style.
As we arrive at our master suite, the door opened into a spacious, contemporary living room with a feature ‘real flame’ fireplace, integrated cabinetry and fully-equipped kitchenette. Behind glass doors was an equally luxurious bedroom, and the marble-tiled, en-suite bathroom featured a handy double shower and vanity. But the piece de resistance had to be the rustic, freestanding bathtub at the foot of the bed, adding a touch of glamour. As to be expected with a high-specification, it comes with all the mod-cons. The fireplace and wall-mounted televisions in both lounge and bedroom are controlled via the Apps on the tablet supplied, so you can watch all your favourite movies.
As far as luxury suites go, this one has it all. Decorated in a neutral colour scheme with bursts of bold colours, attention to detail is on point with everything strategically placed. From the array of fascinating titles on every bookshelf (Bear Grylls: How to Stay Alive), to the marble-crafted, noughts and crosses game on the coffee table. Nothing is amiss and it felt like we’d stepped into somebody’s private penthouse. You can even find a fully-stocked drinks cabinet, cocktail shaker and recipes that includes, the ‘Down Hall’ cocktail!
In need of some pampering, we headed to Eden Spa just next door to the hotel. Greeted by friendly staff, the spa offers a range of ESPA body treatments including hot stone massages, deep tissue massages and facials. We opted for the 55-minute Swedish massage, which guarantees a full-body relaxation. Feeling totally relaxed, we were shown to the wet spa where you will find a bubbling hydrotherapy pool maintained at 36 degrees, steam room, sauna and relaxation room. After basking in the sauna (gazing at the twinkling lights in the ceiling!), we sat in the refreshing, hydrotherapy pool to cool down.
While Eden Spa is smaller than other country spa facilities, it is delightfully tranquil within peaceful surroundings, and friendly staff are always at hand to assist you. Just bear in mind spa appointments would need to be pre-booked, as it can get busy.
Food and drink
All meals are served at The Grill Restaurant, where we dined for dinner and breakfast. Nestled in a quaint space just off one of the long corridors, The Grill offers modern British cuisine. Chef Chris Jones and his team ensured their menu was selected around Down Hall’s own seasonal, vegetable gardens and local farms. With ingredients responsibly sourced, I could literally taste the ‘home grown’ freshness of the heritage tomato salad I enjoyed for starters.
For mains, I opted for the succulent Brook Farm rib-eye with fat chips, watercress and peppercorn sauce. While my guest delved into the delicious mushroom risotto with hazelnut and truffle oil. With room for the tempting desserts, I devoured the chocolate soufflé and yoghurt sorbet, and my guest had the tasty apple terrine with walnut ice cream. Overall, the cuisine was to be expected of an AA Rosette restaurant, with the main focus on quality without all the fancy bells and whistles. For cocktail connoisseurs, I would highly recommend the Kanu Kolada, which was the perfect nightcap!
Things to do
For those who want to take in the beautiful scenery and fresh air, explore the grounds with one (or more!) of the four country walks available. You can choose your pace from easy and leisurely to moderate and strenuous. Just look out for the colour-coded arrows to guide you. Armed with our walking map, we set out to do a moderate walk, and stopped by the curated Bug Hotel and Fairy Garden which were hidden deep in the woodland. My only suggestion would be don’t forget your welly boots (like I did!) or wear waterproofs, as you may be walking in muddy terrain. But if you don’t fancy getting stuck in the mud (literally), head to one of the two tennis courts, squash court, paddle tennis courts, or perhaps a game of giant chess on the lawn. Checkmate!
Suites can be booked from £245 pppn.
Address: Down Hall, Matching Road, Hatfield Heath, Bishop’s Stortford, Essex, CM22 7AS
Phone: +44 (0) 1279 731 441