Hotel Review: Hawkstone Hall and Gardens, Shrewsbury in Shropshire
When you have to call reception to buzz you in at the gate and they tell you to keep driving (the drive is 1.5 miles long!) you know you’re arriving somewhere special. And Hawkstone Hall is certainly special.
This regal Grade I listed mansion is steeped in history and packed full of charm; a hidden gem (quite literally) in the Shropshire countryside with beautiful views out across the rolling pastures and hills to the Welsh valleys beyond.
You could easily explore this area and never know Hawkstone Hall even existed. The grand house occupies a prime spot on a large estate but is hidden from civilization, a real retreat from everyday life.
Drive through the automatic gates, pass the golf club and through the woods, through a tunnel and across acres of pastures which are home to hundreds of sheep before the cattle grid marks the start of the meandering gravel drive leading up to the imposing 18th century country house.
You can’t help but feel like a banquet guest of Lord Grantham arriving at Downton Abbey as hotel staff greet you in the car park to carry in your luggage and welcome you with a glass of champagne. We settled on a cosy sofa as James came to check us in – no check-in desks and queues here.
Before we knew it we were being whisked up the palatial, sweeping staircase – a stunning focal point for this beautifully refurbished house. We scaled to the top floor to the beautiful Christie suite, our home for the night. The sparkling silver suite certainly provides occupants with the ‘wow’ factor.
A huge Queen-size bed stands at the centre of this room – a mammoth headboard towering above the fluffy pillows – but it’s the grand roll-top bath which is the suite’s real focal point. The tub stands between floor-to-ceiling sash windows with views out across the stunning manicured lawns and the gardens beyond. Even the monochrome bathroom has its own chandelier!
Everything is gilded and bejeweled here, glittering in the light. Surfaces shine and shimmer, the white bathroom tiles are gleaming white and all of the furnishings look as though they’ve just been unwrapped and set about the room.
No ordinary mini fridge would do so a mirrored, gold drinks caddy filled with high-end spirits, liquors and crystal glasses provides guests with refreshments. Delicate antique furniture and vintage finishes tie the metallic room’s décor with the stylish history of the house.
The Hawkstone estate formed part of MP Sir Roland Hill’s manor acquired in 1556 for just £700 and remained the family seat for almost 350 years. The Hall dates back to 1700 with various extensions, additions and renovations since.
When the third Viscount went bankrupt the house lay empty for 11 years before the estate was sold and broken up. The Catholic Church – who built the chapel – took over the estate in 1926 and was used as a seminary until 1979 when it became Hawkstone Hall International Pastoral and Retreat Centre, designed to provide a place for priests and people to find ‘refreshment for their spirits’.
In June 2017 Hawkstone Hall was bought – for only the fifth time in its history – by The Distinctly Hospitable Group, which embarked on an 18-month refurbishment project. The newly-renovated prestigious hotel, restaurant, retreat and wedding and events venue threw open its doors in April 2019 boasting 12 exquisite suites and 25 luxury bedrooms – and everything still looks as good as brand new.
We spent some time exploring the hotel’s rooms, finding all of the cosy nooks and elegant spaces guests can enjoy during their stay. The huge double aspect windows in the vaulted, airy Wintergarden allows the morning light to flood in while the breathtaking ballroom is a stunning example of the hotel’s pomp and ceremony at its best.
The grand regency décor of The Ballroom and The Saloon – or restaurant – could be in any National Trust royal residence or museum. The Saloon’s intricately painted ceiling and 13ft-high arch windows provides a decadent backdrop for dinner by executive chef Andrew Watts.
Classic music and soothing songs provided our soundtrack to dinner in The Saloon. The crisp white tablecloths, shiny silver cutlery and formal service set the tone for the food to come and, although there is no strict dress code, guests dress up for dining.
We started our meal with warm fennel and poppy pumpkin seed bread with salted and Harissa butter, alongside a deliciously tasty parsnip foam amuse bouche. The menu is concise but varied with options for meat-eaters, vegetarians and seafood-lovers. I opted for the crab to start – beautiful white crab meat with charred leak and sweet, crunchy pear.
This was followed by succulent, juicy wild seabass with a flavoursome pesto and basil gnocchi. As always – for someone with such a sweet tooth – the best came last with a glossy, glistening chocolate delice with praline crumb, cream and toffee. The dessert was rich, sweet and beautifully presented.
What’s nice at Hawkstone is the small team of dedicated staff who work across all areas of the hotel. James, who helped with our luggage and checked us in, seated us for dinner and check us out the following morning. While only staying for a short time we got to know the staff, all of whom were extremely friendly and polite. All of the waiting staff, reception staff and butlers were incredibly well groomed and impeccably turned out, in-keeping with the hotel’s high standards.
After dinner we made our way into the Library to peruse the vast collection of literature. The hotel takes its inspiration from authors, writers and poets throughout the ages. Each room is named after a renowned penman and bookworms will feel right at home in the library – where shelves of big old books stand tall and large paintings of famous quotes adorn the walls. The relaxing candle-lite space provides the perfect spot for an after-dinner drink or a cosy spot to read the paper after breakfast.
We returned to the Saloon for breakfast with a view, looking out across the lush green lawns and burnt orange trees as the gardens shift from summer to autumnal colours. We enjoyed a sweet and juicy fresh fruit platter for breakfast with creamy yoghurts, freshly squeezed orange juice and toast before borrowing Hunter wellies (they have pairs in every size – and colour – for guests to use) for a rainy but enjoyable walk around Hawkstone’s magical gardens.
We wandered across the lawns to the lily pond and through the orchard. The grounds would make the perfect fairytale wedding spot for brides and grooms seeking a grand, formal affair.
The hotel was quiet during our stay which made it feel like we had the whole building to ourselves! Just six months in the hotel is still finding its feet and its spot in the market but I can guarantee that, before long, it’ll be one of the country’s leading luxury country hotels with guests flocking from around the world to stay here.
Room rates are on a bed and breakfast basis. A classic double or twin costs from £175 a night, luxury cosy suites from £295 a night, luxury suites from £350 a night, luxury family suites from £395 a night and empress suites from £450 a night.
Address: Hawkstone Hall, Weston, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY4 5UZ
Phone: 01630 685242