Hoar Cross Hall is a spectacular stately home in the heart of the Staffordshire countryside, in the charming village of Hoar Cross. The Hall took 10 years to build and was completed in 1871, staying as a private residence for a century. It was transformed into a hotel and spa and, in 2021, re-opened following a £14m renovation.
It was busy as we checked in with the car park practically overflowing and a hustle and bustle in the reception area, but the friendly staff brought us some pink fizz and directed us up to our room, on the top floor. We received our wristbands, used to charge extras to their room and for access to the spa. The grand building has been extended and now houses 97 bedrooms and suites – some boasting private hot tubs – as well as two restaurants, a bar and the state-of-the-art spa and spa restaurant.
Staff gave us a useful map and guide to walking routes so we popped on our boots and headed out to explore the pretty surrounding countryside. We were disappointed that the driving range was closed and the hybrid bicycles were unavailable due to the weather so anyone who wants to make the most of the outdoor activities would be best to visit in spring or summer. The hotel stands in 30 acres of picturesque grounds including a tranquil Italian water garden, mature woodland, two tennis courts and overlooks sweeping parkland and fields. The formal gardens are beautifully manicured with a sunken garden, rose beds, gravelled pathways and lush lawns.
The suite was well proportioned although spread across three linked rooms; the bedroom had a super king-sized bed at its centre and a large flat-screen TV above the period fireplace. The sitting room boasted a cosy sofa and another TV along with tea and coffee facilities and steps led down through a dressing area and into the traditional wood-panelled bathroom with a large tub.
The room was smart, stylish and functional but there were some details that had been missed, with some corners of the room that could have benefited from deeper cleaning and a discarded vacuum cleaner outside our door. Although we were up in the eaves with small windows we still had a beautiful view out over the formal garden lawns and across the countryside beyond, particularly awesome when we awoke to a red-washed sunrise and frosty morning.
Food and drink
The Gallery Bar is a long, grand reception hall decorated with gilded mirrors and portraits. Double-height windows are framed with thick, rich fabric curtains and sofas are arranged around flickering fires and sociable tables. We relaxed in front of a fireplace and enjoyed wasabi peanuts and aperitifs. The menu offered a wide range of beers, soft drinks, wines, gins and spirits as well as cocktails and mocktails.
Soon it was time to eat and we moved into The Ballroom restaurant which was buzzing with chatter and laughter; each table full of friends catching up and couples enjoying quality time together. There was a warm and friendly atmosphere, reflected by the smiling staff. We needed our wristband to check in for dinner, which felt a little odd in a formal dining room, but we were soon seated and ready to peruse the menu. Our table looked out through the windows and over the gardens, the pruned topiary sparkling with fairy lights on the dark winter’s evening.
We sipped our drinks and tucked into bread and butter before our starters arrived: honey truffle goats’ cheese with roasted and pickled beetroot for me and scallops with apple, celeriac and nori salad for my husband. The goats’ cheese was thick and creamy, the bitter, earthy beetroot cutting through the dish.
For our main courses we decided to try the spiced monkfish with lentil dahl and spinach and the duo of pork (pork shoulder and potato terrine with slow-cooked pork belly). The fish was juicy and the curried sauce and dahl were packed full of flavour and added heat and depth to the dish which was very tasty. I tried the tonka bean cheesecake for dessert to mixed reviews while my husband ordered the chocolate and peanut butter bavarois which was smooth, rich and sweet.
The spa was busy and the check-in process – which it turned out, as hotel guests, we didn’t need to worry about – was convoluted and complicated. We made it through to the changing rooms and headed to our treatments; I decided to try the sea soother’s facial, a hydrating facial oil mask with hydrating seaweed leaves wrapped around the feet and a relaxing face, neck, shoulder and scalp massage. At just 19, my therapist, Hollie, was very knowledgeable and tailored my treatment to me. She was clearly passionate and enthusiastic with great insight into the treatment and products.
It’s easy to see why the spa won the Best Spa in the West Midlands and Wales in the Good Spa Guide 2021 Regional Awards. It is packed full of different things to try. The scale of the spa means there isn’t a dull moment for those, like me, who like to hop from one bubbling pool to another, while there are also plenty of cosy nooks and plush loungers to relax in if you prefer the chilled out approach. The only problem with it being so large is that it can get very busy. They’ve designed the facilities well to cater to a high turnover, with two pools separated by a relaxation lounge, and have increased the size and number of popular elements such as the hot tub. As is often the case, it was tricky to find a lounger to sit back and relax in; although guests are asked not to reserve the beds many people had covered them in towels and robes.
A star-studded ceiling overlooks the large salt-water vitality pool designed to soothe and naturally exfoliate the skin. The pool offers bubble areas with massage jets, a swim-in cave to relax in an intimate corner, and two large hot tubs that bubble at around 37C. Wooden slatted loungers surrounded the pool’s edge and a balcony of heated tiled beds overlooks the sparkling water. A sauna, steam room and saunarium lead off of the main pool area while an arched wooden bridge leads to the Aqua Massage zone, which offers a cycle to help detox the body and rejuvenate from the cold plunge pool to the foot spa.
I’ve been to my fair share of spas, so it’s always nice when you find something new to try. For me at Hoar Cross Hall, it was the knelpp; a cold stream of water where you walk over smooth cobbles to massage the feet and increase circulation. I also enjoyed the body and foot embrace; a dark mosaic-tiled cove where you sit in a waterfall of water that cascades down your back and into the bubbling foot spa below.
On the other side of the spa, the ambience is much more zen-like. The hydrotherapy pool glows with a dim blue light, and everything is much quieter around the pool and in the bubbling hot tub. The traditional Roman influence can be seen in the lion head busts and arched windows.
Next door, a Nordic heat and ice suite takes you to the snowy terrains of Northern Europe thanks to its wooden cladding and relaxed atmosphere. Here there is another cycle to ease the body and relax the mind; heat up in the sauna cabin, take hot and cold showers, relax in the salt steam room and finish up in the warm, lavender-scented aromatherapy room.
Refreshments and booth beds are available in the relaxation lounge as well as basket seats that swing from the ceiling, but if proper relaxation is what you’re after then head through into the Sanctum; a haven of calm and tranquillity. There are plush sofas, bucket beds suspended from the ceiling, and a snug sleep room with cosy day beds and weighted blankets where you can take a nap with the backdrop of soft net curtains, dim lighting and the relaxing sounds of crashing waves and pan pipes.
Relaxing is hungry work so spa guests can head to Hugo’s – the spa restaurant – for a delicious three-course meal. We booked a lunch slot at 2pm but had to join a long queue as the restaurant was heaving with hungry guests. The service was a little slow due to the lunch rush but we eventually placed our order. I had Italian salad to start; a delicious mixture of salad leaves, roasted vegetables and balsamic dressing. Next was salmon with smoked salmon mashed potato and lobster sauce which was so absolutely delicious, with creamy indulgent mash, laced with smoky flakes of fish and a rich sauce that tied it all together. After a sweet, vanilla-flavoured crème brulee we were ready to check out and hit the road.
In a nutshell
Hoar Cross Hall is the ultimate destination for a spa weekend away, meaning it sometimes gets busy. There are lots of packages at different prices to cater to different guests but the hotel and spa continue to offer a luxury escape, so if you’re after some serious relaxation, this is a great place to head to.
Rooms at Hoar Cross Hall start from £335 per night and overnight spa packages are available from £167.50 per person. Hoar Cross Hall won Best Spa in the East Midlands and East at the 2021 Good Spa Guide Awards.
Address: Maker Lane, Burton upon Trent, DE13 8QS
Phone: 01283 477900