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Hotel Highlights

  • Rooms overlook Cheltenham Racecourse
  • Stunning grounds, protected by the National Trust
  • Best-of-British food, with two restaurants

Overview

We’re backing Ellenborough Park as our next Gold Cup winner. This is an educated bet: the sports-loving hotel has thoroughbred good looks, 90 gorgeous green acres of National Trust land, and a herd of indulgent extras. Keen flutterers will enjoy the views, too – rooms overlook the finishing line at Cheltenham Racecourse.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Ellenborough Park with us:

A bottle of Prosecco on arrival, and 10 per cent off any 55-minute spa treatment

Facilities

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Need To Know

Rooms

62, including three suites.

Check–out

11am. Earliest check-in, 3pm.

Rates

Double rooms from $248.84 (£146), excluding tax at 20 per cent.

More details

Rates include breakfast (buffet and Full English) and use of the spa.

Also

The original entrance has been converted into the ‘Cove’, a little business centre with a computer, printer and fax. Look out for the first owner’s initials, TG (Thomas Goodman), carved into the stone around the arch. After a relaxing treatment at the spa (we’d plump for an algae wrap or Nemaste of India: body brush, scalp, hair and full-body massage), get all your five dailies in one go, with a trip to the spa’s juice bar.

At the hotel

Spa with seven treatment rooms, sauna and a juice bar; gardens, gun room, gym, and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, iPod dock, minibar and Noble Isle bath products.

Our favourite rooms

The Arkle suite is surprisingly light and airy, considering that it’s kitted out from top-to-toe in oak panelling. It has a lucky streak, too: named after Arkle the racehorse (who notched up 14 big wins in just two years), and is a favourite with visiting jockeys. They probably love it for its princely four-poster. Or its striking original fireplace. Or its vast bathroom with a roll-top tub and shower. The Istabraq suite, set in the eaves of the Great Hall, doesn’t skimp on drama, with its soaring dark Tudor beams and glittering split-level bathroom with under-floor heating, twin basins, roll-top bath and palatial shower.

Poolside

The outdoor pool, flanked by white-cushioned wooden sun loungers, is kept at a deliciously warm 30-degrees all-year round. The pool is positioned near the hotel’s newest block of rooms, Woodland Court.

Packing tips

Don’t weigh your case down with binoculars for spying on the horses/race-goers, the hotel has telescopes for this purpose, and you can keep snug and dry with their stash of Dubarry wellies and coats. Ladies/gents yearning for a smooth mane can request hair straighteners from reception; phone chargers and dental kits are also available. Prestbury is supposedly Britain’s most haunted village: bring your preferred method of protection against the undead – garlic, black salt or holy water, perhaps?

Also

Bring your dog too, for £25 a night. Canine companions aren’t allowed in the Main House, though, and not all rooms are pet-friendly.

Children

Cots are free, extra beds are £30 (this charge includes your nipper’s breakfast), and babysitting with a local, Ofsted-registered nanny can be arranged for £15 to £20 an hour. The hotel reckons that when it comes to young uns, it’s best suited to babies.

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Food & Drink

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Hotel Restaurant

There are two: Beaufort Dining Room is the bigger, and more formal, with original Tudor fireplaces, stained glass Oriel windows, and fine dining to match; the Brasserie serves burgers and British classics in a cosy, sports-themed setting.

Hotel Bar

Fans of whisky and cigars will love the bar area (where both are on tap), tucked away in the Brasserie. The barmen mix up a mean Lady Ellenborough: cucumber, Hendrick's Gin, Chase Elderflower, lime juice, sugar syrup and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin champagne.

Last orders

Lunch is served only in the Brasserie between 12 noon and 2.30pm (Tuesday to Saturday); Sunday lunch is 12.30pm to 4pm in both restaurants. Dinner is normally 7–10pm, but the Beaufort Dining Room is closed Sunday and Monday evenings..

Room service

The room service menu is thorough (soups, salads, sandwiches and mains), and available 24-hours a day.

Smith Insider

Dress code

An equine equation: white shirts + cashmere + tan leather accents. Spruce up for the Beaufort; T-shirts and chinos are fine for the Brasserie.

Top table

Cold? Snuggle up by the fire. Hot? Sit outside and enjoy the breeze. Ardent sports fans should sit closest to the TV in the Brasserie bar, which screens all the big sporting events.

Local Guide

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Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Worth getting out of bed for

Start with what’s right in front of you: borrow a pair of Ellenborough socks and green Hunter boots (or brown Dubarry hiking boots, if they’re more your style), then set off for a foray in the countryside. Bring your own shotgun (or ask about borrowing one from the Ian Coley shooting school) for a spot of clay-pigeon shooting. If you’re keen to use the spa, book a treatment in advance – it’s small (just seven treatment rooms) and very popular. The hotel hosts wine tastings in an area behind the atrium; it also works closely with a local polo club – request a lesson or two. There’s also a stash of balls, hoops and mallets for keen croquet players. If you’ve any time left, venture into Cheltenham for the elegant shops, bars and restaurants, lay some bets at the racecourse, or go on a drive around the Cotswolds countryside, stopping off for a hearty pub lunch or elegant cream tea. The hotel can also arrange archery, picnics, Cotswolds tours, fishing trips, golf lessons, hiking, horse racing, horse riding and helicopter tours.

Local restaurants

Monty's Bar & Brasserie on Cheltenham’s St Georges Road (+44 (0)1242 227678) is great for lunch or dinner, with international gastropub-style dishes (from Thai crispy duck to beer-battered cod and chips, via Wiener schnitzel and whole Bibury trout) and there's a decent cocktail bar, too. The elegant Lumière on Clarence Parade serves modern ‘global’ cuisine and always looks lively (+44 (0)1242 222200), but if it’s a flawless Michelin-starred French feast you’re after, book a table at the incomparable Le Champignon Sauvage on Suffolk Road (+44 (0)1242 573449). The Daffodil at 18-20 Suffolk Parade (+44 (0)1242 700055) is set in a former cinema. It’s known for its excellent European food and buzzy upstairs bar.

Local bars

Montpellier Wine Bar in Cheltenham (+44 (0)1242 527774) has a lively atmosphere, and an al fresco dining patch that’s perfect for sunny afternoons (the kind that spill langorously into evenings).

Local cafés

Get your alfresco fix at the Hot Pepper Jelly café on Suffolk Road (+44 (0)1242 719999), which has a sun-dappled courtyard, or in the Imperial Square gardens, where an open-air bar dispenses liquid refreshments during summer. Gusto, a deli on Montpellier Walk (+44 (0)1242 239111), grinds the best coffee beans in town and will pop goodies from the shop into a picnic hamper for you.

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Racy Prestbury

Ellenborough Park

Southam Road, Southam, Cheltenham Spa, Gloucestershire GL52 3NJ, United Kingdom

Planes

Birmingham airport is less than 60 miles away, with connections from Aberdeen, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Jersey. International hub Heathrow Airport (www.heathrowairport.com) is roughly a two-hour drive from the hotel.

Trains

Cheltenham Spa is just two miles away, with services connecting to London, Bristol and the South West (www.nationalrail.co.uk). A taxi should cost around £6 each way.

Automobiles

Cheltenham Spa is a 10-minute drive away. Ellenborough Park has plenty of free parking for guests.

Reviews

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Anonymous review

by Juliet Kinsman , On-the-go editor at Mr & Mrs Smith

Oh to have met Lady Jane Digby, the most notorious Lady Ellenborough. What a colourful Mrs Smith she would have made. Briefly the lady of this Cotswold house, one wonders what she would make of her grand once-marital home now hosting loved-up weekend awayers? I am confident the 1807-born aristocrat – who in her time eloped with an Austrian prince, married a Bedoin sheikh and a German ba…
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Ellenborough Park

Anonymous review by Juliet Kinsman, On-the-go editor

Oh to have met Lady Jane Digby, the most notorious Lady Ellenborough. What a colourful Mrs Smith she would have made. Briefly the lady of this Cotswold house, one wonders what she would make of her grand once-marital home now hosting loved-up weekend awayers? I am confident the 1807-born aristocrat – who in her time eloped with an Austrian prince, married a Bedoin sheikh and a German baron, and had affairs with an Albanian brigand general and the King of Bavaria – would thoroughly approve...

A distinguished vignette greets us at the Cotswold-stone hotel for our arrival: cornflower-blue sky and a Kermit-green lawn that stretches to wild fields that roll down to the edge of Cheltenham’s groomed racetrack. Sunshine alchemised the crenallated towers and centuries-old stonework to pure gold. We couldn’t help but be curious about this property’s heritage. (Especially when Mr Smith scrutinised the bricks and pointed out sections clearly added in different eras.) But what should prove a most memorable part of our recent stay at the new luxury Cheltenham hotel? When someone recommended a copy of Lady Jane’s biography by Mary S Lovell. (A gentle enquiry into the history of the house from a sweet member of staff had her disappearing off, and moments later, cheerily popping a copy of this very paperback into my paws.)

Architecture buffs will recognise the property as an anomaly. Thomas Goodman's construction of Southam House, as it was known until the Seventies, first began in 1500; eventually the estate passed to Richard de la Bere who was the first person to come over all Grand Designs on it – in a 17th-century kind of way. By 1833 it was the first Earl of Ellenborough's; then in the 20th century it hosted a private girls school and a hotel. But nothing in the league of its latest incarnation. 2007 marked the dawn of a new era when asset managers got their mitts on the property; after four years of extravagant remodelling a very new beast emerged.

And so, to these two Smith turning up at this TripAdvisor high-ranker – a day early. After a few blank looks from the friendly receptionists and a little gentle head-shaking, we unnervingly discover there is no record of our booking. Oh no. Turns out we’ve committed the ultimate hotel-reviewing faux pas: I got our dates jumbled. Smiling throughout, the receptionist graciously finds us a room quick-smart (despite Ellenborough Park being almost fully booked), and we're invited to take tea in the Great Hall while they get our suite readied. It is betwixt the centuries-old carved stone fireplace, and delicate stained-glass windows, under huge Tudor portraits, that we learn about the scandalising Lady Ellenbrough.

Just-baked scones, Earl Grey and tales of yore devoured, and we’re steered to our luxury double bedroom in the new wing. With our hotel-critic heads on we weigh up this newly created hotel decked out in Nina Campbell interior design; hmm, not a big fan of brass name badges, but since the staff are so friendly, it is nice to know their names. Electronic photo frames with a loop of brochure-type shots? Slightly dubious. But such corporate details are soon forgotten when our chaperone steers us into a boot room and invites us to borrow wellies. Fun.

Being in the purpose-built Woodland Court rather than the hotel’s more historic main house sees our door opening to a super high-quality, stylish modern-classic bedroom. It could be a Four Seasons showroom: huge, inviting bed clearly clad in top-notch freshly starched linens, resplendent marble ensuite bathroom, big desk with information folders, and a whopping widescreen with a hotel video of guests having a whale of a time in a hot tub. No, no – it’s not a steamy adult channel, but a corporate film of Ellenborough Park’s marvelous facilities in full glory.

And boy, are there facilities. Fans of shooting, polo and golf will like it here, but we’ve booked in for my personal pastime favourite: the spa. Steered into the juice bar (although, disappointingly as it’s a Sunday no one offers to rustle us up anything freshly squeezed), we wait for our therapists. Spa snobs, take note, the Discovery Prescription Facial is a winner. As I lie there taking in the classical music in my candlelit cubby, soaking up the Babor oils, it’s impossible to conceive that there is in fact a wedding going on right below in De la Bere Court.

From pampering to pigging out – via an elegant aperitif. It’s a Lady Ellenborough cocktail for me (Hendrick's gin, champagne and elderflower cordial) and a classic martini for Mr Smith, in the minstrel’s gallery overlooking that harp-boasting history-steeped hall. There is a more traditional hotel watering hole which doubles as a brasserie, the Brasserie bar – but tonight it is commandeered by the wedding party. No worry, we prefer this spot anyway to the more conventional bar that is a tad masculine for my taste. (Racing enthusiasts will find the whisky-toting, cigar-selling Brasserie bar a must-visit though when it comes to eavesdropping for tip-offs from visiting jockeys and horse trainers.)

For us, it is the Beaufort Dining Room where Ellenborough truly wows. The Italian maitre d’ Sandro is the first agent in transporting us from country-house-hotel to sophisticated gastronome’s paradise, eased along with excellent advice from sommelier Tobias Brauweiler. It’s an exciting Modern British menu laced with every epicurean indulgence (foie gras, lobster – you name it.) A few bites of the quality ingredients and you are likely to consider the £60 price tag for four courses perfectly reasonable.

A bracing* dip in the slate-lined outdoor pool the next morning washes away any traces of Tobias’ expert wine-matching. (*It is heated, but this is England after all.) We then make the most of our near-town location with a wander into Cheltenham itself. (If I’m to be brutal dear reader, we miss out on a true bank holiday lie-in due to our previous guests setting the alarm in our room for 5.55am. Thankfully the pastry-, fruit- and charcuterie-laden breakfast table is a magnificent incentive to get us out of that fine-linened cloud of a bed.)

After a day of poking our noses into cute delis, galleries and boutiques in the Montpellier district, we’re happy to be relaxing in the Great Hall again with another afternoon tea. Peering over that chic specially commissioned bone china, we observe two couples canoodling in different cosy corners of the reception room. My, my, what would Lady Ellenborough make of it all? I have no doubt: she would be very, very proud.

 


 

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel with us, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Ellenborough Park's Guestbook below.

 

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

I liked the ambience and staff.

Don’t expect

Dogs are allowed in some rooms.

Rating: 8/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

The greeting upon arrival was extremely friendly and welcoming.

Don’t expect

Service at supper was a little slow but the food was delicious.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

This is an impressive hotel and surroundings. Afternoon tea in the snug room was amazing.

Don’t expect

The spa could be a bit bigger.

Rating: 10/10 stars

SilverSmith

Stayed on

We loved

The service is superb. The last time we were there it was wonderful taking an early morning swim watching the sun shine on the beautiful Cotswold stone. The building is absolutely stunning.

Don’t expect

It was a shame that the pool wasn't open this time.

Rating: 9/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

I liked the little things like the water and mints in the car after they valet parked it. The rooms and bathrooms were lovely. The ability to hire wellington boots and coats is a nice touch.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

There was nothing that could have improved our stay – the food, service, bedrooms and hotel were all superb.

Rating: 9/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

The food was by far the best we had had in a long time, and we got excellent service at the spa and restaurant.

Don’t expect

Nothing could be improved.

Rating: 8/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

This is a luxuriuos hotel in beautiful surroundings. The spa was very good, and the bedrooms very spacious and comfortable

Don’t expect

The dinner service was slow.

Rating: 10/10 stars

SilverSmith

Stayed on

We loved

With real luxury and impeccable service, it's also great to have such a fantastic spa on the premises. I'd also like to mention Jamie in the restaurant: he was fantastic at making my wife and I feel comfortable and I'm now a cheese snob thanks to his advice!

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

The staff was so friendly and welcoming. There were lots of personal touches, my favorite being the bottle of water and mints in the car upon our departure. The rooms were soft and cozy and made us feel really relaxed. The service was exceptional and everything was so seamless. I really liked that they gave us a mini tour upon arrival. There was a boot room equipped with Barbours and wellies just in case you wanted to go for a walk – perfect! I only wish I'd brought my swimming costume to try out the heated pool as it looked so inviting. We will definitely be returning and we have told all our friends about it.

Don’t expect

It would have been nice if there was an internal walkway between the rooms and spa as you had to walk outside to get to the spa entrance. Luckily this didn't effect us as we had checked out before our massage and couldn't have got changed in our room anyway but if I had still been in my room when I had my massage I would have preferred to get changed and showered in my room and walk to and from the spa in my dressing gown. I would've felt a little silly in the hotel grounds in my dressing gown. The changing rooms and showers in the spa, however, are very nice and they provide lockers for all your bits and pieces.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

I liked everything from start to finish. Service was perfect; nothing could have been better.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

Beautiful property and super attentive staff.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

This has to be one of the best hotels I've stayed in: beautiful surroundings and exemplary service. The staff is absolutely first class. Everyone was so friendly. I cannot recall the name of the front of house gentleman in the bistro (a Spanish chap) but I would like it on record that his service was amazing. After dinner, he went and checked that a lovely little room above the lounge area was free and then took my fiancée and I up there with our drinks. Wonderful place.

Don’t expect

If anything, perhaps an indoor pool would be good. There are not many months in England that an outdoor pool is of much use.

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

The provision of boots and coats for walking in the very muddy countryside. An outdoor pool warm enough to use in January.

Don’t expect

The photos didn't do the Great Hall justice. It's warmer and more inviting than depicted.

Rating: 10/10 stars