Luxurious country manors within easy access of London don’t come more glamorous than Coworth Park – Dorchester Collection, a hotel and spa just outside Ascot. The 17th-century mansion and polo estate has been treated to an intelligent and eco-friendly modern makeover that’s given it three restaurants (including one with a Michelin star), a spectacular spa and an air of quietly confident grandeur.
11am, check-in is at 3pm but the hotel can accommodate an earlier check in subject to availability.
Double rooms from $878.44 (£635), including tax at 5 per cent.
Rates exclude breakfast (£20 for Continental and £25 for a hearty cooked breakfast each).
Afternoon tea is served in the Drawing Room (Monday to Thursday 12.30–5.30pm and Friday to Sunday 2.30–4.15pm) and in the Spatisserie 2.30–5.30pm.
At the hotel
240 acres of grounds, tennis courts, equestrian centre, Guards Polo Academy, eco-friendly spa with eight treatment rooms, gym and a mani/pedi suite, library with books, music and film, and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: Vi-Spring beds, flatscreen Bang + Olufsen TV, BluRay, DVD/CD player, iPod dock, minibar, Nespresso machine, free bottled water. All bathrooms have underfloor heating, heated towel rails, bathrobes and slippers for adults and children, Mitchell and Peach bath products and a sound system.
Our favourite rooms
We were swept away by the grand garden views from the Derby Suite (room 34), a regally decorated four-postered lovenest located smack in the centre of the main mansion house building. A short walk from the mansion, rooms in the renovated stable block are clean, contemporary, and gently equestrian, with oak floors, the odd horseshoe dotted about, and riding motifs embroidered in the linens. Coworth Park’s crowning glory is the Dower House, a three-bedroom, grade II-listed Georgian residence with its own kitchen, living rooms, and a stream-sliced garden where the estate’s swans hold court.
Downstairs in the spa, the indoor pool has sliding glass doors that open out onto the sun terrace. Swim along to underwater music and lighting, then lounge on the sheltered hill-view sun terrace.
The hotel’s eco-savvy spa is architecturally wowsome: a half-buried sweep of glass and timber with a herb-garden rooftop. The wide-ranging therapies (including treatments for men and pregnant women) incorporate products from Aromatherapy Associates, Kerstin Florian, Dr Alkaitis and Carol Joy London. Be sure to book in advance. There’s also a steam room, pool and gym. After your pampering session, pad over to the Spatisserie for healthy treats and afternoon tea; it's open for all-day dining 9am–6pm (8am–7pm on Saturdays).
Wellies, walking boots, golfing gear and riding kit – whatever country pursuits you have in mind, pack the essentials (although this is the kind of place that can fix you up if you forget anything).
All public areas are accessible for wheelchairs and some rooms in the Mansion House and Stables are adapted for the mobility-impaired. Large-print menus and induction loops available.
Exceedingly welcome. Cots can be added to parents' rooms free of charge; or children can stay in extra beds (£70 per night, including a full English breakfast). Nannies are on hand to babysit from £50 for four hours, as long as they get 72 hours’ notice.
Outdoorsy over-fours, although all ages are welcome.
Set apart from the main Mansion, the Cottage rooms offer a bit more privacy, although most Mansion House and Stables Block rooms easily accommodate free extra beds or cots. Larger families can book the three-bedroom private Dower House.
The Coworth Park Kids’ Club is free for children under two (who must be accompanied by a parent or babysitter) and those aged 12 or over; the cost is £15 a day for children 2–12. The club's open Friday to Sunday during term time and every day in the school holidays (10am–1pm and 2pm–5pm). Staff are all checked, trained and experienced and the club play area is divided into a dedicated zone for four- to seven-year-olds and a ‘Chill Den’ upstairs for older children.
For under-8s, indoors there’s a Wii, a library, TV and DVD selection, plenty of Lego, a dolls’ house and train set, and several play areas, including a crafts room and a kitchen. Outside, there’s a sandpit, basketball and a playhouse (oh, and 240 acres to run around in). The Chill Den has a Wii and Xbox, 3DTV, air hockey, table tennis, pool and football tables. There’s a packed calendar of art classes, nature trails, treasure hunts, tea parties, t-shirt making classes, sports days, dress-up and the ilk. Add to that all the outdoor activities on tap at Coworth (football, croquet, riding, biking, tennis), and it’s unlikely you’ll need to take advantage of the hotel’s proximity to Thorpe Park (www.thorpepark.com) and Legoland (www.legoland.co.uk).
The spa’s indoor pool is unsupervised, but has a shallow end, and inflatables/armbands are available to borrow.
The children’s menu (served at the Barn and at Restaurant Coworth Park) features locally sourced treats, such as home-made chicken nuggets and peas, Coworth Park beefburgers and macaroni cheese. Highchairs are available, packed lunches can be provided, and staff are more than happy to heat baby food or milk. Family dining times are from 6–7:30pm for under-8s at Restaurant Coworth Park and the Spatisserie welcomes little Smiths from 9–11am and 5–6:30pm daily.
Local nannies can be summoned at 72 hours’ notice, from £50 for four hours (£10 for each additional hour; allow 72 hours’ notice). Prices rise, depending on number of children and lateness of the hour.
No need to pack
Anything can be provided if you give enough notice. Children attending the Kids’ Club can buy special T-shirts and bags, so there’s no need to worry about clothes being ravaged in the course of an especially messy activity. Baby monitors are available.
Few hotels boast their own on-site kids’ concierge – Coworth Park is one of them.
There’s solar glazing and a willow-burning biomass boiler to produce carbon-neutral energy. Surface water is channelled into the lake and used for irrigation, and a comprehensive recycling scheme is in place.
We’d head straight for the cosy table for two by the small window on the entrance side of the restaurant. In the Barn, you can eat outdoors when the sun’s shining.
Channel Downton Abbey: equestrian get-up by day, debonair eveningwear by night. Go casual in the Barn – no need to kick off those muddy boots.
The hotel has not one, but three restaurants. At the fine-dining end, Restaurant Coworth Park showcases the chef Adam Smith's inventive British fare, including his crowd-pleasing caviar tart. Four-course dinners with wine pairing are hosted several times throughout the year. The Barn is a more low-key, oak-and-stone affair, where guests can settle by the fire with a pint and plate of pubby comfort food. For breakfast, lunch and snacks, airy café Spatisserie hosts a harmonious meeting of nutritionally balanced spa cuisine and chocolate cake. Afternoon tea is served twice a day in the Drawing Room (and also at the Spatisserie). All restaurants are in demand, so make reservations as soon as you can.
Between the restaurant and the Drawing Room (open daily from 8am to 11pm), Coworth Park’s bar has modern-minded kitsch decor (an artsy alternative chandelier spelling out ‘love’, and Julian Wolkenstein horse-with-hair-extension photos), and a colossal cocktail list. The bar’s open to guests from noon to 1am (11.30pm for non-residents).
The Restaurant’s open for breakfast 7–10.30am, lunch Friday to Sunday 12.30–2pm (2.30pm on Sundays), and dinner Wednesday to Saturday 6.30–9.30pm. The Barn does lunch (12–2.30pm), dinner (6–9.30pm) and weekend breakfast (8–10.30am).
A smaller menu can be ordered to your room, 24 hours a day.
Coworth Park sits on a 240-acre estate in Berkshire between Ascot and Windsor, just outside London and close to the Surrey border.
London Heathrow couldn’t be closer without spoiling the view – the airport is around 13 miles away, barely 20 minutes by car.
Virginia Water is the nearest rail station, a five-minute drive from Coworth Park. Services from London Waterloo take around 45 minutes.
By car from central London, you can reach the estate in around 45 minutes, via the A329 and the M3, and there’s ample free parking on site.
The nearest private airfield is Fairoaks Airport, 15 minutes by car from Coworth Park. The hotel allows private helicopter landings on site, with written notice, at least three days’ ahead and subject to availability. A fee of £225 excluding tax applies.
Worth getting out of bed for
If you can do it outdoors, you can do it Coworth Park: there are plenty of rambling trails in the 240-acre grounds, the on-site equestrian centre gives lesson in riding (or you can just go and coo at the ponies), Guards Polo Academy at Coworth Park gives polo lessons, and tennis, fishing, shooting, and croquet can all be arranged. Golfers should make a teeline for The Wentworth Club, and the historic royal hunting ground of Windsor Great Park is within walking distance. At Runnymede, the Royal Air Force Memorial is serene, beautiful and poignant, with impressive views of the Thames. The UK’s most famous racecourse, Ascot, is a 10-minute drive, and the hotel’s well placed for London daytripping too – the capital’s less than an hour away.
The UK’s foodiest village, Bray, is a 25-minute drive away, and home to gourmet gastropub twinset: The Hinds Head and The Crown, as well as the Roux brothers’ Waterside Inn. 15 minutes from the estate, on Paley Street in Maidenhead, The Royal Oak is Michael Parkinson’s Michelin-starred contribution to the gastropub movement. Bluebells Restaurant & Garden Bar is just a five-minute drive away; this two AA Rosette-holding restaurant dishes up creative Brit fare such as Salcombe crab salad with a sweetcorn bisque and heritage tomato salad with mozzarella ice-cream. At the Wentworth Club in Virginia Water, The Wentworth Grill is the sister of Le Caprice and the Ivy – and predictably upscale. In nearby Bagshot (a 20-minute drive away) The Latymer is a much-acclaimed restaurant where chef Michael Wignall and his team craft exquisite tasting menus. The Royal Oak, a 20-minute drive from the hotel, serves primped-up Brit pub grub in a 17th-century drinkery run by Sir Michael Parkinson's son.
Ascot in Berkshire is known for the love of all things royalty and horse racing. It is a place in England that you imagine never really changes. More English than Winston Churchill, a Union Jack flies proudly outside the traditional local pub. It is a small town in middle England that is postcard perfect. As we approached Coworth Park, we understood why wars were fought and won to keep the English traditions of regions like this alive…
There is a saying in my family, that after a long flight the body and mind feels like it’s been ‘folded wet and put away damp’. That’s how we felt arriving at Heathrow from Australia after 27 hours of plane travel. The last thing we were in the mood for was negotiating London traffic. One of the great things about Coworth Park? It is so accessible. 45 mins from central London – 20 minutes from the airport – and you’re taken from one of the world’s busiest cities, to a tranquil country retreat.
Coworth Park is part of the Dorchester Collection, so as well as having the feel of a well-run, intimate hideaway, you also get to experience every possible luxury. The impressive 240-acre grounds are former polo grounds – currently still in use – and they’re as manicured as the famous golf courses of Wentworth and Sunningdale that are a drive away. Accommodation includes the Mansion House, which you would imagine as being a great stately home many years ago, where important decisions were made as ‘Jerusalem’ played in the background.
Recently opened, it already runs like a well-oiled Bentley. The hotel emanates tradition – roses and lilies path the way as we wander around, admiring the rolling fields of England’s green and pleasant land. The staff dress in English country house tweed, and they smile genuinely when you speak to them. They seem to understand that you want to be left alone yet are also discreetly omnipresent should they be needed (and there are a lot of them). The hotel lends itself to the leisure traveller (there is purposefully no business centre to tempt or distract you) and attention to detail is paramount. Luxurious but understated, it’s all very, very English.
The rooms have every amenity that you would expect from a luxury hotel, but it is the additional touches that bring a smile to the face: a bottle of champagne in the room on arrival, traditional English fudge, a sleek coffee machine, a hair band as part of the bathroom provisions, and a ‘Book of Idle Pleasures’ to ponder as you recline in the freestanding, and seriously deep, bath. The selection of picture-postcards, even if you never plan to send them, are so attractive you would keep them as souvenirs, along with the packets of mixed herbs and wildflower seeds to plant when you get home.
A round of polo not so much our scene, we take advantage instead of the award-winning eco-friendly Dayspa carved into the hillside. It has its own Spatisserie where we lounge in heavy fluffy robes enjoying every type of tea we can think of. Mrs Smith even plumps for a ‘health promoting’ snack – with a glass of bubbly – before embarking on a treatment on one of the oversized plush beds. If the mood takes you, have a swim in the indoor pool (it is England after all), where soothing underwater music is piped through and coming up for air seems an inconvenience. There is also a streamlined gymnasium, powerful steam room, and ‘experience shower’.
Post-spa we flop on the balcony for pre-dinner drinks, exhale some more, and soak in the understated grandeur of the property. It feels as though we should be wearing riding jodphurs and shouting ‘tally ho’ – but that would take up too much energy – best left to another day, as we have a serious adventure ahead in the restaurant. Food is treated with reverence here, from the tiny biscuits in the Spatisserie, to the eight-course degustation dinner in the fine-dining restaurant. And it is certainly that, from the ceremony of waiters with cloths over their arms, to the hushed whispering in the dining room, food expertly cooked and plated with great care and love, served on English bone china accompanied by heavy polished silver cutlery and the finest linens.
For a more relaxed dining experience, but by no means an inferior meal, head to the Barn where more familiar British classics are on offer, accompanied by a decent wine list. This is where you head for dinner on your second night when your batteries are recharged. Follow us and just sit there on the first night and let it all come to you as it unfolds – you can always work it off at the spa tomorrow.
As you're across the road from Great Windsor Park, you’re in terrain where the Royals weekend. An ideal pastime is to walk, run or meander through the impressive grounds (take up the hotel’s offer of a map as it is easy to lose yourself), or explore on horseback or bicycle. Tennis or croquet are other ways we pass the time – when we aren’t simply sitting and savouring the regal atmosphere, watching the planes overhead wondering if the passengers feel like crumpled laundry, wishing they could have some Coworth-style luxury when they land.
If what you look for in a hotel is the finest of service, beautiful surroundings and a great bed to sleep in, with the added pampering of a spa treatment or a swim, Coworth Park is where the benchmark is set. A traditional English country retreat which lavished with luxury and ceremony without being pompous or overbearing, it sent me back to my family with a new saying: Coworth Park leaves you feeling as though you’ve been ‘dry-cleaned and polished’. Almost worth 27 hours in the air alone for.