V The trouble with newish country house hotels is that, polished and swagged within an inch of their lives, they spoil us for the real thing. Like Ston Easton Park, a really grand old pile relatively recently converted to a hotel. Being seriously old, it has a fascinating history — but age brings its problems. So I had to get over the fact Ston Easton has a shabby, discoloured façade compared to the splendid mansions of golden Bath stone a few miles away, and that my vast bedroom smelled faintly musty.
Given what Ston Easton does well, fans of history and fine food will forgive its foibles. Built in 1540, it was embellished in 1739 and later landscaped by Humphrey Repton. It fell into dereliction in the 1950s, but was restored to its former glory 20 years later. The Von Essen group bought it in 2001.
The general manager, Ian Jupp, retells the saga on a daily tour, which adds considerably to the pleasure of staying in a Tudor relic (as do the Dubarry boots to stroll the grounds in). But the Chippendale four-poster was wasted on me, and it’s good to see some rooms have a more relaxed, contemporary feel. While a magnifying mirror was maybe a wish too far, no hotel should fail to provide a tooth mug.
The handsome dining rooms, overlooking sublime gardens sloping to the river, are a fine canvas for Matt Butcher, a highly accomplished chef bound for Michelin recognition. Breakfast is proper here, with leaf tea, eggs cooked to order and a buffet table featuring home-made granola, creamy yogurt and local apple juice or freshly-squeezed OJ.
RATES: From £195
TEL: 01761 241 631