Getting away from it all. It’s the ultimate goal in the travel game. But there’s something particularly appealing about getting away from it all, whilst only being only 45 minutes away from the “all” you’re getting away from.
This was very much the case when I spent a weekend at Stoke Place Hotel, one of six properties in new boutique hotel group, Dhillon Hotels.
Stoke Place is on the outskirts of Slough, but don’t let that put you off; Ricky Gervais’s The Office might have painted a less than salubrious picture of the place, but the surrounding countryside is lush and it is, remember, close to Windsor.
From the outside, the rather majestic building has a quintessentially English grandeur that is not quite stately home, but certainly nudges the upper echelons of the property world.
It was originally a three-storey William and Mary-style manor house, built as a family home in 1690 and added to substantially in the 18th century. Inside, the décor has been thoughtfully planned to maintain a sense of history while combining it with that brand of shabby chic British design that gently reminds you that we’re in the 21st century.
The hotel has 29 rooms which breaks down to 17 standard rooms, five cottage rooms (effectively junior suites), and seven suites. Each room has a flatscreen TV, DVD player, internet connection and the like, as well as Frette linen on the beds and spacious en-suite bathrooms with free-standing tubs and huge showers. Waiting in our suite when we arrived was a bottle of wine, chocs and fruit.
The grounds of Stoke Place are pretty impressive, too — a good few acres centred on an ornamental lake, and all landscaped by Capability Brown.
The day of our arrival we were blessed with 2008’s one day of Summer and were able to enjoy a stroll around the lake, dropping in and out of the surrounding woodland and chancing upon the odd angler.
Carp, Tench and Pike thrive in the lake and the angling-minded can hire the necessary equipment at the hotel and wile away a few hours trying to catch a big one.
Alternatively, you could grab a rifle and see if you can bag yourself a clay pigeon, though my preference would be for a game of giant chess — a board and pieces was laid out on the lawn.
Actually, my preference was to hop in to one of the enormous hammocks dotted about the place and snooze.
Stoke Place is also blessed with a very fine eatery that goes by the name of The Vyse Room.
The fare here is Modern British, locally sourced and delicious. Among the well-prepared dishes was tea-smoked salmon with crumpets and horseradish cream. Among the desserts was blancmange, as the restaurant is part of a campaign to resurrect this pud; it offers a seasonal blancmange dish for a price that includes a donation to Action For Hunger.
All told, Stoke Place would be hard to beat if you fancy escaping London’s heaving multitudes. In fact, even if you don’t come from London — and I believe there are a few other places to live in this country — it would make visiting our glorious capital and Windsor, that much more delightful an experience.
Stoke Place (www.dhillonhotels.co.uk) offers double rooms from £225 a night including VAT and breakfast. Cottage rooms and suites from £300.