Arrival at Cheltenham’s Ellenborough Park was impressive. The hotel sits alone on the side of a hill, in acres of immaculate grounds with sweeping views down to one of the UK’s most famous racecourses. We were expecting great things from this hotel as Ellenborough Park has won many awards, its main restaurant is the proud recipient of 3 rosettes. Having seen the grounds, I couldn’t help thinking that I had found the Four Seasons of the Cotswolds.
As I approached the main house there seemed not one but three extravagant weddings! One party was leaving, another arriving and a third was being photographed on the extensive lawns. Guests were milling about outside the main building in their best suits and dresses, with flowery headpieces. Wading through the crowd I reached reception, both modern and stylish with beautiful flower arrangements. Leading off reception was a maze of rooms and corridors as well as a modern bar and bistro. The hotel’s oldest rooms and premium suites were also located in this main building, reached via character-filled stairways. The remainder of the rooms sat in pretty Cotswold stone outbuildings dotted around the lawns and pool.
Our room was a De Luxe Double in one of the outbuildings. I was expecting a room full of character and Cotswolds charm. The room was lovely but modern. I can’t fault the size or the spacious and immaculate bathroom bearing a passing resemblance to a Four Seasons bathroom; modern with a large roll-top bath and a shower and toilet in separate cubicles.
A few of these rooms, including our own, (number 21), opened directly onto the pool with a mini patio and chairs, paradise for kids and a pleasure for adults, treks down corridors in damp and unsightly bathrobes after a swim can be avoided. Our room also benefited from afternoon and evening sunshine. I really do recommend requesting one of these poolside rooms, the outside space and easy access to the pool was brilliant, although I would love to have tried one of their character rooms in the main building.
The pool was outdoors but was warm even on a grey English summer’s day. It’s cleverly designed in a natural dip making it a sun trap and sheltering it from the wind. It’s a modern pool, well cared for with ample space around its edge for loungers. There’s also table service meaning food and drinks can be ordered poolside.
The bar was surprisingly small, with just 8 seats. We popped in and took up a 4 seat table, (half the bar), but the pints were good and the view of people going in and out of reception and the brasserie was colorful.
The Beaufort Dining Room is set in a historic room in the main building with an ornately carved fireplace. The food had deservedly been awarded 3 rosettes and from the crab amuse bouche and the smoked salmon starter, to the sea-trout main and baked Alaska dessert, I couldn’t fault it. The ingredients were local and fresh, the chef using them to produce mouth-watering dishes. The Beaufort Dining room alone is reason enough to visit Ellenborough Park, the food is simply delicious and the price is ridiculously cheap in comparison to an equivalent dining experience in London. I loved it!
Set in the historic part of the building, the Spa is stylish and atmospheric. I had their detoxifying wrap treatment and although I am not keen on being covered with goo, the pain was worth the gain. My skin felt brand new after the treatment, plus I loved smelling like a lemon cake!
Is the Ellenborough Park the Four Seasons of the Cotswolds? No, at the Four Seasons I am always addressed by my name, and the staff ooze warmth. At the Ellenborough Park, I was “Madam” and was dealt with in a polite but formal manner. Having said that, the Ellenborough Park remains an excellent hotel choice. The food is truly excellent, the spa and pool enjoyable, the grounds and communal areas full of character and lovingly maintained. If you’re planning a large wedding in the Cotswolds, this would be an ideal choice. I wouldn’t hesitate to return simply to eat in the Beaufort Dining Room.
Rates for our De Luxe Double Room start at £350 GBP. Classic Doubles start at £290 GBP.
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