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 of this hotel as the Ellenborough Park has won many awards, its main restaurant being 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 to be somewhat of a wedding conveyor belt, 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. Unfortunately I was left somewhat disappointed. The room was bland with twee floral curtains and dark wood 80s furniture. It was however spacious and immaculate, its 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 bath robes 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 somewhat made up for the lacklustre room.
The pool was outdoors but was warm even on a grey English summers 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 colourful.
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 smoke salmon starter, to the sea-trout main and baked Alaska desert, 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 ridiculously cheap in comparison to a equivalent dining experience in London.
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 manor. The hotel also lacked the attention to detail that makes a good hotel great: empty glasses were left around the grounds and pool, cleaning equipment left in corridors and utility rooms left open displaying laundry carts. Having said that, the Ellenborough Park is far from a bad hotel. 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. Personally, I prefer my hotels a little more boutique, but wouldn’t hesitate to return simply to eat in the Beaufort Dining Room.
Rates for our De Luxe Double Room start at £350. Classic Doubles start at £290.
Disclosure: Our property, service and product reviews are sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own and are in no way influenced by the sponsor.