Once home to the family who founded Pennsylvania, Buckinghamshire’s palatial Stoke Park has history and grandeur in spades. Nestled in a peaceful 300-acre estate just half an hour from central London, this could well be the ultimate weekend getaway
Words Patrick Hamilton Courtney
“A mini break means true love!” speculated Bridget Jones, after deciding a weekend at Stoke Park meant merely shagging Daniel Cleaver she was not. With its open fires, chandeliers, and four poster beds, this is a place that could indeed induce starry-eyed gooeyness from even the most stone hearted of folk. Mini-break expertise doesn’t come without practise though; as the United Kingdom’s very first country club, Stoke Park knows a thing or two about living it up away from the city.
The estate has over 900 years of history including ownership under John Penn, architecture by James Wyatt, and Capability Brown designed gardens. In 1908 the house was converted from a private residence into a sports club, and now under the ownership of the King family has gone from strength to strength.
Today Stoke Park includes a five-star hotel, several restaurants, a 27 hole championship golf course, a state of the art gymnasium, vast spa facilities, 13 tennis courts, and 14 acres of immaculately kept private gardens. The main house is resplendent in classic English style; oil paintings, sweeping staircases, and antique furniture are fittingly grand, but the friendly staff ensure a sense of warmth pervades. More contemporary sensibilities are catered for in the newer Pavilion building, home to the spa, gym, an informal restaurant, and further bedrooms.
Bedrooms are divided between the main mansion house and Pavilion. Those in the main house are traditionally decorated and gorgeously romantic, some with four poster beds, roll top baths, working fire places, and balcony access. Pavilion bedrooms are far more modern, cleanly styled and enlivened with bold pop art. The contemporary rooms are well suited to sporting breaks, but for dreamy weekends away bedrooms in the mansion can’t be beaten.
Head Chef Chris Wheeler, of Great British Menu fame, runs the hotel’s fine dining restaurant Humphry’s. Thickly carpeted with high ceilings, the gold and cream toned room is an elegant spot for dinner. Both a la carte and tasting menus are on offer, which have been awarded three AA rosettes . We opted for the latter, and enjoyed six courses of mackerel, foie gras, bass, venison, cheese, and banana soufflé. Portions were generous, and the cooking was at a standard you would expect from a three rosette restaurant.
San Marco, the hotel’s informal Italian can be found in the Pavilion serving salads, pasta, meat and fish dishes, pizza, and sandwiches. Afternoon tea is available in the Orangery, where breakfast is also served from a continental buffet and a la carte menu.
Consistently named in UK top ten lists, Stoke Park’s fabulous spa remains one of the hotels biggest draws. It includes 11 treatment rooms, a large indoor pool with views over the spa garden, steam rooms, Scandinavian sauna, and outdoor sunken hydrotherapy pool. A tropical fish tank overlooks the spa atrium, which offers complimentary herbal teas and fruit for replenishing between treatments.
Stoke Park’s idyllic setting lends itself to hours of walking; a stroll down by the lake and across the picturesque bridge is not to be missed. Weather permitting, the hotel’s grounds are perfect for lazing on a blanket with a book or picnic.
The enormous gym offers a multitude of cardio and weight lifting equipment, alongside fitness, yoga, and spin classes which hotel guests are welcome to participate in. The 13 tennis courts (three of which are indoor) can also be used subject to availability. Golfing facilities are open to hotel guests, though at an additional cost.
Each year the hotel hosts The Boodles Tennis Challenge, a firm mark on the summer social calendar. This five day event is essentially an English garden party with world class tennis; it attracts the likes of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to name but a few. Tickets sell quickly, as capacity limits are set low to retain a sense of intimacy.
Nearby attractions include Windsor Castle, Ascot Racecourse, and the chocolate-box towns of Marlow and Henley.
Rates from £240 a night on a room only basis.
Stoke Park, Park Road, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire. SL2 4PG.