Where to stay: Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa
Imagery courtesy of Ockenden Manor
The perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life, Ockenden Manor occupies a nine-acre estate only an hour’s drive from London and 12 miles north of Brighton. Built in 1520, this beautiful Elizabethan manor house comes complete with wood-burning fires, oak-panelled rooms, a fine-dining restaurant and a recently opened spa that sits within the estate’s original 19th-century walled garden.
Family-owned and run by Historic Hotels Sussex, the manor-house hotel is home to 22 suites and rooms (with the Merrick Suite boasting its own private dining-room). The newer spa complex houses six superbly designed suites, all of which provide direct access to the pool, steam, sauna, outdoor hot tub and treatment rooms.
Opened in early 2012, the magnificent spa has a colourful contemporary design that strikes an unusual contrast with its historic surroundings. In the Isopod, experience 60 minutes of gentle flotation that equate to three hours of solid, rejuvenating sleep, or take a dip in the indoor-outdoor pool, which is fed by a natural underground spring and allows you to swim effortlessly between the interior and exterior of the spa without having to leave the water. It’s a truly invigorating experience to swim outside and encounter steam rising off the heated water in the cool British air.
Overseen by the award-winning chef Stephen Crane, the Restaurant at Ockenden serves a sumptuous array of locally sourced ingredients for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner in the wood-panelled dining-room. When the sun shines over the South Downs, head out onto the terrace and enjoy delectable dishes such as whole grilled scallops with purple sprouting broccoli, crispy cuttlefish and langoustine sorbet, alongside awe-inspiring views. Then, as the sun sets, head to the elegant drawing-room and tuck into an oat crème brûlée doused with warm chocolate emulsion, orange and whiskey ice-cream beside the roaring log fire.
The best way to explore the beauty of the South Downs is to immerse yourself in the landscape; take advantage of the numerous walks, riding paths and cycle routes to enjoy the fresh air. The Bluebell Line Steam Train is a charming must, as is a visit to the local gardens of Wakehurst, Borde Hill, High Beeches or Nymans.
Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa, Ockenden Lane, Cuckfield, West Sussex. Rooms from £199 a night on a B&B basis, based on two sharing.
Where to stay: Villa Spalletti Trivelli, Rome
48 hours in Bath
Gourmet pilgrimages for spring