Checking out

Sopwell House, St. Albans, England

by Steve Hartridge | February 2017

"Close to one of the country’s most historic towns (St Albans) and one of its busiest railways lines, Sopwell House pulls off the trick of presenting itself as a timeless rural retreat but with all modern comforts. It is the perfect suggestion for couples looking for an escape – or clients wanting a stay-at-home UK wedding. It’s a busy hotel, but the many nooks, crannies, enclaves and couches offer plenty of ‘private spaces’."

THE BACKGROUND: This bright-white Georgian manor house, with 128 guest rooms and 16 mews suites (which sit removed from the main building) reside in 12 acres of rolling gardens that are surrounded by Hertfordshire countryside. With over 300 years of history, the rooms have evolved in a variety of quirky shapes and sizes. But all the guest rooms were recently refurbished, in a style that is To the Manor Born meets London boutique hotel.

THE LOCATION: A 10-minute drive to St Albans town centre, the hotel is also easily reached by train (20 minutes from London St Pancras).

THE ROOM: Generously sized, my Superior room was decorated in engaging light and modern pastel colours. The creaking wooden floor that hinted at the building’s long history added to its charm. Modern extras included a large Art Deco round mirror and a headboard with built-in contemporary reading lights. The super-king-sized bed came with a duck-feather duvet. There was a 23-inch TV and toiletries were by ESPA.

RESTAURANTS/BARS: Sophisticated but informal, the main restaurant holds an AA rosette for cuisine that combines ‘classic’ English dishes with European flavours. The emphasis is on seasonal and locally produced ingredients. A second restaurant, The Brasserie, serves an all-day carvery buffet from its open-plan kitchen. The hotel has two bars: the Conservatory, a quiet and peaceful retreat where guests were drinking more tea than Guinness, and the more bustling cocktail lounge.

FACILITIES: The Spa, with its 14.5 metre swimming pool and gym, was very busy – filled with guests of two wedding parties and a 90th birthday celebration. With its glass surrounds, the Conservatory, a lounge and reading room with comfy couches and arm chairs, floods with natural light and has views of the patio terrace (a lovely spot in summer) and expansive gardens.

THE RATES: Check the hotel’s website for short break offers and package specials.

THE DETAILS: A: Sopwell House, Cottonmill Lane, St Albans, Herts, Al1 2HQ. W: E: T: 01727 864 477

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