Last week we stayed at the thousand year old Stoke Park estate in Buckinghamshire. The estate has an illustrious history with prestigious owners that have included Elizabeth I in the late 16th Century and the Penn family in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Thomas Penn, son of William Penn (who founded Pennsylvania) purchased the estate in 1760 and pretty much governed his lands in the USA from Stoke Park over the next 15 years. In 1775, the estate was inherited by John Penn who is responsible for much of what you see there today, including the Mansion (below), designed by James Wyatt.
Here’s a view of the building from the rear. It is here where the original hotel can be found, as well as the Dining Room, Stoke Park’s formal dining option.
We had interconnecting rooms 105 and 106, one of which is a Junior suite and the other was made up as a twin. These rooms are on the first floor of the Pavilion Hotel, a short walk from the Mansion, and where the spa and gym is also housed. Unlike the main hotel which is more traditional in style, the Pavilion Hotel is very contemporary. Here is a picture of our room.
On a bed this large and comfortable, you are assured of a good night’s sleep!
The bathrooms had a shower/wet room area, bath and twin basins, and were stocked with the hotel’s own SPC brand of skincare products.
We looked out over part of the 350 acres of estate grounds, including the 27-hole Championship golf course designed by Harry Shapland Colt in 1908.
After a light lunch at the hotel’s San Marco Restaurant, I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the mansion. This included a sneak viewing of the Pennsylvania Suite which is also the bridal suite. The eagle-eyed among you may even recognise it from the film Bridget Jones.
After the tour, I headed to the spa – with its 13 treatment rooms – for a 55-minute SPC Men’s Energising Massage. Having competed in the Edinburgh Marathon just 10 days earlier, this provided the perfect tonic for relaxing those weary leg muscles. The spa itself has a string of impressive accolades including Top 10 British Spas (Tatler Magazine), Top 100 Best Spas in the World (Harpers Bazaar), Four “Must Visit” Spas in the World (Vanity Fair) and Top 10 Spas in Britain (The Daily Telegraph).
This was followed with a swim in the hotel’s indoor swimming pool, also housed at the Pavilion building. There’s also a gym, fitness studios and kinesis areas.
And it’s not only golf that’s high on the agenda at Stoke Park. It’s also a popular venue for tennis. During our stay, the outdoor grass courts were being prepared for The Boodles Challenge which has attracted big name players such as Murray, Djokovic, Henman, Agassi, Davydenko, and Roddick, prior to the Wimbledon Championships.
And the hotel has its own indoor tennis facility, too.
After our day’s exertions (which, to be honest, were rather minimal!), we made our way back to the Mansion for dinner in the 2 AA Rosette restaurant led by Executive Chef Chris Wheeler who joined Stoke Park in 2003 but has an impressive background, having been right hand man to Jean Christophe Novelli.
We began proceedings with a mint ice cream on a tomato bavarois…
…and then I went for the pan-fried scallops with cauliflower purée, crispy pancetta, port reduction and caviar.
For the main course, it was a toss-up between the grilled fillet of sea bass with pomme purée, sea beet, ragout of clams and Teign mussels and a Martini cream sauce, or roast tenderloin and belly of pork with black pudding mash, savoy cabbage, baby turnips and cider jus. I plumped for the latter and wasn’t disappointed.
For dessert I opted for the highly recommended milk chocolate and salted peanut parfait with hot butterscotch sauce. My waistline probably didn’t thank me for it, but it was delicious nonetheless!
A nice touch was that when we returned to our room after dinner, there were two gingerbread men in our boys’ room, each with their names iced on them. It’s these little extras that can somehow really make a difference sometimes; it shows thought and a real care towards guests.
Stoke Park really does in fact appeal to a wide range of guests. As already mentioned, it can offer rooms that are either traditional or contemporary in style. It will appeal to business people, golfers, couples looking for a little R&R, tennis players and so on. And, as in our case, families. We were there with young children and, since the hotel is situated just 20 minutes from Legoland Windsor, we might not have been forgiven if we didn’t go!
This was our first visit to Legoland but we had ‘read up’ beforehand and picked up a few tips on how to best do justice to the day, particularly given the attraction’s popularity during the school holidays (it was the May half term week). The first important thing to do is to arrive early. Rides don’t start until 10am, but it opens at 9.30am and it’s best to aim for then if you don’t wish to begin your day sitting in traffic. Secondly, once in the park, make sure you go for the Q-Bot which is a ‘fast pass’ system for the rides. It costs more but it’s really the only way to do things if you don’t wish to waste the day queueing. And thirdly, go on the big rides at the beginning and end of the day (particularly if you don’t use Q-Bot) as that is when the queues are at their greatest. 12pm-3pm, when the place is at its busiest, is the best time to take some time out from the adrenalin-fuelled rides and explore the Lego model village.
There was quite a gathering outside Buckingham Palace…
…and on closer inspection we could see why! Rather topically, the model had been updated to include the newly-weds, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Legoland Windsor – which has added a new £8-million ‘submarine’ ride this year – more than lived up to our children’s expectations, as did Stoke Park for Mum and Dad. Whether you’re staying in the area with family, or for any other purpose, we’re confident you’ll enjoy it too.