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Short stay: Whittlebury Park, Northamptonshire, UK

Whittlebury Park is the refined late twentieth century successor to the great English country house. This time though, the contemporary nirvana, elegantly sat in 700 acres of parkland, comes with spacious rooms, instant hot-water and essential air-conditioning. Not a headless ghost, fraying Elizabethan tapestry or uneven floorboard in sight. Although the decor harks back with high ceilings, Doric columns and classical sculptures to the architectural glory that was Ancient Rome, Whittlebury Park is most definitely a leisure resort for the 21st century: a peaceful haven of afternoon tea scones and cream, relaxing in the spa, putting on a perfect green and sipping a pre-dinner drink in the Silverstone Bar. Oils of this gentle green landscape, where oak trees were once felled to build Nelson’s Victory, with their hints of Constable and Gainsborough, as well as portraits from the Georgian and Victorian era, create a peaceful sense of place. The welcome Rarely is parking as easier as this: dozens of large spaces, designed for bulging SUVs and 4 x 4s. There is a grandeur to reception with three staff ready to check us in: efficiently confirming spa bookings, dinner reservation and golf tee time. Staff offer to take our luggage and point out booklets covering the history of a site occupied since Roman days. The room There are plenty of twin rooms to host the ladies’ spa breaks or gentlemen’s golf getaways. This is spacious four star comfort with remote-controlled air-conditioning, deep-wardrobes for dressing-up for dinner outfits and a coffee-maker. Decor is light grey with one wall featuring a bold floral print. The bathroom A deep bath awaits aching golfers who have played a weary 18 holes. Although there is also a shower for those in a hurry. Ample supplies of ESPA toiletries, rich notes of bergamot and jade, are to hand. Luxuriant fluffy white robes and a pair of slippers, found hanging in the bathroom, are almost the local costume of Whittlebury Park as guests are drawn to the spa. Facilities Championship standard golf courses, a vast indulgent spa and two restaurants draw visitors from afar. An indoor large swimming pool sits below the bluest of Mediterranean skis where spotlights shine like stars. Decor is inspired by the late Roman Empire, tarnished pillars and collapsing balustrades. Rome’s elegant version of shabby classical chic. Guests glide from pool to steam room to whirlpool to sauna and back to the pool. Sometimes before afternoon tea, sometimes before prosecco. The relaxed Astons Restaurant, informal but with very attentive staff, continues to unwind guests after a day at the spa or in need of refuelling after golf. It’s a menu of reassuring favourites: the pressed neck of lamb is slow cooked to succulent flakiness, the tuna is caught in that moment of perfection between chargrilled seared and inner succulent pink. Alternatively, there is the recently refurbished three AA rosette restaurant, Murray’s – a fine-dining venue paying homage to much-loved and recently-lost Murray Walker – the voice of motor-racing for F1 aficionados for so many decades. Harvey Lockwood, chef, brings a Modern British menu to Murray’s. Look out for a starter of Suffolk ham knuckle with Evesham apple and Worcestershire watercress. Similarly for another main course option, both wild line-caught halibut and black-faced Thame lamb epitomise the precision of the sourcing. Currently, as we ease out of COVID, Whittlebury Park Golf Club offers three 9 hole courses. On weekdays, two 9s are selected to make up the course of the day and all three courses are open at weekends.  Ultimately, a fourth 9 will reopen. Perhaps the most scenic course is the Royal Whittlewood which begins with a testing second shot over the water lilies of the lake. It weaves round trees of the ancient Royal Whittlewood Forest whose oaks provided timber for the Royal Navy’s warships and where kings once hunted stag. In contrast, the Grand Prix course neighbours the modern gladiators of Silverstone. Again, this is a loop of nine holes, where swans swim on the lake and cornflowers, daisies, irises and poppies bloom by the tees. This is a classic English landscape. By the time golfers have finished their round on these two courses – or The Wedgwood – they will have deserved their drinks in a sumptuous Clubhouse, twice voted “UK Clubhouse of the year.” Location If it were not for the allure and glamour of Silverstone, Whittlebury would quietly rest in a triangle between Oxford, Northampton and Banbury. Although most visitors come for the food, golf, spa and relaxation, Whittlebury Park is well-placed for visits to Oxford, Stowe’s grounds and retail therapy at both Bicester Retail Park and Milton Keynes. Easily accessed from either M40 or M1, Whittlebury Park is well-placed as a peaceful rural escape. Other nice touches The Silverstone Bar is a long wood-panelled pantheon of motor-racing greatness. Pictures and memorabilia provide a nostalgic sweep through the circuit’s glory years. Sterling Moss, Graham Hill, Nikki Lauda, Jackie Stewart, Michael Schumacher and dozens of other greats seem to look longingly towards the bar. The cost Bed and breakfast begins at  £99 per room. B&B with one round of golf is from £199 per night (per room). Both prices are based on two people sharing. As one of Northamptonshire’s finest restaurants, Murray’s three course menu priced at £50 for 3 courses draws in many non-residents. The best bit Whittlebury Park roams over some 700 hundred acres of prime English parkland. Whether you are looking for afternoon tea, a table in the Silverstone Bar to catch-up on the gossip or a quiet stroll through the grounds you are always far from the madding crowd. The final verdict This is the perfect venue for an escape for a leisure break. The vast spa offers a wide range of treatments whilst the golf course, albeit within earshot of Silverstone, provides lush fairways and fast true greens. Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored by Whittlebury Park.

Michael Edwards

Michael Edwards is a travel writer from Oxfordshire, UK. Although Michael had his first travel pieces published nearly four decades ago, he is still finding new luxury destinations to visit and write on.

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  1. Now I get why Whittlebury is my wife’s favourite spa destination. About once a year she and her friends head there for a night and some massages.

  2. I’ve played golf at Whittlebury. Can’t remember which courses. Great condition. Good value green fees too, probably because of the Silverstone noise. Didn’t affect my concentration but probably not for everyone.

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