*Our accommodation, food and drinks at Chicheley Hall were provided FOC for the purpose of this review, however, all opinions are my own
I often talk about the importance of mini-breaks and share our various UK adventures on here, however, I’ll let you in on a little secret – I rarely venture ‘Down South’. I was recently invited to Chicheley Hall in Buckinghamshire but when I realised that this would involve a seven-hour round trip, I began to wonder if it would be worth the journey for a one night stay. Spoiler alert: it absolutely was.
Last Saturday, Adam and I waved Lucie off to her granddad’s house for the night (shout out to my dad for being an absolute legend/long-suffering babysitter) and packed the car ready for our road trip. We arrived in the foreign lands of ‘The South’ at around 3pm after a long yet pleasant drive and the obligatory coffee/donut break.
Chicheley Hall is a Grade 1 listed venue that could have come straight out of a romantic novel. It is undeniably stunning and easy to see why it was chosen as the filming location for several classics, including Pride and Prejudice, The Meaning of Life and Black Beauty.
The grand drive up to the hotel set the bar high. The English Baroque style exterior of the mansion made for a gorgeous, dramatic welcome and even the sun decided to make an appearance; a refreshing change from the notoriously grey and rainy Manchester climate that Adam and I have become accustomed to!
The main car park was full, however, the overflow car park is two-minute walk away so we parked up with ease and headed to reception to check-in. Here we were greeted by a cheerful lady who gave us directions and the key to our room, along with a bit of Chicheley Hall history.
Not only is the building set in a whopping 80 acres of land – both woodland and landscaped gardens – it also boasts resident peacocks, a quaint library (with several other reading nooks dotted around the hotel) and is home to the oldest scientific academy in existence, The Royal Society. At this point, I contemplated never leaving as my inner nerd/bookworm/nature-lover swooned.
Throughout the duration of our stay, we discovered lots of little touches that give Chicheley Hall even more charm, such as beautiful bird-themed artwork around every corner, luxurious fireplaces, marble pillars, gorgeous windows in a variety of shapes and sizes and of course, the self-supporting solid oak staircase; a bloggers paradise!
Alongside the standard guest rooms, Chicheley Hall also has several superior rooms to choose from. Each of the 48 rooms is named after a distinguished scientist and ours was ‘Born’, after German physicist, Max Born.
Located at the front of the house, our room overlooked the lake and was adorned with antique furniture. The four large bay windows provided an airy ambience and allowed plenty of natural light to spill inside. The walls were painted a pretty pale blue colour with several pictures and mirrors sporadically hung.
The bed was absolutely huge – I’m not exaggerating. I was able to sleep in my prefered ‘starfish’ position and still not encroach on Adam’s sleeping space (I’m a selfish sleeper). There were plenty of plug sockets dotted around and fast, free wi-fi which is pretty essential for us and our various devices. I ventured into the bathroom and discovered that was bigger than our living room at home! There was an entire mirrored wall above the sink and a large bath/shower combo, along with complimentary toiletries.
As I sat at the beautiful writing desk overlooking the window, it was clear that the atmosphere of this place was something that a simple budget hotel could never offer. A large sofa situated at the foot of the bed was the ideal size for two so we snuggled down with a cup of tea and plenty of feather pillows (a decent array of brewing up facilities were also available) to watch TV for an hour as we recouped from the drive.
After a rest, Adam and I then went on to explore the breathtaking grounds of Chicheley Hall before dusk. We strolled through the immaculate gardens and towards the lake and woodlands. As with the interior, there were so many details to take in that I kept stopping to take pictures approximately every 20 seconds (hello Instagram). We stumbled upon hidden doors that reminded me of Edin Blyton books, flowers, sundials, a dovecote, peacocks, a small boat and endless trees during our walk, not to mention the wildlife.
Whilst looping around the lake, we did have a close encounter with a feisty-looking swan but thankfully avoided any confrontation! The air was filled with the sounds of local church bells and birds singing.
We continued to meander through the gardens, breathing in the simplicity of the evening without chores, deadlines and other such responsibilities weighing us down. It really was a rare period of pure escapism and felt like we’d been transported right back to the early days of our relationship.
On the way back from our walk, Adam and I found stacks of beehives and discovered that these provide the local honey sold at the reception of Chicheley Hall. Again, the place is crammed with quirky, unexpected details.
At 7pm, we went to the dining room for our evening meal and took a seat next to the window. The dining room was decorated with dramatic marquetry walls and original oil portraits in ornate gold frames. Even the long silk curtains gave a nod to the scientific roots of Chichelely Hall, commissioned by The Royal Society and featuring a pattern of Hooke’s micrographic flea image.
The menu offered five dishes per section (starter, main and dessert), including vegan options. Adam and I both opted for the tomato and basil soup to start, I chose pea and goat cheese gnocchi with pesto cream sauce as my main and Adam went for the beer-battered haddock fillet with homemade tartar sauce, chunky chips and mushy peas.
Our server, Ieva, was attentive, knowledgeable and talked us through the wine menu before we both decided to stick to soft drinks (no reflection on the wine – we’re not big drinkers!). Our starters arrived promptly; the soup was rich with a sweet basil oil to cut through the sharp, fresh tomatoes and a crusty bread roll with butter on the side.
Our plates were cleared and mains brought to the table shortly afterwards. My gnocchi was laden with the cream sauce and topped with fresh rocket leaves. Adam gave a thumbs up on his battered fish so I’d say the mains were a success.
We were pretty full by this point but still managed to find space for desserts (standard). I ordered a baked chocolate tart and Adam picked the apple tart, both served with vanilla ice cream. We took our time eating these, chatting about how much we loved the decor and made plans for future date nights together.
After our meal, we decided to grab a drink at the bar and I noted the impressive gin selection – hurrah! Now I’m not actually supposed to drink alcohol these days thanks to issues with my stomach lining (delightful, I know) but I was feeling rebellious so ordered a G&T regardless. We then retreated to our lavish room, watched a movie in bed and had the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time.
The next morning, Adam and I wandered back to the dining room for the self-serve breakfast. This was made up of cereals, pastries, juices and cooked items with fresh tea or coffee poured at the table. With full bellies, we reluctantly said a silent goodbye to Chicheley Hall and vowed to return again soon.
Being only an hours drive from Oxford, Cambridge, London and Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter, I suspect this will be happening sooner rather than later.
If you decide to visit (two of our friends have already booked to stay in June), I’d highly recommend that you opt for the superior rooms. The tariffs are incredibly reasonable, from about £55 per night depending on the date selected and the ‘upgrade’ is only about £10 more than a standard room.