Editor Sophie Ritchie indulges with a sophisticated stay at the historical Sopwell House in Hertfordshire
There’s a few things one can accomplish in 20 minutes. You can grill chicken, for one. You can take a shower, for another. And you can even hop on a train at St Pancras International to St. Albans, where an idyllic country retreat awaits less than half an hour from the swarming capital.
Nestled amongst 12 manicured acres of Hertfordshire countryside sits Sopwell House, a country house hotel that makes a serious entrance with its tall white walls and grand lobby.
The former Georgian country residence of Lord Mountbatten, it’s easy to picture well-clad aristocrats mingling within when checking-in at the impressive property.
Featuring 128 rooms and suites, Sopwell House’s abodes come in a range of shapes and styles. When I arrive, suitcase and best friend in tow, I find myself led outside of the main building – to a chic cluster of exclusive Mews Suites, former stable blocks turned VIP havens.
One swipe of the room key and the private gates swing open to reveal a path surrounded by idyllic gardens.
Created by RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court Palace Flower Show Gold award winner Ann-Marie Powell, the lush greenery is complimented by an illuminated hydro pool – and of course, the pretty little properties, where my home for the night awaits.
Dog-themed artwork, plush couches, plenty of mirrors, a glowing fireplace and an enormous king-size bed all have me feeling at home. It’s both feminine and fabulous all at once.
The bathroom, with its heated flooring and stunning jade green styling is equally impressive – as are the ESPA toiletries. There’s no bath, but the rainfall shower will do nicely.
As always, the devil’s in the detail when it comes to hotel rooms. Luckily, Orchid Studio is full of them. The Nespresso machine, private terrace, large TV and welcoming platter of sweet treats fill the space with little touches that make it (and you) feel special.
No weekend break could be complete without a spot of feasting. Guests can choose from two options at Sopwell House, the elegant Restaurant or the more relaxed Brasserie.
The former is an award-winning two AA Rosette Restaurant, delivering seasonal British and European dishes prepared by Head Chef Mathew Bird (ex-L’escargot) and his team of friendly staff.
Winner of the Open Table Diner’s choice award 2018, food here has a sophisticated edge . Think cod with cob nut, succulent lamb with spiced lentils and a plethora of hearty desserts that leave your calorie counting firmly back in the room.
Post-meal, the hotel’s bar makes an excellent spot to unwind with a nightcap or two – the cocktails are sublime.
If you’re looking to dine in more relaxed surroundings, swap the formality for the lively Brasserie, where liveliness and chatter awaits.
Breakfast is also served at the Brasserie, with a buffet-style spread of cereals, fruits and hot English classics. Whether you’re looking to nibble or gorge, there’s something for every appetite.
An open-plan kitchen provides entertainment – or if people watching takes your fancy, large windows look out across the indoor pool, as well as across the sprawling grounds.
Robes at the ready – the spa at Sopwell House makes the perfect place to unwind for a few hours. Let out stress in the steam room, swim lazy lengths across the 14.5metre indoor pool or simply soak up the relaxing ambience on one of the many recliners dotted around.
The hotel has partnered with two of the world’s leading luxury skin care brands, Elemis & ESPA, to offer many a massage and other pampering treatments. There’s also a well-equipped gym, although it’s worth noting that all the cardio machines face each other in one large, slightly intimidating circle.
A new spa extension is also planned for later this spring, bringing fresh touches to the facilities with idyllic gardens and new-look treatment rooms.
The Wordrobe Verdict
Spacious, serene and oh so suave. Escape to the countryside and enjoy a spa break filled with quintessential British style at Sopwell House.
Make it happen
Where: Cottonmill Ln, St Albans AL1 2HQ, UK
Cost: Rates start from £154 for a Superior Room; while the Mews Suites are from £284. To make a reservation, please click here.
Words by Sophie Ritchie