From 14th to 16th May I was treated to a long weekend at a beautiful hotel in Oxfordshire called Heythrop.
It took 10 minutes to drive from the Entrance to the hotel, beautiful trees line the road, there were birds singing, squirrels playing and we opened the windows and the only noise we could hear was our car. The wind rustled the trees in the sunshine. From that moment on I knew it was going to be a fairly relaxing weekend.
On arrival at the front of the hotel I was impressed by the how grand it was. My first thought (when I cheated and looked it up on the internet, before leaving home) was oh this is a little like Jane Austen’s “Pemberley”. I read it is an estate with conference rooms, vast gardens, a golf course, lots of little walking trails, a restaurant, a bar and the most important thing to me – it had a Spa!
Entering the inside of the hotel and walking past reception is a grand seating room with lots of chaise lounges and a Yamaha piano. At first as there was no-one sitting at the piano but I could hear music so I thought they were playing a Piano music cd but once I got closer to inspect the Cupid Clock Fireplace next to the Piano, I noticed the keys started moving themselves. I haven’t seen a piano do that before – except when it worked on a telex type roll of paper that was fed through a machine, but this one had a small computerised black box under the piano.
Also in the Grand reception room I discovered the biggest and most gorgeous pink Lilies. I thought the droopy things were cute and the colour of the Lily spectacular. I couldn’t get over how opulent this hotel was and the best thing about it was 3 days and I didn’t have to cook or do any cleaning. I had 3 days of leisure.
We then headed for the bar for a drink whilst our luggage was taken to our room by the Porter. It was quiet and floor to ceiling windows of the stunning gardens made it delightful. There were conversations by other patrons but everything was low quay and very dignified. I thought I might be out of place with jeans and a blouse but the other guests were wearing the same thing, smart casual and it was afternoon and we’d traveled a long way. So we slowly walked to our room and got lost a couple of times, the hotel part of the resort is vast. We found a maid and she walked us to our room and asked her to phone her if we wanted extra pillows, blankets, bathroom soap etc and chocolates. I could get used to being waited on.
After a brief unpack in the room and a look outside our window (we were right opposite the deserted golf course) and as far as the eye could see there was lush green grass and trees and we had a west-facing room so the sun was going to set behind the trees right outside our window. We had a bit of a rest and then we went to the reading room. It was amazing. Immediately I was drawn to the wallpaper and the fireplace, it felt so homely. My idea of heaven for an afternoon of piece and quiet to read a book.
The book I was reading at the time. I know its not highbrow but I didn’t want to bring a big thick book with me. I spent a couple of hours reading, there were too many other things to do and the weather was cool and sunny so I went on a long walk before dinner around the gardens to look at different trees etc.
At 6:15pm we went back to our room to freshen up and change for dinner. I didn’t want to be the only person looking out of place in the restaurant wearing jeans. I changed into a pair of black trousers with a mint and black lace blouse. Now all I had to do was not spill gravy on my clothes. When we arrived in the restaurant the Maitre d showed us to the convention section of the restaurant, so much for sitting near the window which is what I was hoping for. We thought it would be an ala carte menu but it turned out that because it was Friday it was a hot buffet. The food selection wasn’t very good, there was hardly anything freshly cooked to eat and as soon as the hot plates were delivered the male conference guests dived on the buffet. I ended up with a very small salad if you could call a few cherry tomato’s, some pasta with pesto on it and a few lettuce leaves a salad. There was an abundance of olives – which is a shame because I don’t eat olives.
The main course was a choice between fish and roast beef. I went for the roast beef and found it overcooked and chewy. I did enjoy the Yorkshire pudding though and had never eaten one so big before but it was the most delicious part of the main course, along with the oven roasted baked potatoes.
Here’s the gorgeous Orchid table decoration.
and my Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding.
I didn’t fancy the desserts. There was a not so appetising fruit salad and also a chocolate cake.
My husband knew some people also attending the conference he wanted to catch up with so I went back to the room and had a luxurious bubble bath and make myself comfortable on the bed to read my book. I was tired and didn’t know I’d fallen asleep and woke up at 1am and my husband was nowhere to be found in the suite. Our room had a lack of wifi internet and mobile reception which the hotel said was due to the thick limestone walls so I got dressed and headed to the bar. I found him there, laptop option working and chatting with people I’d not met. I sent him a text message which seemed to work in the main part of the hotel to meet me outside the bar. He invited me to join the group for a few drinks and the bar was closing in 1 hour but I politely declined and after assurances that he’d be 30 minutes I went back to the room. A short time later I’d fallen asleep again and he woke me up because he’d forgotten his room key.
The next morning I woke up at 7am because there were electric golf carts buzzing around and the sound of balls being hit on the green which was across the path from our fully open window. I looked out to see a couple of golf carts and a few men in their golf clothes wandering the green and a couple driving to the next hole. I think it was either a 9 or 18 hole golf course. I don’t play golf although it is a sport I’d love to give a try one day. It then started to sprinkle with rain so the men piled into their carts and drove to the safe haven of the golf club.
I decided to make a cup of tea which you could do in your room and then I’d slowly woken up enough to feel ravenous and freshened up and as there was a breeze I wore a cardigan. Breakfast again was in the same restaurant, another buffet but they were serving cooked breakfasts. I decided to eat a little bacon and a scrambled egg along with a couple of sausages and toast.
My husband had to get ready for the Conference which was starting at 9am so after a full put of coffee I headed back to the room to grab my book and camera and head off on a walk around the garden. Unfortunately, the grass was still wet from the rain but I managed to find several quiet spaces to read outside.
After about 30 minutes or so it started to get windy and I decided to go inside and take advantage of the Library, unfortunately it was closed. The sign said they were setting up for a wedding being held in the room that evening. I knew there was a small quiet room between our room and the reception via a long corridor so I pulled up an old fashioned comfy chair and read there for a couple of hours. There were a lot of friendly people who stopped to chat and interrupted my book reading so I decided the only place to get through my book was in the room. I again was so relaxed I didn’t realise I’d fallen asleep and my husband was on a lunch break and suggested as all the other conference attendees were heading to the restaurant that we go as well.
Lunch consisted of finger sandwiches, salad, cold pasta and fruit. I ate a couple of small sandwiches – you know the dainty kind they cut into 4 slices in one sandwich and serve with morning and afternoon tea. I was still full from breakfast so I finished up and then my husband and I went for a 15 minute walk before the conference started again. I went by a few conference rooms on the way back into the hotel and met a few people my husband introduced me to, some of which I’d met before and had a chat with them but then it was time for everyone to take their seats for the various talk sessions scheduled that afternoon. Time for me to hang out at the merchandise area for a while and then go find out about Spa treatments.
I was planning my Sunday to be a complete Spa day but when I phoned the Spa to ask about turning up to or having to book spa appointments they told me they were completely booked out. We had seen a huge tour bus arrive after lunch full of Japanese tourists and I guessed that any free time in the spa had been booked up by people from the tour. The only appointment available was on Monday at 1pm but we were leaving around lunchtime on Monday so for this trip, I’d have to forgo the spa treatments I dreamt of having. I should’ve booked the from home before we left on the Friday but the conference organiser said there should be no need to book.
I spent the next few hours wandering around the inside of the hotel and afternoon tea time having a cappuccino in the bar and read more of my book. I then went on a stroll around the other side of the gardens and hotel and there wasn’t much to see except grass and more golf course so I went to the room to give myself a pedicure and spent the next few hours resting, reading, enjoying another cup of tea and waiting for my husband to be finished for the day and dinner time so we could freshen up and go to dinner. Little did I know the conference took a break for dinner and then had evening talks after dinner up until 10pm.
After dinner which again was very disappointing (I couldn’t complain about it because it was free). I found the menu lacking in choice. More fish, this time a dried out chicken breast served with lemon and puy lentils and a barely there salad consisting of wilting lettuce, cherry tomatoes, onion, cold pasta with pesto and olives. I took a couple of apples back to the room with me for munching on whilst reading. My husband was back at the conference and wandered into the room about Midnight. He’d been catching up with some delegates in the bar.
Sunday morning awoken again by electric golf carts, birds singing and car boots closing. A few people walking by the hotel at 7am with less than perfect manners and feeling slightly ill with heyfever, I craned my neck to the left corner outside the window and saw in the distance a rape (canola) crop growing. Usually, I’m allergic to grass pollen but I’m also allergic to rape, it looks pretty and I like to take pictures of it but it plays havoc with my eyes and the smell isn’t very appealing.
I meandered around the inside and outside of the hotel. The library and drawing room were now accessible.
It then started to rain so I spent more time inside reading, although I didn’t quite finish reading my boo. I went for a couple of walks outside (in between rain showers) and noticed there was a certain lack of female company, the ladies there were already in groups. I kind of enjoyed being on my own for the first few days but now I was becoming bored. I could’ve caught the shuttle bus 10 miles into Oxford city centre but decided not to. A decision I knew I’d come to regret.
Sunday night again in the restaurant same old tough food, lack of choice. I ate a little and made a hasty retreat to the room for some Sunday night tv, a cup of tea, some reading and an early night. My husband bought me a chocolate bar and so I enjoyed that for a late treat and then drifted off to sleep.
Monday morning again breakfast in the restaurant. Food looked unappetising but I ate some toast and had a yogurt and apricots. I couldn’t face the runny eggs or the charred sausages again. I then went for a last walk and back to the room to pack my bag and put it in the car. Another read for an hour or so and then went to help pack some boxes up and move them to the car which we were taking back to the office in Maidenhead.
Leaving Oxfordshire and driving through hamlets and winding country roads and finally heading onto the motorway, it absolutely pelted with rain from the time we left and all the way to Beaconsfield where we stopped for a WC break and I grabbed a take-away coffee at Starbucks.
Overall had a pretty nice relaxing weekend. It could’ve been better if my husband and I were there for some time out away from home together but I’m not complaining. We both enjoyed our stay there very much and have already talked about going there before the end of Summer for a long weekend.
We found out, sadly during our stay, that the hotel has been sold and in the Autumn it’ll become a Holiday Inn “gasp” they plan to keep the building but gut all the rooms of furniture and make it a more modern feel which is totally wrong for the grandness of the building. I guess they were losing money and its a shame that Holiday Inn feel the need to modernise the interior to the extent of making it hospital clean rather than invest in some key pieces of furniture and textured wallpaper and prints to hang in the rooms to give them a home away from home feel. I for one don’t want to stay in a hotel that is unsympathetic to the rest of the grounds on the estate and not in keeping with the grandness of the building. It’s such a shame that its going to lose its charm.