Nestled in the glorious 2,000 acre Capability Brown parkland belonging to the historic Bowood House in Calne, Wiltshire, Bowood Hotel boasts its own 18 hole championship golf course and spa and is the commercial enterprise of the Marquess and Marchioness of Lansdowne. Opened in 2009 by the Duchess of Cornwall, when the country was in the throes of recession, establishing a 43 room luxury hotel was a brave move which succeeded in making better use of the estate whilst boosting visitors to the original Georgian property.
The hotel has a contemporary feel, with elegant furnishings selected by Lady Landsdowne herself, who happens to be a professional interior designer and a former employee of Colefax and Fowler. Known by the name of Fiona Shelburne, her first job was being sent to Bowood House to offer design advice. Not a bad gig. She has described falling in love with Bowood and its owner and, in true fairytale style, went on to become the 9th Marchioness of Landsdowne and chatelaine of Bowood House in 1987.
Fiona’s mark is clear throughout the hotel, and it’s not a bit stuffy. One particularly successful space is The Library adjoining the bar, with its striking portrait of the Fifth Marquis in a red robe above the fireplace and an eclectic collection of second-hand books which she cannily purchased from a bookshop closing down sale in Bristol. She clearly enjoys mixing up the traditional and antique with a timeless and more informal style that sits well within this pseudo-Georgian property.
Bowood Hotel is still very much in its infancy, with some areas looking as brand spanking new as if the paint hadn’t even dried. But, although I generally like my hotels a little more ‘worn in’ and creaky, it’s important to remember that this is not strictly ‘a country house hotel’ such as Cliveden, and rather a hotel on the estate. As such, the refreshingly light and airy style suits the fact that a large part of the clientèle here is corporate.
The Shelburne dining room boasts panoramic views over the golf course which is kept in immaculate condition, and residents of the hotel receive a complimentary round. For husbands who don’t have golfing wives, the spa ensures everyone is happy during a weekend break. Guests are also granted free entry to Bowood House (open April-November), with its spectacular gardens and lake making an ideal location come picnic season. The impressive adventure playground is meanwhile guaranteed to keep the little ones entertained.
There is also a surprising amount to do in the area surrounding Bowood Hotel. On our last day we explored the idyllic medieval village of Lacock, just a 10 minute drive away and famous for being the film and television location of period dramas such as Pride and Prejudice and Cranford, along with Lacock Abbey having been featured in the first two Harry Potter films. The adjoining Fox Talbot Museum meanwhile celebrates the former Lacock resident, William Henry Fox Talbot, and his contributions to the invention of photography.
Having had no joy finding Mr Darcy, we paused at King John’s Hunting Lodge, the oldest house in Lacock and now a tea room where we partook of doorstop sandwiches and a cream tea in the glorious Gertrude Jekyll-looking cottage garden. Whilst I can’t imagine how the residents of Lacock bear the number of tourists flooding through the streets (complete with numerous National Trust boards offering guidance) during the warmer months, as one myself, it was an English summer’s day not to be missed and a lovely finale to our countryside excursion.
Bowood Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort, Derry Hill, Calne, Wiltshire,SN11 9PQ. For more information and reservations visit the website.