When attending the renowned West Green House Opera, where their annual programme of music events set within an award-winning garden are a highlight of summer in the county of Hampshire, there is only one place to stay – nor can nearby Tylney Hall ever be a matter of convenience but a reason in itself.
The hot July sun pouring down onto the Grade II listed red brick mansion, dating back to 1700, with its countless acres of immaculate lawns, flower borders and appealing outdoor pool, made our usual rainy weekend breaks in the English countryside feel utterly unrecognisable and glamorous in the extreme. The flag was flying at full mast just for us, the fountain splashed its greeting, while the reserved parking sign bearing our name was a VIP welcome you expect from a five rather than a four star hotel.
Inside, the grand, wood-panelled, portrait-hung lobby flurried with wedding guests and a never-ending delivery of flowers, the plush drawing room groaned with partakers of irresistible afternoon tea finger sandwiches and cakes, while the outside terrace positively overflowed with Pimms whilst sporadic croquet-players of all ages marvelled at the game to which hardly anyone ever seems to know the rules. Nonetheless, there’s nothing like croquet for creating that quintessentially English, aristocratic tone within any country house setting.
Other pastimes at Tylney Hall include a health centre with spa, sauna, whirlpool, heated indoor pool, gym and snooker room, while outdoor pursuits include tennis courts, archery, clay pigeon shooting and an adjacent 18 hole golf course. Exploring a portion of the 66-acres (ignoring the jogging trail, naturally), wherein we discovered a magical water garden, Second World War Air Raid Shelter and kitchen gardens was enough exercise for me thank you very much. Add a spot of culture to your trip by visiting the charming Jane Austen’s House Museum in Alton or Winchester Cathedral.
We arrived in time for luncheon at Tylney’s handsome glass domed 2 AA Rosette Oak Room Restaurant, opening onto the sun-drenched terrace; a chilled glass of Marlborough Riesling was the ultimate antidote to a stiflingly warm day, as was the elegant, picnic-inspired ham hock terrine starter with quails eggs and a deliciously light pea mousse. The softest breast of corn fed chicken with an intense, silky jus, English asparagus tips and truffle pomme puree showcased the kitchen’s ability to elevate simple ingredients into something elegant and luxurious, while the oozing chocolate fondant confirmed my well-placed trust in the talents of the kitchen, overseen by Michael Lloyd.
Opened as a hotel in 1980s, having previously been a substantial family home, served as a hospital during the First World War and acted as the headquarters of a famous shipping line, Tylney Hall’s history is treasured by the Elite group whose portfolio includes The Grand Hotel Eastbourne, Ashdown Park and Luton Hoo. Faithfully restoring and maintaining the property and grounds, including magnificent landscaped gardens originally designed by the famed 19th century gardener Gertrude Jekyll, to an incredibly high standard, the approachable team of staff meanwhile ensure that there is never anything stuffy or reserved about being a guest at Tylney Hall, and that despite its size and scale, you’ll immediately feel quite at home, perhaps a little too much so. Like something straight from an Evelyn Waugh novel, however would we ever return to normal life and our humble city terrace after waking up here?
The 112 rooms are housed in the Orangery (where guests can step straight from their rooms into the gardens), the walled garden or main mansion house, where we were shown to the newly refurbished State Suite – all 65sqm of it, with a makeover cost of £120,000. With panoramic views encompassing the Boathouse Lake and an impressive avenue of chestnut trees that happens to be one of the longest uninterrupted vistas in Hampshire, it secured our favourable first impression of the hotel. As did the private drawing room with marble fireplace, outdoor terrace, large bedroom with chaise lounge on which to pose Oscar-Wilde-like in a suitably lax state of undress, sparklingly new bathroom with slipper tub and stand-alone rain shower, and enviable walk-in wardrobe that made me extremely sorry I hadn’t packed more dresses and shoes, if only to admire them.
The only trouble was that our suite proved rather too comfortable. ‘Did we really have to venture out that evening?’ I telepathically communicated to my husband as he handed me a cup of Earl Grey and a biscuit and perused the tempting in-room dining menu which we determined to make use of following the terrific black tie ‘Marvellous Party’ at West Green House Opera, an evening celebrating the works of Cole Porter and Noel Coward. The rendition of ‘Stately Homes of England’ seemed rather apt, especially in light of where we were heading ‘home’ to.
Could anything be more decadent and in-keeping with such surroundings than a midnight feast (in bed) involving rare roast beef and horseradish sandwiches, washed down with a fine red? Nor for that matter, waking up to a promptly delivered room service breakfast of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon enjoyed in ‘our’ drawing room overlooking the exquisite Italian Garden? We spent the morning reading about the commoners in The Times, strolling the grounds and lazing by the pool long after check-out. In fact, they had to physically remove us from Tylney Hall. Almost.
Tylney Hall, Ridge Lane, Rotherwick, Hook, Hampshire RG27 9AZ. For more information and reservations please visit www.tylneyhall.com