Life is often a series of circles. Sometimes you do not realise at what point you joined them and indeed where they might take you.
About a year ago my wife and I ventured north to the Lake District. The purpose of our visit was to meet the parents of our daughter’s boyfriend. As we do not live in that part of the world and our daughter had explained that the Lakes are spectacularly beautiful we thought we would stay in the Sharrow Bay Hotel on Lake Ullswater on the first night before completing the social part of our visit.
The Lakes are, as our daughter described them, and the Sharrow Bay is a particularly fine place to base yourself. Sitting in the hotel lounge and enjoying a glass of wine in front of a roaring log fire seemed to be the perfect way to relax after a long drive. A couple wandered into the lounge and asked if everything was to our liking and had we travelled far. We explained that we had motored up from the West Country and that the hotel was lovely, so much so that we were thinking of writing about it in the magazine. It turned out that the gentleman concerned was the owner of the hotel and he further explained that he was building a small portfolio of properties. After a few minutes he asked whether we would be interested in doing a review of another of his hotels in the West Country, Ston Easton Park. We had both heard of it, but rather embarrassingly neither of us could quite point it out on a map! Some months later as we prepared to take up this kind invitation we were astonished to find it was only fifteen miles from our house, why had we never been here before?
You enter the hotel’s grounds through a magnificent set of gates and and drive through equally magnificent parkland. The parkland surrounding the house was designed by the famous 18th Century landscape architect, Humphry Repton. Repton first visited the house in November 1792 and by March 1793, he had produced his ‘Red Book’ giving his recommendations for the landscape of the park.
As the hotel comes into view you are struck by its beauty and perfect proportions. The original house appears to date back to Tudor times however the structures as they can be seen today, were built around 1739 and towards the end of the 18th Century, the East and West Wings were added. The Hippisley family made Ston Easton Park their home from 1544 and continued to live here until 1956. After the Hippisley family relinquished the property, it changed hands a number of times before it eventually fell into disrepair and narrowly avoided a demolition order.
Thankfully, under the ownership of the Rees- Mogg family, the house had extensive work done returning it back to its former glory. The house was first opened as a hotel in 1982 by Mr and Mrs Smedley and today, as mentioned earlier, it is part of a small private collection of hotels, including Sharrow Bay and The Forbury in Reading.
Fortunately all the renovation work has been done in such a way as to maintain the character of the building. The hotel has only nineteen bedrooms, so you will never be part of a crowd and the level of service reflects this. The luxurious rooms at Ston Easton Park are so much more than just somewhere to rest your head – the antique furnishings and works of art combine perfectly with the bold Ston Easton Park and lavish fabrics, and contemporary touches have been carefully interjected into these historic rooms whilst ensuring that the decor remain true to the building’s grand past. The bathrooms are equally as impressive and every room has complimentary WiFi access, LCD TVs and DVD players. In addition to the 19 rooms is The Gardener’s Cottage, a three bedroom hideaway in the beautiful gardens on the banks of the River Norr, offering an idyllic private retreat.
In addition to spending a sublimely comfortable night we were also in for a culinary treat. Under the guidance of head chef Daniel Moon the restaurant is gaining in reputation as one of the finest places to dine in the Bath area and it can only be a matter of time before this establishment gains its first Michelin star. Daniel creates exciting dishes combining modern British cuisine with experimental and imaginative new ideas. He also works closely with local suppliers and the hotel garden team to source only the very best local produce including almost 60% of the fresh produce which comes straight from the hotel’s own kitchen garden. From the first mouthful of the bacon and shallot brioche the meal was a tour de force. We thoroughly enjoyed Daniel’s ‘Five Course Tasting Menu’ which was exceptional.
We can give you a ‘taster’ but you really have to go there to experience the outstanding skills that he brings to your table. Exquisite – probably one of the finest dining experiences we have ever had. Even as we were enjoying our food Daniel was in the dining room discussing the requirements of a young couple about to celebrate their wedding at the hotel, and it seemed to us that this willingness to both communicate and please was fundamental to this restaurant’s burgeoning reputation.
The restaurant is also open for lunch and a rather delicious afternoon tea. If you feel you would like to learn some of Daniel’s culinary secrets there are a series of cooking demonstrations throughout the year, though be aware they are incredibly popular so book up well in advance.
The hotel also has an events team to help you organise weddings or other personal celebrations. The backdrop of the hotel’s fabulous buildings and gardens can provide wonderful photographic opportunities.
No stay at Ston Easton Park could be as enjoyable without the wonderful team who work tirelessly to ensure that everything is as it should be. They are blend of professional courtesy and approachable friendliness. The smooth running of the hotel is ultimately the responsibility of Oscar the house spaniel. He is there to welcome you and even if you have had a long journey or just a tough day he will help put a smile on your face. If you bring your own dog he will ensure that they soon learn it is their break too!
If you are considering going away this Christmas, Ston Easton Park should be on your list. Peter Thomson To find out more about this fabulous venue please visit www.stoneaston.co.uk. or telephone 01761 241631. Ston Easton, Bath, Somerset BA3 4DF.