COUNTRY retreats don’t come any grander than this. Steeped in a rich and regal history and set in 543 acres of stunning Hertfordshire parkland, Brocket Hall offers a quintessentially English experience.
Just a few junctions north of the M25, leave the motorway and within minutes, you’re on the drive of this Regency pile, leased by the infamous Charlie Brocket (of Ferrari fraud fame) to Hong Kong leisure giant CCA.
Brocket Hall is the jewel in the estate’s crown, offering plush accommodation and facilities for weddings, corporate functions and team-building exercises. For golf-lovers, there are two spectacular courses, and after a day’s play or a frenetic business meeting, residents can wander down to Auberge du Lac to toast the day’s success with a choice of a la carte or special tasting menus.
WINING AND DINING? Our driver dropped us at the door to a stone cottage nestled at the water’s edge. Auberge du Lac is delightfully intimate and offers refined dining at a reasonable £60 for a three-course à la carte menu. The sommelier poured Sauternes to accompany the shamelessly fatty foie gras to start. A deliciously pink seared grouse served with chocolate, gingerbread and elderberry exemplified head chef Phil Thompson’s fresh twist on culinary classics, then a scrumptious cheese selection finished an exquisite, unfussy dining experience.
ROOM SERVICE? If you’re after an opulent venue for a wedding or conference, Brocket Hall has 30 lavishly decorated bedrooms. Our butler ushered us to the Queen Victoria, a room favoured by the eponymous monarch. It’s a showstopper with an enormous canopied bed, delightful antique furnishings and panoramic views over the lush woodland.
There are various mod cons in the rooms, which serve as a reminder that the year is not 1812 – such as a telephone, TV and hairdryer, accommodation is also available in the simpler but elegant Melbourne Lodge (the former stable block on the estate.)
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR? Yes, if you like a) golf b) decent food c) stately homes and history. No, if you’re a) cash-strapped or b) hoping to explore the local countryside on foot.
Golfers are spoilt for choice, with two impressive 18-hole courses named after prime ministers who resided here. Peter Alliss co-designed the Melbourne, which wends its way through the lush parkland, golfers finishing with a ferry ride across the River Lea to the 18th green. In contrast, The Palmerston delves deep into mature woodland, with steep descents and tricky dog-legs. There are few footpaths around the estate, which will disappoint those who enjoy a ramble without their clubs.
LITTLE EXTRAS? The table in the magnificent dining hall is the second-largest in Britain – after Windsor Castle’s. Other display items include coronation chairs and a wittty depiction of the Prince Regent next to a horse’s rear end.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE? There’s little for the budget traveller here as Brocket Hall is in the luxury market. Valentines Package, Friday 15th February 2013, from £425 per couple including a champagne reception, four-course dinner in the magnificent Ballroom with wine pairing, and overnight accommodation on a b&b basis, based on two adults sharing. Winter golf packages range from £115 to £160 per person. Quotes for weddings and functions are available on request.
GUESTBOOK COMMENTS? The website declares that Brocket Hall is England’s finest golf and residential country estate. It would be hard not to agree.
Brocket Hall, Welwyn, Hertfordshire (01707 368700, www.brocket-hall.co.uk)
For reservations please call 01707 335 241 or email firstname.lastname@example.org