A quirky British bolthole with bags of character and history to boot
SLH’s Senior Content Editor Chloe Frost-Smith and Social Media Manager Lucy Kell sneak a peek inside the hotly anticipated The Retreat at Elcot Park which opens its doors today after a top-to-bottom revamp, and find themselves within a whimsical, Bridgerton-esque world of country house cool meets period drama perfection…
The oldest Monkey Puzzle tree in the country still stands tall on the approach to the red bricked Grade II-listed country house which was once the childhood home of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s mother (the Romantic poet’s portrait still hangs above the entrance hall’s fireplace). A riot of colour on the inside, and a haven of landscaped gardens on the outside stretching towards the rolling hills of the North Wessex Downs, The Retreat at Elcot Park is indeed a retreat in every sense of the word.
Cleverly contrived to keep guests entertained in each and every aesthetically pleasing space, from the backgammon boards in The Atlas Room – which is hung with worldly artworks as a reminder that guests are just a few feet from one of the UK’s best hot air balloon launch spots – to the stacks of books around the fireplace at reception (not to mention elegant flower arrangements by local Hungerford florist Sarah Styles, and a luxurious dog bed so your four legged companion can curl up at your feet), you really need never leave.
With several delicious dining options, including a pan-Asian restaurant Yü which is discretely tucked away down a long-lacquered petrol blue-panel corridor, the plant-filled Orangery slated to launch in late May, all-day brasserie 1772 where reservations for the ever-changing Sunday roast will be much coveted, private dining in The Oyster Room (decorated with earthy green ceramics on the walls and could be straight from the set of Autumn de Wilde’s Emma), and afternoon tea, there is plenty to whet your appetite (and keep you coming back for more). There is a ‘dine anywhere, anytime’ ethos here, with fully stocked pantries for midnight snacks with Alice in Wonderland style ‘drink me’ labels on each guest wing, which adds to the relaxed, homely atmosphere of The Retreat. And with a soon to open outdoor infinity pool lined with loungers, cabanas, and a Whispering Angel bar, there will be one more reason to visit this summer – swimsuit at the ready.
Tasked with a fun, escapist and element-of-surprise oriented brief, London-based luxury designers Taylor and Turner have truly triumphed when it comes to the colourful yet considered interiors – think squiggle and bobbin mirrors, scallop-edged bedside tables in bubblegum pink and duck egg blue, marbled Pooky lampshades in a pick-and-mix variety of palettes, patterned headboards and one-off wallpapers including vintage Morris & Co., free-standing bathtubs and Downton Abbey-worthy four poster beds (you’ll be sleeping just 15 minutes away from Highclere Castle, home to the aristocratic Crawley family in the popular period drama). Bathrooms are bathed in natural light, some come with spacious walk-in showers and oblong tiles in dusky pink, while others boast pretty panelled bath tubs. Equestrian art hangs on the walls, nodding to the racehorse theme which runs throughout the rooms (The Retreat is just a stone’s throw from Newbury Racecourse) – clue up on your jockeys and champion racehorses as you’ll likely find famous names hand painted on to your bedroom door.
In fact, the signage around The Retreat has the look and feel of the likes of Royal Ascot and Henley Regatta, subtly pointing towards the atmosphere of the English summer event season – which this much anticipated hotel will no doubt enjoy hot on the heels of its successful sister property, The Mitre Hotel in Hampton Court, particularly when news gets out about its plans for the courtyard, currently under wraps beneath red and white striped awnings and guarded by a plucky pheasant. This will soon be the setting for a monthly local farmers market, alongside a buzzy bakery and café, florist, and beauty salon which will welcome the local community alongside hotel guests.
From croquet to clay pigeon shooting, and a grab-and-go welly wall for country walks, there is a best of British feel to The Retreat which encourages guests to gather around – whether in tennis whites or fluffy dressing gowns – and celebrate, well, just being together in a sublime setting.
SLH Insider Tip: Contact the SLH Voice Team for a special twin-centre package, staying at The Retreat at Elcot Park and The Mitre Hampton Court (pictured below), including breakfast, an overnight stay at each hotel with 15% off Best Available Rate.