The National Trust  is responsible for more than 300 historic houses and gardens. Visiting a National Trust property holds appeal for people of all generations and it’s easy to understand why. It’s a fascinating and rare chance to peep into the lives of the wealthy gentry and landowners from a period that has long since faded and offers a little escapism; for if it tickles your fancy you can  pretend to be living in a period drama for a few hours. Indeed there is nothing quite like visiting an historical house or property, but better than just visiting an historic house is to stay in one.

 

Some country houses allow people to sample the ‘period drama experience’ for themselves. Historic House Hotels was founded in 1979 to rescue run-down country houses and convert them to luxury hotels while retaining their historic ambience. In 2008, its properties were leased to the National Trust, to ensure their long-term security. I headed off to an Historic House Hotel that is positively basking in the delight of its new found purpose in  life and is enjoying a new chapter in its illustrious history; Hartwell House & Spa, in the Vale of Aylesbury. This eighteenth-century stately home is so finely proportioned that it could be likened to a life-sized dolls house. It’s not just the exterior that is beautiful, inside it has elegant rooms and fine furnishings that are all fit for a Queen.

As you would expect Hartwell House has a long and colourful history. The House itself dates back to the 1600s, but  the estate is mentioned in the Domesday Book. It’s certainly got the wow factor and no matter where you go in the property prepare to be impressed and to get engrossed in the history of this unique and beautiful place.

 

The hotel’s fourty-six rooms have a history that’s as impressive as they come. Indeed

I really was overwhelmed during my time here. The tranquillity, faultless service and comfort of the hotel alone made me feel like royalty, indeed as sat with a coffee gazing at the grounds I couldn’t help reflecting upon some of the hotels regal occupants throughout history which have included Marie Antoinette.

Fresh fruit and home-made biscuits were in the room on arrival, along with the usual complimentary gowns and slippers. The room was luxurious and the bed was simply divine and most definitely stately. Downsides to the room, well I couldn’t find one. As I sat with a glass of something sparkling I could have happily believed I was on the set of Downton Abbey, indeed I was very almost inspired to write my own period drama. The view of the gardens from my bedroom was nothing short of magical.

 

The Spa at Hartell House is located just a short few minutes walk from the main part of the house and it certainly doesn’t disappoint.  With a warm clear water pool lined with blue mosaic tiles, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and a long list of spa treatments. It is what you imagine a spa to be like and yet so much more. After a swim I relaxed in the hot tub with a glass of sparkling elderflower cordial and just allowed all my tensions to drift away. It was the most relaxing of experiences, but when it comes to indulgence the spa treatments deserve a mention, for after a thoroughly good relax I was well and truly pampered with an aromatherapy massage that left my skin feeling and smelling divine.

 

Hartwell House Hotel is a hotel to simply get away from it all. It has a champion pedigree, quintessential British charm and timeless elegance. I fell in love with this hotel and I would have happily stayed forever, sadly my stay did come to an end but the relaxing effects of the stay lingered for a while.

 

Also in the Historic House Hotel portfolio is Middlethorpe Hall. This 17th-century manor house was built by a master cutler from Sheffield to bolster his credentials among the English gentry. There is no doubt that a property of this magnitude would boost the credentials of anyone. Today, it as impressive as ever with its elegant rooms and a spa housed within a pair of Edwardian cottages.

 

This is not a rambling mansion, but a well proportioned property that is elegantly decorated in the manner of the 18th century and furnished with antiques and fine paintings –  it feels much more like a stay in a manor house than a 10-bedroom hotel, but at the same time it has a nice intimate feeling about it.

 

There is twenty acres of gardens and land to meander around which includes a Ha-Ha and a beautiful, scented  rose garden. It’s unspoilt beauty has a feeling of Helen Cresswell’s ‘ Moondial’ about it, for it is as if you have been transported back in time.

 

Middlethorpe Hall was once occupied by the 18th-century bluestocking and diarist, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, a social butterfly and free-thinker who was admired for her own beauty and declared this special house a ‘very pretty place’. Indeed this historical hotel offers guests a stay that allows you to feel like you are living in a beautiful, historical bubble. It’s real escape!

 

Visiting Hartwell House and Middlethorpe Hall really did make me feel like a time travelling queen and I think it is wonderful that these magnificent buildings have found a new life purpose that allows them to be maintained and preserved for future generations to enjoy.

 

Hartwell House, Bucks HP17 8NR; 01296 747444; info@hartwellhouse.com; www.hartwell-house.com

 

Middlethorpe Hall, Bishopthorpe Road, York, YO23 2GB (01904 641241; middlethorpe.com).

 

About Seren Charrington-Hollins

ABOUT SEREN-CHARRINGTON-HOLLINS Describing my work through just one job title is difficult; because my professional life sees me wear a few hats: Food Historian, period cook, broadcaster, writer and consultant. I have a great passion for social and food history and in addition to researching food history and trends I have also acted as a consultant on domestic life and changes throughout history for a number of International Companies. In addition to being regularly aired on radio stations; I have made a number of television appearances on everything from Sky News through to ITV’s Country House Sunday, Holiday of a Lifetime with Len Goodman , BBC4’s Castle’s Under Siege, BBC South Ration Book Britain; Pubs that Built Britain with Hairy Bikers and BBC 2’s Inside the Factory. Amongst other publications my work has been featured in Period Living Magazine, Telegraph, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Great British Food Magazine and I write regularly for a variety of print and online publications. I am very fortunate to be able to undertake work that is also my passion and never tire of researching; recreating historical recipes and researching changing domestic patterns. Feel free to visit my blog, www.serenitykitchen.com