24-hour Room Service: Ellenborough Park, Cheltenham

For anyone whose heart is filled with dread at the words "country-house hotel", let me reassure you: Ellenborough Park is an exception. This new venture on the outskirts of Cheltenham entirely avoids the usual hurdles of country-house hospitality: namely, signs on every surface telling you what you can and cannot do; décor that makes you think of Oscar Wilde's desire to die rather than look at the horrible wallpaper; and hopeless staff.

Three years of a very expensive restoration have paid off. After a new owner bought the hotel in 2008, several million pounds have been spent on it. It opened in May and has already won Leading Country House Hotel in the World Travel Awards.

The building, a handsome 15th-century manor house built in Cotswold stone, is replete with striking turrets, arches and a bell tower. Importantly, the rooms have given way to the architecture, rather than being carved out in an unnatural fashion, and consequently each room is different. There are three buildings housing the rooms, all designed by Nina Campbell. It really does pay to get a brilliant interior designer who completely understands her brief. If you want proper English Style, after John Fowler, there is only Campbell.

The large drawing room serves as a bar, in a suitably baronial style, and there is also a more contemporary brasserie which is open all day. The posh dining room, called the Beaufort Room, is a very beautiful, light-coloured panelled space.

The hushed dinner is usually the low-point of one of these types of hotel experiences and I was braced for the worst. But no, there was relief all round once delicious grilled scallops and perfect chateaubriand arrived for a not-unreasonable £50 for two courses per person.

There is an outdoor swimming pool and, of course, a spa. I'd always thought I didn't like spas but a quick resumé of my most recent travels reveals a habit which has taken in Austria, Italy, Germany and even Surrey. The signature treatment is called "Nemaste", a little tribute to Lord Ellenborough who bagged some of India for the British Empire. It involves a head-massage to get your body and soul in sync. I had a more prosaic Fake Bake tan and found the therapists to be the nicest I have come across.

The only part of the equation that seemed lacking was outdoors. Ellenborough Park's brochure reveals that there are 90 acres of park surrounding the hotel; the neighbouring houses nevertheless seemed very close. However, when I visited the gardens had not been laid; they have since been landscaped and in time will no doubt mature into the required bucolic serenity.

Location

Ellenborough Park is set on a hillside looking down over Cheltenham race course. During the festival, in March, it's the perfect place to stay – you need only drive down the hotel's private road for five minutes to get there. If racing doesn't lure you, the spa town of Cheltenham is a 10-minute drive away.

Comfort

There are 62 bedrooms including four suites named after iconic racehorses. Mine was huge and was called Kauto Star (fortuitously, as he is my favourite). Nina Campbell has managed to retain a private house sensibility in the bedrooms without compromising comfort.

Kauto Star was wood panelled, with mahogany furniture, a Georgian cheval mirror, original paintings, as well as cosy velvet sofas and thick carpeting. There is a bit of chintz here and there but not too much – you really can't have a country house without some, and anything too contemporary would have seemed bogus. The bathroom was vast too, and done out in traditional style.

The hotel's biggest asset though is the staff – young, local and enthusiastic.

Ellenborough Park, Southam, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL52 3NH (01242 545454; ellenboroughpark.com).

Rooms 5 stars
Value 4 stars
Service 5 stars

Double rooms start at £210, including breakfast.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own