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?
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
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
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

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?