2011 is proving to be a very good year for Danesfield House. As Conde Nast Johansen’s Most excellent hotel meeting venue for 2010, it has seen a boost in its already thriving conference trade. The award winning spa has recently been voted Most relaxing spa in the UK by the National Health magazine. In its 2011 travel supplement, The Sunday Times included Danesfield it in its Top ten Best of British destinations. The hotel’s fine dining restaurant maintained its four AA rosettes and was marked eight out of ten in The Good Food Guide, making it the fourth best hotel restaurant, and 13th best restaurant, in the UK. Finally, the Michelin star granted to Adam Simmonds gave long overdue recognition to this brilliant chef. All these accolades have boosted room occupancy rates to a level far above those of similar country house hotels.
Not that Danesfield desperately needs these distinctions, welcome though they are: its setting, history, accommodation and facilities are unrivalled in this part of the Thames Valley. Brian Miller, who has been General Manager for 16 years, is proud of what the hotel has to offer but is not complacent with its achievements: he is eager to progress even further, preserving the best of its traditional features whilst embracing the latest in leisure and gastronomy. Conscious of, but not intimidated by, the competition, especially from the fine dining restaurants in this prosperous part of the Home Counties, he nevertheless feels that the higher culinary profile – “Marlow is the new Ludlow” – is beneficial for all, especially as foodie visitors tend to stay and “do the rounds.”
Located at the southern edge of the Chilterns between the attractive towns of Marlow and Henley, Danesfield enjoys a hilltop setting which commands magnificent views of the Thames. The grand buildings, set in 65 acres, date back in their current form to 1899 – 1901, when, as a private home, it was totally rebuilt. Viewed from its uphill drive, or, better still, from a distance the other side of the Thames, the white stoned mock Elizabethan mansion, with its great hall, bell tower, castellations, bay windows and tudor style chimney stacks, dominates the landscape. This is the closest most guests will get to staying in a stately home, which is undoubtedly part of the attraction.
A spacious stepped terrace overlooking the river also gives access to well-maintained gardens distinguished by topiary and box hedging.
Taking its name from the site of a Danish encampment, Danesfield has a rich and distinguished history that will fascinate visitors. At one end of the chronological spectrum, it was the site of an Iron Age fort. At the other, it was requisitioned by RAF Intelligence in the Second World War. It was here, as Brian Miller recounts, that analysis of aerial photographs crucially revealed the production site of the VI and V2 rockets in Germany.
Having undergone changes of private and corporate ownership, Danesfield opened as a hotel in 1981. As one would expect, the 84 rooms are individually designed, all with attractive features. Standards of traditional décor and furnishing are high throughout the range for rooms, but especially impressive in the Hudson and Borlase suites. The Tower suite also features rooms on two levels. Whilst bathrooms tend to be small, they are well equipped and supplied with Mouton Brown toiletries. Some single rooms in the old stable block are due to be converted into suites, which will include much bigger bathrooms and walk in showers. Chandeliers, large and small, are ubiquitous, but flat screen televisions have yet to make their mark.
However, the grandiose nature of the public rooms cannot fail to impress. The Great Hall, complete with medieval tapestry, stone fireplace, hammer beam roof and minstrels’ gallery, serves as the hotel’s lounge, furnished with an array of armchairs, settees and chesterfields. The aubergine tones of this room blend in well with its dark paneling and grey stone walls and floor. A sunlit atrium off the reception area leads to the elegant, supremely comfortable, cocktail bar, the walls of which, lined with a sumptuous green tapestry, are particularly beautiful. Beyond this, and facing the terrace is the glass walled Orangery, used for breakfast and more informal dining. Of the ten private banqueting and function facilities, the Versailles Room offers the size and splendour that help make the hotel at popular venue for weddings.
The Spa features a 20 metre, ozone cleansed pool. Its full windows maximize views of the Thames, which can also be enjoyed on the adjacent sun terrace. The pool along with sauna and steam rooms, a spacious gym and eight luxurious treatment rooms, offering a range of facials, holistic treatments and massages, have made Danesfield’s spa a magnet for the health and fitness conscious.
Overall the Danesfield House experience is impressive – an ideal venue to just relax or to do business in equal measure – and one that is supplemented by one of the leading restaurants in the country.