Whatley Manor Hotel Review, (August 2011)

Posted on: August 30th, 2011 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Since opening in July 2003 after three and a half years of restoration and extension, Whatley Manor has established itself as one of the leading hotels in the Cotswolds. As a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux association and winner of a host of awards including the AA Inspectors’ Choice Hotel Five Red Stars and two Michelin stars for Martin Burge’s cuisine, accommodation and restaurant bookings at this 23 roomed hotel are now in high demand.

Arranged around an inner courtyard at the end of a long drive, the main hotel buildings are accessed through a gateway of automatic doors. Built in honey coloured Cotswold stone, complete with arches, gables and dormer windows, and lying in twelve acres of beautiful gardens, the exterior of Whatley Manor epitomises the classic English country house.

The interior, however, is a different matter. Whilst the public rooms retain their original wood panelling and stone fireplaces, the bespoke furniture, pastel shaded walls, soft furnishings, and fixtures and fittings reflect more of an understated European elegance. The Swiss owners, Alix Landolt and Christian Landolt, have used one their country’s leading interior designers to help them realise their vision of a stylish family style residence which successfully avoids an impersonal, corporate feel. This also goes as far as not giving names to the various lounges (so beloved of the English country house) and keeping signage to a bare minimum. Fortunately, guests are able to find their way to the bar, restaurants, spa and gardens fairly easily.

Individuality is seen most strikingly in the styling of the fifteen rooms and eight suites. Traditional structural features, notably the well preserved leaded windows, exist in harmony with contemporary wall coverings, furniture and fabrics. These have been sourced from a veritable Who’s Who of top names, including Chivassa Carlucci, Nina Campbell, John Hutton, Rubelli and Canovas and Noblis.

Comfort and luxury are of the essence. In the suite I occupied, patterned suede covered the wall behind a supremely comfortable bed, illuminated by soft glow of contemporary up-lighter lamps. A cosy sitting room furnished with deeply cushioned settee and armchair, writing desk and Bang and Olufsen sound and vision Beocentre, also provided the basis for a most enjoyable stay. The luxuriously appointed bathroom, with heated flooring, was particularly impressive. Incidentals such as designer toiletries, a well stocked mini-bar, complementary mineral water were well up to the high standards expected at this level.

For those seeking just peace and quiet, Whatley Manor is an ideal retreat. Set well back from the main road and insulated by farmland, the stillness and tranquillity of the Wiltshire countryside are almost palpable. The lounge and terrace seating are ample enough to allow guests to find their own quiet space. Many will also enjoy strolling through the well tended gardens, 26 in all, and the secluded arbor. Strangely enough, the hotel lacks a library or reading room, a facility the more sedate guests might prefer.

Relaxation might also involve visiting the European style Spa which has proved a major attraction for residents and day visitors alike. As someone who usually avoids using hotel leisure facilities, I was pleasantly surprised and easily seduced, spending far too much time luxuriating in a series of thermal cabins – the scented Camomile Steam Grotto is best – and the hydrotherapy pool. Given more time I could have sampled the intriguingly named Wave Dream Sensory Room, worked out in the well equipped gym – well perhaps not! – or indulged in one of the many health treatments. Those who are particularly adventurous might sample the lyashi Dome, where detoxifying through perspiration, whilst the body is cocooned in ceramic chamber, has the same effect as a 20 kilometre run. Aquarias spa at Whatley Manor is the only hotel spa in England to have this Japanese treatment available.

Canny guests might well book a Whatley Manor package. Not only do they benefit from discounted room prices, but they also engage in a special activity, which could be Nordic walking, a beauty workshop, a cookery master class or a special dinner. Those staying on a Sunday night might also watch a film in the hotel’s cinema or enjoy a jazz concert.

Located within easy driving distance of historic settlements like Bath, Cirencester, Malmesbury and Tetbury, Whatley Manor is also an ideal base for touring the southern Cotswolds. The famous Westonbirt Arboretum is also only three miles away.

However, there is no need to seek distractions beyond the grounds of what is, in effect, a resort in the countryside, providing for the guests’ every need. On the food front, well prepared breakfasts are taken in Le Mazot, the casual dining restaurant, which is also open for lunch and dinner all week. Fine dining is available in the Dining Room, Martin Burge’s 2 Michelin starred restaurant. In both, as with the rest of the hotel, the service is welcoming, helpful, efficient and unobtrusive. No request is too much, as shown by the shaving kit which was quickly provided after discovering I had forgotten mine.

Overseeing the whole operation is General Manager Peter Egli, whose clear vision, close organisation and engaging personality ensure the high standards and ethos of the Relais & Châteaux philosophy are maintained.

From the valet parking at the start of my visit, to the assistance with luggage on departure, my stay at Whatley Manor was a real joy. At all times I felt special, being treated, like other guests, as one of the family. The hotel goes from strength to strength, and can look forward to continued success in the future.