A historical English treasure
Take a sumptuous step back in time at Hartwell House & Spa, a 16th-century mansion estate in Buckinghamshire, 40 miles outside of London.
Hartwell House has a remarkable history unmatched by most luxury hotels, as it was once the family residence of exiled French King Louis XVIII of France for five years; the seat of John, Earl of Mortaigne (later known as King John); and the home of General Robert E. Lee’s 18th-century ancestors.
No two stays are alike, as each of the 46 rooms and suites are individually decorated, but all maintain a cohesive, classic country-house style.
The delight is in the details: Among the bountiful collection of antiques, oil paintings and intricate plaster and paneling throughout the mansion, the 400-year-old staircase “guarded” by a beguiling lineup of Jacobean statues is a marvel not to be missed. Also unmissable are the picturesque, manicured parkland surrounding the hotel, as well as Hartwell Spa’s impressive indoor pool and café, where you can unwind after a beauty treatment or massage.
Our Inspector’s Highlights
• The Hartwell Spa’s Roman-bath-inspired pool — with its dramatic, arched red walls adorned with classic statues and plaques — is one of the region’s loveliest places to swim.
• You will find it difficult to stay indoors on a pleasant day when there’s 90 splendid acres of private parkland, lakes and gardens to explore.
• Named after U.S. General Robert E. Lee’s ancestral family who resided here in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Lee Suite is the estate’s grandest, which includes a drawing room and prime views of the landscaped gardens.
• The Hartwell House restaurant offers vaulted ceilings and scenic lawn views, and serves modern and well-executed British fare.
What to Know
• Coming from London is moderately straightforward; take a one-hour train ride from Paddington Station to Aylesbury Station and it’s an inexpensive cab ride from there.
• Summertime gives way to plentiful alfresco dining options between the main house, Hartwell Court and the spa.
• The Hartwell Spa goes beyond the usual massage offerings. Wellness seekers should take advantage of the several full- and half-day treatment packages, which include a coursed lunch at the Spa Cafe.
• The luxury hotel honors the estate’s history with picture-framed details in suites and special rooms explaining their respective significance and backstory — one decidedly feminine bedroom, for instance, was where Queen Marie-Josephine laid her head after being ousted from France alongside her king husband.
• There are 30 rooms and suites in the three-story main house (Hartwell House) and 16 rooms/suites in the nearby Hartwell Court.
• Hartwell Court’s Gallery Suites are loft-style rooms — though still classically appointed — with a living room on the ground floor and a bedroom on the mezzanine.
• Each room is individually decorated, features flat-screen satellite televisions and has lovely lawn views in any given direction.
• Accommodations are generally more homely than glamorous with their antiques and nostalgic wallpapers, staying true to the traditional look of a country-house hotel.