A sophisticated country retreat in St Albans
128 Rooms / 19 Suites
An elegant mansion on the edge of an historic town, Sopwell House is a luxurious, cozy country British retreat without an ounce of pretense. It’s located just outside of St Albans, a cathedral city with Roman history, a large park and lake and streets of quaint shops and houses.
Sopwell House has centuries of history under its roof and is surrounded by 12 acres of tranquil gardens with views over the picturesque Hertfordshire countryside. Visit with your significant other for quiet getaway or gather friends for a stay that should involve treatments at the stunning spa, dinners and drinks at the onsite restaurants and leisurely walks around the grounds.
The setting may be steeped in history but the amenities are thoroughly 21st century. The Georgian hotel was bought by the Bejerano family in 1986 and has been continually updated, now with 128 rooms and suites. Sizes differ but all have air conditioning — yes, the U.K. can be quite warm sometimes — as well as free Wi-Fi, ESPA toiletries, and international TV channels that include a sports package.
No room is the same, but the design scheme is thoroughly classic British with modern twists — some accommodations have four-poster beds and black-and-white art while others have elaborate floral wallpaper and tailored sofas.
The 19 Mews Suites debuted in 2015 in an exquisite self-contained area created from old farm buildings opposite the main entrance. Pass through the private gateway and you enter a magical garden with topiary bushes and gently rhythmic water features.
All suites are named after plants and each one has its own private outside space, some with a hot tub. There’s also a shared outdoor whirlpool where you can sit and soak up the sights and sounds of the English country garden designed by Chelsea Flower Show Gold Award winner Ann-Marie Powell.
Inside, the suites come in three configurations but all are furnished with the same natural, neutral colors and materials. There’s a gas fire for cozy winter nights; a kitchenette for 24/7 snacks; digital radio for background music; and even a welly rack (for your boots) to provide a touch of the English countryside. Feeling too relaxed to move? Mews guests have their own private butler who will cater to every need, even cleaning your sunglasses.
You are spoiled for choice when hunger strikes. Enjoy modern British cuisine with a flourish of French in the elegant and acclaimed Restaurant. Head chef Gopi Chandran serves seasonal fare that might include Cornish crab, English asparagus or angus beef.
The Bejeranos are keen soccer supporters and many soccer shirts line a downstairs corridor, signed by teams who have stayed at Sopwell House while playing on the hallowed turf at nearby Wembley Stadium.
For less formal dining, try The Brasserie, where classic dishes are prepared in an open kitchen. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style and the atmosphere is so relaxed that you’ll catch guests in white bathrobes filling their plates as part of their spa package; in the evening, order traditional à la carte British fare such as Scottish salmon, Welsh rump of lamb and ale-battered fish and chips.
Hugely popular with both guests and non-residents is afternoon tea, served on a tiered stand in the elegant cocktail lounge, The Restaurant or Conservatory Bar. It’s probably best to skip lunch and have an early tea in order to do justice to the dainty sandwiches, scrumptious pastries and freshly baked scones with Devonshire clotted cream and strawberry preserve.
Fitness and well-being are an important part of Sopwell House. If you can’t do without your daily dose of exercise, you’ll find two spacious fitness rooms and a dance studio, which are to be extended further in 2017.
Rather relax? On fine days, there are plenty of quiet corners within the spacious grounds to sit in the shade of a tree or beside the pretty ornamental pond stocked with koi and fringed with lavender.
Or simply head to the spa for a full range of massage, facials and beauty treatments using Clarins and ESPA products. The 46-foot indoor pool with garden view is a delightful spot for a few lazy lengths, and in 2017, an open-air swimming area will be added as well.