As a family of six, travelling in and out of the UK can be difficult. With the majority of hotel rooms only equipped for a standard family of four, we often face the dilemma of all cramming into one small space or forking out for two budget rooms. For that reason, our experience of hotels with the children solely consists of budget chain hotels where, although we are grateful for a comfortable bed and a warm shower, could never be described as luxurious. So when we were offered the chance to stay at Tylney Hall, a luxury country house hotel near Basingstoke in Hampshire, we quite literally jumped at the chance!!
From Lancashire down to Tylney Hall took around four and a half hours, which doesn’t seem like a lot but, with four whiny children in the back, it’s never fun. Having spent the entire journey gritting my teeth and screeching at them to stop arguing/kicking my seat/pulling faces at other drivers/spilling drinks/needing the toilet every two seconds, by the time we grew near I was asking myself why we had even bothered!
And yet as we drove up the avenue and Tylney Hall appeared before us, I knew in an instant it was worth it!!
The children fell silent for the first time in hours, their mouths dropping open in amazement. “WOW!” said Harry. “It looks like a castle!” said Eva. “It looks too posh for us!” said Lewis. And as we unloaded our cases and were met by the doorman to take then from us, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was right!
Tylney Hall is a Grade II listed building and remains an outstanding example of a luxury country house hotel that has never lost its old world sense of charm, and believe me, it is just beautiful. It is, quite simply, fairytale-esque, with sweeping staircases and floor to ceiling walnut panelling, boasting 112 rooms situated in the Mansion house and across the surrounding gardens. And having seen how grand the entrance to Tylney Hall was, we couldn’t wait to be shown to our room!
We were lucky enough to stay in one of Tylney Hall’s Master Suite’s, The Duchess, and let me tell you I have never stayed in a hotel room quite as large, or as luxurious as this! With a separate lounge, spa bath, and views over the avenue and the golf course, The Duchess is perfect for larger families with extra beds being made up in the lounge area for the children. I loved that each child received a gift bag containing lots of little things to make our stay more comfortable, including colouring books and crayons, little toys and games, and even bird food to feed the ducks the following day.
The master bedroom was pretty special with a four posted bed that I later learned had been slept in by a whole host of royalty and celebrities, including Richard Gere and Madonna! I bet not many people can say they have shared a bed with those two, and I will be name dropping that little nugget of information for many years to come!!
With a huge family bathroom and separate toilet, and ample luxury bath products, towels and robes, there was nothing at all that Tylney Hall hadn’t provided.
Hungry from our long drive, and excited to see more of Tylney Hall, we made our way down to The Oak Room Restaurant for our dinner reservation, and shown to our table. The Oak Room is just beautiful, and evidently gets its name from the rich oak panelling, crowned with a domed ceiling, and views across the gardens and lawns. Having won the award for Best Hampshire Restaurant at Bookatable’s Diner Awards 2018, we were excited to sample, what is reputed to be, an innovative cuisine with a distinctly British twist.
With the majority of diners adult only parties, speaking in hushed whispers, enjoying a lavish meal whilst listening to the tuneful notes of a grand piano, I felt a niggle of fear at how Harry, Megan and Eva would behave over dinner. I couldn’t help but think that should I have paid a costly amount to eat in a restaurant as beautiful as this, I certainly wouldn’t want my three on the next table singing songs about bodily functions and sword fighting with their dessert spoons. But we were hungry, and the food looked too good to miss, and so we whispered our threats with smiling faces, and simply hoped for the best.
Having placed our orders from the menu, offering both seasonal specialities and signature dishes, we were brought a variety of breads and appetisers, all beautifully presented and utterly delicious!
The table service was absolutely faultless each course was brought out promptly and extravagantly. I don’t think I have ever been to a restaurant where my soup has been poured infront of me from a porcelain jug, nor where I have had a waitress brush down the table cloth in-between courses. Several times throughout the meal, particularly when the courses just kept coming, Lewis piped up with, “Do you think this is how posh people eat every night?”.
Gaz, Lewis and I all chose the same main course – Slow cooked fillet of lamb served with Crispy sweetbreads, confit shoulder bubble and squeak, and turnip. The lamb was by far the tastiest, and most tender, I have ever eaten and I’m assured by Gaz the sweetbreads were delicious, although Lewis’s face when we told him what he had just eaten was a picture!
The children chose sausage and mash and cod and chips, and I loved how, although very much child friendly, it was still served in an adult like manner to allow them to really feel a part of a formal meal.
Dessert was my favourite course, although I’m amazed that we even managed to fit in a another mouthful, with Milk chocolate cremeux, served with Nut crunch, caramel shard and dulce de leche. It was undoubtedly the most delicious dessert that I have eaten, pretty much in my entire life!
At no point during the meal did we feel that anything was too much to ask. When we ordered a drink it was brought almost instantly, and when the children grew restless and began to
screech at the top of their voices speak a little louder than everybody else in the room put together others, we didn’t feel uncomfortable or awkward, and were met with kind smiles and understanding eyes. And that right there is exactly what I want from a family stay, regardless of the setting.
When we got to our room, bursting with food and utterly exhausted, I would love to tell you that the children fell into their beds and went to sleep. Instead we had two hours of mass hysteria, uncontrollable laughter, defiance and screeching (them and then me) and yet climbing into that four poster bed and closing my eyes has never felt so good.
The following morning we were up bright and early (thanks kids!) and yet waking up in a setting like Tylney most definitely softened the blow!
Breakfast was served back in the Oak Room Restaurant and, with a self service hot and cold buffet, and a made to order menu available, we couldn’t wait to tuck in!
When the children asked if they could have hot chocolate, we were brought a whole jug to the table to share. When Eva requested an omelette with extra cheese, it was made and brought for her in no time. And when Gaz, who had forgotten his swimming trunks, asked one of the staff if there was a shop nearby he could buy some, they offered to take the twenty minute drive and buy some for him! I don’t think that I have ever stayed at a hotel where the service, and the kindness, shown by the staff was to such a high level as this.
Whilst the children finished their breakfast I was met by the hotel manager who shared the history of Tylney and a guided tour of the rooms. One of my favourite rooms was the newly refurbished library and bar area.
I was also shown the various suites where wedding ceremonies are held, including buildings where couples can have their wedding service and reception in self contained areas with their own private gardens. With two of the suites set up for weddings that day, I couldn’t help but imagine what a fairy tale wedding that would have been!
Back with Gaz and the children, although Tylney Hall has a Health Suite with Spa treatment rooms and leisure facilities, including an indoor and outdoor pool, with the weather so glorious we decided to walk off our breakfast with a walk around the grounds.
With 66 acres of parkland, and the longest uninterrupted view in the whole of Hampshire, it is the individual historic gardens which are a real selling point for Tylney Hall. Originally designed by the renowned gardener and planter, Gertrude Jekyll, and which have been lovingly tended over the last 30 years by a team of dedicated gardeners led by Paul Tattersdill. And they are utterly beautiful.
The gardens boast expansive woodlands and hidden paths to explore, as well as beautiful water features and lakes, ducks to feed and fish to spot. And we spent a good few hours doing exactly that.
After the most wonderful stay at Tylney Hall it was time for us to leave for the next step of our adventure, and I think all six of us were a little reluctant to go! There is something about Tylney that I can’t quite put into words, a sense of history and grandeur, that leaves you feeling a little like royalty for the duration of your stay.
For those looking for a luxurious hotel stay, or to host a special occasion or business event, Tylney is quite possibly the most perfect location. I’ll be honest, at £640 a night for The Duchess Suite it is most definitely out of our price range (although other rooms are available at a lower rate) and yet for us, as a very normal, every day family, it was a hotel stay we will never forget.
Plus really, Richard Gere and Madonna……could it ever get any better than that??
** We were guests of Tylney Hall for the duration of our stay. All words and opinions are our own. **