For the weeks leading up to my Stoke Park Country Club, Hotel and Spa visit, when people asked where I was staying, I made sure to drop in ‘Stoke Park, you know the country club at the end of Layer Cake’.
Turns out I wasn’t the only one proud of telling people about Stoke Park’s feature in one of my favourite movies of all time. The team at Stoke Park are immensely proud of the club’s relationship with the movie industry, most notably the James Bond franchise, appearing in both Goldfinger and Tomorrow Never Dies, and the venue for the recent 50 years of James Bond celebration.
Stoke Park Country Club was founded in 1908 by Nick Lane Jackson as Britain’s first country club however the estate itself has a rich history spanning the last 1000 years. Following stints with two of the UK’s most famous lawyers, Sir Christopher Hatton (rumoured lover of Queen Elizabeth I) and Sir Edward Coke, who rented the property from the Queen and later purchased it following her death in 1603, the estate cycled through a number of owners until it landed under the control of Thomas Penn in 1760. At the time Penn was Lord Proprietor of the province of Pennsylvania, then a British colony in North America. John Penn, son of Thomas Penn returned after 28 years in America, and found the Manor House in a very bad state of repair. He therefore set about building the present mansion between 1792 and 1808 using much of the compensation he received from the new Commonwealth for the loss of the family’s lands in Pennsylvania following the American Revolution in 1776.
The Mansion, as it’s referred to today, is the main attraction at Stoke Park followed closely by the expansive grounds including a 27 hole golf course, 13 tennis courts and beautifully manicured gardens. Guests can choose to stay in The Mansion or The Pavilion, a newer development housing the hotel’s Spa and Gymnasium facilities. Inside The Mansion is the hotel’s more traditional accommodations drawing on the building’s heritage, whilst The Pavilion offers more contemporary rooms. Following my night in The Mansion and a tour of The Pavilion the next day I’d have to recommend The Mansion especially if you’re travelling to Stoke Park to get a taste of quintessential British country life.
Driving through the gates and up the long driveway towards The Mansion is about as awesome as it looks in Layer Cake – especially in an Aston Martin Vanquish. Check in happens directly inside the front door and the rooms are located through the double height ceiling lounge and up a staircase to the first floor. My room was enormous, stretching almost the entire length of The Mansion’s rear balcony overlooking the fountain in the courtyard below.
The room was exactly as I’d imagined. Victorian furniture, dark colours, engraved wood, mirrors and of course, an open fire place. I cracked the bottle of complimentary Champagne and touched up on my Stoke Park history via ‘Stoke Park – The First 1,000 Years’ book (which the information above comes from) before heading to dinner at the hotel’s award winning restaurant Humphry’s. I pressed some trousers and donned a jacket, then descended the staircase to the sound of a crackling fire and Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie No.1 being played on the piano in the lounge room below – a very nice touch!
Humphry’s restaurant is a cracker. My main course of Venison was easily the highlight dish of my entire trip. Humphry’s chef Chris Wheeler has been at Stoke Park for nine years and in that time has made the restaurant into ‘an experience you want to relive again and again’, as Marco Pierre White quoted and a winner of 3 AA Rosettes. I’d have to agree with Marco, the food was excellent and the additional cheese ‘supplement’ which arrived on a trolley to be cut in front of you was the icing on the cake.
Following dinner I retired to my room via the bar for three drams of Talisker and a cigar, which accompanied my book on the balcony outside the room. When the temperature dropped I called the reception to have the fireplace lit and spent the rest of the evening sitting in the suede Chesterfield in front of it, book in hand.
My evening at Stoke Park Country Club was delightful however I feel I must note the presence of children, to which I felt there was an abundance. I was awoken early to children in rooms bordering mine and breakfast was also full of children running around. Stoke Park is very family orientated which may or may not be your cup of tea.
My stay at Stoke Park Country Club, Hotel and Spa was short and sweet. Whilst I didn’t have the time, I think a round of golf is a must if you can fit it in because the course is stunning. I also think it’s worth mentioning Stoke Park’s annual summer tennis tournament, The Boodles where spectators can watch the world’s top players battle it out on the Wimbledon quality grass courts. If you’re a tennis fan it’s worth looking into a stay while The Boodles is on.
As a quick escape from the city and a taste of British country life Stoke Park is a fantastic option, one I’d certainly recommend and one I’ll definitely be doing again.