A luxurious four-day staycation in the British town and country is an ideal, effortless getaway says Daniella Saunders
Whilst bitter-cold winters propel most Brits to escape to warmer shores this time of year, the UK staycation is on the advance. Amidst anxieties surrounding Brexit and the climate crisis – 55 per cent of travellers are more intent on making sustainable travel choices than they were a year ago, according to Booking.com – making the most of holidaying in the UK appears a much more desirable choice. Having recently embarked on my very own staycation, I realised how easy it can be to escape the humdrum of everyday life, yet remain in one’s own home country and in fact, less than an hour away from London.
Two world-renowned British luxury hotels, St. James’s DUKES LONDON and Stoke Park in Stoke Poges, have partnered together to create the British staycation experience of a lifetime. Whilst one usually separates both city and rural breaks, this new town and country offering enables guests to delight in both across four unforgettable days.
Whilst the two are polls apart, one being an extensive 300-acre country house, and the other a regal city hotel just moments from Buckingham Palace, DUKES LONDON and Stoke Park actually have a lot in common. Both are beautifully historic, quintessentially British and have – much less important, but most certainly worth noting – coincidental ties to James Bond; Stoke park has featured in two films from the franchise, whilst the DUKES Bar is whispered to be a former haunt of Ian Fleming and a possible inspiration for Bond’s famous ‘shaken not stirred’ expression. What’s more, the two are less than an hour’s journey away from each other – the express train from Paddington is in fact just 15 minutes.
Our trip began at the rural Stoke Park, an idyllic spa and country club situated close to Windsor, in which you can actually view the castle from the hotel’s extraordinary lantern dome, part designed by Thomas Wyatt. There is so much to do and see at this 900-year-old historic hotel. From walking around the prepossessing parkland, to exploring the maze-like gardens and lakes (in which that rowing boat scene from Brigdet Jones’ Diary took place), while the club also offers impeccable putting opportunities with its 27-hole Championship golf course, replete with awe-inspiring views of the surrounding countryside.
Inside, luxury and opulence pervades in the form of intriguing art works, plush velvet furnishings, and a grand staircase which leads to an array of sumptuous rooms, most of which boast picturesque parkland views and cosy sleep-enhancing fireplaces.
Though it was hard to tear myself away from the glorious comfort of my boudoir (the one in which Bridget Jones and Daniel stayed in the film), I couldn’t miss dining at the hotel’s 3 AA Rosette-holding, fine dining restaurant, Humphry’s in which we indulged in an array of delicious seasonal dishes; think pan fried scallops, Brookfield Farm beef with creamy truffle mash and delectable treacle tart for dessert.
It’s incredibly easy to kick back and relax in The Pavillion – an additional building comprising of contemporary bedrooms and health and fitness facilities – especially when you’re treated to an aromatherapy massage at the restorative spa. Post-treatment bliss was then enjoyed at the indoor pool and tranquil outdoor hot tub, which was definitely worth a dip after-dark, even in the midst of winter. For gym-bunnies, there is also a fully equipped gym, 13 tennis courts, and a jam-packed weekly schedule of studio classes offering everything from body pump to hot yoga and ‘sunrise cycle’.
When the countryside splendour came to a close, we headed to St. James’s for an exquisite city stay. Tucked away within the quiet cul de sac of St. James’s Street, DUKES LONDON exudes old-world elegance from the moment you first approach the beautiful Victorian-style facade. Effortlessly avant-garde and stylish, but retaining all its traditional character, the hotel is a first-class inner-city escape, just a short walk from the likes of Fortnum & Mason, Clarence House and Burlington Arcade.
Once we were given a warm welcome by the accommodating staff, shown to our more-than-comfortable rooms, complete with Penhaligon’s amenities and a generous Queen-sized bed, it was time for a spot of Martini tasting, for which the hotel bar is renowned worldwide. Be warned: a vermouth martini contains approximately five to seven shots of pure alcohol at the DUKES Bar, so go steady if you wish to make it to dinner.
Seasonal British dishes are served at the hotel’s intimate and ambient restaurant GBR, which puts an exciting twist on an array of traditional plates – English burrata with roasted onion squash, delicious beer battered haddock and chips and a to-die-for ‘deconstructed’ cheesecake.
When you’re not feasting or sipping martinis in a nod to Mr Bond, time can be spent in the hotel’s Private Health Club which features a marble steam room, treatment room and gym, or with a bike ride around the royal neighbourhood (on an exclusive DUKE’s bike of course).
If you’re planning your staycation for spring or summer, delight in a DUKE’s picnic at Green Park, located just a stone’s throw from the hotel, whilst afternoon tea can be enjoyed in The Drawing Room, a decadent space which Princess Diana used to frequent, adjoined with a courtyard garden.
We even squeezed in a shopping trip around the upscale Mayfair area which boasts beautiful Savile Row-type stores and an abundance of British heritage brands. There is plenty to explore, from the masters of scent Penhaligon’s to bespoke tailors Benson & Clegg; both Royal Warrant Holders in which the hotel arranges personalised visits – you need only ask.
This trip has taught me not only how to stomach a vermouth martini, but to enjoy all the wonder that Britain has to offer, be that in town or country. Fusing the two makes for an unforgettable staycation experience, one in which you can relax, indulge and reside in rural and city bliss, without even crossing the border.
The four-night Town & Country package with DUKES LONDON and Stoke Park Country Club starts from £2575 for two people and includes the following:
- A chauffeur to pick up guests from any London airport (Heathrow, Gatwick, and/or London City) or London train station
- A two-night stay in a Superior Room at DUKES LONDON with breakfast
- Dinner at GBR (Great British Restaurant)
- Champagne Afternoon Tea or Gourmet Picnic in Green Park or St. James Park
- A chauffeur driven transfer from DUKES LONDON to Stoke Park Country Club and Spa
- Two-night stay in a Classic Mansion or Pavilion room at Stoke Park, breakfast included
- One Traditional Afternoon Tea
- One 55-minute spa treatment per person (maximum 2 people)
- Complimentary use of Spa, Tennis, Padel, Gym and Studio Classes
- Option to play 18 holes of golf at an additional cost of £100 per person
- A chauffeur driven return trip to London airport (Heathrow, Gatwick, and/or London City) or London train station
Call 020 7491 4840 or visit dukeshotel.com to book.