Reivew of Down Hall Country House Hotel

As you chug down the winding driveway with tyres crunching on the gravel it will feel like entering a bygone era when afternoon tea and dressing for dinner were the order of the day.

Review by Debbie Davies

Down Hall Country House Hotel

YOU will not be disappointed on arrival at this beautiful 14th Century country house hotel. As you chug down the winding driveway with tyres crunching on the gravel it will feel like entering a bygone era when afternoon tea and dressing for dinner were the order of the day. Down Hall Country House Hotel is located in Hatfield Heath near Bishop’s Stortford and whichever way you approach the hotel you will drive through some of the most delightful ‘chocolate-box’ villages with charming country pubs and quaint tearooms that should definitely be on everyone’s summer ‘things to do’ list.

The hotel, which dates back to 1322, is an Italianate mansion set in 110 acres of the most beautiful and well-tended grounds and surrounding woodland. This place oozes charm and opulence and I imagine anyone who decides to use this venue for a wedding ceremony is not going to find it difficult to choose that perfect backdrop for their photographs, whatever the season.

The ornate interior has been tastefully applied and restored and a walk around the hotel and lavish gardens, with water feature, giant outdoor chess set and tennis courts it truly delightful.

The reception area is tiny for such a huge venue and while this isn’t an issue for two people booking in on a Wednesday afternoon in March I suspect at busier times, and when there are large functions on, it could be problematic and involve a long wait.

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We were expecting big things from our room and it was large, beautifully furnished and ornate, but very cold. It took a long time to work out the heating system and get the room to a reasonable temperature, but other than that, a nice enough room but not quite the level of posh we were expecting.

We arrived in plenty of time for dinner so decided to use the fitness facilities and swimming pool to work up an appetite. Unfortunately the fitness facilities turned out to be three pieces of gym equipment lodged in a corridor and closer inspection revealed they were not even plugged in! The swimming pool was full of children having swimming lessons and the spa facilities were located in the ladies and gents changing rooms so we would have had to use them separately – hardly the romantic experience we were hoping for, and that level of amenity does not sit well with the five star price tag.

The hotel should be clearer about the limited fitness facilities on its website and ask reception staff to inform guests about the scheduled times for swimming lessons.

We ate in the Grill Restaurant, which I have to say was the highlight of our stay. We couldn’t fault the service, attention to detail, or the food, which was superb. Beautiful wine, duck and scallops starters which were mouth-watering, and puddings to die for. Breakfast the following morning was equally good and we had the best scrambled eggs we have ever tasted. Plenty of it and everything was cooked to perfection.

The hotel is an ideal conference venue with huge grounds that can easily accommodate team-building activities. Judging by the standard of food, I would guess that anyone using the hotel for a wedding reception would not be disappointed with the service or the catering. In terms of an exclusive, romantic break there are a few tweaks to make with the set up. Don’t offer what you can’t do well, so remove the gym equipment and either don’t make the pool part of the deal or make your guests aware, before they wander down there with their towels and flip flops, that it will not be available for certain periods in the day.

Other than that, and yes, admittedly, we are fussy, the excellent meal, lavish interior and a walk around the beautiful grounds made this a perfect break in the most beautiful of settings.