If you’d prefer to pack heels than wellies for a weekend in the country, Northamptonshire’s Fawsley Hall is a glamorous rural bolthole even the most dedicated city slicker will adore. You’ll certainly be in illustrious company. Dating back to the 7th century, the manor house has previously been visited by Charles I and Queen Elizabeth I, who is said to have stayed whenever her palaces were being cleaned.
The gabled stone building is just as opulent today, with leaded windows, stately turrets and 2,000 acres of Capability Brown-landscaped grounds including formal gardens, parkland dotted with sheep and sun-speckled lake steps from the front door. Inside is equally palatial. The magnificent Tudor Hall is the hotel’s centrepiece and a dream for pre-dinner drinks, with an ornate stone fireplace, a soaring ceiling criss-crossed with mahogany beams and Royal portraits on every wall. There’s also an airy conservatory where locals toast special occasions over lavish afternoon teas, a private cinema for rainy days and 60 bedrooms across the Tudor, Georgian and Victorian wings.
It’s worth indulging with one of the 11 feature rooms or suites. We stayed in the William Cecil, named after Elizabeth I’s chief advisor, with its oak four-poster bed, sumptuous cashmere-covered mattress and original stone windows; but you can also book the very room the Queen stayed in for the final time in 1575. Downstairs, the grand 2 AA Rosette Cedar Restaurant offers atmospheric dining in a 16th-century room resplendent with wall-hung tapestries, lanterns and candelabras. Dishes are seasonal and locally sourced where possible, including wood pigeon with damson jus, rabbit loin with confit potato and exceptional steaks served with Jersey Royals, grilled asparagus or skin-on fries dunked in creamy truffle mayonnaise. Desserts have a decadent British flair too, and include elderflower panna cotta with raspberries and Pimm’s jelly with cucumber sorbet.
Luckily, there’s no need to move much the following day. The hotel’s brand-new spa opened in July after a £1.5 million refurbishment and is a highlight of any stay here. A tranquil haven of bleached oak, cool greys and warm-honey stone, it offers a range of heat-rooms including a Himalayan salt sauna, plus a spa garden, indoor swimming pool and an outdoor hydrotherapy pool. Treatments come from Elemis, Comfort Zone, Scentered and Jessica Nails, and include pregnancy massages, superfood facials and a deep-tissue massage that was so blissful I floated back to my room afterwards. Best of all, there’s no spa café serving up virtuous smoothies and joyless salads, but a gloriously light-filled Spatisserie, where you can feast on an exquisite champagne afternoon tea in your robe before another snooze on the poolside lounger. Somehow, you just know Elizabeth I would have approved.
Spa days, from £109 a person; spa breaks from £203 a person. The Captivating Spa Break includes a 55 minute treatment, use of the spa area and a one night stay. For more information, visit www.handpickedhotels.co.uk/fawsleyhall.