The name's Park, Stoke Park
PUBLISHED: 20:34 06 September 2007 | UPDATED: 14:50 20 February 2013
It's featured in many films, including James Bond, and it has to be one of the most imposing hotels in the country, yet its right on our doorstep, says Tessa ...
When you've planned a rather special weekend break away from it all, one of the greatest joys for me is having a real sense of arrival. There will always be excitement and anticipation, but turn off a country road near Stoke Poges and onto the long drive that takes you through magnificent parkland that's now a golf course, past a Repton bridge up to Stoke Park Club and you really know you've arrived.
And what a thrill when you park your car at the foot of the steps of this hugely imposing white building worthy of something on Capitol Hill, and a footman helps you with your luggage.
The entrance hall and reception excused a sense of occasion. There are high ceilings, gilt framed portraits, polished marble floors, large floral displays: it's all just perfect.
It's little wonder that it's a favourite with filmmakers. As a location, Stoke Park Club has played host to the most memorable game of golf in cinema history, when James Bond defeated Auric Goldfinger on the 18th green in Goldfinger (1964). Tomorrow Never Dies was also shot at the Club in 1997.
Scenes from Bridget Jones's Diary wwere set here in the summer of 2000, while in 2004
three movies were released all featuring the Club - Wimbledon, Bride & Prejudice and Layer Cake. Layer Cake's dramatic ending with Daniel Craig - the new James Bond - and Sienna Miller was filmed on the Clubhouse steps.
Yet despite the fact that the building is so grand and imposing, there's a relaxed, friendly feel to the place and that is exactly how it's designed to be, because Stoke Park Club is exactly as its name suggests. It's been a country club since 1908 when it first opened its magnificent 27-hole golf course. It's still a members only club, but hotel guests can enjoy all its lavish facility, too.
This means that not only can you sleep and eat at Stoke Park Club, but you can take advantage of its state of the art spa if you are a resident, too. As a guest, you have complimentary use of the Club's new Health and Racquet Pavilion (indoor swimming pool with hydro-seat Jacuzzis, state-of-the-art gymnasium, multi-surface tennis courts, steam rooms, and dance and fitness studios).
My companion and I stayed in a spacious room with the most wonderful view overlooking the 350 acres of parkland and historic gardens. Our room was individually designed, with a armchairs in front of the fireplace and antiques on the mantelpiece. Our bathroom was enormous, with an array of luxury toiletries and, of course, a fluffy white bathrobe.
We wasted little time in the room, however, and went for a dip in the beautifully appointed pool, a short walk from the main hotel. Residents may also book individual treatments from the spa's treatment menu and my friend enjoyed a manicure. It's advisable to book treatments in advance of your stay.
Dinner is usually taken in the award-winning Art Deco inspired park Restaurant, where the head chef is Chris Wheeler of Hell's Kitchen fame. He trained under Jean Christophe Novelli and appeared in the first series. (The restaurant was recently recognised as one of the 'Top Twenty Best Out of Town Restaurants' ¬ Harpers & Queen Restaurant Guide 2005). On this particular evening, however, there was a club barbecue, held on the terrace and lawns, complete with Caribbean steel band. It was a wonderfully friendly, relaxed occasion and a truly memorable event.
In the morning we took breakfast in The Orangery, a room with another glorious view, then enjoyed a practise putting session on the small green by the hotel entrance. James Bond, nor anyone else, would have been impressed, but no matter. We had a thoroughly relaxing and rather stylish break. You could say we left neither shaken, nor stirred, just refreshed.