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Heckfield Place, Hampshire, UK

This handsome country house hotel embodies a special type of hushed luxury, with destination dining and elegant, homely interiors.

It is impossible not to be seduced by the grand old bones, elegantly earthy interiors, and informal but intelligent tone set by the wonderful staff at Heckfield Place. It’s one of those rare, utterly enchanting places that is very hard to fault. Guests can sink into a deep sofa in one of the hushed lounges, join a tour of the estate’s biodynamic farm, enjoy a wild swim in the lake, or indulge an enormous scone during afternoon tea – which is included in room rates.

The hotel, restaurants, wine cellar and spa are all female-led and I can’t help but wonder if this is a contributing factor to the curious balance of lightness and purpose throughout. With an impressive art collection and thoughtful details at every turn (cardboard keycards embossed with guest’s initials, personalised programme of daily events), this is a unique brand of luxury that is unstuffy yet refined and completely in sync with its surroundings. It’s a special occasion price point, but there’s an overriding feel of generous loveliness here and I personally think value exceeds cost.

Who stays here? 

Weekenders from London, design pilgrims. Sophisticated locals visit for the seasonally-changing menu at Marle, cultural events calendar and film screenings.

Rooms

There are six room types, from comfortable to cavernous. We stayed in an accessible Friends room on the Corridor, and although neither of us lives with a disability, it’s worth noting here that this is one of the most beautiful accessible rooms I have ever seen. It’s dignified design at its finest, with solid oak handrails that look perfectly congruous with the bathroom design, completely level thresholds and wide spaces around the bed and furniture. 

This is intelligent and gentle design that champions crafts and materials. The headboard and mats are made from English rushes. Bedding is fine Italian linen, and the Smart TV is Bang & Olufsen. Light switches offer various settings to suit the mood or time of day. The room is styled with loose floral arrangements from the hotel’s own cutting garden, short reads chosen by Daunt Books and artwork from the owner’s private collection. Guests can read more about the in-room art, along with approximately 350 other works around the house, on the leather-bound iPad, which lives on the writing desk with a stack of monogrammed writing cards and papers.

A bespoke cocktail cabinet is filled with cordials made from garden botanicals, bottled water, salted almonds and sweet snacks – all complimentary. Only alcohol is charged for. Instead of the usual Nespresso machine, ceramic coffee drippers, filters, a black tea kettle and stoneware mugs are provided, with scoops and spoons occupying a leather-lined draw. On the coffee table, alongside books on art and design, was a paper bag of orchard plums, with a couple of plates, napkins and a paring knife.

Our marble-clad bathroom had a rain shower and products from the hotel’s own Wildsmith Skin range, developed with botanicals inspired by the arboretum and named after former estate gardener William Wildsmith. Full-length chenille robes are plush and snugly. Female sanitary products are provided in wooden boxes – something that Hotel Palette has passionately campaigned to see provided more widely, read more here.

Food and drink

The two restaurants at Thyme are run by culinary director Skye Gyngell of Spring at Somerset House and, formerly, Petersham Nurseries (where she won a Michelin star). Marle has a relatively short menu which I’m sure is due in part to its farm-to-fork approach. A large proportion of produce served here was reared a short walk away on the estate’s biodynamic farm, or grown in the orchards and kitchen garden. While Marle has become a destination restaurant popular with locals for its pre-screening dinner menu, Hearth restaurant is resident-only. Located in a former stable, it offers a set menu of dishes that are cooked over an open fire.

Moon Bar is the perfect place for a nightcap with its giant disco ball and funk and soul playlist. The unique menu of craft cocktails included a silky smooth Beech Leaf Martini, Thyme Negroni and Saffron Sour.

Breakfast is a la carte and served in Marle, which felt completely transformed from the intimacy of dinner the night before into a cheerful, sunny space. Small dishes are served in courses and barista-style coffee was excellent.

Afternoon tea, inclusive in room rates, consists of giant scones, freshly baked cakes and tea served in the lounges from 4pm every day.

Design details

The hotel opening was delayed for years while the owner sought the perfect interior style for Heckfield. The solution clearly came in the form of designer Ben Thompson, who had worked previously at Studioilse on hospitality projects such as Ett Hem in Stockholm. There is a balance of elegance and homeliness that is high-end without being try-hard. The effortless blend of natural materials, antiques and art from the Chan family’s private art collection has set a new aesthetic benchmark for the contemporary country house hotel – an image that was probably last shaken up by Beaverbrook when it opened. Lounges are grand in scale but not upright nor echoey. These spaces are relaxed and inviting with big squishy sofas that are perfect for mingling and more private corners, softly lit by lamplight and brought to life with big, wild floral arrangements.

Service 

We pulled up at the gatehouse, and staff welcomed us by name. Although we’d given our car registration number in advance, it still felt a little bit magic. From that moment on, all staff addressed us by name. Welcome drinks and a short orientation tour were led by smart and personable staff, whose unusual uniform looked chic in a Peaky Blinders costume department sort of way. 

All the necessary information was relayed in an efficient and helpful way. Service and guest recognition was excellent over the duration of our stay and staff were always eager to help but there was no sense of servitude, which I personally dislike.

Things to do

The chic cinema room offers a schedule of new-release films and there’s a programme of cultural talks, tours and events including a daily kitchen garden tour and regular farm, wildlife and art tours.

There are plenty of walks on the estate which can be followed using a map that also identifies ancient trees on the estate. Hunter wellies and coats are available to borrow. Guests can swim in the lake, organise a picnic in the grounds or indulge in a treatment at Bothy Spa. But mostly, doing nothing at all is the order of the day here.

Packing list

Maxi dress and pumps for floating around the house, wellies for walks on the estate. A good book.

Getting there

Heckfield Place is in Hampshire, approximately one hour from London Waterloo by train. The closest station is Winchfield and station pick-ups can be arranged. From elsewhere, there are rail connections in Reading, Basingstoke and London.

Heckfield Place Park, Hook, Hampshire, UK
heckfieldplace.com
From £350
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