Associate editor Caroline Scutt checked out some properties
that are billed as "the Jewels of Britain." Her report
LONDON -- The British Tourist Authority selected some of Great
Britain's finest country house hotels and exclusive city properties
to be marketed together as the Jewels of Britain. After getting a
closer look at several of these touted properties, I concluded that
they are indeed gems -- each with a very different luster.
Set against a backdrop of gently rolling Cotswold hills, the
Greenway is a striking country estate dating from the start of the
17th century. Used as a U.S. military intelligence center during
World War II, the property was converted into a hotel in 1947 and
today has become a popular base for exploring the neighboring
Proprietors David and Valerie White and their staff extend a
warm welcome to guests and provide a relaxed and inviting
atmosphere. The main house is elegantly appointed with traditional
English furnishings and antiques. The guest rooms are individually
decorated and feature modern conveniences, including satellite
television. Although the newer rooms in the coach house are larger,
the guest rooms in the main house have more character.
Active, outdoorsy types will find an array of activities in the
area to keep them busy, such as golf, clay-pigeon shooting and
horseback riding, all of which can be organized through the hotel.
Should the weather be less than perfect, there is the option of
curling up with a favorite book in a comfy chair in front of a
roaring fire in the main lounge.
The Conservatory Dining Room offers wonderful views of the
garden and the Cotswold hills and a menu that lives up to the
restaurant's reputation for fine dining.
This 13th century, moated manor house was the oldest of the
three properties I visited. An imposing structure with masonry
dating back to 1250; a staircase and stained-glass windows from the
16th century, and the almost palpable presence of ghosts who are
said to have lived here for hundreds of years collectively create a
The magical ambience and posh, eclectic decor make it easy to
forget that this property is owned by one of Britain's hotel
chains. New Hall belongs to Thistle Hotels' unique Country House
collection. Surrounded by 26 acres of gardens and parkland, New
Hall also makes it easy to forget where you are -- only seven miles
from the bustling city of Birmingham.
The hotel is managed by Ian and Caroline Parkes, who make every
effort to anticipate guests' needs. I was particularly impressed by
the little touches. Upon entering my room each night, for instance,
I found my pajamas folded and placed on my pillow, a pitcher of ice
water on my bedside table and handwritten messages slid under my
As expected in any older building, the bedrooms vary in size and
layout, each individually decorated and adjoined by spacious
From the moment guests cross the threshold of the entrance hall
with its high ceiling, rich wood paneling and large fireplace, they
are immersed in the indulgences that were commonplace among British
nobility at the start of this century.
This Edwardian country residence was built in 1904 and carefully
restored and turned into a hotel by John and Penny Guy in 1992. The
amount of personal attention and detail that the couple put into
the restoration is extraordinary -- from the carefully chosen
antiques to the quilted pillow coverings, designed and handmade by
Outside, the house is surrounded by 28 acres of woodland
gardens, many of which are tended by John Guy. A croquet lawn, a
tennis court and an indoor swimming pool and sauna facility also
can be found on the grounds.
Each spacious bedroom is individually decorated with the same
care that went into the public spaces. And the couple's enthusiasm
extends far beyond making this house a showpiece. Their warmth and
personal interest in each of their guests are what make Hollington
House more than just an upscale country-house hotel.