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I always laughed when people went away and stayed in hotels near home. Why stay an hour away when you can just visit for the day quite easily? But now I’ve had that experience, I’m rethinking. Actually if you need a break to get away from home, and give you the excuse to explore around that area, it’s a great idea. Plus saving 3-4 hours driving is a bonus – it means more time while you’re there. We were asked to come and stay at the beautiful Chicheley Hall, and I couldn’t resist a stay in a beautiful country house.
Chicheley Hall is near Newport Pagnell (yes Milton Keynes), and is set in 80 acres of estate including a lake and 3 ponds. If you want to enjoy the countryside but be near to shopping centres, or other facilities then Chicheley Hall maybe the place for you. It’s also a wedding venue – it certainly has the wow factor and plenty of outdoor space for beautiful photos.
Chicheley Hall is the countryside home of the Kavli Royal Society International Centre; there are conference facilities at the purpose built Wolfson Centre, as well as meeting rooms in the hall. Multi-purpose, but for us it was the hotel side we were trying out.
First impressions as we drove up to Chicheley Hall were good. Driving up an avenue of trees with a manor house ahead is always going to make you want to stop and gaze. To enjoy the view. Even N was impressed. As well as the hall itself there’s the church to admire, plus some small gardens visible from the courtyard. We were able to park in the courtyard next to the reception door, but there’s also overflow parking when it’s busy.
With classic British architecture, Chicheley Hall is a stunning house, with a north wing to make it grander. Inside you still get the feel of a stately home. There’s been no move to modernise it and make it into a boutique hotel. What you see is how you imagine the rooms have always been. Reception is in one of the downstairs rooms and we found the reception staff welcoming and helpful. To our horror we were told dinner in the restaurant was at 7pm. Way too late for N after a day out in the fresh air, but they suggested eating in the bar from 5pm, much more suitable for a child.
A room fit for royalty
The rooms aren’t numbered, but instead are named after eminent scientists. We were in Blackett on the 2nd floor. N led the way – thankfully there is a lift so no dragging suitcases up and down stairs. From the second floor hallway, we had an entrance door before we reached the lockable front door…N led the way through the corridor, past the beautiful bathroom and into the light airy, and huge bedroom. His words were ‘Wow Mummy, you have to look at this room, it’s massive’. And it was.
Our room was a double aspect superior overlooking the lake and formal garden, with plenty of light from the massive sash windows. A kingsize bed, beautiful wall carving and traditional wardrobe space in keeping with the old building. And my dream – window seats which N immediately made a cushioned home in one.
With beautiful comfortable chairs, a dressing table (the mirror was a little high for sitting at it and seeing in), a massive table to work or eat at if you wanted room service, full length mirror and a bench seat, you could really make yourself at home. For a historic building, it was great to have good strong wifi, N was pleased with the size of the television, and there were plenty of plug sockets for working and charging. It was very warm so I did turn down the heating in most of the radiators – there’s a bonus that the windows could open so we were able to enjoy some fresh air.
Inside the wardrobe, we found a safe, drawers, bathrobes, the usual coffee/tea facilities, plus a Nespresso machine. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I’ve never seen a coffee machine in any of the hotel rooms I’ve stayed in over the year. A nice touch I think.
N was most excited about the space in the room. He couldn’t get over the fact that there wasn’t one big light on the ceiling (but plenty of softer lamps around the room), and that he found a ‘staircase’ just leading up to our room down to the first floor.
The bathroom was beautiful and a good size, with complimentary toiletries as expected in a hotel. The shower wasn’t as powerful as I like on the standard spray, but you can alter it to suit with 3 settings.
Exploring Chicheley Hall
We’d had enough fresh air for the day so didn’t make the most of the walks around the estate. It would have been a beautiful and peaceful place to walk, the hotel itself was very quiet. Apart from 1 couple we met going to and from breakfast on our floor, and 1 sound of footsteps in early evening, the only sound was us. Having rooms set back from the hallway, and away from the general stairs or lift, meant Chicheley Hall is definitely a quiet a peaceful getaway place to stay.
We headed down to the library in the afternoon to find the board games. The library leads through to the lounge which was empty both times we popped our head in. But again, a nice comfortable space to relax and read in. I could easily have spent time curled in a corner with a book there.
First we went on a little explore to find what else was around. Heading to the north wing we read about some of the other scientists in the Royal Society’s history. Chicheley Hall is so quiet, it did feel a bit like we were intruding in someone’s home, having a nosy and creeping around so we didn’t stay long before grabbing a huge box of board games to take back up to the room.
Dinner in the bar
The bar at Chicheley Hall is fairly small with just a couple of tables to sit at. The staff were later opening that they expected on the day we were there, and there was a bit of confusion because we had dinner included but weren’t eating in the restaurant. After checking, all was ok again, and we were able to order our food. The menu is the same as that in the restaurant, and there is a small children’s menu of 2 choices – chicken nuggets or sausages. They did offer that we’d probably be able to have a smaller portion of main menu food if we wanted, but N was happy with sausages. I chose the burger.
N wasn’t too happy trying to eat at the bar tables as they were on the same level as the seats, but he managed fine. It’s not the easiest when eating proper restaurant food rather than bar snacks, but with the restaurant timing, we didn’t have much choice unless we wanted to take the food to our room. N really liked his food though – they’d switched the peas to baked beans for him. And my burger was delicious, the chips were amazing. The prices weren’t much different to the prices we’d pay in the foody pubs near us, so for a hotel, it wouldn’t mean too much damage to the wallet.
A quiet night’s sleep
I’ve never stayed in such a quiet hotel room. The bed was comfortable and the pillows didn’t sink as soon as you put your head on them. There’s no traffic noise being out in the sticks, no animal noises like at home, no clanking of hotel staff or chatting of guests outside your door. My wake-up call was of course N, at 5.52am. Yawn. He was keen to get to breakfast but I held him off until I’d had a bit more sleep and a shower.
My only niggle was the hair dryer – the same issue so many hotels have. Hotel hair dryers are pretty rubbish – they take too long to dry your hair (and I only have fine hair), and the cord isn’t usually long enough. I couldn’t stand up and dry my hair because the cable was too long, but then sitting at the dressing table I couldn’t see in the mirror. At least it was a proper hair dryer and not one of those horrendous ones that are tethered to the wall and just huff a bit of air out.
Breakfast in the restaurant
N was surprised at the small size of the restaurant. Breakfast is a buffet, with the tables in an adjoining room. We were able to choose a table overlooking the sunrise and the garden which was lovely. The waiting staff left you alone after telling you where the buffet was, and asking if you wanted tea or coffee. I can’t stand it when you get asked several times in bigger hotels if you want tea or coffee, so it was nice to see them aware of any issues you had, but didn’t hover.
The buffet was well thought out. Cereal choices were fairly healthy or adult based (granola, muesli etc), but N always just goes for full English when he’s in a hotel. You toasted your own bread, could have different topping options for porridge, and had fruit and yoghurt choices as well as a cooked breakfast.
I tend to go for cereal, and then scrambled egg on toast. The scrambled egg was delicious and creamy (N said he wasn’t so keen because it had butter in! He ate it, but I had to explain that I put butter in our scrambled eggs too). And N said his sausage, bacon and beans were good too.
Compared with the rest of the hotel being so quiet, the restaurant didn’t feel like you couldn’t talk in it. There was a bit of bustle to make it feel more friendly than stilted.
N did notice that he was the only child but he didn’t feel uncomfortable staying at the hotel and everyone was welcoming. Room rates start at just under £70 for the more basic guest rooms, and there are offers at seasonal times of year, including for family stays during school holiday times. I think to stay in a beautiful hotel like this, the cost is good value. Would I stay in Chicheley Hall with N again? Probably not. While it’s a beautiful hotel, and we enjoyed our stay and explore around the hall, a hotel with more children around just feels more family oriented. Kids clubs aren’t our thing, but I did feel I had to watch out a bit for N keeping the volume down and being a bit more restrained than normal.
For a special weekend away with a couple of friends or a romantic getaway, it’s the perfect place to stay.
Have you ever stayed anywhere so beautiful? What are your musts for taking children to a hotel?