THE photograph on the brochure looked stunning. Surely it couldn’t be this good could it?
A hotel in a majestic stately country residence set in its own parkland … and with no children in sight or hearing distance.
And not even in the mythical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang country of Vulgaria where the banished kids living in caves beneath the castle eventually wreak their revenge.
No such shenanigans at Thoresby Hall in Nottinghamshire – one of Warner Leisure Hotels’ adult-only jewels.
Ruth and I have been married for 20 years and felt we deserved one night away.
Warner’s were having none of it. We had to go for at least two to sample what the Warner’s experience was all about.
Aw, go on then.
The hotel is in Grade One-listed Thoresby Hall, not much further than an arrow shot from Sherwood Forest but built a long time after Robin Hood and his merry men hung up their tights.
Although there had been a mansion on the site for centuries, the current one – a sumptuous riot of Victorian architecture complete with bays and balconies, gables and galleries – was built as recently as 1875. Capability Brown had a hand in designing the parkland. Even I’d heard of him.
Unbelievably, Thoresby Hall was derelict just over 10 years ago.
But then Warner’s bought it and lavished it with creativity, vision, style and, no doubt, millions of pounds.
You can have a room in the old house, but Warner’s have built a whole new set of accommodation tucked away round the back – almost the hotel’s own village.
This new build is in keeping with the rest of the place – and ultra comfortable. No unsightly out-of-character add-ons here.
Ours even had a patio along with a visiting family of peacocks – George, Mildred and their four offspring – the only kids at the place.
Warner’s appears to attract the over 50s – not to say there weren’t a few ‘young things’ like ourselves around.
We didn’t meet one visitor who was disappointed. In fact, the younger they were the more overawed they were about the place. It’s like stepping back in time into your own Brideshead Revisited moment with a Great Hall that has a wow factor to the power of 10, a library with roaring fire and three restaurants.
The Blue Room is the top one. That’s dining like royalty in surroundings that are gilt-edged from the ceiling to the wallpaper. A second Italian restaurant called Fenocchi’s is down in the red-brick cellars with an ambience all its own. The food is incredible. Go for antipasti and there’s a table full of the stuff to choose from. That’s only the starter yet it could keep you going for the week.
This isn’t just a hotel. It’s an experience.
Every bit of space has been used. Courtyards have been stylishly covered over with glass roofs so you get the outside feel in warmth and comfort. One is the main Pierrepont restaurant, another the deep blue swimming pool and the third the ultra-relaxing lounge in the spa. So relaxing they’ve even put beds in.
The spa includes a Hammam steam room, a Scandinavian sauna, an aromatherapy cave and, for those about to overheat, an ice cave – one of very few in the country. Live a little and have an aromatherapy body massage. You’ll be amazed how many stressed-induced knots there are in your body. They’ll sort them out for you.
No chance of boredom with Warner’s. You’d never tire of walking around the house or gardens, but activities are lined up all day and the hotel has its own actors and singers with shows, dances and even drama workshops going on from 8am until 11.30pm. Most are included in the price. You can even try fencing or archery if you have Robin Hood aspirations.
Top entertainment for us was a swing singer from Leeds called Matt Donley crooning Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble numbers in the Great Hall.
At the last count he did five encores.
The next night featured a murder mystery. The strolling players will even read you a bedtime story in the library. You’ll need that after the ghost walk in the grounds. The National Trust’s Sherwood Forest property Clumber Park complete with lakes, walks and a restaurant is just a short drive away.
Thoresby Hall’s philosophy is: “Nothing is too much trouble and everything is done with a glad heart.” It sure was. Every staff member followed that through to the letter.
A couple of old dears from Dorset summed it all up for us.
They’d just gone for a bike ride around the grounds and returned glowing but sad they were about to go back down south.
“We’ve never stopped,” said Doris. “We’re off home for a rest now.”
Even though it was our 20th anniversary, we left feeling so much younger.
And money can’t buy you that feeling.
So, in the end, the hotel wasn’t as good as it looked on the brochure.
It was even better.