Tylney Hall, Hampshire
Having always been a superfan of Tudor history, the idea of visiting Tylney Hall, which stretches back to 1536, has been seducing me for some time. Set in the undulating Hampshire countryside and only an hour outside London, this luxury Grade II listed manor house hotel is the perfect panacea for a weekend or midweek City getaway.
Approaching Tylney Hall reminded me of the opening pages of Rebecca, as the second Mrs De Winter approaches Manderley. The sweeping drive, cosseted in 66 acres of parkland and a vista of majestic Redwoods, is nothing short of spectacular; when the facade of the Hall comes into view, it is really quite spellbinding.
Once inside the magnificent entrance, the interior is redolent of a bygone age, with luxuriant walnut panelling, elaborately ornate cornicing, grand staircases, opulent furnishings and an old-world opulence that's hypnotic. Our suite was impressively large if a little too modern for my archaic tastes, and I was told the company are in the process of modernising the bedrooms - which I think is rather a pity. However, the revisions I saw were executed with taste and restraint, so the overall feel was refined modernity, offsetting the more traditional features of the hotel.
One central allure of Tylney, particularly during a London calefaction, is the outdoor, slightly heated swimming pool, found in the sunken garden toward the back of the house. Voted one of the 'Coolest Pools in Britain' by The Times - August 2009 and 'Britain’s Best Hotel With An Outdoor Pool' by the Daily Telegraph - July 2013, it is exquisitely framed against the magnolia and wisteria and was the ideal setting to soak up the afternoon sun, indulge in a cocktail or two and cool down with a swim. Breakfast and lunch can also be served pool-side with snacks throughout the day.
By evening time we were looking forward to sampling the exclusive vegan menu which the hotel - by popular demand - have available upon request. We started the evening ensconced in the stunning library bar where I had one of the best Vesper Martinis I've sampled, and that includes the Ritz!) while enjoying an ambrosial sunset from the terrace and the verdant beauty of the lawns stretching out before us. We strolled around the Italian and Water Gardens which was a mise en scène so elysian that I couldn't help but imagine how magical it must be to get married here.
The most important aspect for us when we go away is the food, and while the vegan revolution is sweeping up followers exponentially, I am still on occasion, left disappointed with the bland and unimaginative choices made available to patrons. As vegans and foodies, we expect quality and variety and Tylney did not disappoint. The menu was creative, well thought out and superbly presented - not a prosaic option in sight. It was as refreshing as it was delicious and made our visit even better. The service was friendly and warm, and I didn't get the impression anything was too much trouble.
All in all, it was a delightful stay, and I will definitely be revisiting with the dogs - another great feature being Tylney Hall is pet-friendly, too.