Venetia van Kuffeler finds a cool country house hotel that keeps every member of the family happy at The Retreat at Elcot Park 

In need of a break from the daily grind,  my husband and I, along with our two highly animated boys, went stay at a new country house hotel, just a short drive from where we live in Wiltshire. Just across the border in Berkshire, housed in a Grade II-listed eighteenth-century building, The Retreat at Elcot Park is the second hotel from vibrant British hospitality brand The Signet Collection. 

Dating back to 1772, Elcot Park has a rousing past including once being the childhood home of the great poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Just 20 minutes from Newbury, Elcot Park historically has strong links to the racecourse and indeed, there’s evidence around the property of royal visits from days gone by.

Today, the hotel combines quirky British sensibility, blending the old with the new. Refined and comfortable, Elcot Park is home to luxurious but playful public spaces where people quickly feel at home.The beautiful, colourful interiors meant that I found myself snapping photographs of curtains, sofas and artwork at every corner. Each of the 55 bedrooms are different and individually styled to highlight the magnificent views seen from the large windows. While the rooms draw inspiration from the local landscape and the area’s sporting history, the three suites are named after the estates' former residents, Percy Shelley, Bushby Bacon and Sutton. All come with super comfortable mattresses with the finest 300-thread count Egyptian cotton linen and smart TVs – not that we had time to turn ours on. But it’s the romantic interiors, styling and stunning views of the grounds that really make this property special and helps the guests to relax.

Our spacious Bushby Bacon Suite had a four-poster super king bed, and comfortable seating area, as well as a separate adjoining room and brightly painted bunk beds for the kids.  Much to their excitement, they were each given a soft toy, which kept them entertained for hours. When I caught a glimpse of the bathroom, it was my time to be truly exhilarated; it housed a fabulous roll top bath in a huge bay window, as well as twin sinks and a large walk-in shower. The overall effect of the colourful mixture of fabrics, plus grand antiques and gilt mirrors mixed with contemporary artworks is hugely comfortable and inviting.

Like its sister hotel, The Mitre Hampton Court, food and beverage is highlight of any stay at The Retreat. 1772, the all-day brasserie, served us a fine selection of welcome dishes, including fish and chips for the children, and pan roasted stone bass with cockle and mussels and samphire, and delightfully moreish crispy cauliflower popcorn and parmesan fries. Staff were friendly and helpful; every member of the family was content and happy. Yü is their pan-Asian restaurant, (shut on Sundays), so we look forward to going back to try that. There are various spaces for private dining or events, and even a Whisky Library, in association with Berry Bros & Rudd.

Outside, the Courtyard houses a bakery, coffee house, hair and nail salon, wine store and a monthly farmers' market. There is a walled kitchen garden, tennis courts, large outdoor pool, croquet lawn and a children’s zone (essential when you have boisterous ones like mine) all within the hotel’s grounds.

Those keen on the good life, can flit between the glorious treatments in The Signet Spa, the impressive Health Club, (inclusive of hydrotherapy pools, treatment rooms, steam and sauna, large gym and spin studio) and the bar ideally located to enjoy a refreshing cocktail or glass of Whispering Angel while relaxing on your sun lounger next to the pool, or a sundowner on the terrace while watching the sun set over the rolling Wessex Downs. The daily ‘inflatables hour’ in the pool (3pm) sent my children into a deliriously animated state; one of the highlights of their summer. That and ‘raiding the pantry’ (found on each floor) for cookies and milk before bed.

While this is certainly an idyllic getaway for folks based in the city, it’s clear The Retreat at Elcot Park is also used by local residents nearby.  Various events were planned over the summer holidays: tennis camps, African drumming teas for children, live music in the courtyard and Jazz on the lawn, meaning there’s something to keep everyone entertained. In the run up to the festive period, Elcot Park has some exciting things in the pipeline; think spectacular decorations, Christmas parties, Christmas Farmers Market, Wreath making workshops, live music and much more. Indeed, membership of The Signet Spa offers full use of the facilities, plus indulgent treatments, plus access to the property's gorgeous spaces and grounds, a discount on the restaurants, and first look at the property's programme of events.

For guests who are keen on exploring the surrounding area, there’s plenty to see. Local highlights include plenty of walking trails, hot air balloon flights, the nearby Highclere Castle (also known as Downton Abbey), Newbury Race Course, shopping in Marlborough and Avebury, one of the best known prehistoric sites in Britain, that contains the largest megalithic stone circle in the world.

Elcot Park is a cool country house hotel that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Every member of the family loved their stay. With excellent transport links, The Retreat at Elcot Park is readily accessible from many central hubs and just 45 minutes by train from London. 

The Retreat at Elcot Park, Newbury, West Berkshire RG20 8NJ