Sometimes you just need a respite from the hassles of modern life and last week on a glorious spring day I swapped South West London for Chicheley Hall. A beautiful and elegant Grade I listed mansion set within 80 acres of immaculately kept grounds. It’s a place – and with good reason – which is exceptionally popular with weddings but also offers rooms and suites for a hotel break with a difference. Located in Buckinghamshire in the small but pretty village of Chicheley, the Hall (operated by DeVere Venues) is just 5 minutes’ drive from the M1 motorway and accessible by train from London Euston, the property is also home to the Kavli Royal Society Centre, a residential working retreat for scientists worldwide.
Just like you’d expect from such a stately house there’s a rich and colourful history attached too. Previous owners included the wealthy Pagnell family of Newport Pagnell, a Cardinal, a rich wool merchant, an earl and a gambling-addicted baronet. Gwendoline Farrar a once-famous singer and actress has even been counted as one of the residents. During the Second World War, it was used to train parachutists and Polish double agents. The building and gardens exude such beauty it was chosen as a location to be used in several films and TV projects, including Pride and Prejudice, The Meaning of Life and Black Beauty.
As we drove up the striking tree-lined long sweeping drive, Chicheley Hall slowly revealed itself. The hall is a Baroque style red-brick mansion, adorned with tall windows and framed by immaculately kept gardens and the odd wandering peacock or two. I instantly felt transported back to a time of hat-tipping gentleman and corseted ladies.
The main door opens to a fine panelled Great Hall, and the staff were warm and welcoming. Through an arcade of attractive marble columns, a grand oak staircase lead up to the upper floors. Ornate wood panels, bird-themed artwork, gorgeous fireplaces and stuffed-to-the-brim bookcases adorned the walls and in true country mansion style there’s even a ‘secret’ library on the upper floor, cleverly concealed by shelving and books. Amazingly the venue was grand and elegant but not overly imposing or stuffy – quite a feat for a historic English mansion turned hotel.
Our home for the next two days was “Blackett” a sprawling and beautifully presented suite of rooms (comprising of a bathroom and an entrance hallway) where a mini corridor leads off the main landing. It came with an equally sprawling bed topped by a large wood carving and even though it was decorated with tasteful antiques it was filled with modern conveniences including a large TV and huge wardrobes.
There were many extraordinary aspects to the hotel but you asked me to choose just one I would say the views. Large bay windows overlooked the gardens as well as the lake and woodlands which also formed part of the large estate. Flowers, sundials and a pretty dovecote added to the stately ambience. After an evening of dining in the gorgeous wood carved dining room (pictured above) and sipping on after dinner gin and tonics in the hotel bar I woke early the next morning and perched in the bay window seat gazing out at the perfectly manicured lawn. Songbirds chirped away and George the resident peacock started his early morning mating call. I truly felt like a lady of the manor, even if it was for just a few days.
Prices and how to get to Chicheley Hall
We stayed in Blackett, the very special bridal suite which costs £250 a night but rooms at the hall start from £48 per night. Visit their website for more details.
If you’re driving from London and the M25, proceed north along the M1 until Junction 14. From Heathrow, it takes around 1 hour 15 minutes and London Stansted about 1 hour 10 minutes. If you’re arriving by train then the nearest station is Milton Keynes Central Station and it’s about a 15-minute taxi journey from here.
We were offered a stay at Chicheley Hall but all opinions are our own.