I didn’t expect the Queen to show up. I suppose it’s not so farfetched to imagine she would, given I’m near Windsor and she has a second home there (you could call it a castle, even). But really, it’s not every day that the Queen arrives at a hotel where I’m staying, and I stay in a lot of hotels. This isn’t just any hotel, though. This is Coworth Park, and if there’s a hotel the Queen is going to visit, it’s this one.
I know it’s a special place when I arrive from London and am whisked off to the stables for an afternoon of horseback riding. The equestrian facilities and horses here are some of the best in the United Kingdom, and it’s the only hotel I know of that has polo fields on the grounds.
I haven’t been on the back of a horse since my trip to the Atacama Desert in Chile a few years back, and despite a childhood of riding lessons, my skills are rusty (sorry mom!). But I have a good guide, and my horse, Oscar, is one of the most forgiving animals I’ve had the privilege of meeting.
Throughout the hour-long session, I remember how to trot, and I get used to riding English. But even if I didn’t, the views of the grounds and 18th century manor house are so beautiful that I would enjoy my time outdoors.
In fact, the following morning the weather is so unseasonably warm and sunny that I head back out with the friend that is traveling with me. We walk the grounds, late autumn leaves crunching under our feet and swirling around the emerald green fields as we go.
We pass by the manor house’s other half, a set of brick buildings with a modern feel and a casual dining restaurant. There’s a little stream with a stone bridge that lends the place a storybook feel, and next to it is a red phone booth, a sight that always makes me smile.
Back in the main building, the five-star country house hotel is bustling. I never expected to find such a scene in early December, but this luxury hotel is so beloved by its guests that everywhere we go people are having afternoon tea by fireplaces and picture windows, sipping champagne to the sounds of a live harpist and Christmas carolers, and generally enjoying the festive ambiance (this includes the Queen, who is here for a cousin’s birthday).
My friend and I sit down for a cup of tea and find ourselves being served in full silver service with tall pots of chamomile and English Breakfast. The cups come with little mince pies on the side, perfect for seasonal indulging.
But we can’t indulge too much, as dinner awaits. Restaurant Coworth Park has three AA rosettes, and as we tuck into the tasting menu, we can see why.
From the celeriac cream with apple granola and smoked bacon foam to the English rose veal served four ways, the dishes are delicious. The sommelier’s wine pairing, which includes Gusbourne Blanc de Blanc 2009 from England’s own Kent and Cuvee Lais Cotes du Roussillon 2011 from France does justice to the food. The service is the perfect balance of friendly and professional, and the understated dining room is convivial all evening.
Upstairs in our suite, which along with everything else has been offered to us on a complimentary basis, we settle into a comfy sofa in front of a desk cum vanity table and stately four-poster canopy bed. The decor is all warm and natural, and in the bathroom is the most inviting copper bathtub I’ve ever seen.
But better than the tub is the chance to relax in the spa. Coworth Park’s spa is as well known as its equestrian center and restaurant, and we head over to relax by the indoor pool as the warm winter sun streams through the windows. If I close my eyes, I can almost imagine I’m in paradise.
But the truth is that being at Coworth Park in the British winter is every bit as nice as paradise. It must be, after all, if the Queen is here. And if it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for this Lady in London. Good enough and then some.