Holiday in the hills: Muddy reviews Barnett Hill
As holidays abroad are seemingly off the agenda - a staycation has never looked so good. And this country house hotel in the gorgeous Surrey Hills is the perfect getaway for couples and families.
Barnett Hill Hotel is luxury 4* hotel nestled in the Surrey Hills – seemingly miles from everywhere but actually only three miles from Guildford. It’s set on a 26-acre estate, with a stunning mix of formal gardens, edged with woodlands.
The hotel is quite something – a Grade II-listed Queen Anne-style mansion house in handsome red brick with steep-pitch roofs and elegant dormer windows built by Frank Cook, the grandson of travel tycoon Thomas Cook. It was originally the family home – and it’s easy to see what an elegant yet liveable (if not enormous) home this would have been. A couple of years ago the hotel underwent a massive renovation by new owners Alexander Hotels and the results are contemporary and cool, but also keeping close to the building’s heritage. It’s fancy but not fussy, ornate without being overdone, polished but not pretentious.
The Oak Room Restaurant gives it all away in the name – the walls are lined with gleaming oak panels, but there’s also a stone fireplace creates a grand centrepiece. Next door is the 1905 Bar – named for the year the mansion was built – with a sleek polished-stone bar running down one side. It’s well-stocked with a great selection of local artisan gins. Both rooms lead out to a lovely summer terrace – the perfect setting for afternoon tea, drinks or lunch.
While it’s a grand country house with elaborate styling and an undoubtedly swanky feel – it’s not stiff and staid, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The mood is relaxed and leisurely.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Having enjoyed the Silent Pool Afternoon Tea earlier in the day Mr M and I had booked for a later dinner. We started with a drink on the terrace, then moved to our table in the Oak Room Restaurant. Every other table was full, as were most tables in the adjoining Drawing Room – which created a pleasing buzz that can sometimes be missing at hotels.
Food is excellent here, and the service attentive and friendly. My pan seared scallops starter were just as they should be: dainty, sweet and deliciously succulent, served with a pea and mint pureé, smoked bacon and a lemon dressing.
Mr M’s starter came as a delightful mountain of oak smoked salmon with caperberries and rye bread and a dollop of creamy lemon sauce. It looked sublime, and a little taster confirmed all visual evidence.
For mains, I went for the pan roasted sea bream which creamed potatoes and French style peas alongside a langoustine bisque. It was a perfect combination of flavours enhanced beautifully by the light and flavourful bisque. Mr M’s English sirloin steak was perfectly cooked, and pronounced one of the best he’s had in a while.
It was dark chocolate torte for Mr M’s pudding, and a cheese board for me, his washed down with a glass of white desert wine and mine with a glass of Chilean merlot.
There are 56 boutique bedrooms spread across the Mansion House, the Courtyard and the Gardener’s Cottage. Each room is individually styled with luxury at the core. Think huge freestanding baths in the suites, eye catching furnishings by Michael Northcroft and luxury woolen fabrics by McNutt of Donegal. Colour schemes range from vivid and contemporary cerise to cool and calming ice grey. Bathroom products are luxurious L’Occitane.
We lucked out – our room was Master Suite 43, which is on the top floor of the Courtyard building with views of the up-lit courtyard and exquisite handcarved horse and the woodlands on the other side. Up the stairs and into the suite, it was a big hello to Mr bathtub! And hello enormous and super comfy king-size bed. It was glorious. There are also family suites, and the hotel is also dog friendly.
Breakfast the next morning was delivered via room service – which is an option they hotel is keen to encourage due to Covid. I liked this a lot… it’s just so easy to roll out of bed and tuck right into the coffee and scrambled eggs.
A recent addition to Barnett Hill Hotel is the Utopia Spa. There are two treatment rooms and a range of treatments including manicures and pedicures, massage and facials. I’m happy to report the full-body Swedish massage is excellent – and guaranteed to leave you relaxed and revived.
I had my treatment after breakfast, before checking out, and it was a glorious way to cap off a very relaxing and indulgent couple of days away. There’s also a small gym on site, but it was closed (most likely due to Covid). So while I was in the spa, Mr M went for a run through the woods.
It’s family friendly for sure. And there are some great options for families, including the Gate House (sleeps 4) and the Gardner’s Cottage (which sleeps up to 8) – separate residences in the Barnett Hill grounds, plus the Cook Family Suites and the Courtyard Paddocks, a collection of grouped rooms, ideal for families or groups of friends.
Dogs are also welcomed at the hotel – there are dog-friendly rooms, and well behaved pooches are permitted in the 1905 Bar and the more casual café-like Hub space. A dining room has also been set aside on the first floor for residents who want to dine with their pooch.
OUT & ABOUT
There are plenty of great walks on the doorstep (and a collection of wellies to keep your feet dry if it’s wet). The Surrey Hills are also a magnet to cyclists with lots of routes for those who like to explore on two wheels. The hotel has put together a guide with well-mapped routes of varying distances and rider abilities.
The hotel has had to make some adjustments for Covid, but they’re subtly and unobtrusive. All staff wear visors or facemasks – as you’d expect. Guests are asked to wear a mask when they’re in the entrance hall and reception area, but in the restaurant and bar they’re not necessary. There’s also a one-way system in the main mansion house, and plenty of hand sanitiser.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Couples looking for a weekend escape, families who want a short break, anyone who loves the outdoors, people with dogs.
Not for: City slickers probably won’t appreciate the rural setting.
The damage: Rooms start at £99 per nigh for a cosy double, £188.10 for luxury super king and £314.10 for Master Suite 34. In the Oak Room Restaurant, starters are between £6-£12, mains are £16-£35 and desert is from £5.50-£7.
There are some excellent offers at the moment including the Supper and Stay Getaway and the Escape and Unwind: Bed, Breakfast and Spa Treatment.
Barnett Hill Hotel, Blackheath Lane, Wonersh, Guildford GU5 0RF alexanderhotels.co.uk