Weekend Escapes: Ellenborough Park, Cheltenham Spa

ellenborough park

The winding driveway that leads to the front of the house is just long enough for you to absorb the splendor of Ellenborough Park and its location. Built in the 1500’s, and originally called Southam House, King George III stayed here, and in 1833 it was sold to Edward Law, who became the 2nd Lord Ellenborough, the former Governor General of India.

Over the years the building has been extended and updated and it was a girls school for a period of time until the late 70’s. In 2008 it was bought by the the current owners who restored some older parts to their former glory, while adding the Spa and extra accommodation, careful to keep them within the style of the original. The result is a wonderful property that retains the history and heritage of Olde England, but has the modern day facilities expected in a five star luxury Hotel.
Situated just a stones throw from Cheltenham Racecourse, there is actually a private drive leading directly from the Hotel to the track, enabling quick access on race days. Handy should you have a horse running in the Gold Cup or wish to avoid the busy roads to the main Racecourse entrance.

The oldest part of the hotel holds the dining rooms, the luxury suites and for me the grandest part of the house, the Great Hall. Full of tudor splendor and opulent decoration it’s the perfect place to read the papers, enjoy afternoon tea or to simply savour the meaning of life, death and the ever expanding universe.

When thoughts turn to food there are two restaurants at Ellenborough Park to choose from, both served by the same kitchen. One a modern, stylish Brasserie, the other the more formal, but incredibly splendid, The Beaufort Dining Room. The a la carte menu has been devised by Head Chef, David Kelman and Great British cuisine lies at the heart of all the dishes. By sourcing the best local produce and by giving things a slight modern twist the restaurant has been rewarded with three coveted AA Rosettes. It’s a seal of approval given to only the very best. The unique Ellenborough Park fine bone china and original oak panelling on the walls must surely make the food taste better too.

Starters such as ‘Carpaccio of Beef Fillet with Lightly Pickled Baby Vegetables and Smoked Bone Marrow’ sit alongside ‘Pan-fried Hand Dived King Scallops Carrot and Golden Raisin Salsa with Yellow Pepper and Chilli Purée’. There is a splendid tasting menu too, a chance to sample a variety of dishes in smaller portions. The main Menu changes regularly but you can expect to see things like ‘Chateaubriand of Hereford Cross Beef Roast Chateau Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables, Béarnaise Sauce and Red Wine Ju’ as a main course or maybe ‘Pan-fried Breast of Guinea Fowl Wild Garlic and Bulgur Wheat, Buttered Baby Vegetables and Smoked Bacon Cream Sauce’. The tastes are matched only by the amazing presentation.

Afterwards you’ll find yourself comparing subsequent meals at other restaurants with the food you eat here. My companion still talks about her ‘Vanilla Panna Cotta with frozen apple and salted caramel tower with apple puree and gold leaf decoration’ with glazed over eyes whenever the dessert menu arrives somewhere else.
Ellenborough Park hold over 500 varieties of wine in their cellar to accompany your dinner. It’s good they have a Sommelier on hand to recommend choices and a wine buff could spend all night just browsing the wine list. I’m not a wine expert, but a bottle of 2008 Neil Ellis Pinotage, Stellenbosch, (Red) from South Africa accompanied our food perfectly. With Four Courses costing £65.00 prices are very reasonable considering the standard of food, service and general ambience.

We stayed in a ‘Luxury’ room in the newer part of the complex close to the outdoor (heated) swimming pool. The 60 large bedrooms and suites have all been individually designed by none other than Nina Campbell. The bathroom was as luxurious as you could expect and for me travelling with a big computer it was great to see a beautiful writing desk with antique lamp complete with high speed Wi-Fi ready to go. Given the resources I could have quite happily spent the summer here finishing that novel, painting in the garden, watching ‘Come Dine With Me’ on the big TV. If this been Goldilocks and the three bears they would have needed the fire brigade to get her out of the bed in my room.

The surrounding countryside is perfect for brisk walks and summer evening strolls. Should you wish to head out, the hotel have a room of luxury leather Wellington Boots and umbrellas available for guests to use free of charge. It’s a nice touch and you can never be too careful even in the middle of a British Summer. Oh, and the changing room where they are all kept smells amazing too.

The Spa
My partner enjoyed a relaxing back
and shoulder massage here and
there is an Indian theme to the Spa (perhaps influenced by the past Lord Ellenborough’s job as Governor of India). The ‘Me & You’ package is focused around enjoying a group experience with close friends or family and offers either a morning or afternoon session with a ‘Namaste of India Journey Ritual’ combined with lunch in the Brasserie,
or ‘ScenTao of Asia Journey Ritual’ and afternoon tea in the Great Hall. Or vice versa. Facials, Mother-to-be, Facial and Body treatments and also treatments for men are available too. The Jacuzzi and Sauna add to the choices.

The Hotel is a popular location for Weddings and for people wishing to rehearse in advance they also offer an ever changing choice of special promotions such as a Romantic Celebration Getaway including, Chilled Champagne, chocolates and a dozen red roses with full use of The Spa and leisure facilities. If you’re on a budget the deals with dinner, room and breakfast all-in can bring the total cost right down.

As with the Spa its a good idea to check the website as they are constantly changing.
As we were leaving the concierge came over to our car and gave us two bottles of water and a box of mints for the journey. It was all the little touches throughout our stay like this that added up to something really special in total. As a place of retreat it is thoroughly recommended and I will be back again.

Ellenborough Park Southam road, Cheltenham Spa, Gloucestershire
+44 (0)1242 807 172