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Country Pursuits: Coworth Park, Ascot

Play lord of the manor on a bucolic adventure at five-star luxury hotel and spa Coworth Park, Dorchester Collection’s only country outpost

Coworth Park is truly the definition of a luxury countryside retreat; a snowy white, 17th-century grand manor house set on 240 acres of plush parkland and manicured, tree-lined lawn, nestled in leafy Berkshire. The five-star hotel prides itself on opulence without stuffiness, which rings true from the moment you roll up at the imposing columned entrance, greeted with smiles and bonhomie. Ebullient staff are attentive but not intrusive, darting about in country tweed and tartan. 

Located a wonderfully easy 45 minutes from London, the hotel has broad appeal, from families and locals to twentysomething urban escapees. Multi-generational tables tuck into afternoon tea in the lounge alongside couples clinking glasses; outside, designer wellies are unpacked from 4x4s and children trot on horseback. A-listers and royalty are commonplace, and look into the verdant yonder and you might spot William and Harry honing their polo skills on the lawn.

Built in 1776, the hotel is a former Georgian manor house, notably occupied by the 17th Earl of Derby, who lived there for 50 years after purchasing the property in 1899. In the mid 1980s, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason founder, Galen Weston took over ownership and developed its first polo field before selling the estate in 2001 to the Dorchester Collection (owned by the Sultan of Brunai). Old England is infused with international glamour and artistic flair, with a dash of aristocratic elegance. The hotel is state-of-the-art, but still exudes Georgian charm in (copper) spades. 

Horses are a big thing here and the sound of clip-clopping rivals the hum of luxury cars in the driveway. Equine touches pepper the hotel, from characterful horse portraits in the bar to horseshoe motifs and tackle kit sculptures.

Rooms are palatial and each guest is welcomed with a bottle of Veuve Cliquot. King-sized four-poster beds are framed in wrought iron branches, while deep copper bathtubs stand on heated marble floors next to rainforest showers. Our room boasts a log fire, lit at request, a Bang & Olufsen television and silky embroidered wallpaper. 

Come nightfall, my partner and I jump aboard a golf buggy and speed across the lawn to The Barn restaurant, which serves brasserie-style food and sharing plates within a relaxed atmosphere. The Barn is rustic charm personified, all stone and wood with a roaring log fire. Adam Smith was appointed hotel executive chef in July this year, commandeering a new modern menu of posh comfort food for The Barn, using local, seasonal ingredients. Smith has long been considered a culinary wunderkind, previously winning Observer Food Monthly Young Chef of the Year and the Roux Scholarship in 2012.

We tuck into thick slices of smoked salmon and vibrant coronation crab, elegantly served with dainty pickled cucumber cubes and garnished with flower petals; a generous mound of creamy wild mushroom salad crowned by a duck egg and sprinkled with cheese; juicy lamb cutlets with velvety goats cheese mash and beef ribeye steak served with crispy game chips.

 The Barn is rustic charm personified, all stone and wood with a roaring log fire

The following day, we burn off dinner on a lakeside walk followed by several hours of sybaritic relaxation in the hotel’s grass-roofed eco-friendly spa. The signature treatment involves a hydrating facial and back and hot stone foot massage and I leave feeling deliriously rested. Guests stay wrapped up in dressing gowns and enjoy champagne and sandwiches in the Spatisserie – bliss.

I visit Coworth Park during winter, seduced by log fires, glistening wreathes and statuesque evergreen pines festooned with lustrous baubles, but I can easily see how this magic transforms during summer. The hotel has a tennis court and plenty al fresco-friendly dining spots, grand balconies and lawns that wake up with daffodils in the spring.  

Coworth Park is not just a hotel – it is an enchanting world of plummy parkland, grand sculptures, velvety horses and fine cuisine, caught somewhere seductively between country clubhouse and royal manor. It is the ideal antidote to city living, and playing Lord and Lady for the weekend has never been such fun. 

Who to expect: families, couples, royals and A-listers.

What to wear: cashmere jumpers and riding boots are de rigueur for the ladies, paired with Prada bags. Slacks and shirts for the men – leave your tie at home.

Don’t Forget: Your swimsuit. The opulent, heated indoor swimming pool boasts underwater music, flanked by glistening crystals sculptures on plinths. Children are allowed access morning and early evening; the afternoons are child-free. 

Coworth Park, Blacknest Road, Ascot SL5 7SE; www.dorchestercollection.com