Desperate for a weekend away? Head to Dorset's hip Old Park Hall hotel for a slice of the good life and some damn fine gin, writes Nicola Moyne
Contemporary country piles don’t come much cooler than Old Park Hall hotel. Nestled among the rolling hills of Devon and a stone’s throw from coastal hotspot Lyme Regis, this imposing Scottish Baronial manor house has all the usual trappings of a chic boutique bolthole – think Nespresso machines in every room, huge monsoon power showers, coma-inducing emperor beds and enough USB sockets to power up a small smart-tech army. But all that pales in comparison to the sheer sexiness of the place. It’s like stumbling upon the West Country’s hip new member’s club, sans the stuffiness or extortionate fees.
Why not? Straddling the Devon and Dorset borders, this fashion-forward pad is a magnet for stressed-out city dwellers desperate for a slice of the good life. River Cottage, with its wealth of cookery courses and summer dining events, is a five-minute drive away, or you can hole yourself up at Old Park Hall hotel and enjoy the honesty bar’s warm hospitality in the luxe lounge. Plus, you get to hang out with Winnie and Wednesday – the venue’s resident pot-bellied pigs who love a post-lunch belly rub.
Palatial proportions come as standard at Old Park Hall hotel, so while the décor is Scottish Baronial castle meets New York loft, the floor plan is decidedly more generous. If ‘Lady of the Manor’ is your vibe, snap up the Oriel room – a stylish blend of charming antiques and original features (Narnia-style antique wardrobes, a gorgeous marble-topped dresser and Game of Thrones-worthy bay window) with contemporary, artisan touches (hello, brass and glass accents, White Company sheets and industrial driftwood sink). All about the views? Check out the Principal suite instead, which is arguably a view with a room thanks to the stunning valley vistas below.
Served up on a huge rustic trestle table overlooking Old Park Hall’s pretty enclosed herb gardens, breakfast is an informal affair big on taste thanks to owner Daisy’s kitchen prowess and kickass laugh. Choose from healthy plates of smoked salmon and avo, homemade granola, and eggs-anyway-you-like, or hit the hangover head-on with a delicious full English. Daisy also offers a dinner service on demand if you fancy staying put in the decadent velvet-sofa clad lounge for another glass of Pinot Grigio Blush come sundown. Hip jazz soundtrack, obligatory.
Stripped wooden flooring, neon artwork, a grand sweeping staircase and lashings of cool curios define Old Park Hall’s Soho House-esque interiors. But it’s Daisy and James – the dynamic duo that own and renovated the house back in 2015 – who deliver its signature cool-crowd ambience. The savvy (and seriously extensive) honesty bar seems to embody what Daisy (a former wedding planner) and James (a digital comms manager) have created here: a laid-back, super stylish hangout for professionals aching to get away from it all. Whether you’re sunning yourself on a hammock in the vintage daybed-dressed garden, wandering the paddock beyond to say hello to the pigs and chickens or shaking yourself an Old Fashioned in a sunken leather armchair in the grand hallway, Old Park Hall’s chilled-out vibes won’t fail to feed the soul. In fact, with whole-house hire available (Old Park Hall hotel comfortably sleeps 12), booking a country-house hideaway with friends for the week has never been more covetable. You can even bring the dogs along.
It’s not all Bloody Marys and chilled beats at Old Park Hall hotel. A one-to-one yoga session with pro yogi (and fabulous Italian) Barbara Mella is also a must-do. Hosted in the garden’s light and airy summerhouse, Barbara delivers a bespoke Ashtanga workout to nix your 9-5 stresses and strains while the honeybees hum in the rose garden outside. Not inclined to break a sweat? Indulge in a full-body massage or facial in the wonderfully serene treatment room instead. Holly, Old Park Hall’s resident beauty therapist, has been working her magic in Axminster for 12 years and her back pummeling is second to none. Ask for the Sage, Rosemary and Lavender L:A Bruket body oil for the most divinely scented 60 minutes of your stay.
If you can bear to tear yourself away from the house, head to Lyme Regis’s independent boutiques for a spot of retail therapy – Ryder & Hinks is your one-stop shop for homeware hero buys. Or check out the Jurassic Coast’s wealth of heritage sites and popular Hive Beach Café, which serves up locally sourced ingredients and delicious organic fare (don’t miss the Lyme Bay hake fillet). The Tytherleigh Arms – a rustic, family-owned Coaching Inn – is a short drive away and perfect for a trad pub-grub refuel, or hit Castlewood vineyard to quaff a UK-grown sparkling tipple or three. Serious foodies can also book up a cookery course at nearby River Cottage, which offers everything from wild foraging and fish masterclasses to bread making and meat curing. Our tip? Try to extend your stay over a Sunday night, when Daisy and James often light up the barbecue, invite the neighbours round for an alfresco drink, and recall stories of Winnie hiding out in the laundry basket. Sounds idyllic, right? Well, that’s because it is.
Room prices start from £140 per night; whole house hire costs from £2,740. To book, call 01297 792763 or email firstname.lastname@example.org