By the time we get to the wrong side of middle age, most of us have got far more ‘stuff’ than we actually need. So my three girl friends and I decided to celebrate our 240th by spending some quality time together, rather than buying presents.
We wanted a stylish but affordable hotel within two hours’ drive where we could indulge in a spa treatment or two, relax over drinks and dinner, and do some gentle local exploring. So the Tortworth Court Four Pillars Hotel at Wotton-under-Edge seemed to tick all our boxes, especially as they offer a spa break deal of dinner, bed & breakfast, and 25-minute spa treatment per person.
I had previously enjoyed a short break at the group’s Oxford Thames Hotel and whilst totally different in character, Tortworth Court lived up to expectations. Located just off the M5 north of Bristol, this imposing property is approached up a long drive that winds between magnificent trees that together form a historic arboretum.
There’s been an estate here since the reign of Edward I, but the house was rebuilt in 1849 in classic Victorian style, equipped with all the latest innovations such as gas lighting and hot air central heating. A training establishment for the British Navy during World War 2, then a hospital for American servicemen, the property was being converted to luxury flats in 1991 when a fire broke out, destroying the main body of the house apart from the main staircase and the principal rooms facing the lake. Tortworth Court was left derelict for eight years before the Four Pillars group embarked on a restoration project costing more than £20 million. For a hotel with 190 bedrooms, the atmosphere is surprisingly intimate.
We’d been allocated two Classic Twin rooms at the top of a private staircase and overlooking a courtyard on both sides. Extremely well appointed, they featured a sitting area with sofa and two armchairs – just right for girly chats after dinner – and a bathroom with bath and shower over. WiFi is free if you really can’t bear to be cut off from loved ones at home.
Our package included three-course dinner (drinks extra of course) and we were impressed by the choice on offer – not a dedicated short menu but any three courses from the à la carte, excluding a few dishes with supplements. Food was consistently good apart from one disappointing dessert which was immediately changed without question.
As for the all-important pampering element, Peels Spa, Health and Fitness Club offers a full range of treatments using Décleor products. Spa package guests have a choice of five 25-minute options and I can personally vouch for the excellent back massage and facial. There’s a 12-metre rectangular swimming pool which was good for those of us who like to swim lengths rather than stand in the water and chat; a Jacuzzi; sauna and steam room. Only criticism would be the rather cramped changing facilities that are accessed via the clammy area around the sauna.
You could quite easily spend your pamper break chilling out around the hotel, but we enjoyed a morning at Slimbridge Wetland Centre overlooking the Severn. Heritage properties nearby include Newark Park (National Trust) and Berkeley Castle, or you could spend a day in historic Bristol. There are also a variety of countryside walks around Wotton-under-Edge which lies on the Cotswold Way – take the short climb to the top of Wotton Hill for views across the Severn to Wales.
In fact there were so many things we couldn’t pack in to our relaxing two-night break that we are already planning a return visit.
Tortworth Court Four Pillars Hotel