The formal gardens and parkland around Tylney Hall Hotel in Hampshire are a delight for anyone who loves lakes and landscaping, trees, terraces or just a good old nature walk. Even on a bright winter’s day.
I’m staying over in late January and already a lone splash of pink tells me that the massed camellia buds will soon herald the start of spring. I can only imagine the magnificence of the rhododendron bushes that follow in early summer. It’s my first visit to Tylney Hall and I’m enchanted before I even walk through the front door of this imposing property, now part of the Elite Hotels group.
Big hotels can be lacking in soul, but for a large operation – 113 bedrooms and suites – Tylney Hall manages to create a surprisingly intimate atmosphere. It could be the wood panelling of the entrance hall or maybe the sumptuous curtains and country house furnishings of the bedrooms and public areas, but above anything, I think it is down to the friendly staff, from the initial welcome desk right through the restaurant and bar to the leisure facilities.
There’s been a property on this site since 1561, but the present house is Victorian and it’s easy to imagine ladies in crinolines swishing up and down the impressive wooden staircase, whilst men in tweeds assemble outside for a morning of field sports. During World War I, Tylney Hall served as a hospital, and in World War II under the ownership of Lord Rotherwick, the property was headquarters for his famous shipping line, Clan Line Steamers. The post-war years saw yet more change, a school from 1948 and, in 1985, a transformation into country house hotel and restaurant.
Accommodation comes in nine categories, starting with Deluxe Rooms in the Grade II listed Mansion House, the courtyard or gardens, and all with furnishings that reflect the overall elegance of the estate. Expect a minimum of armchairs with a coffee table and writing desk, plus luxury bathrooms with Molton Brown toiletries.
For a really special occasion, treat yourself to one of the spacious suites. I fell in love with the Lady Rotherwick Suite we were allocated for my husband’s birthday. From the heather-hued sofa and deep armchairs, we enjoyed a glorious view down the avenue of majestic redwood trees where guests can watch for visiting deer at dawn and dusk. Check out the Pamper or Romantic Break packages too, available to book online for all categories of room.
Whether you want to be energised or relaxed, Tylney Hall can help. I started with a walk round the 66-acre estate in bright winter sunshine. The Italian Garden and the Rose Gardens. The Boathouse Lake, The Orchard, and The Water Gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll. A free leaflet and map from Reception gives the background to each historic element. If you’re feeling active, you can follow marked jogging trails, but it’s just as much fun – maybe more! – at a gentle stroll.
Then maybe enjoy a swim in the indoor pool or, from spring to summer, in the heated outdoor pool in its secluded walled courtyard. Test out your snooker skills; push yourself in the gym; and – in summer – play tennis or croquet. Or you could just do as I did and relax with an hour of blissful aromatherapy massage or a beauty treatment. All of which put me in a super-chilled frame of mind for a relaxing aperitif in the cosy bar before dinner in the Oak Room Restaurant with its wood panelling, moulded ceiling, and bay windows. Light meals can be taken in the elegant lounges or al fresco on the terrace in fine weather.
Executive Head Chef Mike Lloyd and his team serve up both seasonal specialities and signature dishes, which more than justify their 2 AA Rosettes. I began our à la carte dinner with Salmon Tartar with scorched mackerel, celeriac and crème fraiche – light, fresh and packed with flavour – following with delicious Wild Halibut with pancetta, sea vegetables, and crab and dill sauce. My husband couldn’t fault his Smoked Goose Breast with foie gras and sticky figs, nor his Poached Duck Egg with truffle bubble and squeak. Unable to manage a dessert each, we shared a Chocolate Caramel delice.
No hotel is perfect, of course, so what’s not to like about Tylney Hall? For us, only a couple of very small niggles. The feeble water pressure in our beautiful en-suite with shower and free-standing bath – often an issue in historic buildings – and the lack of full length mirror in the natural light of the bedroom. Ours was inside a wardrobe door in the entrance hall, as was the only hairdryer socket within reach of a mirror. But they certainly didn’t spoil our stay and, when flagged up to the duty manager, were received with genuine appreciation. Staff here really do bend over backwards to make guests welcome.
So we’ll definitely be going back. After all, I need to catch those rhododendrons and swim some outdoor lengths next time. Maybe even catch a glimpse of those elusive deer… Can’t wait!
For the best rates, book direct at www.tylneyhall.co.uk.
The gardens are open on three Sundays a year for the National Gardens Scheme – 24 April 2022, 22 May, and 19 June. www.ngs.co.uk. Afternoon tea and Sunday lunches are particularly popular so book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Explore another historic house and garden by visiting The Vyne, five miles away at Sherborne St John.