IT'S NO ORDINARY HOTEL
Coombe Abbey’s signage tells us this is ‘no ordinary hotel’ and after a stay there its easy to understand why.
The Abbey was founded by the Cistercian monks in 1150 and has had a chequered history. It survived the dissolution of the monasteries and in 1603 the future Queen Elizabeth 1, lived and was educated at the Abbey, during which time a plan to kidnap her by the Gun Powder plotters was foiled
Over the centuries Coombe Abbey has had several owners. Wings were added and demolished in 1849 major alterations gave the house a Gothic Revival style that still remains today.
It was not until the early 60’s that the 500 acres became Coombe Abbey Regional Park followed in the early 90’s by the Abbey being lovingly restored and turned into a “No Ordinary Hotel “
Languishing at the end of a long drive, lined by majestic trees, rolling green lawns, woodland and manufactured lakes – your first sight of the hotel is bound to take your breath away.
From the moment you cross the cobble stone bridge spanning the moat a whole new world of peace, calm and tranquillity unfolds. Capability Brown designed gardens are filled with larkspur, lavender and roses in fact every English country garden flower you can image with lily ponds, fountains and statues paying homage to this beautifully restored building.
As you enter through the heavy wooden doors a certain magic unfurls and you are transported back in time. There is eerie but ethereal organ music, dark wooden screens and nooks and corners filled with heavy leather clad antique furniture and artefacts
You are faced with corridors lined with marble busts, painted doors and candle lit corners where music, as if by magic, suddenly is heard as you walk down the corridor. There are nooks and crannies that lead from Baroque corridors heavy with wall hangings to the Cloisters Bar and the magnificent cloisters themselves, so romantic by candlelight. They were built in 1509 are amazing I almost imagined a procession of monks walking in line with their candles.
One corridor has a tomb of a bishop in marble and reputedly the corridors are stalked, at certain times, by the ghost of an Abbot Godfrey, who visited the abbey in 1335 to investigate some suspicious behaviour and was murdered. It is said his spirit walks the halls.
Near reception there’s a high ornate pulpit overlooking everything and restored confession boxes, a myriad of large open fireplaces, wooden artefacts and amazing oil paintings.
There’s no doubt about it this meticulous restoration has style, character and charm unlike I have seen anywhere else.
The hotel gardens are spaced out so wonderfully from the front which is so Capability Brown to smaller fountained break out lawns, rose gardens with ponds and herb gardens giving privacy and solitude for those who want it.
The hotel has 119 rooms which are referred to as suites or bed chambers. These are really sumptuous and decadent and most have hidden quirks from bathrooms behind book cases or four poster beds on raised platforms. The Lady Craven Suite pictured below is one of the most ornate
We stayed in the Capability Brown Suite in one of the courtyard buildings. Our suite was large and lavish. The huge four poster bed was absolutely amazing with thick golden drapes and pelmet in incredibly rich, heavy fabric and the posts were embellished with glass and beaded pieces.
The suite was large with windows on two sides that looked over a small garden. There were numerous tables to put things on from makeup, books and even the dreaded lap tops all decorated in gold leaf.
Our room had two enormous chairs in lavish gold brocade one with an oversized footstool to put your feet up on and a low table between the two.
The whole room had a beautiful ambience in the corner of the room was a spiral staircase which led to a tiled bathroom with a large bathtub that was just perfect after a long day to sink into; whilst downstairs a large bathroom held a great large walk in power shower and all the elements of a modern bathroom.
Dining at Coombe Abbey is pure joy. The Conservatory Restaurant is light and airy with floor to ceiling windows and a glass roof. We were lucky enough to be seated for dinner in one of the two white iron gazebos at each end of the restaurant that are decorated with fresh flowers.
The menu is varied and has lots of local produce integrated into its dishes. My partner started with Slow Cooked Free Range Blythburgh Pork Osso which was not over cooked and just fell off the bone. I had a very tasty Baby Beetroot Salad, Goats Curd, Honey and Granola. The goats cheese was drizzled with honey, the sweetness giving the perfect balance to the strong taste of the curd.
But the star of the starters was a full hot loaf of warm baked mini Sherston white loaf that was brought to our table amazingly held together with a spiral stick and lots of butter.
For main I chose the grilled lemon sole. It was moist and cooked as it should be but unfortunately the accompanying Heritage potato was nearly raw.
My partners braised beef in red wine has a definite red wine taste and the beef was succulent with the smoky onions and heritage carrots being a great accompaniment.
When it came to my heaven on a plate the Rhubarb and Custard Tart was just the job with solid pieces of poached rhubarb, a crispy pastry and a light aeriated custard. Simply delicious.
Breakfast is served in the same dining room and the terrace at one side is the perfect place to take your tea or coffee after breakfast or even breakfast alfresco. The choice on breakfast menu is very good and boy can they do the perfect poached egg.
Coombe Abbey can be exactly what you want it to be but most of all it’s a place where time stands still creating a relaxing ambience. The hotel has lots of special events from Wartime Afternoon Teas to Medieval Banquets and Tribute Nights in the huge marquee so its worth checking out the calendar.
Service at the hotel is of the highest order and it has friendly, efficient and knowledgeable staff – a rare find these days.
One thing that impressed was the number of different gardens, views and nooks and crannies you can find to sit in outside and sip your bubbly. There’s even hammocks for the more adventurous. In colder weather there’s also roaring fires and covered terraces to savour the atmosphere of this no ordinary hotel.
www.coombeabbey.com Tel: 0276 450 450