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Charlton House For A Five Star Break

Charlton House For A Five Star Break
We were faced with a bit of a dilemma last weekend. 24 hours child-free...

Should we get to grips with a bit of much-needed gardening or do a radical overhaul of our second sitting room? Said room where the kids play the piano or the PC has become a dumping ground for anything and everything over the past few years. It clearly needs a bit of TLC and a visit from Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and some Swedish storage-solutions expert. Neither option particularly appealed to us. So torn, as we were, between the two grim options, we decided to be truly decadent and take ourselves off to the fabulous Charlton House instead. Just for the one night - but oh what a night!

The drive there was a bit chaotic with roads closed left, right and centre making what should have been a one and a half hour drive, nearly 3 tedious hours! But magically the journey became almost tranquil by the time we were in the magnificent Cheddar Gorge and as we pulled up on the sweeping, curved driveway of Charlton House, we both looked at each other and smiled. We just knew that it was going to be 'something special'. There was something about the whole setting that quietly whispered to us that we were in for a treat.

We were greeted by a lovely, smiley, charming man who although solicitous was not at all fawning and over-deferential. Don't you just hate all that 'Yes sir, no sir, three bags full Sir' and 'I'll kiss your feet too' type attitude that you get in so many 'posh'
Terrace at Charlton House
country house hotels? I much prefer to feel I can have a laugh and chat normally and on a level with staff in restaurants and hotels but so many places don't give you the opportunity with their stand-offish formality.

Charlton House is not a bit like that. From the minute you walk in through the front door, you feel 'at home'. Ok so it's not like my home and probably not like many of our homes unless you've won the lottery, come into big money recently or used to work in the pre-Credit Crunch City. But you get the picture. There's a sort of air of casual insouciance. The smell of beeswax, the old, worn but clearly expensive furniture, the gorgeous flowers, staff in black open-topped shirts with indigo jeans, over-stuffed sofas, Sunday papers strewn everywhere on low tables, a reception desk that looks like it's been lifted from some retired Colonel's study, the buzz of people relaxing after a somnolent Sunday lunch ........ And the Charlton House staff make you feel comfortable and at ease straight away.

Walking up to our room, we had to pass Monty's Spa. The various lotions and potions in use there made for a deliciously scented corridor and made me want to venture in there and then, but first the room....

The four-poster bed in Room 27
Room 27 - Wow! Sumptuous is the first word that comes to mind but on its own that really doesn't do it justice. Room 27 is one of the hotel's best rooms and certainly lives up to its reputation. It's a fairy-tale of a room with the biggest, most beautiful and intricately carved four-poster bed I've ever seen. The cheeky Victorian claw-foot bath in front of the window overlooking the lawn meant a romantic pre-dinner bath a deux was going to be a foregone conclusion!

By the way, our room even had its own secluded patio where, but for the breeze, the next morning we could have had an al fresco breakfst. Our contemporary yet coyly lavish bathroom was stocked with wonderful natural products from Monty's Spa and his and hers bathrobes were hanging ready for us to use when we went down to the Spa. I never thought I'd see the day where Mr. C put on a lilac bathrobe, but I have now and I probably never will again. The armoire with flat screen tv and dvd was duly opened and closed
bathing in luxury
again, the fridge inspected and the fresh milk for the coffee was duly noted and the plentiful new magazines on the coffee table were given the once-over too. Is everyone like this when they go to new hotel rooms or is it just me who's like a big kid, prodding every button, opening every drawer and sniffing every bottle.....?

Anyway, I digress.....once ensconced in the room I don't think we really wanted to leave as the whole shebang was a pure invitation to do the 'lazy Sunday' thing. But we'd already booked Afternoon Tea so downstairs we went. We ordered the Cream Teas from the restaurant and then went into the drawing room and snuggling down into the squishiest sofa imaginable, with my feet curled up underneath me, I settled down to read all the bits of the Sunday papers that I often just don't have the time to read. The sun was shining outside, there was music, not musack, softly playing and the ambience was perfect.

It was lovely sitting there drinking tea and eating scones and cream with home-made raspberry jam in such sumptuous but relaxed surroundings. Quintissentially British but without any hint of pomp and formality. It's funny how something so simple can be so enjoyable. And before I forget, I've got to say that the chocolate Brownie with white chocolate chunks that accompanied my tea, was just the best Brownie ever.

We went from tea to the Spa where we both went straight into the Hydrotherapy pool and had all the tension from our shoulders and backs pummelled away. There were even jets of water aiming at our feet giving us the sort of foot massage that people pay a fortune for. The Spa had a kind of Moorish feel, moreish too for that matter. Even here there were plenty of plump, brightly coloured cushions scattered around. One pair of newly-weds made themselves a bit too comfortable in amongst the velvety cushions and fell asleep!

From the pool, we moved to the Sauna and then to the Steam Room, but not before rubbing ice crystals over our face and body, supposedly to invigorate but in my case to cool me down. Then it was back in the pool and the whole ritual was repeated. It was so, so relaxing and reviving- we loved it.

Back to the room then for a leisurely bath before dinner- not that we needed it as we were squeakily clean and perfumed from our Spa visit, but it would have been criminal not to have tried out that Victorian bath.

The Sharpham Park Restaurant where we'd booked dinner bears the same
The Sharpham Park Restaurant
name as the Sharpham Park Farm Shop just up the road where you can buy much of the organic produce used in the hotel. We went there the next morning on our annual pilgrimage for Mr. C's favourite orange curd and if we hadn't just had breakfast we'd have been sorely tempted by the many delicacies and homemade cakes on offer. If you liked the various spelt mueslis at breakfast then you'll be pleased to know that you can buy them all in the Farm Shop. I however chose the spelt porridge with maple syrup - big mistake as it really was the only thing that marred my otherwise perfect stay. It tasted like sawdust and was not my cup of tea at all.

But back to dinner and Sunday night. A pre-dinner G & T with the menus had us both musing on how wonderful it must be to live in such beautiful surroundings. It was a relaxed and informal meal in the conservatory part of the restaurant and I really can't remember exactly what I ate, just that the whole thing was delicious and perfectly presented from start to finish. Mr. C's starter involved pan-fried squid, chorizo and cherry tomatos and even to a non sea-food afficionado like me, looked very inviting. He was full of praise for it and that set the bar for the next few courses - all of which exceeded our expectations.

The Head Chef Steve Horrell clearly sets himself high standards and I'm sure he'll bring the hotel many more accolades. After dinner we made ourselves at home in the bar and after coffee and a nightcap, we took ourselves up to bed.

Monty's Spa again
I felt like the princess in The Princess And The Pea climbing up onto the high, soft and enveloping mattress of our huge bed and no sooner had my head hit the pillow than I fell asleep for one of the best night's sleep I've had in a long time. Perhaps it was the extremely relaxing day we'd had, perhaps it was the fact that we had a night away from the house and children, perhaps it was the comfortably full tummy and the fabulous bed or more likely it was a combination of all of those things - whatever it was, it all made for a wonderful rest.

Leaving the room to go and check out in the morning, it really didn't feel like we'd been there less than 24 hours. It had been a real switch-off time where all the hurly-burly of everyday life had been forgotten and we'd been spoiled rotten. I felt thoroughly relaxed, chilled and ready for anything - even the M4!

It has to be said - if you're looking for a weekend away for any special celebration or just to recarge the batteries, then I can't recommend Charlton House enough. He loved it, I loved it, everyone we spoke to loved it and I just know that you'll love it too. Believe me, I'll be going back there!

May 2009

Charlton House
"..Hotel in the country situated in the rolling hills of The Mendips in Somerset, 25 minutes from the M4..
25 Individually designed bedrooms by Roger Saul..
An ambience of a private Country retreat, where relaxation comes naturally.."

For further information, or to book:
Bullet Tel: 01749 342008
Bullet Web: www.charltonhouse.com

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