* Prices may differ from that shown
***The Grove*** The Grove is not the type of establishment I usually find myself in. This hotel has five stars and is situated withing 300 acres. It is the former home of the Earls of Clarendon. It has 227 rooms and guest suites, a grade II listed mansion, world class spa and an 18 hole golf course that has hosted The World Golf Championships. It is located in Herfordshire and is easy to find just off the M25 (3 mins). It is only 30 minutes from Heathrow and 17 minutes from London Euston. I have stayed at this hotel twice now. I travelled there with a friend as we had to attend a party of a mutual friend who lives nearby. I did this trip in 24 hours, because that's the kind of jet setting life I lead - yeah, right lol! ***Arrival......WOW.............*** As you enter the gates you drive through the grounds for about a mile along a sweeping driveway, with the golf course all around you. This isn't a hotel that is easily accessible on foot. The grounds are very grand, lush and although I am no expert, it is obvious the golf course is first class. On arrival there is a choice of valet parking (too posh for me!) or you can rough it and park up in the car park nearby. There was no sign of any recession here, as the car park was massive and almost full to the brim on arrival. We walked to the reception to check in and again the entrance hall is very imposing. As I have said this is the second time I have stopped there and the second time the reservation has been messed up. It seems to be a bit of a problem that we wanted a twin room and both times we have been booked in as a Mr and Mrs. This time they made a joke; that they weren't implying my friend looked like a man! The joke wasn't really funny to be honest. We had just driven three and half hours and just wanted to get to our room. They promised to come up to the room later to split the beds up for us. Surely not everyone who attends is married or a couple? Lifts or stairs are available to all the rooms and there is definitely a feeling of space as you travel around the place. ***The Rooms...What Pillow Would You Like With Your Bed Madam?.....*** The rooms are spacious and are generally decorated with beige and cream in mind. They are beautiful, clean and offer a high level of comfort. Our room overlooked the car park, but it wasn't noisy at all. Right away you know you have a different level of 'posh' when you have a...........PILLOW MENU....... you have the choice of: ~Horse Hair ~Spelt Pillow (Er what's that anyone?) ~Premium Small Pillow ~Non-Allergic Pillow ~Non-Allergic Roll Pillow There is also a flat screen tv on the wall, and a Bose Sound System so you can put your ipod on and listen to it was you get ready for the evening out. You can give a £20 deposit to reception and they will give you a selection of dvd's and complimentary pop corn. Of course, you could always bring your own. You also have a choice of pay per view movies and it was quite an extensive choice too. There is also the usual terrestrial channels and also a small selection of Sky channels, including some for kids, news and Sky Sports. Some people get irritable without their cigarettes, for some it is their Sky remote......for me ...well I get the shakes if I don't have access to the internet. A bit OCD? Perhaps...... Last time I stopped I took my laptop. This time I left it at home, because I remembered that you could hire a keyboard to hook up to the television for a returnable deposit of £30. So when I arrived I requested this.............only to be told this is not available anymore. So I am docking half a star for it still being in the welcome brochure and because I got withdrawal symptoms from being away from the World Wide Web. There is the usual tea, coffe and mini bar items, with a couple of exceptions. There is a soft toy donkey that you can buy (£16.50).....in fact there are photos and pictures of donkeys all of the place - didn't quite work that one out. Also as soon as my friend walked in she giddily checked over the stuff you could buy (like a two year old). Last time, there were copies of the Kama Sutra (What's all that about? - thought it was posh here lol) ..........this time, this had been replaced by.......... a box of pringles lol.........her reaction told me.she seemed a bit let down by this change of inventory............ *rolls eyes* - I sometimes wonder about the juvenile company I keep ; ) Another thing in abundance in the rooms is....mirrors. There are mirrors everywhere.......Big wall sized mirrors. The majority of which are in the bathroom. So if you are getting ready to go out, you can easily check you haven't done anything embarrassing like tucking your skirt in your knickers. Of course the downside is, that some people don't want reminding of how they look when they return to the room much later on. The beds are really comfortable and the white duvet and pillows are really luxurious. They have that crisp and clean feel to them. There is the usual array of toiletries in the bathroom, and the fittings are clean and state of the art. There is also the use of a dressing gown and slippers too and there were plenty of towels. Oh and I forgot my toothbrush....dur....but housekeeping brought up a complimentary toothbrush and toothpaste free of charge. There is also air conditioning, which came in handy for last week-end as it was a scorcher. We paid £170 plus VAT for the room which included breakfast - this is one of the cheaper rooms though. My friend booked it for us because she is a member of the fitness club etc, so I think this might have been a reduced rate.. I have just taken a look at the website for an indication of prices and it made my eyes water........... The rooms range from £295 a night for a deluxe twin up to £1050 for the Presidential Suite. I did see the suite as my friend was staying in that last time and while yes it was ...Presidential...........£1050? Ouch!! ***A Bite To Eat*** There are three places to dine: ~Colette's Fine Dining ~The Glasshouse ~The Stables The restaurants also have a portion of their tables set up outside, which is lovely if the weather is good as it was when we visited. The only place I ate was The Stables. Breakfast can be eaten in The Glasshouse if you arrive by 10.30 (which we didn't) - just missed it, so you can eat it in The Stables. I actually preferred to eat at The Stables as The Glasshouse was SO busy it resembled a school canteen. The Stables was quiet and relaxing and we could eat outside. There was the a wide choice of options for breakfast - too many to list - I have never seen so many ways to have eggs lol! In the end I just had toast and coffee (what a waste!) as I am not a 'breakfast person', but my friend has a 'bacon butty', which looked really nice. Service was good, they asked if we would like more drinks etc, but were never obtrusive. You are actually overlooking the greens of the golf course, so there is a gorgeous view. The setting of the actual restaurant was also good, kind of rustic and stabley I guess. You can take breakfast in your room also. I didn't eat in the other two places, so am not available to comment on the quality of dining or service. The website lists sample menus, photos and prices. Afternoon tea is also available for the sum of £28.00. ***Children*** Children are of course welcome and there is actually Anouska's Kid's Club, which is open 9 to 5, 7 days of the week. The charges I think are reasonable - it costs £6 per child regardless of the time spent there. As well as all the adult activities, there is also a games room, and children can hire bicycles and helmets. There are cycling trails to follow. Now I have to say that even though kids are catered for, I think that this type of break is best suited for adults. It is not the type of place, where kids can let go and feel really welcomed. I get the distinct impression it is better if they are 'seen and not heard'. Of course this is only the feeling I get, but overall I have to say that the ambiance and feel of the place is best suited to grown ups. ***Celebrations*** This is a stunning venue for a special celebration. There were two weddings going on and the place was absolutely overflowing with flowers. It kind of had a nice happy feel about the place because of this. My friend's party was held here on the premises last year and I have to say the service, food and decor were first class. ***Pampering Time......*** If you like a bit of pampering, well look no further, because located here is the Sequoia Spa. Not just any old spa of course. This spa was voted by the readers of Conde Nast as the 'Best UK Spa Retreat'. My friend and I went for a nosy. Not of course that we need such treatments.......*I wish*.........but we wanted to know what 'The Best UK Spa looks like. Here you will find a 22 metre indoor pool and poolside jacuzzi. There is also the usual sauna, steam room, fiteness suites and exercise studio. So how much will this set you back? Well you are looking in the region of £90-£160 for just a massage. Or...if you really want to splash out you can have a 'Four Hand Massage' when two therapists work together.............this will set you back.....£240.......more than the room! .......Oh and my friend said that another indication this was a 'posh' establishment, is the fact that there are no 'Hollywood' nor 'Playboy' waxes on offer. I have to say I didn't know what she meant.....and of course was too embarrassed to show my ignorance...... ***Helicopters .......yes.........helicopters*** Helicopters........ no...really? Yes, really. You will be pleased to know that there is a landing pad for helicopters. So if you want to nip down for a quick round of golf, then you are good to go. Seriously, two businessmen arrived while we were there for a quick game. How the other half lives. This is located on the south side of the mansion .........in case you were wondering. ***You Think Helicopter's Are A Bit Extreme.......Hey, It's Even Got It's Own Beach!.....*** The 'Walled Garden' is another oasis of calm. This is a garden, outdoor pool and beach..yes beach that is enclosed within high walls. The sand is clean and there are deckchairs for you to use. You need your room key to access it, although if you are a member of the fitness club you can access it too. In this area, you have tennis courts, croquet and beautiful gardens. There is a swimming pool and a place to get a snack with poolside service. I think that this is a fantastic part of the hotel (as long as you have glorious weather of course) and sat on 'the beach', well with decent temperatures, you could be anywhere - even Blackpool! The 'beach' has relocated since last year and the place where it was is being refurbished, so this looked like a bit of an eyesore to be honest. The fact it is in a 'walled area' gives it that extra feeling of exclusivity. ***If It's Good Enough for Tiger.....*** The golf course looks exquisite. In fact, I am going to have a moment here. ............*pause*........ This is because it took my breath away.... I felt like grabbing an iron and zipping off in a buggy right there and then. The fact I can't play might have been a bit of a hindrance though....The Grove hosted the American Express World Golf Championships in 2006, the first time the tournament has ever been played in the United Kingdom, which was won by .......Tiger Woods. (Hey perhaps it was the contents of the mini bar/goods to buy that sent him on his path of self-destruction, so to speak lol) The Grove is a course - not a club, so playing there is an option for any paying guest. As I have said, I am no expert but the course looked stunning. I was too afraid to ask how much it was to play though.... ***Service*** Apart from the checking in fiasco, service is professional, polite and you are treated as if you are worth a million dollars all the time. It is not in your face, nor gushing, but I would say it lacks that friendly, sincere feeling you get. It all feels like someone putting on a very well rehearsed act - a bit Stepford Wives. As I have said..checking in and checking out was also a bit slow... ***Nearby Places To Visit*** ~Aldenham Country Park ~Knebworth House ~Blenheim Palace & Gardens ~Kew Gardens ~Waddeson Manor Cliveden. ***Back to Reality.....*** Check out is at 12pm - and it does get busy. I should point out that you can use the facilities for the rest of the day though. This is the only hotel I have stopped in where there are bottles of mineral water on the reception counter for you to take away. Judging by the amount of people that picked some up, I would estimate there were a fair number of hangovers milling about. In fact, it was a bit like the reduced counter at Tesco, with people grabbing it like their life depended on it...... because really a free bottle of mineral water is really going to make up for that hefty credit card bill, isn't it? ***Trivia*** It is also included in the brochure for 'The Leading Hotels of the World'. Website - http://www.thegrove.co.uk/ - this tells you a little about the history of the estate, which I found quite interesting ***Overall*** I have only stopped at one other five star hotel (thanks Tesco) and have to say that this is on a whole other level. In terms of 5*, it really does deserve those stars. Would I recommend this hotel? Well it all depends really. The choice of the hotel for me was forced, mainly because the the friend who I came to see is very wealthy and all the people who attended the party, stayed here, so there was no other choice for me. I would give it four and half stars if I could, but it just loses that last half because a few things are out of date and because it is just sooo expensive. I know this type of hotel is always going to be, but £1000 plus for a one night stay, is one step too far. I would say that this hotel is at it's best during sunny weather, because of 'The Beach', the gorgeous grounds, golf and the chance for outdoor dining. If I was ever going to stop there again, I think it would be best to book it last minute to coincide with good weather. I don't think it would be half as attractive or offer value for money if it was raining.... I think with a hotel like this, it is not just about the rooms, service and facilities either. What I mean is that this hotel is like another world. Last time I stopped the England football team was stopping there and the players were wandering about,.....this time Kylie Minogue checked in five minutes before us (it was a shame she didn't get to meet me lol! lol) Being surrounded by so much wealth I think can be a bit off putting. That is just of course a personal thing for me, but if you like an intimate atmosphere, then I don't think you will find it here.