When we arrived at Eastwell Manor, a luxury country house hotel near Canterbury, the red carpet was out. It wasn’t for us, though – there was a wedding taking place. However, if our stay was typical then every guest at this historic hotel gets the red carpet treatment anyway. We’d just had a hectic couple of days in Canterbury itself, fitting in as many of the best things to do as we could manage, and now we were ready to relax.
Eastwell Manor is about a 25-minute drive south west of Canterbury, so if you like your luxury country house comfort you could easily base yourself here and go into Canterbury for the day. Fifteen minutes south of Eastwell Manor is the Ashford International Eurostar Train Station, making Paris and Eurostar’s other European destinations easily accessible too. Drive 25 minutes south east from Eastwell Manor and you’re at the Eurotunnel Terminal in Folkestone, bringing a trip to northern France within easy reach as well.
We were only here for one night, though, so we intended to go absolutely nowhere else. We were in the Duke of Edinburgh room, named not for the current Duke but for the second son of Queen Victoria. The Queen was a frequent visitor here, as her grandchildren grew up at Eastwell Manor. Ours was certainly a room that was fit for a Queen, or a Duke. It was huge and bathed in light, even on an overcast afternoon. The five, high, leaded windows gazed out over the immaculate lawn, broken up by a lavender bed, with more lawns and trees beyond.
If we got bored there were no fewer than 18 magazines for us to read, including Eastwell Manor’s own publication, appropriately names Relax. There were two complimentary decanters of sherry, sweet and dry, if we wanted an early-evening drink, and a bathroom that was bigger than many hotel rooms we’ve stayed in. One small but smart touch was a piece of notepaper where you could tick a box to indicate if there was a problem with any of the lights, the plumbing, the TV, or other room features so that they could be seen to while you were out. Yet another thoughtful little touch was that the tea- and coffee-making facilities also included a small cafetiere, not just the usual instant coffee sachets.
For such an intimate hotel, Eastwell Manor – we keep checking to make sure we didn’t type Eatwell Manor by mistake – has three separate dining options. There is the superb and formal Manor Restaurant, the more casual Pavilion Restaurant, and the totally relaxed Manor Bar and Lounge where there’s an exceptionally good bar menu served till 9.30pm. (Read our full review of The Manor Restaurant here.)
Take a look at our YouTube slideshow
for more photos of our stay at this luxury hotel
Eastwell Manor has its own beauty spa, the Pavilion, with a visually stunning pool that we found time to sample. It really does make you feel that you are being pampered in a villa by some Roman Emperor. A constant sheet of water separates this from the major therapy pool, and in addition there are 15 treatment rooms, a gymnasium with a resident fitness manager, a heated outdoor pool, all-weather tennis court, petanque pitches and croquet lawns. Guests also have the use of the Eastwell Manor Golf Course.
All the modern, luxury hotel comforts blend beautifully into the historic charm of the place. Eastwell Manor dates back to the Norman Conquest and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Richard Plantaganet, the illegitimate son of Richard III, is said to have worked as a stonemason at the Manor, till his identity was discovered by the Manor’s owner, Sir Thomas Moyle. When he died in 1550 at the age of 81, Richard was buried at Eastwell church.
More recently two Queens were born in the house. For twenty years the Manor was rented to the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Alfred, who gave our room its name. Alfred married Marie Alexandrovna, the only daughter of Tzar Alexander II. The couple’s two daughters grew up to become Queen Marie of Romania and the Infanta Beatrice of Spain. Queen Victoria made many visits to see her grandchildren. Her eldest son, the Prince of Wales, who became King Edward VII, often entertained his mistress Alice Keppel here.
However, don’t let all the history fool you. In the 1920s the Manor was neglected and fell into a bad state of disrepair. Much of it was demolished in 1926, and the present building erected. However, it was so carefully and cleverly done to emulate an old manor house that it’s very hard to believe it’s only about 80 years old. It looks and feels more like 800.
We checked out at the last possible moment, to give us plenty of time to enjoy a walk round the lovely and colourful gardens (right). In fact Eastwell Manor is one of those rare hotels which actually encourages you to linger. You’re told that once you’ve checked out, you’re still welcome to use the hotel’s facilities, including the spa. It’s a suggestion that obviously makes good business sense – after all, you might want to have lunch there – yet how rarely do you see a hotel making a point of saying you needn’t leave just because you’ve checked out?
And guess what? When we did eventually drag ourselves away, another wedding party was arriving. Eastwell Manor’s red carpet must get a lot of use!
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