Richard McComb channels his inner Bond at the sparkling Coworth Park near Ascot, The Dorchester Collection's newest retreat.
There’s absolutely no point in doing things by half, so when the charming people at Coworth Park invited me to road-test the country’s latest “wow” hotel I didn’t want to turn up inappropriately propelled, still less discreetly.
Happily, then, the tranquillity of Royal Berkshire was blown apart as I swept up the driveway of this quintessentially English country retreat in a beast of quintessential English engineering.
The tweed-suited doorman at The Dorchester Collection’s newest luxury pad probably heard my approach several miles away as my rally-bred Aston Martin N420 Roadster licked along the A329, spurting a gun symphony from its sports exhaust. I always like to turn up alongside millionaires knowing I’ve got the best motor in the car park.
It’s a shame one of Coworth Park’s celebrity guests, Pierce Brosnan, wasn’t in residence. When he played 007, Pierce had to drive some BMWs, not always Astons, poor fellow. What a way to treat Bond.
Ian Fleming’s super spy would certainly feel at home at Coworth Park. The hotel spa, seen to the left as you approach the main house is sunk into a wooded hill like the super-cool lair of an evil genius. I half expected to catch Blofeld waving as I roared past.
The hotel had only been open for a few weeks when I visited. Cheryl Cole got in first, using Coworth Park as her “judge’s house” in the X Factor, but fortunately Malvern’s very own gangsta rapper, Cher Lloyd, was a distant memory by the time I checked in.
Epic renovations to the Georgian manor, which dates from 1776, the second year of the American War of Independence, got under way in 2008. Two years on, everything has bedded in nicely at the former home of the Earl of Derby.
Uniquely for a hotel, there are dedicated polo fields and an equestrian centre with stabling. Princes William and Harry used to thwack about the grounds with long-handled mallets and The Who had an office here.
Wentworth Golf Club (annual membership: sacks of cash) is nearby and Ascot is a short trot away for horse racing fans.
Later that night over dinner, I can’t help listening in as a debonair elderly couple, from Solihull, make plans to return to Coworth Park for Ascot Week. That’s for the entire week, for which you can buy a house in Dudley. Did someone say recession? What recession?
The blast of my Aston aside, peace and quiet is assured on the 240-acre estate and the hotel’s lovely décor enhances one’s sense of inner calm and outward pampering.
The Dorchester Collection, whose high-glitz portfolio includes Le Meurice and Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris as well as outposts in LA and New York, said it wanted to avoid country house clichés, so forget chintz, velvet drapes and baronial hand rails.
The feel is light, modern, classic, with oak floors, dusky textiles, muted tones, sages and naturally inspired tree motifs. It’s not a place for wet Labradors. There is a candelabra in the cocktail bar that spells LOVE and I felt a lot of it.
Coworth Park has 30 bedrooms and suites in the stately wedding cake of the Mansion House, where I stay.