The Ickworth Hotel is set in 1,800 acres of rolling parkland designed by Capability Brown.
This month Rachel Ducker was invited along to The Ickworth Hotel to discover what makes this venue stand out from the crowd.
‘The hotel itself is unmistakably grand, all the high ceilings and aristocratic touches you’d expect of an 18th century ancestral home.
The most striking thing you’ll notice as you arrive, heading up the estate’s long drive, is the Rotunda.
At over 100 feet high, this impressive building was the brainchild of Fredrick Augustus, 4th Earl of Bristol and the Bishop of Derry (also known as the Earl-Bishop), created to house his estranged family and provide galleries for his art collection, but more about the history later!
Upon arrival, although grand in its appearance, there was a pleasant family feel to this hotel. The Ickworth is a place that manages to strike a perfect balance between being truly lovely for the grown ups and welcoming kids (and pets) with open arms. I loved seeing the wellie boots lined up at the main entrance!
All of the rooms are name after regular guests during its halcyon days. There are 27 rooms in the main hotel, which are individually furnished, in keeping with the classical style of the building.
“Our room was a first floor room, named ‘Lord Bristol’ with views over the beautiful designed gardens through a large sash window.”
Decorated in traditional country house style, it is impressive to still see original features, such as the fireplace. You may spot photos around the building of how the hotel used to look before renovation; this is how we noticed the fireplace had been there for some time.
As it was a warm day, my partner and I decided to head straight down to the swimming pool. The pool is a two minute walk from the main building, with unisex changing rooms, lockers, hairdryers and complimentary bags for your wet swimwear. As dusk fell and it began to get dark, it was a serene experience to enjoy a quiet swim before dinner.
Speaking of which, there are two restaurants at the hotel. The Conservatory, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and the adult-only fine dining restaurant Frederick’s. Fredrick’s has more sophisticated fare, serving fine modern European cuisine by candlelight. As there was just the two of us, we decided to eat here. Before heading into the restaurant, we enjoyed some cocktails in the lounge, whilst browsing the menus. Those who know me will know that I am a true Martini fan. I can honestly say I enjoyed one of my best ever Martinis on this evening, so I definitely recommend trying one.
I was also delighted to see a whole menu specifically for vegetarians. As a selective vegetarian sometimes veggie menus can be rather dull and boring… but not this one!
To start I chose the Grilled Haloumi & Black Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Pomegranate & Harissa Dressing. The kick of the Harissa matched the Haloumi flavour and texture perfectly, whilst the Pomegranite added a sweet crunch.
This was all followed by a main course of Roasted Cauliflower Steak, Pan Fried Paneer, Lemon Yogurt & Herb Falafel. I was baffled about how the Cauliflower Steak was so well cooked. The Paneer cheese cooked on site was not over powering, nor underwhelming and the Falafel was simply delicious. I am not sure which course I enjoyed the most?
Meanwhile my ‘carnivore’ of a partner went with the a modern take on Ham, Egg & Peas which consisted of Ham Hock, Pea Veloute, Soft Egg & Summer Truffle, a really delightful summer dish followed by the Roast Rump of Lamb with Smoked Aubergine, Tomato Tartare, Parsley Risotto & Black Garlic Jus.
I always look forward to the finale and this time it didn’t disappointed as I spotted one of my favourite ingredients… Rhuburb! So the Elderflower Pannacotta, Poached Rhuburb & Ginger Shortbread was a highlight for me, however as a chocolate lover, my partner conquered and preferred his Chocolate Brownie with Marshmallow & English Strawberry Ice Cream.
We were lucky enough at the end of our meal to be given a guided tour by restaurant manager Adam, who knows pretty much everything about Ickworth Hotel, giving a fascinating insight into Ickworth’s history and workings.
He showed us how the household functioned, with staff tunnels in the basements, while the historical treasures above ground, including a Gainsborough, Titian and Velasquez – reflecting how the other half once lived. Plus a secret room, but ask about that on your visit!
The grounds are extensive, beautiful and perfect for enjoying a relaxing stroll or borrowing a bike (some of which have toddler trailers) and setting off around the estate.
If that sounds too energetic, you can opt to snooze by the fire in one of the plush drawing rooms while the kid raise cane in the crèche. There is also a cinema for the kids to enjoy a movie daily at 6pm. Speaking of children, one of the genius things about The Ickworth, however, is the listening service they offer, which allows parents to tuck their little ones up in bed, and then head downstairs for a drink or to dine in Frederick’s.
At first, (having no children yet), we weren’t sure what this strange looking contraption was but it all became clear by the end of our stay.
I also found out there were also treatment rooms – one thing all ladies can appreciate on a break away and another thing to note.
Overall the Ickworth presented us with a place to relax in, whilst providing incredible food and a first-rate source of outdoor adventures. This is certainly a place we will be revisiting again soon!’
For more information visit ickworthhotel.co.uk
Phone: 0844 482 2152