As a girl, books were my favorite escape, and yes, stereotypically, I loved romantic stories set in Great Britain. I dreamed of wandering the moors, English gardens, playing lawn chess and being a part of the aristocratic elite.
Imagine my delight when I was invited to stay at the Down Hall Hotel in Essex. Although the current country house dates to 1873, the manor of Down Hall first appears in the historical record all the way back in 1021. It has a long and rich history, serving many roles throughout its existence, and was turned into a luxury hotel in 1986. Today it’s an enchanting glimpse of the England I grew up reading about, with an actual lawn chess set just like the books. (To be perfectly honest, I always thought that little detail was a thing of fiction.) Unfortunately, I don’t even know how to play chess, but I did a fantastic job of admiring it!
The sight of the grand estate appearing in all of its glory after riding up the long tree lined drive is something I won’t soon forget. The stone façade and perfectly landscaped lawn made me feel like a duchess arriving for a country party.
A helpful staff greeted me in the lobby and showed me to my very large room. The house may be old, but thankfully the rooms are modern. They have not tried to maximize guests by cutting corners on the room size. My room had a huge comfy king bed, a modern bathroom with all the amenities you expect at a luxury hotel, and it even had a couch and a desk.
I’m sorry to say that I did have to use the desk as I was there for work. I would have much preferred to wander the estate the entire time I was on site, exploring all its nooks and crannies.There are countless places to wander, different gardens, and a fountain—and that’s just outside the house.
I did, however, attend a garden party during my stay. There was a barbeque with all the fixings. Not to mention a variety of desserts including Belgian waffles that were so delicious, I had two! In addition to the food, there was a game of giant Jenga set-up, and of course what English garden party would be complete without croquet?
Inside, there are multiple sitting rooms where guests can enjoy a coffee or cocktail while reading a book or, more likely, given the century we’re in, scrolling through their phone.
Speaking of drinks, the fully stocked bar has a space that feels almost like a speakeasy. It can be found after walking through several sitting rooms. The cozy room has space for seating, but guests are free to take their drinks and explore.
Down Hall Estate offers outdoor dining as well as a full service accommodation indoors. They also have the Eden Spa, which I did not get to try on this trip, but next time I won’t miss it.
All in all, this stay checked all the boxes of a romantic stay in the English countryside, evoking all the romantic touches I sighed over in novels, while still staying within close proximity to the airport and London. However, if you’re like me, you probably won’t want to leave Down Hall Estate, no matter how close the city might be..
Keri Lumm is a professional chatterbox who loves watching TV & movies, reading about pop culture, and gawking at any craziness on the internet. You can follow Keri on Twitter.