The Manor Country House Hotel
I was kindly invited to photograph this beautiful hotel, a Manor House dating back to the 12th century. With an exterior similar to a castle, first impressions are pretty impressive with a tree lined gravel driveway leading down to the entrance, where you then enter through the heavy wooden door to be greeted in the main lounge area and reception by a roaring log fire and oil paintings adorning the walls. We were personally shown to our room, which was a huge suite overlooking the main courtyard. There are 28 rooms, classically furnished with antiques, comfortable sofas and a feel as though you are travelling back into a less frenetic age.
The recorded history of this magnificent Manor House spans over 900 years when the Normans arrived in Britain under William the Conquerer and went about taken over all of the Saxon manors. A Manor House was in existence here in the early medieval period, when it became the seat of the Abbot of Osney's bailiff, who held his courts in the Baron's Hall which is now the present dining room. This and the hall's original chapel are the earliest parts of the building.
Transport links are excellent to get here, we drove the short distance from Bedfordshire in about an hour, if you want to take the train, Chiltern Railways operate a service out of Marylebone in London to Bicester Village station travelling through the countryside and you can be there in about 50 minutes. A taxi from Bicester Village railway station will take a further 10 minutes and cost about £15. The hotel boasts a tennis court , a secluded outdoor swimming pool, croquet on the lawn and resplendent gardens to take a leisurely walk, dogs are even allowed for a small additional charge.
I was impressed by the furnishings, thick floral curtains, white cotton linen and the comfort of both the sofas and the bed. Around the hotel there are thick wooden panelled rooms, antiques and portraits hanging on the wall. High speed WiFi and flat screen TVs catered for those that require the modern life amenities. Weddings are catered for at the Manor House and you can just image the scene on a summer's day with guests mingling on the manicured lawns and terraces.
For a photographer this location was perfect. The architecture was so impressive, with a castellated front aspect to the view from the end of the tree lined driveway. The plants climbing up the brickwork and that huge union jack fluttering in the wind all presented themselves to be captured by the camera.
Dining at the hotel is very imaginative and delicious. For £42 the three course dinner for me consisted of smoke duck breast, carrot puree, pickle red cabbage, celeriac slaw and candy orange for starters. The main course was pan seared stone bass, saffron potato, grelot onions, sun dried salsa tomato and salsa verdi. To round off the dinner I opted for a trio of chocolate delice, vanilla crumble, raspberry gel and vanilla ice cream. Presentation was immaculate and the service was both efficient and courteous.
The large bathroom area was spotless with towels warmed gently on the heated radiator and matching towelled bath robes and slippers. Complimentary toiletries were displayed for use in either the shower or bath depending on your preference.
You could easily just spend the day lounging by the log fire with a complimentary newspaper or magazine, in your room reading a book by the window or taking a stroll in the grounds. The Cotswolds are on your doorstep and Oxford and Blenheim Palace are about 10 miles away. We chose to drive the scenic route to Burford in the Cotswolds where we had afternoon tea at Huffkins a favourite bakery and tea room of ours which has been trading since 1890...the cream teas are scrumptious.
Our weekend break was completed on the Sunday with the short drive from the hotel to Bicester Village. Home to more than 160 fashion and lifestyle boutiques, each offers savings of up to 60%, all year round. A tip here, if you do intend to visit the village, arrive early to beat the crowds, it is a very popular location and the car park gets full very quickly.
The Manor Country House Hotel is a perfect location to get away from it all for a weekend, like a sporting country club, with a delightful ambience, comfortable accommodation and fine dining. Only an hour from the capital and with so many attractions nearby it is ideally situated within the Cotswolds area.
For disabled access there is a ground-floor bedroom with a walk-in shower in the Coach House and the eating areas are accessible by a ramp.
Thank you to The Manor Country House Hotel for having us to stay!
Our stay was complimentary. As always, all opinions are my own.