If you’ve visited Waddesdon Manor (and if not why not? it’s gorgeous!) you may have driven past a grand Victorian half-timbered and iron-wrought house just on the corner before you turn into the Manor driveway. That house is actually the Five Arrows Hotel, part of the Waddesdon Estate and working hard to establish itself in its own right rather than as an adjunct to the great manor, offering wine tasting evenings, black tie dinners, and even weddings.
Last summer it developed what it rather grandly calls the Old Coach House wing (it’s more of a stand alone annex but I like the ambition!). Originally an area used to store coaches in the 18th Century, it now houses five new modern en suite rooms, decorated with various antiques from the Manor, bringing the total number of bedrooms at The Five Arrows to 16 – more than enough or a special-occasion party or large family gathering.
I stayed just before Christmas in the new rooms, which are a deliberate departure from the more traditional, clunky decor in the main house. Let me tell you, it was a massively welcome retreat from December’s crazy working and socialising, with the bonus of being close enough to home (20 minutes or so away) to make packing and getaway easy.
Every hotel has its secret weapon and The Five Arrow’s crack shot is Horatio, a Spanish waiter (not at all Faulty Towers-ish as it happens) who’s been at the hotel for years, and is utterly charming, friendly and informed.
He welcomed us to the hotel (we arrived late, around 7pm), just in time for champagne in the small bar area before moving through for dinner, and really made the night for us. Service was impeccable but don’t expect wonders from the restaurant decor – that carpet will hurt your eyes, and the lighting could have been turned down three notches, but the food on the night we ate deserved its AA Rosette status.
We happily troughed through three courses and drank a fabulous bottle of Rothschild red (Waddesdon is a Rothschild estate so the wine list at the hotel is impressive)…
… but the bedroom was always going to be the star of this show really, because pre-Christmas I was running on empty and rampantly wanted to… sleeeeeep. Sorry Mr Muddy, that fourth angelic child you’ve been begging for – because what man doesn’t crave toys throughout the house and no personal space? – will just have to wait.
So the rooms. They’re modern with elegant, inoffensive styling, furnished with occasional antiques from the main house.
Unlike some of the main house rooms which look out onto the main road, these face a pretty courtyard to the side of the house.
Quiet too – there’s a fantastic private dining space underneath the rooms but I heard not a thing of the party going on underneath my feet as my Muddy head thudded to the pillow after about three too many glasses of champagne.
Breakfast could have been immense – the cost of the room includes cooked brekky – but I was so stuffed I could only knock back, um, three croissants…
We could have gone into Waddesdon Manor itself for free as part of the deal too – it might be good to tie a trip in with one of Waddesdon’s big events if you’re not near enough for a day trip – but my mother was wimpering to be released from overnight childcare, so we gave in and headed back home, well rested.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Large family get-togethers at reasonable prices; Waddesdon Manor fans who don’t want to a massive car journey home at the end of the day; locals looking for some low-stress R&R away from the kids. Business types looking for somewhere to rest their heads for the night.
Not for: Gourmands. The food is good but not Heston-style spectacular. Girlie nights aren’t the forte as there’s no spa and the styling is quite masculine in the communal spaces. Interiors junkies will faint at that goddamn bar/restaurant carpet!
££: Really good value. Dinner, Bed and Breakfast is from £80.00 per person per night, including a three course dinner and full English breakfast (and £70pp on Friday nights!). If you’re a National Trust member (and can prove it, no cheating now) you get 10% off the price of a standard room and 20% off the price of a suite excluding Saturday nights.