A Country Escape Within the M25
Everyone likes to escape from the city occasionally, but it is sometimes hard to find the time. A country retreat just outside London is the perfect answer.
Sometimes it is hard to appreciate what is right on your doorstep. If you live in a bustling city, on a rugged coastline or in the depths of a National Park, visitors will often gasp in wonder and say how fortunate you are. Yet you will probably be more aware of the traffic, the seemingly endless sea winds rattling the window or the inconvenience of having a 30 minute drive to the nearest supermarket.
Londoners are certainly as guilty of this as any, yet when you look at it from an outsider’s point of view, it really is a unique city. As one of the world’s most important business and cultural hubs, it has everything. Historic buildings rub shoulders with futuristic modern architecture, leading brands fill the West End and leading companies are based in the city.
Yet while you could say this for many cities, what really sets London apart is the rapidity with which you can be out of the city and into rolling countryside and historic country homes that seem to have stepped straight out of a Jane Austen novel. This country retreat in Hertfordshire is a perfect case in point.
Escape to the country
West Lodge was built some time in the 1400s, and is set in 30 acres of wooded parkland. It was a private residence till the 1920s, and you definitely feel as if you are arriving on the set of Downton Abbey as you drive down the winding approach and see the ancient and imposing country house looming large.
In 1924, the property became a hotel, making it one of the first country houses to take a step that many have subsequently followed. Initially, it was predominantly aimed at well-to-do elderly people, many of whom lived there on a permanent basis, enjoying a quiet retreat in their twilight years.
If that sounds a little Fawlty Towers, it all changed after the war, when both the building and the facilities were modernised, and the blend of modern luxury with old fashioned style and sophistication that has made the place such a success began to take shape.
Today, the hotel boasts a stunning fine dining restaurant, yoga retreats, shooting breaks and golf stays. It has 58 rooms, and being such a historic building, they all have a unique style and their own story to tell.
When you arrive at the hotel, you do not just feel as if you are in another time, but also another place. Surely, this must be the heart of the Cotswolds or somewhere in the Yorkshire Dales? You really have to pinch yourself to believe you are less than two miles from the nearest tube station, and that Junction 24 of the M25 is just a five minute drive up the road.
With transport links like that, it really is the perfect retreat for anyone in London or indeed elsewhere in the south east, who just wants to get away from it all.