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A Blooming Treasure

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What is it?

A Grade I-listed country-house hotel with 35 acres of gardens attributed to pioneering Victorian horticulturalist – and forefather of the English natural garden – William Robinson. The house is hidden in 1,000 acres of forested grounds, so it feels secluded and remote but is in fact only 12 miles from Gatwick Airport.

Behind the scenes

Built in 1598 by local ironmaster Richard Infield for his wife Katherine, the house remained in the family for several hundred years. It was bought by William Robinson in 1884 and became the setting for his sometimes radical gardening ideas; he also commissioned vast, ornate fireplaces for the house. After Robinson’s death in 1935, the house was commandeered by the Canadian forces during World War II (the woods were used to store ammunition). It was bought in 1958 by hotelier Peter Herbert, who transformed it into one of Britain’s first country-house hotels. A new wing was built in the 1990s, using stone from the same quarry as the original; current owners Jeremy and Elizabeth Hosking restored and renovated the house in 2010.

Description: The garden at Gravetye, created by William Robinson in the 19th century

The garden at Gravetye, created by William Robinson in the 19th century

Sleep

The 17 individually designed bedrooms and suites are named after trees found in the grounds, although there is no reference to this in the décor. While magnificent leaded windows frame the landscape wonderfully, and the room are furnished with exquisite antiques, the interiors are very restrained (My mother and I were underwhelmed by the bland pastel colour scheme in our room, ’Pear’).All room have free Wi-Fi and Bose iPod docks.

Eat

Executive chef Rupert Gleadow uses ingredients from the kitchen garden whenever possible for his excellent Modern British cuisine. As you would expect from a country-house hotel, the menu features game dishes with bite. Standouts include breast of local wood pigeon with garden-squash spaghetti, pickled red cabbage and blackberry sauce, and roast loin of (Wonderfully tinder) Balcombe venison with wine-poached pears, onion purée and rich sloe-gin sauce. The fig custard tart with cinnamon marshmallow and flapjack ice cream was a lovely, light way to finish the meal.

Description: Executive chef Rupert Gleadow uses ingredients from the kitchen garden whenever possible for his excellent Modern British cuisine

Executive chef Rupert Gleadow uses ingredients from the kitchen garden whenever possible for his excellent Modern British cuisine

Who goes there?

Horticulture enthusiasts; wedding parties and newly-weds before jetting off on honeymoon from Gatwick airport; in the warmer months, opera-goers heading to Glyndebourne.

What’s there to do?

Nearby: wander around East Grinstead’s timber-framed old town; the older shops sell second-hand books, fishing tackle and hunting equipment. In spring, visit the Bluebell Railway (So called because beautiful bluebells line the tracks) to see steam trains chugging along, A number of historical houses – Standen, Hever Castle – are also close by. In the grounds: lounge in front of the open fires downstairs , explore the garden, go trout-fishing, and have a try at deerstalking.

Description: You can visit The  Bluebell Railway in Spring

You can visit The  Bluebell Railway in Spring

Description: And Hever Castle

And Hever Castle…

We like

The warm and engaging staff; the natural spring water that has been serving Gravetye since the 16th century; the food. But best of all, the views from every room are incredible: the overlapping rounded hills look like a child’s painting.

We don’t like

Parked cars directly in front of the building somewhat hinder the view on arrival; there was no alcohol in the minibar.

The price

Doubles from $300, including full English breakfast.

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