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A weekend at Whittlebury Hall

One of the wonderful advantages of living near the golden sands of Bournemouth and Sandbanks, apart from the obvious, is you don’t feel compelled to bomb down to the sea, along with everyone else in the country, to dip you’re toes in the briny, when the sun threatens to show its face.

One of the wonderful advantages of living near the golden sands of Bournemouth and Sandbanks, apart from the obvious, is you don't feel compelled to bomb down to the sea, along with everyone else in the country, to dip you're toes in the briny, when the sun threatens to show its face. And so it was last weekend, as the roads into Dorset were stacked with the seething and the sweating, my wife and I headed inland on open, empty roads that I imagine made driving in the 1950s a much greater pleasure than it is today.

Our first destination was Oxford, where the dreaming spires of yesteryear are not so prominent on the approaching roads today, obscured as they are by more imposing buildings, although a taste of the past of the cradle of learning, can still be savoured. When Ronnie Corbett quipped: “My nephew has just got into Oxford after three years of trying… I told him to stay off the ring road”, he actually wasn't kidding, as our previous, open road serendipity came to a grinding halt on the notorious A34. However, Sarah googled the park and ride for Oxford and when we finally came to the turning, located off the A34 ,south of the city, the carpark had barely any cars in it. We hopped on a bus and were in the heart of the city in 20 minutes, where we enjoyed a leisurely walk by the Thames, marvelling at the history of academia.

Returning to the car, our next destination was Whittlebury, where we were booked into Whittlebury Hall. The Satnav negotiated a country route around the A34 and we were at Whittlebury in 45 minutes. Turning down the long driveway, the immaculate Whittlebury Park Golf Course to the left, and with Silverstone Race Track walkable from the hotel, whether you're a golfer or a car racing fan, Whittlebury Hall is really well placed. As we approached the imposing building, classic in design but benefiting from being quite recently built with all mod cons, we remarked that, unlike many country hotels which can be a bit quiet and isolated, clearly this was a vibrant venue with lots going on, with guests of all ages and walks of life enjoying the facilities. From the moment we got there, the staff were welcoming friendly and helpful and we were in our modern, spacious and homely room in minutes.

As theHRDIRECTOR puts on many roundtable events throughout the year, I was keen to have a look around the business and conference facilities, and Whittlebury Hall's central location is a logistical plus when you have delegates from all over the UK, as we regularly do. Kimberly gave us the tour, and showed us a wide variety of conference facilities to suit just about every size and format, from more intimate rooms to larger rooms, all naturally lit,  with kitchens, rest rooms, reception areas and outside areas all easily accessible and all very adaptable for individual needs. Whittlebury boasts 20 spacious conference and training suites, 29 fully serviced syndicate rooms, an executive boardroom, including secluded private dining rooms, two conference and banqueting suites that can cater for up to 500 delegates.

After a relaxing lunch and drink on the terrace of the Silverstone bar, we had a walk and decided we should work off the paninis to make way for the evening and a three course meal in the hotel's Aston's restaurant. So to the leisure club, which is free to residents, where we found a spectacular, state-of-the-art gym, with every conceivable machine in multiples. After 30 minutes of exertion, we wrapped up in dressing gowns and made our way down to the huge indoor pool, applique with saunas, a steam room and Jacuzzi. It was a thoroughly relaxing afternoon, setting us up perfectly for the excesses of the evening.

Aston's was vibrant and busy in the evening, but we were shown to our table immediately, and our welcoming and friendly waiter Ily, was attentive throughout the evening. Sarah and I both chose the tian of crayfish starter, followed by sea bass for Sarah, whilst I enjoyed the pulled pork. Then we both had the Eton mess which completed the meal admirably. The next morning, and after a sumptuous buffet breakfast, with just about every conceivable breakfast option, we checked out of Whittlebury and headed to our last destination, Bletchley Park, located just 17 miles from the hotel. This is a fascinating museum displaying the original Enigma machines, plus some meticulously constructed replicas, and what was really compelling was to see the exercise books full of information gleaned by Bletchley Park throughout the war, which helped enable the Allies to keep one step ahead of the enemy, and eventually win. What was most fascinating was the reverent hush with which visitors of all ages enjoyed and learned from the many artefacts, and the fact that it wasn't too long ago that these events happened, which made it a very compelling experience. And so the journey home and a very enjoyable adventure of inland Britain, whilst everybody else, it seems, headed for the coast. On the way back I think I even recognised a few red faces on their slow return home, as we sped by in the opposite direction.
 

www.whittleburyhall.co.uk/

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