Review by Fiona Duncan, published 9th August 2010.
It’s early on a Sunday morning and I wake with a jolt, worrying about my nephew, Harry. I last saw him at midnight, setting off for Tylney Hall on his Vespa, to which was attached not only a great many helium balloons, but also his wife of a few hours, Rachel.
Harry and Rachel, after a joyous wedding, are spending the first night of their honeymoon here at Tylney Hall. And so, much to his dismay, are we, though we have sworn to keep out of sight until they depart for the airport. Or rather, they will keep out of sight, holed up in their room. And that’s the bit I’m worried about: their room. Harry has worked hard to organise a memorable honeymoon on a budget, beginning with a flourish in a luxury suite that’s costing him several hundred pounds. Has he made a dreadful mistake?
I’ll find out later. My worry stems from the fact that our own suite is – well, depressing, frankly. Though it has a lovely stucco ceiling, the most prominent feature in the huge, dowdy sitting room is an acre of empty green carpet, while the four-poster bedroom is decorated with unexceptional brown furniture, velour armchairs and a timid pot plant. Awful.
Rachel and Harry are not the only bride and groom currently ensconced at Tylney Hall; yesterday there were five other pairs pottering about in their finery, one marrying in the hotel, the rest elsewhere. It gave the place a festive, egalitarian atmosphere, which it needs: Tylney Hall is a great pompous Victorian pile, built as a private home and later used as a school until it became a hotel in the mid-Eighties.
After breakfast in the packed formal dining room (which is also used for lunch and dinner – with 112 bedrooms, they badly need a brasserie as well), the Duncan family set off to discover what else Tylney Hall has to offer, apart from its vast gloomy reception rooms and vast gloomy bedrooms. And now its pleasures unfold, starting with the staff who are great and on the ball, and the atmosphere, which is relaxed and family friendly (children get goody bags on arrival).
The pleasures are all on the outside and they are considerable. Tylney Hall’s 66 acres of garden, in part designed by Gertrude Jekyll, were lost during the school years, but the hotel’s owner (who prefers anonymity and ploughs the profits into a charity, the Rotherwick Foundation) had them restored to their former glory, including stunning water gardens, Italian garden and what must be the longest vista in Hampshire. There’s also a lovely walled outdoor pool and a small spa. Sadly, Harry, hiding from us in the Duchess Suite and then legging it to Heathrow, will see none of this.
Two weeks have passed: the happy couple are back from Sicily and here’s their verdict on their first night (their massive room, it transpires, had recently been redecorated): “Wonderful. Fun. We started married life with a flourish.”
- Tylney Hall, Rotherwick (01256 764881; www.tylneyhall.co.uk). Doubles from £210 per night, including breakfast. Adapted rooms for guests with disabilities.