When the UK summer starts, after weeks of biting cold, you should be able to ditch the coat.

But it’s August and I’m still donning a winter wardrobe.

With that depressing thought in mind, it makes the time we spend away from our desks even more precious.

The weekend getaway is fast becoming our ‘go to’ option and just the medicine we need to cheer us up.

And rather surprisingly, you don’t have to venture too far in order to ‘switch off’.

Last weekend, I drove one hour outside of London to Down Hall Country House Hotel, set in the idyllic Essex countryside.

As one of England’s most established country house hotels, the impressive manor spans across 110 acres.

Located off the beaten track in Hatfield Heath, the 1322 country house straddles the Essex and Hertfordshire border.

Dusting off our weekend car, we set off to enjoy whatever glimpse of sun we might see and find out if you really can get away, an hour outside of London.

As we navigated the winding driveway passing bellowing willows and rows of perfectly trimmed hedges, the impressive Italianate mansion came into our view.

The historic property retains all of its traditional charm, and as the tyres rolled across the gravel we breathed out a sigh of relief.

Summer might be hit and miss, but our staycation was far from bleak.

We were greeted by the friendly staff who swiftly checked us in, before taking us up three flights of stairs to the top floor.

There behind a locked white door was our room.

Although, as we were about to discover, you couldn’t really call it ‘just’ a room.

As the bell man put our bags down we walked into the suite.

The gorgeous deluxe room hosted a beautiful king size bed, elegant lounge area and double grand bathroom.


But the real selling point was waiting for us outside, beyond the adjoining French doors.

Walking through the double doors, there overlooking the 110 acres, was our amazing rooftop terrace.

Now this was a getaway.

After freshening up we went on an exploring expedition.

Discovering our room wasn’t the only large scale thing, we ogled at high ceilings and winding staircases.

Surprisingly the afternoon sun had reared its head, making for a pleasant walk around the grounds.

If ever we had wanted peace and serenity, this was the place we’d get it.

The only sounds to be heard were branches snapping underneath our wellies and birds busily forming nests, as the trees neatly met each other in the middle overhead.

As we meandered back to the house, we smiled in awe of the property.

Vines crept across the yellowstone and the grand manor glistened in the evening sun.


After going for what only can be described as a swim in the gigantic bathtub, I enjoyed a glass of wine on the roof terrace in my white robe.

I could spend every weekend like this.

An hour later we were sat in the intimate dining room, amongst candle lit tables housing other city escapees.

Tucking into delicious mouth-watering steak, whilst enjoying a bottle of recommended merlot, we gorged on the five star menu.

Patting our full tums we couldn’t wait to go back for breakfast.

We retired into the bar where we order a couple of cocktails and sat in oversized armchairs.

A newlywed bride walked through smiling and laughing, confirming why people chose this idyllic setting for their weddings.

After four more drinks, the fresh air had knocked us out and it was time to experience the soft sheets in perhaps the largest bed I’d ever slept in.


Before we knew it the sun was streaming through the sheer curtains leading out to the terrace.

In the blink of an eye we’d slept through the night, with nothing but crickets to disturb us.

The eagerly anticipated breakfast did not disappoint.

A delicious buffet of cooked breakfast mixed with cereals and juices lay before us.

Sufficiently stuffed, we ventured into the nearby village of Tring, where we walked to the thatched windmill.

Driving along the country roads was the perfect remedy for escaping the city life.

The smell of freshly mowed fields and country air floated through the air con system.

Making our way back to Down Hall, we were once again being fed, enjoying a decadent afternoon tea in the lounge area.

Finally it was time for the part I had been most looking forward to, the luxurious inhouse spa.

Cue the tranquil music and the hypnotic patter of the whirlpool.

Pressure water jets pummelled down onto my back, and the built up tension began to leave me.

15 minutes later, after being greeted by a perfectly manicured masseuse, I was face down with a towel covering my modesty.

“Which pressure would you like?” She asked, while  pouring a warm fragrant oil over my back.

“As strong as you like,” I replied.

As she kneaded out the knots in my muscles, I forgot about the pressures of work and life and just switched off.

Desperately trying not to fall asleep, 50 minutes flew by and before I knew it the massage was over.

Feeling a revived sense of calm, I enjoyed the outdoor relaxation area.

As the end of our weekend drew closer and the prospects of work crept back into my head, I realised this had been exactly what I needed.

Whatever the weather, time away recharging is crucial.

The reality is we can never count on the weather.

We have no control over whether it rains or shines.

But one thing we can always control is the time spent away from work.

It’s only when you come to the end of your staycation, that you truly realise just how much you need to relax.

So the proof is in the pudding (which was delicious by the way), you can find a peace haven just an hour outside of London.

Leave a Reply