For too long, I dismissed The Grove as a ‘golf hotel’. I was invited to visit several years ago, and promised that I could even stay in the same room as Tiger Woods. (Presumably not at the same time.)
As I am not particularly a fan of golf, Mr Woods or serial adulterers, I decided to give it a miss.
If you’ve ever stayed somewhere like The Belfry, then you’ll know what I mean about ‘golf hotels’. When the hotel bar also incorporates a number of glass-walled conference rooms, there’s something fundamentally not right: the boundaries between business and pleasure should never be so overtly blurred.
But to have unfairly placed The Grove in the same category was a gross misjudgement.
Yes, there is golf at The Grove. And not just any old golf. World-class championship golf on greens so pristine I had to check they were real grass.
Yet there is so much more. Indeed, I’ve stayed on three occasions now – it’s become a firm family favourite – and every time we discover something new. Allow me to take you for a tour…
The Grove Spa and Estate
Set in 300 acres of rolling Hertfordshire countryside, the historic manor house stands at the heart of the estate. First references to The Grove – or ‘La Grava’ as it was back then – date back to 1294. In more recent history, it was the family seat of the Earls of Clarendon, the Villiers family, from 1776 to the 1920s.
And now it stands as a country house hotel on the outskirts of Rickmansworth – a handy Met line trip from the centre of town.
Much like ‘golf hotel’, the ‘country house hotel’ label can be equally disconcerting – dusty tapestries, worn carpets, and creaky plumbing just a handful of their trademarks. Again, The Grove couldn’t be further from this – it’s thoroughly contemporary inside with striking interior design, beautiful art, and even a modern sculpture park set within its formal gardens.
The Glasshouse restaurant was only refurbished two years ago, and as the name suggests is flanked by a huge domed glass wall letting the light and garden views flood in. The hotel’s main restaurant, it’s big enough to accommodate couples and families – and as my wife put it, “you’re allowed to feel like a grown-up without feeling guilty for being a parent”.
If the weather is fine, then there are few prettier places to enjoy al fresco than the Glasshouse courtyard.
That said, for a less formal affair, you can head to The Stables, which is adorned with its own courtyard facing the golf course.
The breakfast buffet at The Glasshouse is a thing of wonder – and worth the trip to Zone 7 alone. I’ve been to those bonkers ones in Dubai – and this matches them for diversity and trumps them for quality.
The Grove Walled Garden
After you’ve stacked up on breakfast, it’s time to explore. The walled garden is without doubt our favourite part of The Grove. Pass the two giant fire pits, through the secure doors, and then a magical world beckons. OK, that sounds a bit Disney. But it is really special. There are huge deck chairs large enough to fit two grown adults; there’s a life-size topiary of a giraffe; there’s a sprawling herb and vegetable garden that provides for the hotel’s kitchens; there’s a mini football pitch, table tennis tables, and a giant chess board. And then there’s a further inner sanctum – an outdoor pool (heated to a deliciously warm temperature), a beach bar, an icecream bar and an actual sand beach.
As well as a small indoor pool for the kids, there’s a large one just for the adults. The award-winning Sequoia spa is adult-only, and alongside its super-stylish black-mosaic pool, there’s the state-of-the-art fitness studio, heat experience rooms and treatment rooms.
If you can drag yourself away from the spa, then there are so many activities to do here, you’ll want to extend your stay. Think: archery lessons and laser clay-pigeon shooting; bushcraft and survival camps; segway experiences; woodland trails and bike rides; tennis and swimming.
And there’s even golf, if you really must.
For more information, go to thegrove.co.uk