• Country life: Christmas at Chilston Park

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    Chilston Park Hotel is a country house ideal for corporate events, which comes into its own at Christmas. Amelia Walker gets into the seasonal spirit, courtesy of the venue’s festive showcase

    If you’re looking for countryside opulence, let me steer you in the direction of Chilston Park Hotel. Set back from tree-lined lanes, the manor house is tucked away in 22 acres of rolling Kent countryside. The Grade I-listed hotel is steeped in 17th-century heritage and offers a wide variety of unique feature bedrooms, from mews Classic double rooms to the Manor House master suites and is the ideal setting for an intimate break or an inspiring meeting venue close to London.

    Over the years Chilston Park has been home to eminent politicians, writers, lords and viscounts. Today, it is a classic British country house hotel with style and charm to spare and is bursting with antiques, some as old as the house itself.

    The day I visit, the sun is shining and the weather is hot as I drive along the country lanes, windows down, sunroof open. The scent of mowed grass wafts in and the greenery and colourful wild plumes evoke a quintessentially British canvas as I turn into the long sweeping drive, which carries me through acres of scenic farmland towards the lake and to the front door of the house.

    First impressions? The house is welcoming, with corridors of portraits and artworks, tables with potpourri and flowers underneath glass, private drawing rooms with mini chandeliers and treacle-coloured wood galore. Located just a one hour train journey from London Victoria, it’s easily accessible from the capital by rail or road and is just 45 minutes from the port of Dover.

    I’ve been invited to sample the Chef’s Festive Dinner – a six-course seasonal feast and traditional celebrations in advance of the festive season. “Following a merry evening you’ll stay overnight in one of the charming rooms” says the invite – and I am granted the privilege of checking into Tudor, otherwise known as the Bridal Suite, a loft hideaway in the form of open-plan living. There’s a lounge with a dining room table; the bathroom is particularly lovely, with its vast roll-top bath and waterfall showers – the showerhead is the size of a dinner plate. There’s plenty of Handpicked Hotels bath products too – so be sure to stock up on them when you leave. The enormous boudoir rocks a princess and the pea bed and the main bedroom is so generous in size that my colleague knocked for me to escort me downstairs to the welcome drinks with hosts Thierry Jung, General Manager, and Sharla Payne, Regional Sales Manager – and I didn’t hear him.

    We tour the premises before dinner. The house offers countless possibilities for work, rest, or play. If you’re looking to hold an event highlights in the main house include the Orangery, which is ideal for u-shaped meetings and comes with open access to the hotel’s lawns. The Star Room offers a perfect option for boardroom meetings and the larger Fitzhammond Suite has a reception capacity of up to 150. Alternatively, The Coach House is situated in the original stable block for cabaret meetings or training events. After a busy day, wind down with a drink in one of the lounges before fine dining at Culpeper’s, where Head Chef Rohan Nevins is at the helm. Romney salt marsh lamb, classic sole “Meuniere”, saffron cocottes and roasted breast of guinea fowl are just a few examples of dishes on the menu to whet your appetite.

    Chilston Park has played host to traditional Christmas celebrations for 300 years and tonight we dine in style in the private library room, which is tastefully decorated to reflect the occasion. A special twist on the traditional Christmas menu is served – five fantastic courses, each accompanied with excellent fine wines. It is a great place to celebrate Christmas, be it with family or work colleagues – and what with the 53 bedrooms available, why not stay the night, with preferential accommodation available at special prices? At Chilston, you’ll be struck by the feeling that you have been welcomed into someone’s home.

    Find out more at handpickedhotels.co.uk/chilstonpark

  • AUTHOR

    Amelia Walker

    Editor – PA Life

    All stories by: Amelia Walker