CHECKING IN: Sopwell House

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Located just north of London in St Albans, Sopwell House has been the subject of a £14m investment programme. And it shows. This exclusive, but warm and friendly, hotel and spa offers great facilities for business users and leisure guests – with a visit to the impressive Cottonmill Spa a must. PA Life checked in to find out more…

Nestled within the Hertfordshire countryside, Sopwell House is an impressive 17th Century Georgian country house and the former home of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

Members of the Mountbatten family continued to use the residence until the end of the Second World War, after which it was used as a home for the elderly before being converted into a hotel in 1969, with the present owner purchasing the property in 1986.

A family run business, Sopwell House now boasts 128 luxury rooms, award-winning conferencing and banqueting centre, two restaurants, two bars, state-of-the-art spa, gym and dance studio.

A popular destination for leisure and corporate clients, the hotel is just 20 minutes from St Pancras International by train via the local city of St Albans, and an hour from Central London by car. Heathrow and Stansted Airports are also both an hour’s drive away, which makes the hotel ideally situated for business guests flying in from around the UK or internationally.

Approaching Sopwell House, one is met with the grandeur of the building, which has been tastefully modernised by the current owner. A large reception area accommodates guests on arrival, managed by friendly, helpful staff. 

Our stay would be in one of the 16 Mews Suites, separate from the hotel. Originally traditional farmhouse cottages and buildings, the Mews Suites have been transformed to offer guests premium accommodation and greater privacy, located opposite the hotel through their own private, electronic gates. Beautifully landscaped gardens include an array of spectacular water features and dark wicker seating areas leading up to a raised communal hydro pool exclusively for Mews guests. 

Our suite would be Willow Mews, a ground floor studio style apartment which benefited from its own private terraced area and hot tub. Furnishings were plush and interior decoration elegant. For entertainment, two flat screen TVs located opposite the king size bed and the comfortable seating area contain Sky HD box and full sports package, a very nice touch. A large digital radio was also available to us, along with other services such as a fridge/mini bar and coffee machine. Heating consisted of a modern air conditioning unit, or one could opt to use the stylish gas fire within the seating area. The large, modern bathroom featured an overhead rain shower, plus single head shower attachment, along with adjustable, backlit mirrors.

A complimentary, super-fast broadband connection is provided across the whole of the hotel and Mews Suites, useful for business lunches and meetings. Located in the main hotel is the UK’s first private members’ spa, Cottonmill. Guests can partake in a variety of treatments or use the equipment in the high-tech gym. Swimming pool, vitality pools, sauna, steam room and poolside terrace are all available, with an upgrade to ‘The Club’ possible at a supplemental charge for guests looking for a truly indulgent experience. Club members are given private access to the inner sanctum, which boasts a massaging hydrotherapy pool, spa garden with cabanas and firepits, hot tubs and calming environments such as the the very quiet Whisper Room. 

Post-spa session and pre-dinner, we headed to the cocktail lounge which features beverages created with the history of Sopwell House and the area in mind, such as the ‘1603,’ ‘King Old Henry’ and ‘Sir Ricky Lee.’ Both bar areas are available for hosting meetings, while the a la carte menu from the popular Brasserie is available for those looking to host business lunches. Afternoon tea can be taken in the lounge areas or can be enjoyed outside in the gardens, designed and landscaped by RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court Palace Flower Show Gold award winner, Ann-Marie Powell.

15 function suites are available to hire to suit all needs, from boardroom meetings to larger conferences and product launches in the ‘St Alban Suite,’ which can accommodate up to 700 guests and offers access to the hotel’s gardens. The hotel also works with a selection of team building companies offering a variety of activities, making it a perfect location when considering a corporate awayday. 

Our evening meal in the award-winning, two AA Rosette Restaurant was a fantastic experience – ambient and accent lighting, a feature wine wall and grand piano setting the atmosphere for the evening – and was very reasonably priced, with starters from £10.50, main courses from £20,00 and desserts from £8.50. Supplemented by a good bottle of wine, expertly chosen by the polite and knowledgeable sommelier.

Perfect for hosting conferences and corporate events, business lunches and meetings, or executives looking for luxury accommodation, Sopwell House has it all, along with an elegant class that reflects its rich heritage. 

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    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien