As Downton Abbey draws ever closer to the popular period drama's grand finale, HELLO! magazine's Thomas Whitaker goes in search of the perfect Downton getaway, where he's Lord of the Manor...
Gravetye Manor, a truly great country house hotel boasting one of England’s most beautiful and original gardens, is situated at the end of a mile-long drive and built in 1598.
CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL GALLERY
Located less than 40 miles from London in East Sussex, Gravetye used to be the home of William Robinson – one of England’s pioneering horticulturists and author of the famous books The Wild Garden and English Flower Garden – and he lived there until his death in 1884.
The 1,000-acre estate was bought in 1958 by Peter Herbert and the manor was changed into a much-loved hotel – with the garden remaining at its heart it has undergone extensive refurbishment since coming under the new ownership of Jeremy Hosking in 2010.
I visited the quintessentially English haven on a bright autumn day with my wife Jo and immediately fell in love with both the building and the polite staff with the maids dressed in neat black dresses and white aprons.
Walking through the front door you were hit by the wonderful smell of wood smoke burning in the fireplace and the beautifully arranged freshly cut English flowers.
Our room was not only spacious and comfortable it offered stunning views over the Sussex hills whilst retaining the luxury you would expect from five star accommodation.
The hotel still has the charm and decor of yesteryear full of interesting objects and antiques in every nook and cranny that you would never find in a hotel chain. To confirm it, Gravetye has just been voted Independent Hotel of the Year at an industry awards. Look out for the wonderful oil paintings by wartime PM Winston Churchill.
It is like staying in an English country estate with oak panels adorned with floral textiles throughout and original fireplaces in most public areas.
But it is the extensive gardens including a mild meadow, Victorian glasshouse, orchards and colourful flowerbeds that are the jewel in the crown.
Run by head gardener Tom Coward, who has worked for Sir Paul McCartney and at Kew Gardens, and his team of six they also tend to a unique oval shaped kitchen garden - a 1.5 acre plot which produces all the fruit and vegetables used by the restaurant.
Head chef George Blogg works closely with Tom and their partnership has just seen the restaurant being awarded its first Michelin star to the delight of all the staff and diners.
Not only is the food delicious, it is a comfortable and relaxed dining experience both for supper and breakfast where you must sample their very popular homemade jams as well as juice from the orchards.
Gravetye is England's heritage at its best and ideally located for seasonal events at both Goodwod and Glynebourne.