Judging by the name, I was expecting things to be a little unusual at this English country manor on the outskirts of Manchester, nestled within 100 acres of parkland. And my arrival did not disappoint. As I walked around the corner from the car parking area, I was met by a pair of stilt-clad jugglers, who stood on either side of the doorway, welcoming me in. Intrigued, I stepped inside, and Bruntwood Hall’s playful décor and stunning design elements (created to tie in with the historic buildings' varied history) were instantly beguiling.
On the night I arrived, the doorway was flanked by men on stilts
My luck was in that weekend, as despite the hotel hosting a 40th birthday party (in fact the source of the jugglers, there were fire eaters later) nobody had booked the bridal suite. Or, bridle suit, Oddfellows calls it, a nod to the building’s erstwhile existence as an equestrian stud farm (the life-sized plastic horse outside our room, another. The sign requesting nobody mount the magnificent animal a suggestion that many before us had tried!).
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The hotel itself is stunning. It feels like a boutique London luxury pad – you expect a fancy media crowd to be sipping gin and tonics at the bar (the gin list would suggest at times they do) and the odd celeb to wander in off the terrace any second. In fact, the hotel’s location, slap bang in the middle of Bruntwood Park (with running tracks, duck ponds and a fantastic children’s playground) makes this hotel less cool-city-crowd and more trendy-out-of-towners. And it's clearly a perfect weekend wedding hotspot.
The Bridle Suite is nice enough to move in
The quirkiness is pervasive. There’s nothing in the hotel that’s normal or standard; chandeliers made from bike chains (another nod, this time to the park’s former BMX track) and animals dressed as humans (on the walls) are part of hotel's appeal. But this is luxurious quirk, and the attention to detail is incredible.
Our two-storey suite was carpeted in zebra print with naked dancing ladies on the walls, and there was everything you could possibly need at your fingertips. TVs that rise out of the foot of the bed, his and hers showers (with two sets of shower heads and two sets of taps so there’s no fighting over temperature controls). A sofa, atmospheric lighting courtesy of a chandelier crashed out on the floor – I wanted to move in.
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The in-house restaurant, the Galloping Major, is housed in the building’s former ballroom and the design is as stunning as the food. My crab ravioli starter was divine, while my partner’s halibut was melt in the mouth with such an array of additional tastes and textures it really stood out. Head chef Ian Moss favours seasonal and local produce and you can taste the quality of the ingredients. Portions aren’t huge so indulge in a side or two, and make the most of dessert (I was delighted to find a rare dairy free option on the list in the form of a caramelised watermelon – the mind boggled, but the taste buds were happy).
Chandeliers are made from bike chains
Cocktails on the terrace or in the Stud Room bar are a must as you while away the evening, in the very peaceful park (there's something exciting about being in a park after hours – like you have ownership of the whole place), and it's easy to forget you’re a stone’s throw from Manchester city centre. And how much more relaxed and civilised.
The following morning, breakfast is served a la carte in the same stunning ballroom, and the hotel’s hilarious spa-in-a-pig-sty is something you should try not to miss. We gave the signature Rasul Mud Room experience a go – a nod, I presume, to the spa's former piggy inhabitants and something unlike I’d done before. You and a friend or partner are locked in a giant steam room to apply first a salt rub, and then a mud mask to your whole body. A little steam room relaxation is finished abruptly when the cold shower bursts in – warning: we screamed – and apparently this not an unusual reaction! For those preferring a bit of pampering by the beauty therapists, rather than the DIY option, a menu of massages, facials and mani/pedicures are available too.