Travel: A weekend break in Winchester
- Credit: Eve Smallman
After being cooped up at home during the pandemic, the thought of escaping to the countryside and staying in a dreamy deluxe hotel sounded like an absolute dream. So when the opportunity arose to stay at the four star The Norton Park Hotel in Winchester arose, I couldn’t pack my suitcase quick enough.
As we pulled off the motorway and turned onto the entrance road leading up the hotel, I felt like someone should start playing dramatic music and intro credits. It was truly cinematic. The rolling road was filled with shrubbery and beauty, and sent out a wonderful message: it’s time to switch off, relax and let us take care of you.
After parking up, we headed for the reception, which was beautifully contemporary, light and airy. The wisteria tumbling from the bushes outside it added a soft touch, and made that first impression extra magical. Check in was smooth, and with a handy document detailing coronavirus measures and our room card in tow, we set off for our home away from home for the night.
Instantly we felt welcomed into the warm atmosphere, which only increased in comfort levels when we discovered the fine tea and coffee facilities and complimentary drinks in the fridge (generously stocked with my favourite pinot grigio… how did they know?). After a delicious cuppa and shortbread, we decided to go to the pool to cool off after our long journey. Time slots were in place to limit numbers, so we signed up for a pre-dinner paddle.
The pool area was well catered for, with fluffy towels on arrival, individual showers in the changing rooms, as well as personal lockers. We stored our things and glided in to the pool, before heading to the steam rooms and saunas. We were able to stick out the sauna for longer as the steam room was super warm, but after coming out of both and having a cool shower, we felt totally relaxed. Lounging by the glistening pool in the serene leisure area was the definition of ‘this is the life’. There was hand sanitiser on the side of the pool too, as there was throughout the hotel.
Not long after it was time to get suited and booted for dinner. I hit the showers in our room, and when I stepped out I realised there was a square of the bathroom mirror that hadn’t steamed up. I thought this was very useful, as I’d moved all my makeup and clothes into there to get ready for the evening. The lighting for putting on my face was very good in there and in the bedroom when I did it in the morning – hey, these things are important!
When we arrived for dinner at the restaurant, we felt reassured as we were led to a table spaced helpfully away from other people. All the staff had masks on too and kept as best a distance as they could when serving us food and drinks. Of course, we had to sample the menu as best as we could, so we had three delicious courses. I went for the mushrooms on brioche for a starter, a vegetarian burger and fries for main and sticky toffee pudding for dessert.
My partner and I both had the same starter, and agreed it was our favourite of the three – the sweet bread paired with the tangy, creamy mushrooms was simply divine. I’m a fierce sticky toffee pudding judge as it’s one of my favourite desserts, and theirs totally impressed me as well – saucy, sticky, scrumptious. My stomach just rumbled as I thought about it again.
For a night cap we headed to the outdoor area and sat down, gazing across the sunset. It was such a wonderful moment, feeling full, happy and well looked after. But as the sun left the sky, we decided it was time to settle for the night.
I hadn’t realised how in need I was of a good night’s sleep until I woke up in the morning. Having spent my slumber wrapped in the feather duvet and soft sheets, I felt like a new person and ready to face the day. But first, breakfast.
One of my more minor worries from the pandemic was that buffets would be no more, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a hearty one on offer for breakfast. Individual fruit, yoghurt pots, and cereal boxes were the continental choices, while full fry ups and pastries were the hot food choices, which were served up by a chef. I’m not that great at eating early, but the fresh pineapple, melon and apple settled my stomach enough to have melt in the mouth scrambled eggs and some crispy hash browns for good measure.
Soon enough it was time to depart, and we left for the city of Winchester, which was a 20 minute drive away from the hotel. The Tudor buildings that lined the streets were wonderfully picturesque to walk along, and there was a market on that day too which had lovely locally produced goods. Winchester is famed for its cathedral, and so we wandered there for a look around. It was really magnificent, and took our breaths away, in awe of its grandeur. Before we made our way back to the car, I couldn’t resist picking up a fruit and custard pastry from The Bridge Patisserie.
The Norton Park Hotel makes for a beyond wonderful landing pad for an excursion into Winchester, as well as serving as a fine location by itself to stop and take a well-earned break. You’re sure to feel welcomed and looked after in its contemporary and cosy setting, and will leave feeling refreshed and relaxed.
Book a stay at The Norton Park Hotel at nortonparkhotel.com