Ashdown Park Hotel celebrates 20th birthday

Ashdown Park
Ashdown Park
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Staying in a boutique hotel makes me feels hip and edgy.

I like to strut into the reception foyer with undeserving swagger and pretend I’m here on a whim to drink the odd overpriced cocktail and get some shuteye for a morning business meeting too important to explain.

Ashdown Park

Ashdown Park

That’s never the case.

I spend hours on hotel comparison websites searching for the cheapest deal and still shudder when I see the money leave my account.

A quirky boutique in the centre of Brighton was my latest expenditure.

And I have to say, I was under-whelmed and disappointed.

Ashdown Park

Ashdown Park

I’d snapped up a bargain, so took advantage of a room upgrade from deluxe to superior for £11 upon arrival.

The room was a hard shell. It was spacious, but empty. The curvy white plastic walls had no character and, save for a panel/desk jutting out from one side, had nothing else to them. No paintings, no shelves, no decorations of any kind. If I were small enough to sleep inside a Tupperware container, this is how I would imagine it.

An open-plan design means the bathroom has formed part of the bedroom - with a porthole knocked through a wall - and only a thin glass door separating our private time from the outside world. I’m all for an open-door policy. The girlfriend thinks differently. I’m pretty sure she set her alarm in the early hours of the following morning to do her dirty work undetected.

At that point I grew weary of boutique hotels.

It’s time to get back to our roots.

Give me rolling countryside and tradition. Thick wooden beams and luxury. An 18-hole golf and tennis courts.

Rural Sussex is home to number of quintessential English hotels.

And nestled right in the county’s heart is Ashdown Park Hotel and Country Club.

Elite Hotels managing director Graeme Bateman takes us on a journey back in time to explore the building’s rich history at its 20th anniversary celebrations.

Its inception is hazy. The first mansion to be built on this forest estate - which at the time encompassed 3,563 acres - was by either Thomas Bradford who had Ashdown Park in 1815, or by Rear Admiral The Honourable Jacob Henniker who owned and occupied the park from 1822.

Over the years subsequent proprietors expanded the building.

In the summer of 1919 the estate was put up for sale once again, and fell into the hands of Sister Marie Saints Anges of the Order of the Notre Dame who deemed it ideal for convent purposes.

The nuns remained happily for nearly 50 years until the United States International University took over in 1971.

Three years later Barclays Bank acquired the premises as a management training centre until, in 1993, Elite Hotels leapt at the potential behind this beautiful building set in the backdrop of magnificent scenery.

The hotel’s success speaks for itself.

General manager Ben Booker tells me more than one million customers have walked through the door and 275,000 rooms have been sold since it opened.

In that time, the company has spent around £5million on oil and gas, £6.4million on liquor and a whopping £50million on wages.

Once booked out for almost every day of the week by big businesses for corporate events, its clientele has slowly shifted over the last two decades.

It now plays host the romantic getaways, the weddings (although bookings were down this year as superstitious brides steered clear of the year 2013), and of course, the loyal Elite Hotel members following.

“It’s the staycation idea,” said Ben over a stunning five-course dinner in celebration of the hotel’s birthday.

They’ve spared no expense when it comes to food - around £10million to be more precise.

Executive chef Andrew Wilson doesn’t scrimp on quality. He uses only the best ingredients available - proven in the fillet of beef wellington from Lamberhurst, dauphinoise potatoes, truffle carrot puree and roasted shallots dish served that night.

The chef has earned the Anderida Restaurant two AA Rosettes for exceptional standards of cuisine.

Its team, headed by manager Philippe Alvarez, serves around 100 covers and the wine list has recently been awarded Most Excellent Value of Money and Best Champagne List in the Conde Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence 2013.

At the end of the day, when you’re all wined out, there is no other place you’d want to retire to than one of Ashdown’s breathtaking bedrooms.

They are charming - and no two are the same.

Some feature magnificent stained glass windows and wooden beams, whilst others showcase panoramic views of the fairy-tale forest. It’s a far cry from the Tupperware room.

Management have been daring and attempted to modernise a number of bedrooms. But the building’s integrity has been maintained regardless of how heavy the restoration has been. That’s important. No better is this applauded than the construction of the Country Club.

The wing is home to an indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam room, gym and encased by tennis courts, a croquet lawn and numerous jogging trails.

Best of all, I couldn’t spot one translucent toilet door. My privacy and love of tradition was restored. Boutique hotels - who needs them.

To find out more about Ashdown Park Hotel and Country Club visit or contact 01342 824988.