Travel review: Hawkstone Hall, Shropshire
We review Hawkstone Hall, a grand hotel in the rolling Shropshire hills
Rolling country hills and spectacular verdant vistas greet my guest and I as we pull up outside Hawkstone Hall, a 17th century property situated in the heart of Shropshire and about an hour’s drive from the foodie haven of Ludlow.
Our taxi driver for some unbeknown reason drops us off outside the gates, and so ensues a mammoth 2km walk through the grounds. We finally catch a glimpse of our destination on the horizon – a postcard stamp-sized building that slowly looms and its full size comes into view as we edge closer to the grand hotel. “Well, we’ve never had anyone walk to the front door before,” laughs Aaron, our charming maitre d, who greets us with two glasses of much-needed Prosecco which we knock back after our unintentional work-out.
We check in and as the memories of the arduous hike fade, it settles in where we are, and the magic of Hawkstone’s interior. The lobby is grand, and on first impressions, it reflects the grand exterior perfectly. Sumptuous leather sofas and frescoes of previous owners of Hawkstone make for quite the impression, and this level of attention and care set the tone for the duration of our stay.
We are shown to our twin room which has stunning views over the grounds and decamped before dinner, robing up in the softest dressing gowns and getting ready for the evening ahead.
We first visited the bar, which with its sinkable leather sofas and wooden walls that give the place a Hogwarts-esque library feel. Our friendly barman, Scott, whisked us up two delectable whiskey sours, complete with a delicately peeled slice of orange. Whistles whet, we cast our eyes over the menu. The goats cheese starter appealed to my guest, while I requested the duck liver parfait – both of us going for the steak and lobster dish for the main.
The dining room is grand, and the golden and ornate chairs coupled with the great works of art on the wall put you in mind of Versailles, although a somewhat odd playlist choice of Disney and pop music rings out on the speakers – perhaps some low-key elevator jazz would have been a better choice.
We were quickly distracted from The Little Mermaid though, with attentive service. We picked a delicious red Shiraz and enjoyed three perfectly presented courses. We enjoyed a ham hock croquette for our amuse bouche. My friend’s goats cheese and tomato salad was creamy and perfectly complemented by a basil oil. My parfait was smooth and worked well with the toasted brioche accompaniment. Onto the mains – and we both enjoyed perfectly cooked steak, bone marrow chips stacked in a satisfying jenga-like tower, and a lobster tail for added indulgence. Neither my guest nor I have particularly sweet teeth, so we passed on the dessert menu and opted instead for a local cheese board, justifying the dairy splurge with the fact that Shropshire boasts plenty of delicious dairy farms. We enjoyed a Shropshire blue, naturally, a cheddar and a brie with an onion chutney and prettily displayed slices of apple. All in all the meal was exquisite, matching the standard of the dining room, and the service unflappable.
The sun set during our dinner, casting a shocking pink light through the windows and glinting off the gold of the high window frames. We left our table and made the most of the golden hour with a walk around the grounds, discovering a walled garden, a beautiful pond and dreamy follies that cast you back to the 18th century. Pottering around the rooms, we discovered two charming chapels, both beautiful wedding venues, a 1920s-esque Gatsby-style dining room and another room with a dance floor and dazzling disco lights. After a great deal of nosing around and our dinner well and truly walked off, our cosy beds beckoned.
Rising at the respectable hour of 9am, we made our way back down to the dining room for breakfast. Guests are offered a beautiful spread of continental breakfast, complete with croissants, fresh fruit, cereals, plus the option for a cooked breakfast. I enjoyed a delicious smoked salmon and scrambled eggs while my guest went for avocados with perfectly poached eggs. Aaron helpfully suggested activities for our day ahead, perhaps a visit to the nearby 18th century folly park, or a spot of golf at Hawkstone golf course? Given our proximity to Ludlow, we made the train journey to have a potter around the quaint country town and a spot of wild swimming in its river.
All in all Hawkstone was a delight from start to finish, with dreamy countryside vistas, elegant 88 acres of gardens, delightful food, drink and service and the perfect summertime weather adding to the experience.
Rooms are available at Hawkstone Hall from £175 per night with breakfast included. Book via the hotel’s website.