Weekend away: on Safari in Woburn
Lucy Kane escapes London for a weekend break in Woburn and discovers a great foodie scene and lots to entertain the family. Plus: The Woburn Hotel weekend away reader offer.
“It’s on the roof,” squealed the kids as an inquisitive monkey scampered on top of our car. The monkey enclosure at Woburn Safari Park enthralled us all and there is a whole day of adventures to be had if you can get there nice and early. And we were very glad that we’d decided to make the most of the experience by booking into The Woburn Hotel just a few minutes down the road.
Woburn is a picturesque Georgian village, just an hour out of London where we discovered a buzzing foodie scene and some amazing seafood dishes. The hotel is situated right in the heart of the village. It has a stunning two AA Rosette fine dining restaurant, Olivier’s, plus the popular traditional Tavistock bar. But with the bedrooms backing onto parkland, weary adventurers can be assured of a peaceful night’s slumber on your weekend away.
Keen to explore the village, we swooped the kids up and headed out to find somewhere to eat. With a choice of welcoming pubs, boutique retailers and some fine dining restaurants, Woburn is a bustling village. Uniquely located in the cemetery is the Tourist Information Centre exhibiting a potted history, all run by helpful local volunteers. We found lots to great ideas and places to visit in and around Woburn. Many visitors come to see the outstanding abbey and park and it’s also well-located for visiting Bletchley Park. We chanced upon the tranquil garden of the Black Horse pub providing the perfect dining spot, particularly with some perfectly cooked scallops on the menu and half sized meal options for the younger family members.
Fully rested and ready for a day’s safari, we made the most of the scrumptious hotel buffet breakfast and set off. With excitement reaching unprecedented levels we were grateful for the easy five minute cruise to the Safari Park. The drive through the park is a brilliant way to see animals in a natural environment and is well set out for some close encounters. It’s hard not to be thrilled entering the tiger enclosure, seeing it strolling round its habitat without the distraction of a fence and the sense it could pounce on your vehicle at any moment. The rhinos gave us a special treat coming within a few metres of the car as they slowly grazed on the grass. Whilst a gang of baby giraffes ‘gangled’ across the road from their enclosure to the open field with just one adult vaguely supervising them. These up-close experiences are awe-inspiring, our wide-eyed eldest asked loads of questions whilst our youngest was content repeating the names whilst looking at the real thing rather than his picture book.
The drive-through experience is only half of the safari story, after all that time in the car, the kids were ready to blow off steam in the indoor and outdoor play areas. The walking safari offers lots of opportunities to learn about the animals, the birds of prey put on a perfect display and the penguins misbehaved during feeding time. Our youngest was mesmerised by the seals swimming under water and the elephant show is really spectacular, finishing with an up close experience – they got to stroke the enormous beast – and we left on a high.
After a long day it was a treat to hop five minutes back to the hotel for some R&R before dinner. We had dinner booked at Olivier’s. We were looking forward to some fine dining at the Woburn Hotel and were not disappointed. We savoured the seasonal a la carte menu created by executive chef Olivier Bertho. His illustrious career saw him head chef at 3 Rosette Mallory Court Hotel and cooking for the Roux brothers. He has brought this knowledge and passion to Woburn and has created an a la carte menu that is adventurous and exciting.
The wine list is brought to life with tasting notes, grape and country – we selected by the glass so we could pair our wines with our meals. The sommelier has chosen a rounded selection of world wines from a decent glass of Champagne to an English white, or a West Coast Zinfandel to an organic Margaux, with a leaning towards French wines.
The restaurant is set in the original Georgian part of the hotel, long sash windows and muted décor give the room elegance and grace, setting a relaxed atmosphere. We opted for pan-fried scallops and courgette tempura for starters. They were beautifully presented with seasonal touches including pea shoots and edible flowers. Stuck between two choices for my main meal, the waiter steered me towards the ginger glazed salmon fillet. It was the stand-out dish of the weekend, a taste-bud-blowing fusion of French cuisine and Japanese flavours, worth the trip to Woburn alone.
There was a well-designed menu for the children, from snacking dishes to generous fish and chips and everything came with some veggies.
Travelling with young children can have its challenges but we were beautifully provided for throughout our stay making The Woburn Hotel a super family-friendly option. Our connecting rooms gave us the luxury of space, (separate bathrooms – joy) the kids immediately fell in love with their room having discovered a welcome safari toy on their pillows. A lazy Sunday morning provided a delicious opportunity to pile into the enormous Queen sized bed for a family snuggle in front of the TV and newspapers.
The locals highly rate The Woburn Hotel, the local vicar and his wife told us how they celebrated their marriage there and recently enjoyed their 50th wedding anniversary meal at Olivier’s. Its reputation is well deserved, throughout our stay we found the attention to detail was perfect and the friendly team took great care of us, even tracking down the seven-year-old owner of a pair of red heart sunglasses.
The Woburn Estate
As our thoughts turned to heading back to London, we wandered into the village for a stroll around the farmers’ market. Industrious entrepreneurs were selling fresh farm produce, botanical gins and plants. We noticed some food crates being loaded onto a Woburn Estate truck. I wondered if they had a policy to source locally produced food, it turns out they do – the elephants were waiting for their weekly delivery of fresh local farm vegetables, ordered by the Duke.
The hotel, safari park, abbey and gardens are all part of the Woburn Estate owned by the Duke of Bedford. The estate is beautifully looked after, maintaining traditional values and high standards. At the end of our blissful weekend away we had still only experienced a little bit of what Woburn has to offer and with so much more left to explore the whole family is keen to come back.
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Reader Offer: ENJOY A LUXURY ESCAPE TO WOBURN
The AA 4-star Woburn Hotel stands at the gateway to the historic Woburn Abbey Estate, home to the 15th Duke and Duchess of Bedford in the heart of Bedfordshire. And now with our special offer * you could save 15%* off a Gourmet Break there, including a dinner at Paris House on The Woburn Estate. It is the only 3 AA Rosette starred restaurant in the county, which blends modern culinary techniques with the finest seasonal produce to create a memorable dining experience.
You will pay £561 for two nights’ accommodation in one of the elegant Abbey Rooms, Cottage Suites or Suites, full English breakfast each morning, one evening dining from the six course menu at Paris House and a £35 per person allowance towards dinner in The Woburn Hotel’s award-winning two AA Rosette restaurant, Olivier’s, on the second evening.
The Woburn Hotel provides a modern twist on a country classic house with 48 contemporary en-suite bedrooms and seven cottage suites, all designed taking inspiration from The Woburn Estate and historical figures, which have helped shape Woburn Abbey and its surrounding landscape.
The hotel is ideal for an indulgent weekend away and is the perfect base for exploring The Woburn Estate and all it has to offer, including Minchin and May, a quirky independent home interiors & gift shop in the heart of the village, with an interesting and different mix of products from far and wide.
Guests can enjoy concessionary rates to visit Woburn Abbey and Gardens**, Woburn Safari Park or take in a round of golf at Woburn Golf Club with its three championship courses.***
For more information or to book, call 01525-290441 or email firstname.lastname@example.org quoting
For further information and to view all the breaks on offer, visit: www.thewoburnhotel.co.uk