Looking around at the beautiful trees and rolling countryside, it seemed strange to me that the place I was standing was barely a half hour drive from Nottingham city centre.
The location I had visited was Sherwood Forest, made famous by the intrepid adventures of Robin Hood, and I couldn’t help but try to imagine the hero’s merry band of thieves hiding away behind branches and tree trunks.
But given the rainy, cold day on which my visit took place, I was more interested in fleeing indoors to the comfort of the Clumber Park Hotel & Spa, where my husband and I were staying for a long weekend.
Arriving mid to late afternoon, we headed to our modern but cosy room and had a rest after our travelling. Then, feeling properly relaxed, we headed down to dinner at the hotel’s beautiful fine dining Courtyard Restaurant; just one of the venue’s eateries.
While Payat tucked in to scallops followed by a salmon main, I enjoyed a silky smooth sweet potato and butternut squash soup followed by officially the best risotto I have ever eaten - containing beetroot, squash (yes, I love squash) and Irish goat’s cheese. I liked it so much I am afraid that I had ate it on both nights!
Puddings were huge and wonderful. Payat had a towering sponge pudding with custard while I had the chocolate and mint pot, a massive but delicious glass full of chocolate mousse complete with little chunks of mint and a layer of cream and marshmallows. Yes, we felt very fat afterwards, but we were happy.
The next day offered us a bit of an opportunity to work off all the lovely food. Although it was raining lightly, we donned our waterproofs and hiking boots, and headed out for a two hour walk.
There are plenty of opportunities for those who like a good hike as the hotel is set adjacent to the National Trust’s Clumber Park. Once the country estate of the Dukes of Newcastle, the main house was demolished in 1938 but the 3,800 acres of remaining gardens and woodlands still suggest the site’s grandiose history.
We took a walk along a tree-lined avenue opposite the hotel and followed a trail around to a huge lake. Sadly the cold and rain forced us to cut short our walk, but it still served as some much needed exercise.
Although we were not visiting on an activity weekend, the hotel offers plenty of opportunities for visitors, with many ‘activity stay’ offers involving everything from a fitness boot camp to an opportunity to try out Segways on the hotel’s woodland track.
Seeking a more leisurely afternoon, we dropped in to the hotel’s New Leaf Spa and made full use of its facilities. Far less frenetic than some of the bigger, commercial spas, this space had a very calm atmosphere.
We were lucky enough to find loungers by the pool and enjoyed a bit of swimming, some time in the whirlpool jacuzzi and a few minutes in the sauna.
While in the spa, we also had a treatment each; a back, neck and shoulder massage for Payat and a luxury manicure for me. Payat looked very refreshed after his massage and the manicurist did a good job in transforming my scruffy, ink-stained paws into rather more glamorous versions of themselves.
We returned to our room feeling completely rested and the evening was spent enjoying yet another amazing meal in the slightly more casual eating venue The Normanton Inn.
Heading off the next day, we were sad to leave the relaxing and scenic surroundings of Clumber Park but have promised ourselves we will return in the near future...perhaps when the sun is shining.
-Prices to stay at Clumber Park Hotel and Spa vary according to which package has been booked. This winter and spring, guests have the choice of an invigorating ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ walking break, costing £79 per person, including dinner, bed, breakfast and free entry into the National Trust’s Clumber Park and the walled gardens as well as use of the hotel’s Pathfinder Guides.
-Also on offer are an Anytime Treat Spa Break, a Family Getaway, and the hotel’s popular ‘Friday Freebie’ or ‘Lazy Sunday Afternoons.’
-For full details, visit www.clumberparkhotel.com or ring 01623 835333.