Wallett's Court Country House and Spa
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A complimentary bottle of champagne on arrival
HERE'S THE PERFECT OVERNIGHT ROOST en route to Le Continent – though it’s a shame not to dawdle at Wallett’s Court, a characterful 17th century Kentish manor house just three miles from Dover. Saved from near-dereliction 30 years ago by the Oakley family, it has been nurtured back to life in some style, and now offers a warm and welcoming base in the Kentish countryside.
Time has seemingly left Wallett’s Court behind and what a blessing that is. The rolling farmland surrounding the hotel is blissfully calm despite its proximity to Dover’s to-ing and fro-ing ferries. The house is mentioned in the Domesday book and many historic figures have stayed here, including William Pitt.
Baronial hearths, carved wood, exposed brickwork and wall paintings add to the sense of history, while gardens giving way to seven acres of rolling fields pile on the charm. Bedrooms come in an array of sizes and styles – choose one that’s richly four-postered in the main house, or cool and contemporary in the newer wings.
As Channel hoppers looking to start off our continental jaunt in style, we rather wished we had arrived for a lazy long weekend rather than simply a night’s stay. The crackle of a wood fire from a cosy inglenook fireplace greeted us in the hallway, and we collapsed into a plump leather sofa with an aperitif.
Dining in the oak-beamed restaurant, with its tapestried chairs and cosy lamps, is a must. So is leaving the diet behind. This is dining worth waiting for, and we tucked into sea bass in an almond crust, the most mouth-watering Aberdeen Angus beef we’d tasted with Jenga chips, a devilish Valrhona chocolate fondant and mounds of cheese.
Seasonal menus major on what’s good and what’s local. We could have plumped for caramelised Rye Bay scallops, roasted Deal cod, Kentish partridge, Sussex venison, Romney Marsh lamb or delicious Dover sole. Menus change daily and much of what was on our plate had been locally sourced – mostly from in the hotel’s own kitchen garden.
After an ace dinner we resisted the temptation to kick back by the fireside with another tipple, and wandered in the cool of the evening through the beautifully kept English garden, where statues are hidden between the trees.
With cooking this good, there’s all the more reason for a workout in the gym or a set of tennis next morning. You can revitalise in the spa, with its Romanesque pool, steam room and pampering treatments, go jogging, or play boules. We splashed around in the hydrotherapy pool and melted gently in the steam room before contemplating a bracing walk along the cliffs.
There are two kinds of room at Wallett’s Court. Traditionalists will love the olde-worlde vibe of rooms in the house, while we loved our more contemporary suite above the spa. With floor to ceiling windows with a view out over courtyard and countryside, exposed beams, a wrought iron bed, plush purple velvet sofa and deliciously deep free-standing bath it was hard to tear ourselves away.
You’re in White Cliffs country here, so make time for clifftop walks and an idle day on the beach. Leeds Castle and Canterbury are also within easy reach. Walk along the chalky white cliffs, head to St Margaret’s Bay to watch the sun rise or set, loaf about in the spa or book a treatment in one of the treatment cabins in the grounds. Nothing’s-too-much-trouble staff are the icing on the cake.
© Room for Romance
Wallett's Court Country House and Spa was reviewed for Room for Romance by Laura Barnhouse