Historic Sopwell House modern-luxe - Review - part 1

Brushing aside a brief visit to a hotel next to the public spa in Buda or was it Pest? I'd never stayed in a spa/hotel, until a couple of weeks ago, when at the end of an easy 50 minutes journey to St Albans, Hertfordshire, we walked up the path of a characteristic Georgian country residence which once belong to Lord Mountbatten.

Bought in 1986, by the Bejerano family. In the past two years, the hotel invested in a multi-million-pound refurbishment of its 128 suites, rooms and apartments, not mentioning an additional £1.5 million to modernise its meetings space and further plans, well on their way, to refurbish the outer-buildings to create a luxurious self-catering mews apartments, with individual Jacuzzi, tucked away like a secret garden.
Obviously, there is a plan in action and my mission was to work out why this dashing Georgian splendour was under going a modern-luxurious make over....I didn't have long to wait for the answer.

Sopwell House Spa  hotel review St Albans

At first glance, it was all a bit....well....disconcerting. The foyer, the concierge, the large reception desk with a large planter filled with orchids were to be expected. The walk-in chimney with coat of arms and plush sofas was a bonus. But guests walking about in their slippers and bathrobe had an eye-widening effect.

 "Welcome to Sopwell House" said a bright voice, if Grazia Obertelli, Guest Relation Manager, had noticed my confusion she had the good grace to brush it with a smile and a unexpected frankness,  "We are considering ways to make the spa independent from the rest of the hotel." But if you think about it, it's nice to see that guests who probably on an average day, make sure that each of their button is correctly fasten before going out are relaxed enough to walk in public in an attire usually reserved to the privacy of their bathroom.

Sopwell House Spa  hotel review St Albans
Grazia takes me on a tour. First meetings and events area. Sopwell House is a sought-out venue for wedding. A glimpse of the St Alban suite taking 700 people for a  reception, 320 banqueting, with French windows opening on 12 acres of grounds and tranquil gardens, explains it all. "You should see it when set up for a wedding, it looks amazing, the Japanese style gardens with its pound and bridge is a photographer's paradise" Grazia tells me in her bubbly elegant way. Here weddings can have their private butlers. It's time to pop the question. Not "that" question.

"Why was the hotel recently refurbished?" I am expecting a commercial smile and a change of topic, instead I get a direct answer, "We are a 4 stars hotel, we are aiming for a 5th" and for the little I have seen so far, this place with its acres of countryside, beautiful gardens, it's fully equipped meeting rooms, is well on its way.

Sopwell House Spa  hotel review St Albans Mountabatten family home
Off, we trot along corridors adorned with pictures of celebrities, family relatives and signed football shirts. The England team used to unwind here but I am under the impression that these days are well over and Sopwell House has turned a page. Which is another reason why I like it here. It's class but not brass.
Peep in the restaurant, no dressing gowns but something even more confusing. The staff smiles, real smiles. Smiles which reaches their eyes. They politely tease one another, engage the diners in long conversations. Every single person looks happy to work here, same in the brasserie and in the library where afternoon teas are served. "We are like a large family, everyone likes working here" Grazia tells me. 

The terrace bar with its over-sized windows is the room to enjoy a light snack or a cocktail and on that Sunday afternoon, it was  heaving. Sopwell house seems to already have the people's vote, it won't be long before it gets that well deserved 5th star.

Sopwell House Spa  hotel review St Albans Mountabatten family home
"and here is our spa" a serene area, beautifully decorated space including 12 treatment rooms, a state of the art gymnasium, 14.5-metre indoor swimming pool, a sauna and a steam room, sadly no smile on the beauticians faces, oh well every family has their troubled members. But that didn't stop us to enjoy the facilities and now I fully understand why people coming to Sopwell House didn't want to leave.

Our recently revamped executive suite was a fusion of classic and British modern style. 4 poster without the horrid dangling drapes, extremely comfy bed and an interesting use of brown hues, the Wi-Fi seemed to take it slow and easy too, probably not best if you want to work from the bedrooms. But what I found most romantic were the views from the balcony. This is hard to beat, first thing in the morning.

Sopwell House Spa  hotel review St Albans Mountabatten family home

There is no doubt in my mind that as a reviewer I get special treatment. Probably I did at Sopwell House too but witnessing the way the staff look after their guests, I could be easily persuaded that everyone get their own special treatment and I am not talking only about a superb leisure break. This hotel and spa gets everything right, in my opinion this well deserved 5th star should already  have been awarded. 
 Disclaimer: He and I were guest of Sopwell house - a big thank you to all the personnel who looked after us.

Activities near by:
There is a golf course.
In St Albans, the Cathedral and close by the Butterfly World project and Warner Bros Studio offering tours _the making of Harry Potter.

Cottonmill Lane, St Albans AL1 2HQ
01727 864477

price: standard double room starts at £134

If you enjoyed reading this review, see you soon for part 2 - the foodie opinion -

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