On Air Now
Early Breakfast with James Stewart 4am - 6:30am
24 May 2019, 07:49 | Updated: 12 August 2019, 10:59
Spending the day admiring a stately home doesn't have to be just a day out - some of the UK's grandest homes also let you sleep over in absolute luxury.
If you've ever wandered around a stately home, you've probably wondered what it would be like to live there.
Do you picture yourself as a character in Downton Abbey? Or are you in Game of Thrones, or the dramatic main character in a Jane Austen adaption?
While fantasies of living in the faded grandeur of a centuries-old country pile often have to be packed away when its time to go home for the day, there is a way to truly experience what these houses' previous inhabitants would have experienced when they woke up, opened a set of huge drape curtains and gazed out over enormous well-manicured gardens.
We discovered what life at Hartwell House would have been like when we enjoyed an overnight stay there earlier this month.
Located near Aylesbury in South Bucks and just an hour from London on the train, the hotel is dog-friendly, so your pooch can also enjoy a trip back in time.
A National Trust property which has been restored by Historic House Hotels, Hartwell is part-Jacobean mansion and part-Georgian house and was home to exiled French monarch King Louis XVIII for five years, which should give an idea of just how OTT this place is.
Louis' wife Marie Josephine of Savoy died during their tenure, making her the only French queen to have died on English soil - and it's unlikely she's the only ghost roaming the ornate halls and spacious bedrooms.
Nothing could prepare us for the sheer magnitude of the almost 1000-year old house as we meandered up its winding driveway - or the size of the rooms inside.
Upon arrival, we were told we'd had a room upgrade to a 'royal suite'... it was bigger than my flat, and featured antique artwork and furniture typical to the seventeenth century.
Although there was a lot to coo at in our room - including a tin of fresh home made biscuits - it was the house's original wooden staircase complete with ornately carved wooden figures (I can't lie, they were terrifying, especially after we headed up to bed after a few drinks in the bar), that was most impressive.
And outside, in Hartwell House's grounds there were even more gems waiting to be discovered.
Away from the main house, hidden away in a converted stable block is a charming day spa complete with swimming pool and delightful terrace bar.
We had an Aromatherapy Associates massage before heading off for a walk around the 90 acres of parkland and manicured grounds, taking in the Egyptian Well, an old chapel and temples, columns, an obelisk, garden statues, canals and an amazing bridge.
By the time the evening came we had worked up quite an appetite, and definitely deserved a cocktail or two.
Just like the aristocracy of days gone by, dinner began in Hartwell's 'day room', where we were served cocktails, mused over the wine list and enjoyed a few hor d'oeuvres as we looked over the menu.
The kitchen of Hartwell's two rosette focuses on locally grown food and game, with venison, guinea fowl and duck all on the menu - but there were less fussier options too, like fish, steak and a good mushroom risotto for veggies.
Breakfast featured traditional dishes like kippers - which was a favourite of an older couple dining on the table next to us, as well as trendier breakfast option, avocado on toast.