Advantages Pleasant staff, facilities, closeness to Silverstone
I've probably stayed at Whittlebury Hall about twenty times over the past three and a half years when attending work-related courses. (Before reading this review be warned that any of my negative comments about the hotel are probably influenced by the fact that when I've stayed there it's never been for pleasure - the days of boredom I've spent within its walls listening to people talking about IFRS accounting and deferred tax have probably made me more negative than I would otherwise be!)The first view you get of the hotel is magnificent. As you are driven up the long drive you can't help but be impressed by the style of the two-storey building and the grounds that surround it. The reception area as you enter the hotel is also impressive and quite grand looking - the area has very comfortable huge leather couches and a warm atmosphere. The hotel was built in 2003 I think but still manages to feel a bit olde worlde. Reception staff are always helpful but not overly welcoming. I've never heard of anyone having any issues with bookings being incorrect or rooms not being available.
Straight after check-in is where you will come across the first problem with the hotel - the layout is simply unfathomable! Having stayed there as many times as I have you'd think that I'd be able to navigate my way around the hotel (which is on only two floors) relatively easily but you'd be wrong! The numbering of rooms is strange to say the least - bedrooms on the second floor for example are all in either the 200 or 400 range (who knows what happened to the 300s!) and don't appear to follow any logical order. There are signs indicating where you can find your room but it's a bit frustrating to still need to rely on the signs when you've been there for five days in a row and still can't make it to breakfast in the morning without following the signs! The hotel is built around a series of courtyards (containing outside games such as draughts) which I think accounts for the strange layout. The 'inventive' layout prevents the hotel from appearing clinical but makes navigation difficult to say the least!The rooms themselves are lovely. Each room has a king size bed and flat screen TV as well as the usual tea/coffee, hairdryer, desk, phone etc that you'd expect. The bathrooms are also excellent - the tiles are marble and most rooms have double sinks. The rooms are tastefully decorated and always spotless.
Once you've finally made it to your room and negotiated your way back to the eating areas you've got a choice of restaurants to choose from. Bentley's is the main restaurant (which I would guess would seat around 300) and there is a smaller more intimate restaurant called Murray's (presumably named after Murray Walker because many of his quotes are inscribed on the walls). The food on offer is of a very high standard, although there is not always a huge choice available. The last time I dined in one of the restaurants there were only five main course options on the menu, and three of those were fish. Each item on the menu always has something fancy in it - there's never just a plain steak or chicken breast. Also, the menu can get repetitive if you're staying for more than just a couple of days. Breakfast though, is fantastic. There is a buffet with all the usual foods on offer - sausage, egg, bacon, toast, fruits, cereals and fruit juices. You can go back to the buffet as many times as you like. However, it can be difficult to get served tea/coffee. Quite a few times I've had to go without because I've been running late and not able to get a responsive member of staff to serve me.The hotel markets itself as being a spa and corporate events hotel and also makes a lot of the fact that it is located very close to Silverstone race course. I sometimes feel that there's a bit of a contradiction between being a spa and a corporate events hotel. I remember being at the hotel on Valentine's Day a couple of years ago while on a course and there were lots of couples who were staying there on one of their spa deals - most of the couples weren't particularly appreciative of the fact that they were sharing their fine dining experience with several tables of rowdy twenty somethings taking advantage of the free bar tab they had!
Apparently the hotel is the place to stay for the racing drivers when it's race weekend at Silverstone, so if you're a Formula 1 fan then the bar is a great place to hang out if you want to meet a racing star. The bar is decorated with pictures of the some of the many racing stars who have stayed at the hotel, which gives the bar a distinctive atmosphere. The prices in the bar are extortionate though - you're looking at £5 per drink.There are all the usual facilities at the hotel that you would expect, and others that you wouldn't - golf course, spa, gym,19m swimming pool, aerobic and dance studio, sauna, steam room, tanning rooms. I don't usually have time to use many of the facilities at the hotel when I stay there but I've never heard anyone complain about any of them. The hotel can also arrange other activities such as clay pigeon shooting, dry slope skiing, go-karting, helicopter flights, horseracing at nearby Towcester, horse riding and hot air balloon flights, so there's definitely something on offer for every taste. The hotel often has special events on offer as well - forthcoming events include a Take That tribute evening, an Abba tribute evening, mother's day lunches and murder mystery evenings. There is always a reduced hotel room rate on offer if you're attending one of these events.
My other main complaint about Whittlebury (other than its layout) is its remote location. The nearest train station is at Milton Keynes, approximately a £30 taxi journey away and the nearest airports are Birmingham and Luton. The £60 taxi fare to the airports is very painful! An important point to note is that there's no cash machine or availability to get cashback at the hotel, so you need to make sure you've got enough cash for the taxi back to the airport!The costs for staying at the hotel are as follows (although a room can cost up to £1,000 if you're staying there on a race weekend so be warned!):
Now, I think that's quite expensive, but the hotel is nice and I suppose that's the kind of price that you'd expect to pay for a hotel of this caliber.Overall, I'd recommend this hotel as a place to stay - but probably not if you want to go on a romantic break - the hotel is too big and there are too many people staying there at corporate events to get an intimate atmosphere.
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