More about Cowley Manor
Absolutely wonderful !
I have just come back from a weekend at Cowley Manor having had pretty much the best two days of my life. Like most people, I dread January and am desperate to recharge at this time of year. Cowley was just what I needed - unpretentious, chilled yet groovy and just the nicest staff we have ever had look after us (and we've done Aman and then some). The whole stay was wonderful and I would and will strongly recommend it to anyone.
We recently spent 2 nights at Cowley Manor, our room was fantastic but it was 'The Best'. We had a beautiful view over the lake and the grounds, which was made even more glorious with the sun shining.
Its a very laid back hotel which we appreciated.
The Spa was great and we swam outside! Treatments were good but a little overpriced.
Will look forward to our next visit.
Ask for Lloyd
The first time my husband and I went to Cowley Manor we went on our own, this time we went with friends and on both occasions we had an absolute ball! The surroundings are contemporary and luxurious and yet you still feel completely at home (or at the very cool home of a very wealthy friend!). The staff are wonderful - they are there when you need them and nothing is too much trouble, but they also leave you alone to get on with the important business of having fun. Seek out Lloyd the barman for his magical Mojitas!
SUCH A DISAPOINTMENT
Just returned from a three night stay at Cowley Manor between Christmas and New Year and it was such a disappointment. Having tried to get in several times and failed and read so many excellent reviews I have to say I felt cheated. The house is ok but not half as funky as Mr and Mrs Smith would have you belive, the staff attentive and spa relaxing but the food was awful, grounds small and the whole thing generally very over priced for what it is. Also there were so many children that it felt more like we were staying in a crèche rather than a luxury spa hotel and relaxing in the lounge or spa was simply not possible due to the constant screaming and running around by the under tens. I'm sure this is a great place if you have a couple of children in tow and want an on site nanny service but I’d avoid staying here if you are looking for a quiet relaxing romantic break and head off to Babington House instead as its divine!
The way a wekend should be.
My friends and I have just returned from Cowley Manor and the whole long weekend was superb. The staff are young and incidentally our party was not. Ave age 34. We were treated extremely well and made to feel v special. By way of a background we had all dropped our babie with grandparents etc and were enjoying a break away.
I have noted other comments and feel obliged to disagree. There were many other couples with children, however the hotel was extremely concious that the children would not impact adult guests.
The two barman were of the highest quality and were able to mix all drinks requested, there was no lack of knowledge or skill.
Dinner in the restaurant was of the highest calibre, food, service and atmospere excellent.
The only negative point would be that if you fly your own helicopter and order two dozen mojito's for a large group then you may have to wait a while, however whilst waiting you could doodle with a marker pen and on a minute by minute basis ensure that your ego was carefully massaged.
Overall, this hotel is everything and more than expected, the rooms in the stable block are quirky and excellent.
Do go and ask for Lloyd to mix you a drink
Lovely but room for improvement !!!
My wife and I have just returned from three days at Cowley Manor and felt some feedback on our stay would be useful for both travellers and the hotel.
I chose the hotel over a short break in Venice, as my wife is pregnant and felt country walks, and a spa would be more relaxing. We arrived mid-week, which was perfect as the drive from London was very quick and enjoyable. The hotel is approached along a beautiful winding drive with trees and lakes either side. The manor itself is classicaly elegant with the tiny parish church sitting next door separated by an imposing yew hedge.
The hotel was quiet and the staff unrushed, the only other people being couples and, and others like us (pregnant partner or infants)...exactly what we wanted. We stayed in one of the Exceptional rooms - wonderful. Private terrace overlooking stunning grounds. Huge on-suite with walk-in shower, bath for 2 (or 3), and twin sinks. Plenty of robes, towles etc. Plasma TV, DVD, & Hi-Fi. Four poster bed which on first sight looked Swedish and functional, but nevertheless had exceptionally comfortable bedlinen which was a dream to sleep in. There is an extensive DVD and CD collection, just ask for what you want from reception. TV has all normal satellite channels.
The grounds though attractive, weren't as large as expected. Make the effort and ask the reception for a map of local walks. They have 1, 4 and 8 miles routes...wellies and umbrellas are provided. The adventurous will discover the fanastic Green Dragon Inn which is a 10 minute walk alone a quiet country road. The staff are very very friendly and the food was great (especially starters). We ate there every day. Be sure to book a table as they go quickly.
In comparison the breakfast at Cowley Manor was disappointing. Continental breakfast is included in the room price, but inadequate for the price paid. Although the food itself is good, we were put off by having to order everything individually. When slightly confused as to what we were entitled to without paying extra, there was no assistance from our waiter, which was a tad embarassing. In addition you were limited to tea or cofee, fruit or cereal. Boiled eggs, yoyurt ect are extra, and anything more substantial will cost you on average £8.00 pp extra - not great if you've already paid £355 for the room. Having said that, the dinning room was a beautiful wood panelled hall with comfy chairs and views over parkland. Quiet and enjoyable (mid-week).
The C-side spar is very nice, set away from the main house in funcky grounds dug into the hillside. The staff are very welcoming. The pools are great. Make use of them, no one else does. Only two other couples did when we were there. We swam every morning before a late breakfast and had the place to ourselves. Steam room and sauna, again plenty of robes/towels products etc. The gym is inadequate mainly geared to cardio, with outdated weight machines, and poor ventilation. Can't fairly comment on spa treaments. My wife had only one but has had better in London for cheaper.
Enjoy the beautiful mix of funky contemorary interior, in classic English manor house.
Walk and enjoy the grounds.
Make the effort to go for walks in surrounding contryside: wellies, brollies and torches provided.
Make full use of the pools and gym not just spa. They're free and empty.
Eat/drink at the Green Dragon Inn for food and service.
Avoid weekends. A much noisier crowd and kids. Not hepled by poor sound proofing.
Just sit on the terrace with a drink. You can do that anywhere.
Read the papers and not talk to your partner over breakfast (like so many we saw).
Order room service > £10. There is a £5 charge for delivery.
We have just returned from our honeymoon at Cowley Manor. Work commitments had dictated that we only had a few days to get away so we wanted to make sure that the limited time was spent somewhere special. The criteria were to find somewhere within two hours drive of London, quiet and rural yet cool and funky, an upscale spa and a first class restaurant. We could not have been more pleased on every level. From the initial welcome and introduction to the Big Room with its opulent bathroom and stunning terrace overlooking the lakes and valley to the stylish dining room where the imaginative food was presented by staff who genuinely cared about what they were doing, everything was geared to our enjoyment and relaxation. Although we were advised to borrow wellingtons from the hotel before exploring the grounds, we chose to brave it in our own shoes. When we returned muddy but wiser, the same member of staff was happy to clean our dirty shoes and return them to our room. Special mention to Jilly in the spa who was welcoming and took the time to congratulate us on our recent celebrations. She made these two men very happy that day! My only regret was that on checking out, there was no apparent way to leave a well deserved gratuity. Hopefully, this review will go some way to make amends.
Pure, indulgent, luxury
I took my wife here on 30 December as a surprise for her 40th birthday and we both loved every minute of our stay. The atmosphere of the place was very laid back but the staff extremely efficient and friendly.
We used the spa facilities - a Cloud 9 massage that my wife loved and the indoor and outdoor pools are fantastic.
The restaurant serves wonderful food and the place is very informal (jeans are totally acceptable) and unstuffy with excellent service.
We stayed in room 30 (a 'great' room) on the top floor so we didn't experience any noise whatsoever that some of the other reviewers have experienced. The room was spacious with a separate seating area and a huge bathroom.
Even though Cowley obviously attracts some wealthy clients judging by all the fancy cars in the car park, children are welcome and this gives the place a relaxed feel. For a one-off treat, I would thoroughly recommend it.
I went to Cowley for a weekend in early Jan. Found it very disappointing, especially having read so many glowing reviews on this website.
First impressions: what a shame they have cars parked right the way up to the front door. The manor's facade is undoubtedly lovely, but it was spoilt by the rows of Ford Focuses and 4X4s stacked right up to the entrance porch. Inside: yes, quite modern and minimal but pretty ordinary - it didn't feel special. In fact it was all quite cold and echoey and unatmospheric. Maybe it would have felt different in the height of summer.
Rooms: Our room was decorated in a style that I can best describe as 'expensive Ikea'. It was in the stable block and it was COLD! A cardinal sin in English country house hotels, I think. It was also badly designed. The bathroom and loo were on a mezzanine level, and in order to go to the loo in the middle of the night, you had to turn on the whole bathroom light (no separate switch for the light in the toilet) and thus illuminate the whole room and wake up your partner. Not very well thought-out. Also the room was noticeably rough around the edges, with visible cracks in the painted wall of the bathroom mezzanine that revealed it were made of several sheets of plasterboard bolted together, and dirty scuffed walls by the door. It was definitely due for a lick of paint. Other than that, the bed was very comfy and the toiletries were nice. The lighting was terrible, especially for applying makeup.
The staff were all sweet but we definitely got the impression that there were 2/3 managers and then a fleet of teenagers, perhaps to keep staffing costs down. Having said that, all the teenagers were very sweet, although they did keep calling me Madam (I am 35) and asking about my drive down in solicitous tones that suggested they thought I was about 65 and had just had a hip replacement. They were lacking a few standard service skills but made up for that with their undeniable enthusiasm and politeness. Food was ok - not special though.
Good things: Breakfast was very pleasant, although we had to wait 40 mins for our eggs (they'd forgotten the order). The spa and the lovely, empty pools were delightful. Swimming in the outdoor pool in the frosty morning air was a real pleasure. Moans: no conditioner in any of the dispensers in the 3 ladies' showers, no complimentary body lotion.
To be honest, I wouldn't go back. Babington does the same thing but much better. And the Ickworth knocks spots off Cowley in terms of design and decor.
My wife and I went for a 3 night stay over Easter. The hotel was full but didn't feel crowded at all, particularly the pool areas which were genuinely fantastic and the treatments superb. The room was innovatively styled (on 3 floors) and like nothing I have ever seen before - it generally worked very well - much better than a single room of the same square footage, and genuinely distinctive.
The food was disappointing, bland when doing the classics and disappointing when they tried to be adventurous. The breakfast was particularly poor and unexciting, with the added irritant that the staff started cleaning up around you, moving tables and chairs and generally making you feel unwelcome at about 11.10am, even though they say that breakfast is served until at least 11.30. The bar area is nicely styled, the cocktails are good, but it's a little austere and the chairs somewhat uncomfortabl - fine for a pre-dinner drink, but not for settling in for the evening. This may have been why the bar and all the communal areas were completely empty (apart from us!) by 11.15pm on the two nights we ate in.
The big 'but' relates to the child-friendly nature of the hotel. During the day all the communal areas (pool, outdoors, lounge area etc) are dominated by kids, nannies and cooing parents. That is great if you are one of them, but for a romantic getaway, it can be something of an atmosphere killer. If you like that kind of thing or are willing to put up with it, you'll enjoy it, but we warned!
Overall, however, a great experience. Friendly staff, lovely rooms, spectacular pool/spa, all in a beautiful house and country setting.