Everybody needs a little bit of spoiling and pampering now and again. I was certainly spoiled when my lovely boyfriend whisked me away for a two night break at a posh hotel. The location for my birthday treat was the four star Bowden Hall Hotel (otherwise known as the Ramada Gloucester).
A COUNTRY RETREAT
Bowden Hall Hotel is located in the pretty but dormitory like village of Upton St Leonards three miles outside of Gloucester city centre. We took a taxi from Gloucester's railway station which took roughly ten minutes and cost £10. The number 5 bus from Gloucester bus station passes through Upton St Leonardo and its a five minute walk from the bus stop to the hotel. We found this service really handy for getting around fairly cheaply.
I must say I was overwhelmed at my first glimpse of Bowden Hall when the taxi drew up the long driveway. I am used to staying in smaller family B and Bs so the sight of the elegant Regency building was something of a shock to me. Built in 1770 as a manor house, Bowden Hall has also been a girl's boarding school before it was converted into its present use as a hotel. Its surrounded by 12 acres of parkland which we did not fully explore. To the front of the hotel there is a vast expanse of lawn with interesting wicker animal sculptures, which slopes down to a small secluded lake. It s setting is just so grand but also picturesque. I could quite easily picture it as a wedding venue with the beautiful parkland providing as stunning backdrop for the photographs.
A REGAL RECEPTION
We arrived at the hotel at roughly 4pm so check in had been in full swing for a couple of hours. The reception was sympathetically decked out in dark wood work and raspberry pink wall that befitted its regency grandeur. When we arrived there was an elderly couple and a businessmen waiting to check in ahead of us. Check in was a simple process. They found our reservation immediately and were able to issue our key card without a hitch. The staff throughout our stay were pleasant, professional and helpful.
A ROOM WITH A VIEW
Our standard double room (number 236) was located on the second floor. It was a bit of maze at first finding it, as it was hidden in a little alcove off the main corridor. I joked this must be where they put all the special offer guests, as I believe our package,two nights plus dinner on the first night was part of an offer ran by the Metro. It took a few attempts to find our way from the room back to the reception, as we found ourselves heading down the fire escape. I did notice there were attempts to make the hotel accessible with a stair lift up the short flight of sitars from reception to the second floor. The corridors were clean but perhaps some of the carpets had seen better days and were a bit dated.
Our room, with a view overlooking the front lawn was of a decent size.. I did not feel cramped at all in the room. It was safely, or tastefully decorated (depending on your opinion) with creams walls and white bedspread with the aqua soft furnishings just giving it a much needed splash of colour. There was a print on the wall that was very bland and corporate. The room was immaculately clean and it was evident that the maids came in everyday.
On the left hand side when entering the room was the cupboard and shelf space that was more than adequate for our needs. This was where the oh so important (well it is to m) hospitality tray was kept with a mini kettle and sufficient supplies of tea and coffee plus two bottle of mineral water and some tasty stem ginger biscuits.
Next to the bathroom door was the obligatory iron and trouser press. I almost used the iron to press my dress for dinner the first night but could not quite workout how the ironing board part of the trouser press worked.
From this corridor you walk through an archway to enter the main part of the bedroom. To the left there was a nice big desk space and wall mounted hair-dryer. There were two mirrors above this space which was very much an advantage when getting ready to go out. Next to this was the very modern large flat screen television complete wish freeview channels and extra pay per view channels for those who wanted something a little bit naughty . I believe the broadband (charged dependidng on your room type) connected to the television but we did not use it. Facing the window was the little coffee and a pair of comfortable easy chairs that were very much appreciated. The nicest surprise for me was the little extras that my boyfriend had arranged. We had a platter of fresh fruit on the desk, little gold boxes of chocolate on the bed and best of all a bottle of champagne on the coffee table. The champagne had a nice gooseberry fruitiness to it. I believe the supplement for this was fairly reasonable.
The bathroom was clean and tastefully decorated in white and navy blue. Again it was a decent size. There was an adequate supply of white slightly hard towels of varying sizes complemented by bathrobes and slippers. There was a deep bath with an over head shower . I found d the water pressure to be very good and the bath filled up in no time at all. The sea kelp toiletries (soap, shampoo and shower gel) were of a decent enough quality but we only had one of each which was a bit disappointing but they were replenished throughout our stay.
Our bed was very much a standard double bed.. I did find the bed slightly hard and the duvet a bit thin. I found myself waking up in the middle of the night a bit cold and there were no spare blankets just to put on top,. Our room was fairly quiet . We could occasionally hear next door talking but our sleep was nit interrupted by noise at all.
WINING AND DINING
The main dining area at Bowden Hall is Dearman's Restaurant. Its a lovely light an airy room wioth bay windows overlooking the front lawn. It was a pleasure to eat whilst watching ducks waddle by the window. We ate there the first night of our stay, as dinner was included in our package. Normally a three course dinner in the restaurant is £25. The standard of menu was very high with a nice selection of dishes to cater for all tastes with a good proportion of fish dishes and a choice of two vegetarian dishes for both starters and mains. I selected a feta and pesto tart to start followed by a butternut squash risotto and finished off with a pea poached in cassis.. My boyfriend ordered smoked salmon, hake and a Baileys cheesecake. Unfortunately the hake was off the menu that evening so he selected the pork belly instead. The wine list was of a decent length and was not particularly dear. The cheapest wine was £3.75 for a small glass or £16 for a bottle, Pints of lager were around about the £3 mark which I felt was not too bad value considering it was a hotel. The food was beautifully presented and tasted just as good as it looked. I was extremely impressed with the flavorus of the tart. The risotto had a lovely creamy soupy consistency but was let down by being a bit bland. The poached pear had a good balance between the pear and blackcurrant flavours with just a nice underlying hint of cinnamon.. My boyfriend was very satisfied with his lovely crisp pork belly and even tried the red cabbage which he thought he would not like. The Baileys cheesecake was light and creamy even if the Baileys was a bit lacking. A choice of coffee or tea followed which were accompanied by lovely dark chocolates shaped like spoons. The waiting staff were pleasant and helpful without being too obtrusive.
Breakfast was a less formal occasion with hot and cold buffets. Its served from 7 to 10 Monday to Saturday and is extended to noon on a Sunday so you can have an extra long lie if you wish. . The selection included all your usual breakfast things from cereals and fruit salad to sausages, eggs and bacon and pastries. The first morning we came down quite lat and it was obvious they were winding down. I found the scrambled egg to have a bit of a crunchy crust to it, whilst the yolks of the poached eggs had gone a bit hard for my liking The Danish pastries seemed a bit dry and over crisp too. Luckily the second day's breakfast was a lot better.
There's a lounge where we had drinks the second night. Two Baileys came to £8.80 so were not particularly cheap. The lounge has a menu of lighter meals and nibbles but were a tad pricy. Nachos for example were over £7 compatriot to £4 in a pub in the city centre. Room service was available but if I remember correctly it was day light robbery with sandwiches around about the £8 mark.
SWIMMING WITH SEB COE
I was really pleased to discover we had full use of the Seb Coe health club located within the hotel. Its not huge but there is everything there you would need for a work out including various machines, weights a gym ball, sauna, swimming pool and a whirl pool to relax in afterwords. There's also a small shallow pool for children to splash around. I used this facility twice. The first time was soon after arrival and was busy with local families. The second time was just after the health suite opened at 8 am and I had the place to myself. Nothing beats a pr breakfast swim to set you up for the day. The firs time I went they forgot to supply me with a health questionnaire to fill in but this was supplied the second time. I was very impressed with the cleanliness, health and safety s and actually saw the person on duty do the various tests to check the water quality. The swimming pool is not large and could get crowded easily but it was great hiving it to myself on the Saturday morning.
A GREAT ALL ROUNDER.
Bbowden Hall would be suitable for a number of occasions. Its lovely setting made it ideal for my romantic break but the extensive grounds and swimming pool would siut a family break . There is a a conference centre with two conference rooms but I did not see htis are of the hotel. Prices start from £67.50 a night for a standard double room to about £130 for the executive suites and rooms with four poster beds.
BACK TO REALITY.
Check out is by mid day which is a nice time so you are not rushing to leave. Our check out like our check in was swift and professional. Bowden Hall was not quite as posh as the Grange Hotel I stayed in for work last Christmas but in a way I preferred it, It had more character and felt more romantic. I was reluctant to check out, as I had such a lovely birthday break away.
Ramada Gloucester, Bowden Hall
Bondend Lane Upton St Leonards
+44 (0)844 815 9077