“ Norton Manor / Sutton Scotney / Nr Winchester / Hampshire / SO21 3NB / Tel: 01962 763000 / Fax: 01962 760 860 „
Some rambling about the booking first
After our rather disappointing trip to Cardiff, I was left determined to have a decent holiday, after all I have been working hard non-stop for 6 months now in my new full time job - will save this for another review. My mum has also been much in need of a break, so after a lot of pestering, she agreed to take a break somewhere, as long as it was not too far to drive, not too expensive and had some things for us to do. It would be just the two of us as my dad and sister had to go back to work (cough haha). After some browsing on last minute dot com, and plenty of hesitation, we decided the south would be the best way to go. We were actually hoping to find something in Southampton - and, well, we did, but it was more expensive and when we then came across a deal for a 4 star hotel at £160 for a double for two nights, with a dinner on the first night included, 2 hour free WIFI and gorgeous looking leisure centre included, we just went for it. It was great for mum because it was near Winchester and very close to New forest - she loves those long scenic walks. So everything looked fantastic on the net, but was it too good to be true?
It took some time to book the accommodation as the site was playing up, but in a way this gave us time to think through our decision. It is not far from my hometown, Reading, and although further from Southampton - which we'd probably not have a chance to see, it was within reach of lots of attractive places. The dinner offer was an extra £20 on a basic booking of £140 for bed and breakfast. That's only £10 a head. I was a bit worried about booking dinner because our last experience was not fantastic (see Hilton Blackpool review if you're interested). Anyway I decided to risk it - even if there was a catch, the overall price sounded good anyway, since the alternative was still £40 more.
We took our time getting there, we could check in after 2pm but in fact didn't arrive until half 3. Luckily there are a few brown signposts for the hotel as you reach Sutton Scotney (the area it is actually in) because otherwise you could easily miss it. As we turned in to the drive to the hotel, mum was already wondering if we'd taken the wrong hotel or keyed the wrong place into our Sat-Nav. But we had taken down google directions, and checked the signposts as well and so we were fairly sure we had the right place. Just off an A-road and surrounded by fields, we drove through until we could see the buildings and big purple signposts indicating car parks, reception and drop-off point. Mum went to park while I checked us in - although perhaps we ought to have taken out the bags first as the car park is further up the road. The drop-off point in fact has some spaces, I believe these are parking for disabled persons but can also be used albeit very briefly to drop off passengers/luggage when they are free. There was ample parking space and this was free of charge.
I entered through the large revolving doors and already felt a tad intimidated by the poshness of the place and the smartness of the people at the desk, I cursed myself for not brushing out the tangles in my hair properly and throwing on an old t-shirt and trousers to travel in. As soon as I gave the name, the lady at the desk keyed something into her computer and pulled out a sheet with my details which I had to complete the address, car reg and sign. I thought payment had been taken straight away when I booked so was puzzled when I had to give my card then pay straight away as I only have Maestro, not a credit card. I paid anyway, although I shall be watching my bank statement sharply next month. The figure that showed up on the chip & pin was also less than I expected so perhaps I had only paid a deposit. It's worth noting at this point that the booking was non-refundable.
We were asked if we wanted a paper (Independent is complimentary) and wake-up calls, we said no although changed our mind about the paper later & came back to ask for it, which was fine, except that the next morning it did not arrive. We asked again the next day and received a paper on our last day, so this must have just been an error. Anyway, the lady gave us both an electronic access card for our room and brief directions to our room, plus the restaurant and leisure centre, when we enthusiastically replied that we would be using the facilities. We then moved the car, took our luggage and mum returned to park the car, which I offloaded our things and explored the room.
Now I was expecting a decent place with most of the general things you expect in a four-star; a smart, clean room with a few posh extras. I was very pleased with what I saw. The décor was very modern and yet homely. Besides a warm-looking double bed and flat screen LCD, we had plenty of room, a small desk, comfy chair plus another chair at the dresser and a small glass coffee table. There was a pull-out platform with the tea & coffee facilities, no hot chocolate but the teas & coffees are interestingly the Fairtrade brand. Biscuits were supplied, nice ones and different on the two days - so we had oat biscuits the first day, then shortbread the next. There were two cups with spoons and saucers, plus two glasses, all on a tray that can be taken off another tray on the drawer. The kettle had its own place and was wireless. Under this was a safe large enough to fit a big laptop in, which is ideal these days, given the amount of valuables people like to carry with them. Finally at the bottom of this cupboard was the usual minibar, which only had two bottles of mineral water and was not very cold. In the desk drawer was a hairdryer, and, more unusually a fan on top and an iron/ironing board in the cupboard. We even had little sewing kits, but not on those little strips of cardboard you might be used to, these actually had proper plastic boxes with six coloured threads and six needles - hmm, very handy. In spite of being decorated with very dark colours and an earthy shade of green for the bedspread - something I would normally dislike, the room itself lit up nicely and the colours looked good. There was some artwork on the walls for that extra touch.
There was a large bathroom with bath/shower, toilet, sink with shampoo, shower gel, moisturiser & soap, hot towel rail plus another rack over the bath & lots of shelf space. It was a very well lit bathroom. Save for some sticky substance on the floor the first day, which I suspect was cleaning liquid or polish not rinsed away properly as it did not smell, the bathroom was quite clean. We each had a bath towel, then there was the hand towel and a floor towel. There was a metal box with a few tissues in on the shelf, plus two glasses for rinsing.
When mum returned, we sat down for tea and biscuits before going for a walk around the grounds. We asked reception if they had any nice places to walk e.g. a lake. She said yes and gave us directions out past the tables towards a Manor House (I expect this is now used for conferences or something, as with 'The Barn', another place we came across) and on down to a lake. I've taken some pictures but to some it up, it was very quiet and peaceful, with lots of wildlife and greenery. There had been a wedding recently and the grass was covered in confetti, but otherwise the place was litter-free. The air was very clean, most likely because the hotel is set in country surroundings.
Inside the hotel
We were permanently lost. Not all corridors looked the same, but the place was generally very confusing and the signposts did not help. This had to be the biggest weakness, and we did bump into a few people who were confused as to where they were going. Thankfully staff seemed to be also walking about the place and were very friendly and willing to help. One admitted the signs were not good, but I do with she would have raised this with management. Lots of creepy crawlies got into just one particular corridor that were not cleaned out, not that I mind. But there were these weird looking long, thin straight legged spiders, I expect the water spiders, that just seemed to be all over the walls. So if you don't like spiders or bugs, this may be a problem as there's honestly nothing that could stop such small things getting in and being close to a lake I guess that's unavoidable.
The interior of the hotel is otherwise attractive, with some extra seating areas upstairs, and a leaflet rack. One the second day there were also some papers there. Everything is very modern, but country style, so comfortable. There are lifts, and the hotel seems quite accessible, with reasonable width corridors. We wondered around a bit until we found someone who could point us in the right direction back toward our room.
The health club
When we returned from our walk around the grounds, we still had a bit of time before dinner, so we decided to give the leisure facilities a go. The leisure centre is called Reflections and is also a health club open to membership from the public. There is a small lobby just before you enter the pool area, which we had briefly visited before our walk. There are beauty products on sale here, and testers We had to sign in, in a book then the staff behind the desk gave us towels. A couple of times we visited later the desk was not always manned but it seemed to be okay to collect our own towels. The leisure centre was open from 6.30am until 9.30pm.
The (female) changing rooms we fairly small, with only one private cubicle that was quite hard to spot as it was on the far side from the lockers etc. There were two toilets, sinks equipped with soap and moisturiser, and a hand-dryer. Round the corner were the lockers with a small amount of bench space - hardly enough for three people. There were three showers, which were very nice and had two types of hair & body wash - coconut and mint, and a conditioner. The temperature was easy to control in these. There was also a special open shower out in the pool area, which had three settings I didn't fully understand. Cold, self-explanatory & a bit of a no-no for me, drench, which I guess means a high power setting, and fragrance, which had me baffled as I could not exactly smell anything. The drench and fragrance settings were not particularly warm, but it was a handy blast of water after being in the sauna or steam room.
We tried the steam room first. It looks like a large cylindrical hut, and when you enter it is slightly dark inside, then you are hit with the overwhelming scent of menthol-eucalyptus. This always reminds me of medicine, but it was still quite pleasant, and you get used to it the longer you stay. The steam was hot enough and inside, the seating is around the circumference, with two cold taps at either end. One tap did not work, but the other was like a hose and mum kept squirting me with it! The whole thing is turquoise-tiled and on the ceiling there are lots of small lights that regularly change colour and are therapeutic to watch.
We tried the sauna, and the heat was slightly less consistent. Our first time, someone else came out commenting that it was very hot, but for us it was much cooler than expected. Probably because we've become used to these things. The next time it was hot, then cooler again. The sauna was fairly spacious, though not as big as the steam room. It had one big coloured light that changed colour occasionally. There were monitors for temperature and humidity, plus a sand-timer, which we did not really use as you can see the clock outside anyway.
The pool was 15m, but somehow looked bigger. We tried it, and it was just warm, not too warm. The first couple of times it was not very busy, but our last morning (later time of 11am) was very busy with kids and club members, so we didn't really have as much of a chance to enjoy it. It was quietest in the evenings and very early morning. Around the pool were tables with cushioned deck chairs and sunbeds. There were also two tiled hotbeds, one much hotter than the other. People did tend to leave towels on them and if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, or you'll not get chance to use them. On the tables were jugs of water, sometimes with slices of lemon, orange or lime, plus plastic cups. It was all very holiday-style and relaxing, so also an ideal place to sit and read when not so busy.
We did not have the chance to use the gym facilities, although we could see that they were upstairs with a view over the pool. I could see all the standard machines, not in short supply and it never looked busy, only a couple of people at a time there. Unfortunately I cannot comment much further than this.
Feeling refreshed and after relaxing for a bit in the room, we headed down to dinner, fashionably late, of course. We arrived at the Scenes restaurant and entered what looked a bit like a night-club lobby. Some sofas and armchairs were set out on one side, and two members of staff were stood on the other. One was on the phone, so the other asked us to take a seat. We had to wait a little while before we were seated, and the waiter explained to us how our exclusive dinner worked. Basically we both had a £25 allowance to order anything we liked on the food menu, then we would have to pay for any excess plus drinks. The starters cost £5-6, mains around £15 and desserts another £5-6, so in all, it was a more or less fair deal and the excess was likely to be small.
A friendly waitress offered us some water and bread rolls before we ordered our meals. Mum went for a kind of cheesecake for starters, whilst I ordered a French salad, then we both went for pan friend sea bass for our mains. We ordered soft drinks as well. Our starters arrived first, the drinks took a while and the juice mum had ordered took longer as they did not have any so had to offer something else. At least we had our water. The breads were dry and very tough. One was seeded, the other flavoured, with dried tomato pieces. The starters were quite light, the cheesecake being savoury and actually quite nice. I hate cheesecake desserts but I tried this and it was something very different. My salad was lemony, mostly lettuce and tomato with a couple of slices of egg, but anyway I was more looking forward to the main. Our fish arrived shortly after, very nicely presented, three small fillets with crisped skin. I felt the portions were a little on the small side, and the accompaniments - potatoes and vegetables were mean, but it tasted fantastic. With the bread and starter, it was not so bad. We then ordered desserts. Mum went for crème brulee and I ordered walnut bread and butter pudding with pear slices. The crème brulee came with a nutty slice that had a chocolate base. Mine had more of a walnut paste, so no whole nuts that would have been nice, but it was delicious and again, nicely presented. The pear was too much, however, syrupy and much too sweet for me, but I tend to dislike very sweet food anyway. The waiting staff were pleasant and the atmosphere overall was friendly, so after signing for the extras and offering a tip, we left satisfied. We were also given a card with details of a survey to fill online to give feedback, which I have yet to do as I was more keen to write this!
The room was very hot on the first night and so we were quite thankful for the fan, yet the weather cooled the next night and it was cold, typical! Anyway when we got up the next morning, we were not yet hungry, probably because of the heat, so we swam first. The breakfast was at the same restaurant, Scenes, as our dinner, and opened at 6.30 until 9.30, quite early times, I thought. We arrived about 8.30 and as it was our first visit, we were given a brief tour of the breakfast area. The cereals and pastries had a buffet table set up in the entrance, where the sofas had been the night before. The cooked breakfast and cold items had their own area inside, nearer where the kitchens must be. A waitress was meant to come and offer us tea or coffee and toast. A long time later when a couple were seated next to us then offered coffee immediately we got a bit annoyed, but I think that was more about that waitress than the service overall, because after that the staff were fairly helpful. I was given more toast than I asked for, which is frustrating as I find it wasteful then force myself to eat it all. I also had already stuffed myself with the mini croissants - they did not have big ones which is just as well - and cereal. I tried the cooked breakfast but to be honest I never like this much. I don't eat meat and find the utensils are always being mixed and the food generally greasy. In this case the hash browns were thin & mostly batter, the mushrooms swimming in oil but okay and the beans were so-so. I tried the fruit salad, which had a very good mix and was well presented and tasty. There was not much choice of cereal, so I had bran on the first day and rice crispies on the second. However, they did have oats, Allbran and Weetabix as well. You could add dried fruits, nuts or dark/white chocolate pieces. There were also muffins and rolls. The drinks were great, we had tea the first day, and the second I asked if they had hot chocolate and they did. It was the proper stuff, brought in a pot, so mum could also try some.
After breakfast on our last day, we decided to check out first, then go for a swim before we left. Check-out was at 11am, so we relaxed a while then packed up and checked out at 10.30. The people at the desk were very pleasant and asked us if we had a good stay. It was fine to continue to use the facilities and they also offered us directions for our return. I will still be checking my bank balance carefully, however, as it looks as though the charge was less than I had expected and for the two nights actually only came to about £135 for both of us.
I was sad to have to leave, but also sad that we could not have brought the rest of my family who would have enjoyed this experience too. I can say confidently we will be returning. Not hotel is perfect, but this one is certainly very good.
Review I originally posted on Ciao.
I've been looking forward to writing this review for a while now! My other half took me away for a weekend a month or so ago, and we went to this beautiful hotel near Winchester. It really is lovely, so if you were looking for somewhere a bit special, read on...
The hotel is somewhat out of the way - one of its few major bad points - being about 20 minutes away from Winchester itself, but the setting and its beautiful scenery more than makes up for this. I wouldn't recommend travelling by anything other than car however! Winchester is also a really lovely place with lots of interesting spots to see, so it's well worth a visit in itself.
There were lots of designated parking spaces at the hotel, and we had no trouble at all parking on the Friday night. However it was much busier on the Saturday and Sunday and we had to park a good way from the reception area (not good for me in my ridiculous high heels...!)
The main hotel is fairly modern in appearance. It reminded me of a very high-end Travelodge for some reason, but it was nice. The manor itself however, which is in fact an old manor house converted into hotel bedrooms, is beautiful.
The hotel has a very long driveway with a very unusual 21.2 mph speed limit. The drive runs through fields which at night are taken over by the rabbits.
On entering the hotel, there is a smart neat reception which leads through to a very nicely furnished lounge area. The staff on reception were both professional and friendly, and very helpful.
We actually chose this hotel because we had a voucher to be used at one of the hotels in the group, but prices seem to range from £90 to £150 per night.
Because we were staying in the manor house, we had to drive to our rooms from the reception, which was a bit annoying in some ways but on the other hand meant that we could park close to the entrance and also have a bit more privacy. The manor itself had the added security of a coded lock. We had one key card between us, as is the case in most places, but we weren't asked if we wanted another one.
The manor house itself was truly beautiful. We went in to the entrance hall to discover a piano, tapestries and beautifully embroidered chairs (which we didn't dare sit on!).
There were no signs once we'd entered the house, which was a little confusing at first, but we soon figured out that the bedrooms were upstairs and I think that to include signs would certainly detract from the wonderful feel of the entrance area. There was a wide impressive staircase with a red carpet; the stairs were a little uneven but this is understandable when you consider that the manor house is 300 years old.
When I entered our room I was truly taken aback and couldn't believe that I would really be staying there! It was a very large room with lots of space and big windows, with proper shutters on the outside. It also had a four poster bed and beautiful old fashioned furniture, to the extent that I really did begin to feel a bit like a high-class lady in her manor house!
The furniture included a TV, a lovely soft velvety armchair, a blocked and carpeted fireplace with an ornate mirror above it, huge wardrobes and a beautiful desk.
The bathroom too was really nice, and the bath was both very deep and really relaxing, although not very wide. Unfortunately there was also no proper shower; although there was a shower attachment fitted to the taps there was nowhere to hold it up. However the bath filled very quickly and once in a while it's no hardship to relax with a nice hot bubble bath!
The TV had the four basic channels, excepting Five, then also had Euronews, 5TV and two European channels which we couldn't understand. You could also choose to watch Pay TV, although this was scheduled rather than movie-on-demand which is easier.
The bed coverings weren't great although the pillows were fine, the cover was not particularly attractive and the sheets didn't really reach the pillows.
As we were in the manor house this was a premium room, so I'm afraid I can't comment on the cheaper rooms.
Dinner on Friday night was really well done. It was beautifully presented but unfortunately really wasn't my kind of food as I'm something of a fussy eater. The menu consisted of four options for each of starter, main course and dessert. I had pepper and tomato soup, which was very nice, and we were offered extra bread rolls which I appreciated as often this is overlooked. The main course was lamb cutlets, which I didn't enjoy, but it was good food nevertheless. Pudding on the other hand was truly delicious and much more up my street white chocolate tort!
Breakfast is one of my favourite things about hotels, and it was truly excellent on Saturday. The cooked breakfasts were done to order because there weren't many people in, and there were plenty of other choices, including yoghurts, cereals, and most importantly pastries pain au chocolats, croissants and cinammon whirls. On Sunday the extra people meant that the cooked food was served as a hot buffet, which wasn't nearly so good; by the time we reached the dining room they had run out of bacon, and there were also no pastries, which was a shame.
On Saturday night we decided to order room service. We could either choose from the restaurant menu, as I did, or from the ordinary room service menu. I had steak and ale pie and chips, which was really well done the chips were especially good and I'm fussy when it comes to those! We also ordered paninis, which were nice although best eaten immediately!
My boyfriend had the club burger, which he really enjoyed. Room service charged an extra £3 for the actual delivery, but as we were on a dinner, bed and breakfast tariff the food was included in the price of the weekend (in this case free!).
On the Saturday we decided to check out the swimming pool. The changing rooms were okay but fairly average, and the lockers, which required a pound coin, came with really large, annoying and uncomfortable plastic wristbands!
We didn't use either the gym or the sauna but the swimming pool was lovely it was the perfect temperature and had steps all the way in which was nice. We spent over an hour and a half in there, which as I don't usually enjoy swimming that much must be good! We meant to go back on the Sunday morning but were too lazy to head over from the manor house.
The jacuzzi was also really good. It wasn't really very big but it was a nice size for just the two of us.
When our keycard didn't work we called reception and they sent over a replacement without asking for any ID or even a name we'd never seen the guy before! So that wasn't
exactly very secure...
Our waitress on the friday night was really friendly and attentive, but on Saturday morning we stood waiting in the restaurant for nearly 5 minutes before anyone bothered to take any notice of us.
On a slightly off-topic but still vaguely relevant note, we saw a yellow bird that looked like a giant bumblebee, although with proper bird-like wings I am dying to know what it was, so if anyone has any ideas from that very vague and useless description I'd love to hear from you!
One interesting although somewhat random point is that the rooms in the manor are named after flowers! We were in Daffodil, and as you can tell it's a nice room!
All in all we had a really wonderful weekend away, and the little things I've pointed out really didn't make any difference in fact I only really noticed them when it came to writing this! It's definitely somewhere to go if you want a nice break. Thanks for reading!
~For more information go to http://www.qhotels.co.uk
Situated within 54 acres of rolling Hampshire parkland, Norton Manor is ideally situated just 60 miles southwest of London and 45minutes from Heathrow airport. It provides a perfect setting for weddings, conferences, banquets and meetings, and with nearby attractions including Winchester Cathedral, Stonehenge and The New Forest. The hotel has 97 spacious bedrooms including 14 suites, a fantastic health and leisure club, tennis courts and a five-a-side football pitch. A variety of purpose-designed meeting rooms, all equipped with the most up-to-date technology, are available. With 22 meeting rooms, varying in size including the 400 year old Hampshire Barn, Norton Manor is ideal for conferences as well as training and executive board retreats.