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Dare to be Different
Priory Bay Hotel (Isle of Wight)
Member Name: zebra
Priory Bay Hotel (Isle of Wight)
Date: 25/01/01, updated on 25/01/01 (398 review reads)
Advantages: Exquisitely furnished, superb location and friendly staff.
Disadvantages: Quite expensive.
There is one big difference between the soup and the hotel. I think they are trying to keep the hotel a secret. But I am going to tell.
A couple of years ago I won £500 to spend on a luxury weekend of my choice. It was a wonderful prize but it was so difficult to choose where to go. I was tempted to stick to places that I was familiar with but as our wedding anniversary was near I thought it would be nice to go back to the Isle of Wight where we had spent our honeymoon – but this time in style. So I tried the best hotels on the Isle of Wight but because it was Cowes week they were all full. I did a search on the internet and discovered the Priory Bay Hotel, which although an unknown quantity at the time, looked quite nice.
I phoned to enquire about the hotel. Rooms cost around £200 per night which is really quite expensive so I asked what was so special about the place. The receptionist said it’s a very nice room with a big bed and nice furniture. She wasn’t exactly the best salesperson I have ever come across. I am not sure whom I spoke to next but he told me it was their aim to create a very special hotel – the best on the island. We compared a few ideas on best hotels and food and as they seemed compatible, and it wasn’t my own money I was spending, I decided to risk it. One thing that was certainly missing from my idea of a luxury hotel was the complete lack of a spa – they only had an outdoor
unheated swimming pool. But by now I was so intrigued I just had to find out what was so special about the place.
The receptionist was quite correct it was a very nice room with a big bed and nice furniture. The room was in fact huge and the vast bed was nearly as big as our bedroom and proved to be very comfortable. The en suite was equally luxurious and had the rather unusual feature of a separate toilet with double doors, unfortunately they had forgotten to provide the usual supplies of toiletries or hairdryer and even though I asked they failed to materialise. A very nice selection of teas and luxury hot chocolate was available in the room but the effect of this was rather spoilt by having to crawl round the room in search of a place to plug in the kettle.
The room was perfectly designed and very comfortable but even in these sumptuous surroundings there were certain impracticalities. It was a perfect room setting but guests make it look untidy. There was nowhere to put our suitcases apart from the floor and this seemed to spoil the elegance of the room. But these were only minor niggles. Three magnificent windows, with deep cushioned window seats and opulent drapes offered spectacular views across the golf course, the woods and to the sea beyond. I could have spent forever sitting in the window seats wrapped in the thick white robe provided and watching small red squirrels scampering around in the foreground while boats and ships drifted in the distance. But I didn’t, as I had to explore the hotel and grounds.
The hotel building spans a great deal of history. Some parts of it go back to the medieval monastery from which it takes its name and other parts are quite recent. Downstairs in the bar we were shown a scrapbook with interesting articles on the hotel and pictures of the renovation taking place. I can’t remember everything but I think queen Victoria sat under the old magnolia tree by the entrance, Gertrude Jekll pai
nted the beautiful tithe barn and Lutyens may have had something to do with the design somewhere -perhaps the unusually beautiful half moon windows set within the fireplace. The hotel was still being renovated while we were there but Andrew or James, I can’t remember which, kindly showed us other parts and his vision for them. Each room is decorated uniquely and has its own special ambience. Some rooms have open fires and as I mentioned above one has a bath right in the room – big enough to fit two quite comfortably. (see some pictures on their website)
The drawing room is decorated with immaculate taste and would be quite at home in Country Life. Sumptuous sofas and elegant chairs surround marble coffee tables stacked with suitable impressive magazines and coffee table books. Fresh flowers and exotic orchids mix with objet d'art and a gleaming grand piano completes the picture. But for all the grandeur and luxury the atmosphere is very laid back. Guests wander and lounge around in a manner more reminiscent of a house party. The staff are friendly and cooperative.
Outside the hotel are secluded sunny courtyards, terraces and lawns where suitably elegant tables entice one to take afternoon tea. It would be a superb place for a wedding.
The hotel is just part of a 70 acre estate and apart from the main hotel there are also various cottages and holiday homes available. Some are quite basic and others very picturesque. The accommodation available at the hotel is therefore suitable for all types from families with children and dogs that want to self cater to those who want a touch of absolute luxury.
The facilities include a nine hole par 3 golf course, croquet, tennis and a pool but best of all its own perfect beach which is accessed by a beautiful walk through the woods. The private beach is, in reality, not quite so private for apart from the locals from Seaview the beach is widely accessed by many people coming in
various crafts. But this is not surprising as it has all one desires in a perfect beach. It has sand and some pebbles, it has pretty rock pools dribbling with seaweed and full of wonderful creepy things for the children to poke and play with. It has an ever-changing panoramic view of the ships and sails in the Solent and a beautiful backdrop of woods. There is plenty of wood around to build fires and have barbecues. We spent a wonderful afternoon on the beach having a barbecue and discovered we were in quite good company: Virginia Bottomley and family have their own place right next door and had the same idea. Oh and while I’m name dropping rumour has it that this hotel is quite popular with quite a few famous people including Tom Cruise. (Perhaps that’s why they are keeping it secret)
I cannot fault the breakfast but was just a little disappointed by the evening meals, but perhaps we were unlucky or have been too spoiled elsewhere. There was no menu at breakfast which was a bit confusing. The waiter simply asked us what we would like without saying what was on offer. On the first day we opted for a full English and that is what we got but we discovered afterwards, by watching other residents, that we could ask for whatever we felt like and would probably have got it.
The chef at the time was apparently a two Michelin star or similar chef but perhaps he was having a holiday or the fact there was a huge party in the next room affected his performance. The big party certainly had some effect on the service though because I do remember that they didn’t have enough champagne flutes to go round. I can’t remember what I had for dinner in any detail and usually can if it was at all impressive. I do remember that the food was served in those funny little heaps that were so popular but that there was no sauces served with the salmon or steak and which I think was a terrible omission. But the restaurant was quite busy and this wou
ld suggest that it is popular and therefore usually good. You can see sample menus on their website. Since we stayed they have also now opened a beach café in a beautiful location overlooking the bay for less formal meals.
When we left I mentioned a few of my, perhaps petty, complaints to the receptionist who immediately called the manageress who responded with very sincere apologies and wiped the whole of our drinks bill, champagne included, off the total. You couldn’t ask for more.
All in all I would thoroughly recommend this hotel for its exquisite surroundings, beautiful location and friendly informal staff.
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