A three-day winter break at Donnington Grove
After the sparkle of Christmas, the New Year feels like its ushering in duller days. The key to combating the gloom is having something special to look forward to. Time then to book your very own country house escape.
With beauty treatments and golf, afternoon teas and clay pigeon shooting, theatre shows and fine foods - not to mention a dash of Downton Abbey - here’s how your three-day break in Berkshire could look at Donnington Grove.
Donnington Grove is every inch the rural retreat. Set in 500 acres of gorgeous grounds, this Strawberry Hill Gothic mansion is not only characterful, it’s friendly too. And it makes a perfect base for visiting one of Britain’s most famous stately homes. Highclere Castle, ITV’s Downton Abbey, is just 8 miles away. Book in for Highclere’s Special Winter Tour in January and February to be one of a select number of guests. You’ll be shown around the State Rooms and the Gallery Bedrooms before exploring the Egyptian Exhibition and grounds at your own pace. Donnington Grove is defenitely the perfect place to start exploring the things to do in Berkshire!
After seeing the haunts of Lady Mary, John Bates and the Dowager Countess of Grantham it’s time to head back to Donnington to continue the English country house theme with some afternoon tea. Pretty much invented by the Duchess of Bedford in 1840, this mini-meal was a stopgap between lunch and a late dinner. At Donnington it sees you feast on finger sandwiches, afternoon pastries, cakes scones and of course unlimited tea. Add a glass of Prosecco if you choose.
Then it’s time to relax in Donnington’s heritage rooms, admiring the hand-painted wallpapers, elaborate furniture and centuries old artworks. Then head to the hotel’s Beau’s Bar for freshly prepared light bites, before heading to your charming bedroom for a relaxing night’s sleep.
After a leisurely breakfast packed with local produce, Day Two is a good day to enjoy Donnington’s superb facilities. That may see you booking in for an aromatherapy Swedish or deep tissue massage at Avalon, our very own beauty and treatment rooms. Or you could have some tee time at the renowned Donnington Grove Golf Club, an 18 hole Championship course, with it’s own flood lit driving range and fully-stocked professional shop.
Lunch could be some sandwiches at Beau’s Bar – perhaps flash-seared steak with blue cheese, or smoked salmon with lemon creme fraiche. The afternoon might bring a trip to Newbury Racecourse if there’s a fixture on, or a visit to Donnington Castle. This twin-towered 14th century fortification sits right on the edge of our grounds. As you explore you’ll encounter impressive earthworks and the remains of a wider castle floorpan beside the towering gatehouse.
The evening opens up a show at the Watermill Theatre. One of the UK’s most successful regional producing theatres, this intimate venue stages award-winning shows in a converted watermill. And – even better – it’s less than 2 miles away from Donnington Grove.
Time to enjoy more of Donnington’s country house pursuits - specifically clay pigeon shooting. All equipment is provided and skilled staff are on hand to help everyone from the cognoscenti to complete beginners hit some of those spinning clay disks.
The afternoon could bring a spot of fly fishing on Donnington’s beautiful stretch of the River Lambourn chalk stream - winter means the chance to catch grayling, building up skills for the trout season that begins in mid-April.
Or take a trip to the Living Rainforest. Run by the Trust for Sustainable Living, the centre is home to 850 species of plants and animals, and sees you experiencing the atmosphere of a lush tropical rainforest - complete with intense sights, sounds and smells.
After all that exploring, it’s time for a sumptuous meal at our stylish but relaxed Beau’s Restaurant. Here Head Chef Simon Hodgson turns prime local ingredients into global dishes with assurance and flair.
The restaurant is named after the 18th century dandy, Beau Brummel – a former resident at Donnington Grove. You can’t help feeling he’d definitely feel it’s a worthy end to your fantastic three day break.