Teresa Levonian Cole checks in to Keythorpe Hall, a refurbished Georgian house a few miles outside Leicester that's perfect for celebrations big and small.
When is a country house hotel not a hotel? When its owners restore it with all the love and care they would lavish on their own home, filling it with eclectic antiques, and renting out their perfectly imperfect creation in its entirety, complete with a spectacularly slick team of resident staff.
Keythorpe Hall is one such property. Built over 60 years by the 11th Baron Berners and completed in 1843, the Georgian mansion sits in 20 acres of gardens and parkland, with vast wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows framing bucolic views.
Inside, the spirit of the original has been maintained, with elaborate cornicing, restored wooden floors and panelling, soft natural paints by Edward Bulmer, and a sprinkling of ancestral portraits rescued from auction houses, rubbing shoulders with contemporary artworks.
A grand hall, double reception room, and dining room, all with roaring fireplaces, have quirky touches — such as two low, curved leather Chesterfields that used to adorn the bar of Babington House, adding a well-worn homely touch, offsetting the Van Eyck chandeliers.
The seven bedrooms upstairs (there are three more in Keythorpe Hall’s East wing, where children or nannies may be billeted), each have a district character, featuring historically-inspired tapestries and wallpapers by Watts of Westminster, huge beds with certified cotton linens, and locally-made bath products using home-grown botanicals.
The bathrooms themselves are show-stoppers — as you’ll see from the fact that we’ve chosen one as the top picture for this article. In the Thomas Knyvett room, for example, a large brass bath sits in front of large window, while a full-height portrait of the 4th Baron Berners (the original is now in Compton Verney) in full Elizabethan regalia looks on, from the shower wall.
The highlight of any stay here is gastronomic. While the terms local, seasonal, sustainable have become a fashionable mantra, and a tad too overused, Keythorpe Hall walks the walk. Claudio Bincoletto, who honed his foraging skills in the Italian army, tends the ancient walled garden with ferocious enthusiasm, supplying starry chefs, Peter Johansen and Bent Varming with an array of organic fruits and exotic vegetables picked at their peak, from which the kitchens produce truly spectacular fare.
Meats, too, come from local farms, within three miles of the estate. From the freshly baked sourdough and house cultured butter, to such delights as chicken broth with daikon and anchovy, to fallow deer with beetroot and toothache pepper, no detail is overlooked. And award-winning sommelier Bert Blaize gilds the culinary lilies with his selection of wine pairing. Heaven!
What to do while you’re there
- Forage for botanicals and make your own gin at Brentingby Gin
- Fishing or sailing on Rutland Water
- Nevill Holt Opera (June and July)
- Silverstone Racing (July)
- Burghley Horse Trials (September)