Leaving London on a miserably cold, drizzly Friday afternoon, I am buzzing with anticipation for a weekend in the country. Come rain or shine, the country is always an enjoyable place to be, and my destination is nothing short of spectacular. A mere hour outside of London and I’m on the winding roads of Sussex, heading towards the famed Gravetye Manor. From what I have read, Gravetye is as immensely British as British can be. Built by Richard Infield for his wife in 1598, the building’s very inception is one of romance. From then on it has changed many hands, been a smugglers den and, most notably, became the abode of William Robinson, who many claim was one of the greatest gardeners to have ever lived, leaving an impeccably formed estate which remains luxuriously preened to this day. Needless to say I’m terribly excited.
Finally driving along the meandering forest-lined driveway, I pull up in front of an impressive gateway, the initials WR dominating the gates as they swing open and beg me forth. Ahead I can see the Manor, and every preconceived idea I had became immediately true. The vast stone walls, hidden alcoves and smell of firewood consume my senses and I feel instantly at home, like a lone ranger returning from years of travel.
Entering, the atmosphere and aroma screams of unequivocal Britishness, and as I’m shown to my room through the maze of hallways, low-ceilings and exposed oak beams, I feel nothing but peace. My Exclusive Deluxe room, aptly named Chestnut, boasts a grand king-size bed, expertly sourced vintage furniture, a state-of-the-art bathroom and a compelling view over the wild garden to the rear. I drop my bags, throw off my overcoat and shoes, and sprawl out on the bed – a moment of rest for the weary traveller.
After a quick change into more appropriate evening-wear, I head downstairs to sample the delectable, much-talked-about menu, curated by Michelin Starred Head Chef, George Blogg. After an old-fashioned by the roaring open fire, I’m shown through to the dining area. A little bemused by the glorious menu, and struggling to decide what to eat when everything looks so good, I finally settle on a pressing of rougié foie gras, followed by a pine smoked haunch of local venison and finished with a wonderful raspberry crumble soufflé – all pared exquisitely with wines chosen by their sommelier Sean Arthur. After the leisurely meal, I head through to the sitting-room, place myself in an enveloping armchair in front of another vast open fire and sip on a dram of Oban, before eventually heading to bed.
Waking fresh-eyed, alert and excited to see what Gravetye has to offer during the day, I rush down for a wholesome breakfast. It is here that I learn that almost all the produce is grown in the gardens, the eggs from their free-range hens, and the flowers that adorn every table freshly picked each morning from the flower garden. I don my Barbour, put on my boots and head into the garden for a tour with Head Gardener Tom Coward. Even though the rain is still pounding down, nothing is detracted from the experience. I learn about the history of William Robinson, the groundbreaking design of the gardens, and the unwavering commitment to produce the finest fruit and vegetables for the kitchen. And this is not all that Gravetye has to offer. With notice they can arrange horse riding though the Ashdown Forest, shooting, spa treatments, in-room massages, fishing, golfing… the list truly does continue exponentially.
Before long I’m on my way back to London again. Although this is done begrudgingly, I have had the most wonderfully relaxing time, and I throughly look forward to returning again. I can’t help but feel Gravetye Manor offers the perfect weekend break for the modern gentleman, the exacting culmination of British countryside, old-world charm and 5-star service. Get out of the city, invite that special someone, and visit Gravetye Manor, I promise you won’t regret it.
Rooms start at £260 during the winter months, and £340 during the summer. For more information visit gravetyemanor.co.uk