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March 14, 2024

A Pawfect Stay at Ellenborough Park

A historic Cotswolds hotel practically made for four-legged companions.

By Samantha Coles

Standing within a bucolic 90-acre estate, Ellenborough Park is supremely located between the highest point of the ever-enchanting Cotswolds and the famed Cheltenham Racecourse (it’s under three miles away, in fact). 

The five-star hotel and spa dates back to the 1400s when it was originally known as Southam House. Throughout its lengthy history, it has been home to the De la Bere family (whose marriage crest still sits above the fireplace in the Restaurant), hosted King George III during his extended stay in Cheltenham to access the spa waters, and was a girls’ school for a number of decades. 

It opened as Ellenborough Park in 2010 following a thorough refurbishment where many of the original features were restored — including the full removal, restoration and reinstallation of the staircase. 

[See also: The 15 Best Luxury Hotels in London]

Stay

As Ellenborough Park sits amongst 90 private acres, it is practically made for bringing along any four-legged companions. Luckily, dogs are more than catered for — downright spoilt, in fact. My labrador, Rhubarb, was treated to a Le Chameau bed in our suite (she tried her very best to sleep on my four-poster bed, though) along with a welcome dog’s dinner for her and even a dog room-service menu in case she fancied something extra — dog tapas, chicken roast dinner and even ‘bark brew’ were on offer. 

The dog-friendly suite also had a sizable enclosed garden for her to run around in privacy. It is worth noting that if you are visiting with your dog, no one will enter your suite without you being present. So that means no housekeeping or turn-down service if you’re out at dinner. This was music to my ears as Rhubarb  is a particularly nervous girl and would be uneasy about any unexpected visitors. 

[See also: The Gainsborough Bath Spa: The Healing Power of Water]

the lodge at ellensborough park
The Lodge / ©Ellenborough Park

If you aren’t visiting with a pet, consider booking the Lodge, a new standalone dwelling hidden away from the rest of the hotel. Following down a path, you’re greeted by the pretty and perfectly manicured garden, complete with white benches sat underneath a soaring tree and a swinging egg chair. The Lodge itself is country chic at its finest and has a kitchen, open-plan dining area and lounge with a traditional wood burner. 

[See also: The Most Luxurious Dog Friendly Hotels] 

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Relax

There’s a 49-ft outdoor heated swimming pool — somewhat of a rarity in the UK, considering the weather limitations (or unleash your inner Wim Hof and go for a chilly paddle). The Elemis Spa has a sunken Jacuzzi, sauna and steam rooms, and treatment rooms. 

But new this spring, the Spa Garden Experience is a unique offering. In its own pretty open-air courtyard, you’ll find a large sauna and an enclosed hot tub. The Spa Garden is only available for exclusive use so is ideal for wedding parties looking for a pre- or post-event wind down (I’m told the space can be decorated for the occasion). 

Dine

The Restaurant feels vaguely Renaissance church-esque — think wooden panels, dangling chandeliers and roaring fires. It’s an intimate, seductive space (and worth noting it’s the only non-dog-friendly dining option, so pooches have to stay in the suite). Order the juicy steak and fat truffle and parmesan fries, and wash it down with a Lady Ellenborough, a light and tangy concoction of gin, cucumber, lemon and champagne. 

the restaurant ellensborough park
The Restaurant / ©Ellenborough Park

Breakfast is served in the more relaxed Horse Box Brasserie which is very dog friendly — Rhubarb was given a treat by everyone she encountered, even when she scampered off in an attempt to join the receptionist at her desk. All the usuals are served at breakfast, full English and a continental selection but with the fun addition of a virgin Bloody Mary station so you can whip up your own just how you like it.

Out on the lawn, there are charming wooden ‘carriages’ for alfresco dining come the warmer months. 

[See also: Jean-Georges Vongerichten Opens New Restaurant at The Emory] 

Explore

the boot room at Ellenborough Park
The boot room / ©Ellenborough Park

The grounds are lovely for a ramble. Head to the boot room to borrow a pair of Dubarry boots or Le Chameau wellington boots and a Barbour jacket to look the part of country bumpkin. It’s peaceful and you’re unlikely to spot another person so you can really soak up the country air. I took Rhubarb along and she was delighted to have such huge stretches of green field in which to frolic about. Naturally, she got a tad muddy, so we headed to the ‘Paw Spa’ which is situated near to the outdoor pool. It’s a designated space for dogs with outdoor tubs and hoses to clean off dirty dogs. Extra grooming supplies can be found in the boot room, too. 

Spa Garden Retreat Packages from £199 ($254) for 90 minutes exclusive use; The Lodge from £999 ($1,723) per night, ellenboroughpark.com

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