Sopwell House, St Albans
THE HOTEL: This Georgian country house, once the home of Lord Mountbatten, is now a four-star, 129-room hotel located between Heathrow (40 mins), Luton (20 mins) and Stansted (30 mins) in St Albans. It is part of the AB Hotels Collection.
THE CHECK-IN: A short wait for check-in was followed by a 30-minute wait for the room to be ready but the delay was handled well with offers of drinks while sitting in the glass-roofed lobby.
THE ROOM: My corner suite with balcony had views over the acres of gardens. Inside, the room had all you would expect, including desk, free wifi, laptop size safe, tea and coffee-making equipment, iron and ironing board, robes, slippers, flatscreen TV and the inevitable over-size headboard. The style was contemporary with a ‘feature’ wall and neutral colour scheme bar the dark wood furniture and gold accents. The bathroom had walk-in shower, a good size tub and ESPA toiletries.
THE BUSINESS: There's a separate entrance for the hotel’s ground-floor conference space, the largest facility being the St Albans Suite – accommodating up to 200 for conferences – which opens to the garden, plus a stable block with terrace and 20 smaller spaces including six boardrooms on the first floor. All have ‘plug-and-play’ technology and natural light. There is also a walled garden for team-building activities. Delegate rates are from £70 (plus VAT).
THE FACILITIES: The hotel has a spa (with 12 treatment rooms, gym, sauna and steam), parking for 350 cars, 16 pretty mews apartments, cocktail bar, library lounge, The Restaurant for fine dining and The Brasserie for Italian pasta, curries steaks and salads, an executive car service, extensive gardens and express check-in and out. The Verulam Golf Club is opposite the hotel.
THE VERDICT: A warren of connecting corridors mars this conversion from country home but, outside that, Sopwell House functions very well as a country house hotel at the top end of the four-star category.
THE DETAILS:Sopwell House, Cottonmill Lane, St Albans, Herts, AL1 2HQ. Rates for an executive room start at £159 per night on a B&B basis. www.sopwellhouse.co.uk.
Reviewed by Gillian Upton (2014)