by Stephen Jermanok
London is such a sprawling metropolis that you would think it would take hours to leave this city. Thankfully, that’s simply not true. About 45-minutes northwest of London is the former country estate of the Earls of Clarendon, now a resort nestled in the hillside aptly coined The Grove. This is the perfect spot to unwind with the kids after jumping from sight to sight in the big city; a place to breathe in the fresh air before you take that transatlantic flight at Heathrow, only a 30-minute drive away. Unlike the hotels in London, where you’re itching to leave to see Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, the Grove is much more like a beach resort where you really don’t want to leave at all, especially for the flight back home.
Walk inside the Walled Garden, where flowers are in full bloom come spring and summer. You’ll find a heated outdoor pool, beach volleyball (they even brought in sand), and the oh-so-civilized sports of croquet and lawn tennis. There’s also bocce ball, an indoor pool in the Kid’s Club, billiards, Ping-Pong, and a large chess set. Outside the walled garden, the property is surrounded by a golf course that Tiger Woods called one of the best in the U.K. The state-of-the-art spa has the latest fitness machines, sauna, steam room and another indoor pool for doing laps.
There are several restaurants on property like the contemporary Glasshouse dining room that features gluttonous buffets for both dinner and breakfast. More casual fare like fish and chips and English lager on draught can be found at the indoor and outdoor tables at the Stables, a favorite of the midday golf crowd. There’s really no need to leave The Grove. So sit back and rejuvenate that city-weary body.
Our Editor Loves
- Slew of outdoor activities
- Arouska's Kids Club
- Quiet country locale
- Theme Park
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The Grove is broken down between the original Manor House, and the more contemporary West Wing. In the Manor House, deluxe and superior rooms, as well as executive suites and the hotel's vice presidential and presidential suites are available. In the West Wing, deluxe and superior rooms are available. For families, choose from two interconnecting rooms, one of the popular rooms with bunk beds, a cot for executive suites or deluxe rooms, or a deluxe room, which all come with pull-out sofa beds for children under the age of 12.
The bedrooms were spacious, with enough room for a king-sized bed, desk, chair and ample closet space. Flat-screen televisions hung from the walls, Bose iPod docking stations let you listen to your music and Wi-Fi was easily accessible. The rooms had spacious bathrooms with shower, standing tub and hair dryer. There's also complementary water in the room and newspaper each morning.
I took my husband for a birthday dinner last night. We were so pleasantly surprised as the Glass House was completely refurbished & looked simply stunning!
We were welcomed by our personal waitress Aga. She couldn’t do enough to welcome us & was so attentive.
The food was superb & our table was located by the window where we could see the reflection of the pond, sparkling by the moonbeams. The fairy lights on the trees were absolutely gorgeous .
Overall, it was a great experience & my husband thoroughly enjoyed his birthday treat.
we went to Glasshouse bar on fireworks night and it was a brilliant evening. They did an Argentinian style open fire BBQ and cooked the most delicious lamb I’ve ever had. The gardens looked beautiful.
Also loved their own branded beer.
Walled Garden and Pool
When the morning starts to warm up, head over to the Walled Garden and have a dip in the outdoor pool. Close by is the beach volleyball, where off to the side, younger children build sand castles. There's a gazebo near the pool to order smoothies and other cold beverages, as well as simple snack food like hot dogs and sandwiches. Behind the beach volleyball are the two tennis courts and across from that, a good-sized croquet field.
Potted Shed & Anouska's Kids Club
If it starts to rain, which happens now and then in Britain, or there's a chill in the air, no worries. Head indoors to the Potted Shed, home to a Ping-Pong table, billiards, an indoor table and cozy chaise-lounge chairs to play board games. There's also a game room, featuring Wii, PlayStation and Xbox.
This is the base for Anouska's, the Grove's Kids Club, where a group of qualified counselors take any child, 3 months to 12 years, off your hands for the day if you want to play a round of golf or indulge in one of the spa treatments. Anouska's charges an hourly rate for each child, including drinks, meals, and snacks. Many of these nannies also double as babysitters at night, if you prefer a quiet dinner for two.
One of the favorite activities was renting bikes and finding a canal that borders the perimeter of the property. Narrowboats were riding through the locks, on their way north to Northampton or south to London. This web of waterways has been traveled for centuries and it was fun to see these long narrow boats, many rented for a week holiday, making their way through the forested shoreline under bridges and past families of swans and local anglers. We pedaled alongside the canal for some time on a dirt path before returning to the resort.
Be sure to take a moment from all the fun to just walk the grounds, which are exquisite. On the backside of the Earls' house is an outdoor sitting area shaded by towering Cedars of Lebanon trees. Nearby is a sunken garden, a terraced garden with pools of water that seem to roll down the hillside.
The concierge at The Grove is happy to get you off-premises if you want to explore the countryside. The resort is located in Hertfordshire, only a 25-minute drive from an equestrian centre to go horseback riding and 30 minutes away from one of the finest zoos in the U.K., Whipsnade.
You won't go hungry at The Grove. Enter the Glasshouse restaurant for dinner, just off the main lobby, and you'll find carvers slicing sirloin and leg of lamb, a seafood section overflowing with large prawns, trays of sushi, and filets of sea bass and lemon sole, salads, vegetables, and fresh-baked breads. It's all part of the elaborate buffets they offer and judging from every table being booked, it's popular with locals along with hotel guests. The kids will enjoy the Treats Table, where we found chocolate mousse, lemon meringue pie, coconut cake, tiramisu and more.
The same restaurant features a breakfast buffet in the morning, complete with pancakes, omelets, croissants, muffins, fresh fruit, yogurt, cereals, juices, and coffee. That's if you have any room left in your stomach from the night before. At breakfast, waiters are happy to pack extra goodies for a late morning snack.
The Stables for lunch is a more casual restaurant at the far end of the hotel, near the golf shop. Grab a sandwich, salad or fish and chips, washed down with iced tea, as you sit outside and watch the golfers swing away. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The property features the Lounges and Library with views of the sprawling countryside and gardens. Here, traditional English tea is offered every afternoon, as well as breakfast, light lunches and snacks between 7 a.m. and midnight.
Mom and dad might enjoy the more formal setting in the Earls' former abode, at Colette's. Start with broad beans, grown inside the walled garden, and blended with a truffle risotto. Then opt for the baked wild sea trout or the Cornish spring lamb. Grab a pre-dinner cocktail inside the Lounges and Library, where the Earls of Clarendon once had a drink or two with Queen Victoria.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
For children staying at The Grove, a box of toys, games and books is provided. A nice touch, especially when a morning rain may be ripe for lounging about the room a bit longer. A classy touch was the milk and cookies served to the kids and the yummy chocolates delivered to parents upon arrival, too.
Ask at the Pro Shop, where you rent bikes, for a detailed map of the grounds and the many biking trails.
The Grove's fitness center is actually a full gym featuring cardio and weight equipment, as well as classes like spinning, yoga, Pilates and more -- you don't have to stop your exercise routine just because you're on vacation when you stay here.
Pets are welcome to stay here and a pet sitter can be arranged if needed.
Wi-Fi access is available.
The Art of Smart Timing
Even in the heart of summer, the hotel didn't feel overrun with guests. This might be the most expensive time of year to visit The Grove, but it's also the best. You want to visit the property when flowers are blooming and the outdoor pool, beach volleyball, and lawn tennis can be used. That's a short time of year in these parts, so venture here with kids from late May to early September.
The cost of a taxi from downtown London to The Grove can be quite pricey, unless you consider how many are in your family. By Underground train, the hotel is 20 minutes from the London Euston stop to Watford Junction (which also travels to Birmingham and Manchester), or a 10-minute taxi ride can bring you to the hotel. The Chiltern Railways also runs from London's Marylebone to Rickmansworth station, where a taxi ride will be 15 minutes. You can also arrive by boat along the Grand Union Canal. The ride is about eight hours from London, so this one is only recommended for the older children fancying a non-traditional route. And if you really want to splurge, the Grove has a helipad!
The concierge can arrange for a taxi to Heathrow, alleviating any anxiety of being late.
For Mom and Dad
Take advantage of Anouska's to play a round of golf during the day or go to dinner in quietude at night. Then there's the lure of a massage or facial at the ESPA-supplied Sequoia Spa or the far more sybaritic four-hour, 35-minute His and Her Relaxation treatment. Heck, with so much childcare at your disposal, do it all.