I have a constant conviction that, in comparison to other countries - the USA in particular - the UK hospitality industry needs a huge shake-up; hotels with tiny, over furnished rooms sold at
inflated prices and extra charges for just about everything - although (to be fair) internet access is, at last, increasingly becoming standard here.
And so the the Crowne Plaza at Heythrop Park. I'll begin by saying simply - I didn't feel that it was at all representative of these bad aspects of UK hospitality. I felt like I was in another country.
I stayed here for two nights recently on what was a short-notice arrangement simply because of imminent good weather. I did not think that the price charged (members rate with breakfast, advance booking, non-cancellable) was excessive for what should be a fairly good luxury hotel anywhere in the UK.
The first impression was of an utterly fantastic location - in good weather, of course. Readers can view the hotel's own description of the 400-acre parkland that surrounds it; and that does describe it properly.
There are two hotels on site, both owned by the same organisation, but only one of them is operated as part of the Crowne Plaza brand and IHG group. The building is in two distinct parts, which represent the two hotels; it is the more modern 1970s building that houses the Crowne Plaza; not the historic Manor House and its annexes. However the latter is internally connected and guests can visit it and make use of its common areas.
I enjoy Platinum status with IHG and my booking for a standard room was upgraded to a King room with its own patio exit - but only after I requested it. (To be picky - I'd have felt more valued had this been arranged BEFORE I arrived.)
My first expectation was exceeded when I stepped into my room - very large by UK standards - almost up to US standards outside major cities - and a bed all of 7 feet wide; what would be a Super King in the US and larger than anything I recall seeing previously in the UK. Shower, bath, robes, tea and coffee supplies etc., good quality toiletries and everything else one might expect were all present and correct along with complimentary bottled water - and a fridge to keep it in. Iron and board, hair dryer - just about anything one might need. Room temperature was perfect throughout our stay. The room was in good order but (again being picky) I did note the absence of Crowne Plaza's standard sample bottles of "This Works" sleep aids. In all - the room was an unexpected pleasure; expectations substantially exceeded.
The hotel has, in a separate building some way from the Crowne part of the complex, a Leisure and Spa facility with good quality gym equipment, a well maintained pool, steam room and so on, and all of this is free for guests. One can also purchase spa-type treatments.
The hotel is surrounded by a Golf Course, there are paths and roadways and one can hire bicycles. There is a childrens' playground and huge areas of garden, mostly to mown grass. Some of the more ornate areas have, sadly, been neglected and are a shadow of what presumably was once a very impressive country estate.
It's worth noting that, in my view, this would make a superb location for (for example) a wedding.
And so to Breakfast. My on-line booking had offered this as an add-on at what transpired to be a very reduced rate. Next expectation exceeded: the breakfast offering includes a fairly standard self-serve buffet plus a number of a-la-carte items that are prepared to order (each with its own menu price separate to the buffet). Expectation: that the included breakfast would be limited to the buffet with anything extra charged extra. No such thing - with a breakfast included rate, one can choose anything on offer. Excellent and - at that inclusive rate, a bargain (not a term I find myself wanting to use often). The hot buffet food was largely kept reasonably hot (which is another thing that seems to defeat so many places) and I had the impression the ingredients used were of good quality.
We did have a snack in the bar later and that was of a fair standard and at the somewhat inflated price one might expect - as were the drinks. My unpleasant tasting out-of-condition lager was changed with only the slightest of argument for another brew which was fine. We did not partake of dinner here.
In summary - a few very nice surprises mixed in with otherwise fairly standard large hotel offerings. Pretty good job. I'd stay here again especially in the (what would normally be only marginally more costly) larger room I enjoyed. [Less]