Michael Edwards visits Brocket Hall an idyllic hotel and golfing Mecca
Think of another English county. 536 gloriously green acres of it. Take a landscape of forest, hills, and pasture but then improve this green and pleasant land. That was the attitude of the English Landscape Movement. Back in the 18th century, the aristocracy were big fans of landscaper Lancelot “Capability” Brown and his disciples. Brown always saw the “capabilities” within an estate.
One of those disciples, Richard Woods was invited to landscape the Hertfordshire land around Brocket Hall after the new red-bricked neo-classic house was completed in 1760. Woods re-directed the River Lea, crossed it with bridges, broadened the ornamental lake and planted yet more trees. Ridings, wide enough for horse-drawn carriages, cross-crossed the estate, giving spectacular panoramic views of the improved landscape.
As a green quilt of quintessential English estate Brocket Hall has attracted filmmakers. No surprise that it’s acres we’re used to represent classic English Landscape in both Pride and Prejudice and an episode of Inspector Morse. Though we won’t dwell on the Steps video.
Two 19th-century Prime Ministers made Brocket Hall their home. First Lord Melbourne and then Lord Palmerston. Today they are honoured by two 18-hole championship courses that run through the estate.
Those two courses and the Golf Academy with its indoor swing studio, driving ranges, chipping green, putting green and short course are a magnet for golfers. The Grade 1 listed Melbourne Lodge offers 16 stately rooms. Once the lodge housed the horses who raced on the estates’ very own racecourse, who hunted and who pulled the carriages through the estate.
Recalling that heritage, each of the high-ceilinged rooms is named after a notable racehorse. Tall windows, with curtains like mainsails, give views across the estate, sometimes to the lake. Large beds are framed by silky, tasselled curtains whilst the rooms are lit by strategically positioned table lamps.
There is a spacious grandeur that would have impressed Lord Melbourne. Writing desks are large enough to spread out and sign off cabinet papers. Traces of the 21st century are hidden away. Radiators are camouflaged by covers whilst television screens are small and discrete. Portraits of horses and breeders hark back to Georgian and Victorian times.
Both the Melbourne and Palmerston golf courses depart from the same clubhouse where breakfast and lunch are served. The Melbourne’s plush-lawn fairways meander through Brocket’s woodland, past five centuries-old oaks and Hornbeam, Scots and Corsican Pine.
In contrast, the Melbourne course, designed by Peter Allis and Clive Clark crosses the River Lea three times before a final crossing, by ferry, on the 18th. Put a few spare balls in your bag for those challenging drives across the water.
Both courses are well-drained, kept in immaculate condition with fast and true gardens. Only extreme weather closes the courses and temporary greens are as rare as an eagle on your scorecard.
Looking out across the lake, sits Auberge du Lac, one of the most beautifully located restaurants in the British Isles. But before you scramble to book a table at this idyllic venue, remember that it is only open for lunch and dinner from Thursday to Sunday and for Sunday lunch.
Framed by weeping willows, a terrace that looks out across the lake and up towards Brocket Hall is an irresistible location for drinks. But it is not just a venue for golfers telling tales of booming drives and what-might-have-been putts. It’s a special venue for families and friend’s celebrations, even couples indulging in date nights. In cooler weather, there is a cosy lounge, lined with memorabilia from some of the world’s great menus, for a pre-meal drink.
New Head Chef John Barber is creating a more relaxed and accessible style of dining, either on the terrace or in a light dining room with lake vistas. With 536 acres at his disposal, much of the fresh produce on the menu is grown on the estate. An eco-friendly case of food yards rather than food miles.
It is a wide-ranging menu. There were six starters that included beef tartare, burrata, duck liver pate, ricotta tartlet, scallops and sea bass ceviche. Then there are daily specials too. My Orkney scallops were beautifully presented on a seashell; maritime flavours contrasting with a touch of XO sauce.
Amongst a main course choice of aged sirloin, halibut, cod and risotto, for me the lamb was the standout option. Tender rose harissa lamb loin with a gently piquant pepper piperade contrasting with cool cucumber yoghurt and chickpea panise.
Just 25 miles north of London, close to the A1, M1 and M25, Brocket Hall is a luxurious golfing venue. Frequently guests opt for a one-round, one-night stay, including breakfast at the clubhouse. While two round, one-night stays provide the opportunity to play both courses.
Tell Me More About Brocket Hall
Brocket Hall Welwyn, Hertfordshire AL8 7XG
E: firstname.lastname@example.org T: 01707 368700
B & B rates begin from £165 for a single room and £185 for a double.
One-night, one-round stays start from £190 per person which includes a traditional full English breakfast served in the clubhouse. One-night, two-round packages begin from £285.