Located in the heart of The Bowood Estate in stunning Wiltshire countryside, Bowood Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort is the quintessential English luxury hotel. EatSleepDrink Magazine caught up with Michael Clitheroe, General Manager, to learn more about the hotel’s stunning suites and first-class facilities.
With 43 bedrooms, including luxury doubles and twins, four posters and an array of suites that have been individually designed by the Marchioness of Lansdowne, it is easy to see why Bowood has become the choice of many discerning travellers. Indeed, with its highly-acclaimed spa and Championship Golf Course, as well as cutting-edge gym facilities, Bowood has something for everyone. Perfect for families, spa break and golf breaks, the hotel is ideally suited to the art of relaxation, such is its glorious countryside location near Calne in Wiltshire.
Style and seclusion
Owned by the 9th Marquis of Lansdowne, the Bowood Estate has come a very long way since the House and Gardens was first opened to the public in 1975. In 1992, Bowood Golf and Country Club opened. Set in the western corner of Capability Brown’s 2,000 acre Great Park, it was designed by world-renowned course designer Dave Thomas, the architect of The Brabazon at The Belfry. Today, the course is widely recognised as one of the finest in the south of England and beautifully complements the grounds, which are undoubtedly some of the finest anywhere in the UK.
As Michael begins by telling us, Bowood was crying out for a luxury hotel and spa, both of which were opened to great acclaim three years ago. “Bowood Hotel & Spa was officially opened on May 16th 2009 by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and today boasts 43 en-suite bedrooms, including six luxury suites and is the perfect partner to the existing Golf & Country Club,” Michael explains. “Our Shelburne Restaurant seats up to 70 covers, so alongside our cocktail bar, The Library and The Morning Room with wood fires, we really do offer something for everyone.
“Quality, attention-to-detail and value for money are absolutely critical to Lord Lansdowne,” Michael continues, “and his concept for Bowood Hotel was created with these three core principles very much at heart. I think these values speak volumes for the success of the hotel and they were included in the original business plan. Since we opened, we have experienced fantastic growth year-on-year, with our figures for 2012 already up on last year’s numbers. Ultimately, despite the recession, our deluxe product offering just shows that guests are still very much prepared to pay for quality”.
Many strings to their bow
Perhaps one of Bowood Hotel’s strongest assets is its variety of facilities and accommodation, which has made for a regular stream of return visitors – an integral part of any luxury hotel’s strategy, as Michael affirms. “We have the spa and leisure facilities, superb conferencing options and some of the finest accommodation in the south of England. We also have a fantastic local corporate market and this winter we have seen our strongest performance in this sector.
“In the coveted Thursday to Sunday bracket, we do very well with so-called ‘empty nesters’ who like to come down for the weekend, play a bit of golf and just to generally enjoy the fishing, garden tours and walking trails at the Bowood Estate,” he asserts. “In essence, we have the best of both worlds – we are becoming a staple with the local business market alongside high profile corporate events and product launches from further afield during the working week and at the weekends we’re extremely popular with couples and families, so it’s a great balance.
“With The Shelburne Restaurant and Bar we also have an impressive food and beverage offering, so guests can enjoy the best seasonal dishes created by Chris Lee, our Executive Chef. Many of the dishes are influenced by local ingredients and there’s an abundance of fruit and vegetables grown within Lord and Lady Lansdowne’s four-acre, walled garden at Bowood House to call upon too, which indeed helps us to run a sustainable restaurant. We also have some great suppliers of fresh fish and regularly have line caught Sea Bass from Cornish day boats on the menu,” he notes.
“People sometimes say that they could eat everything on the menu and that’s the way we like it to be,” Michael confirms.
And having personally enjoyed Pan seared king scallops with braised pork belly, apple and celeriac purée to start, followed by a perfectly cooked 28 day dry aged rib eye steak from Butts Farm, we can certainly attest to The Shelburne’s gastronomic quality.
A constant appeal
Although the Great British weather always has the knack of ruining best-made plans, such is the universal appeal of Bowood’s stunning facilities and accommodation, business continues to remain robust regardless of the season – something that Michael is proud to affirm. “Except for the golf, which is obviously something of a fair weather sport, I have not seen a quiet day at the hotel since I joined eight months ago, which is very unusual in the industry. So, in this sense, our strong occupancy is really a testament to the strength of Bowood.
“We have a very focused and dynamic team here and we’re able to spot potential problems before they happen – being proactive rather than reactive is a great strength of ours,” he continues. “Our marketing efforts in the local area have really boosted business and I think this is probably the biggest growth area for the hotel. Because we now own and manage our own databases, we have the ability to contact potential guests through the touch of a button depending on what we’re promoting.
“In this sense, our marketing effort is a two-pronged attack, with a very prominent local marketing strategy in combination with a more national appeal to weekend visits and guests visiting their families,” Michael explains. “Additionally, the 2,000 acre Bowood estate can accommodate large-scale public events for audiences running into the thousands, served well by a number of well-appointed entrance and exit points. With our 18-hole championship golf course, spa, conferencing facilities and this phenomenal entertainment site, we are adept at hosting functions and events, large and small”.
Luxury lodging and blessings
In addition to the property’s 43 bedrooms situated between the 7th and 8th fairways of the Championship golf course lies Queenwood Lodge. This luxurious Georgian four bedroom manor house, sleeping eight guests, has been beautifully furnished by Lady Lansdowne and can be rented out on an exclusive basis, as Michael is eager to describe. “Great emphasis is placed on comfort and providing the atmosphere of private house with all the advantages of a luxury hotel service.
“The lodge is available on a nightly basis and packages include: afternoon tea, a magnificent four-course gourmet dinner, luxury accommodation and full English breakfast,” he tells us.
Guests at Queenwood are looked after by a Chef and Lodge Manager, if required, at dinner and breakfast. Furthermore, all guests staying at the Lodge can enjoy the spa facilities and book tee times on the stunning championship golf course with complimentary entry to the beautiful Bowood House and Gardens during the open season (from April-October).
As well as the luxury afforded by the hotel’s accommodation, weddings at Bowood are a similarly lavish affair, particularly now that the hotel has secured its own licensing for up to 160 guests. As one would expect at Bowood, discreet and professional service is guaranteed and Executive Chef, Chris Lee, has created a selection of dishes to compliment the comprehensive wine list. “Having recently tripled our civil wedding licensing and featuring the opportunity for marriage blessings in Bowood House’s private chapel, we are expecting to hold 30 weddings this summer, with a view to 40 next year,” Michael confirms.
On the horizon
Since opening in May 2009, Bowood Hotel & Spa has gone from strength-to-strength and is now one of the choice destinations for discerning travellers seeking luxury and relaxation in the south of England. And given the hotel’s remarkable growth over the last three years, we were intrigued to hear Michael’s hopes and plans for the future of Bowood.
“We have just opened up Queenwood Lodge for self-catering stays, with the option of upgrading to a personal Chef and Lodge Manager. On a self-catering basis, we are offering stays at highly competitive rates across a three, four or seven night break, which represents fabulous value for money,” he affirms. “If we continue to grow at the current rate, I think we’ll be in an outstanding position. Bowood’s heritage and culture, underpinned by warm, friendly and informed service is designed to encourage return visits.
“We have an innate determination to go the extra mile, so with only 43 rooms to look after we have the luxury of being extremely flexible. It’s a fascinating time to be here. Because we’re only three years old, it’s no longer a question of saying: ‘We’re Wiltshire’s best kept secret’ but rather: ‘We are Wiltshire’s best hotel!’”
Having graciously accommodated EatSleepDrink in the beautifully appointed Mercer Suite, we can confirm the strength of Bowood’s product offering. And given its ever-growing popularity, we’re predicting many years of success for Michael and his team.