Rookery Hall Hotel and Spa sits south of Liverpool and Manchester in Nantwich, a quiet corner of England, surrounded by a patchwork tapestry of green fields where road signs frequently point to North Wales.
Far more than a luxury spa-break heaven for the pampered Housewives of Cheshire, Rookery Hall Hotel and Spa is a chapter of Georgian life, a gourmet’s delight and is situated within easy reach of the arterial M6. Even bustling Margaret Thatcher once sought soulful sanctuary here.
Set amongst black-and-white timbered farmhouses and narrow boats peacefully voyaging through Cheshire canals, Rookery Hall Hotel and Spa, lovingly curated by Handpicked Hotels is an idyllically peaceful get away. Romantic too. This is where David, a promising young Manchester United footballer, announced his engagement to a lass called Victoria Adams: the future Posh ‘n’ Becks.
Two centuries of Rookery Hall history
Back In 1816, Napoleon had met his Waterloo, steam power was bringing the prosperity of the Industrial Revolution and on the profits of empire, William Hilton Cooke, who owned a Jamaican sugar plantation, confidently built a new family home. A place where you needed maids on step-ladders to dust the high-altitude pellets and chandeliers, as well as an experienced gardener to plan an arboretum avenue view to the river. Meanwhile, Jane Austen was writing Persuasion and Beethoven, with Opus 99 complete, was nearing his century.
More than two centuries on the rooks still fly over the roses, geraniums and wisteria of Rookery Hall’s terrace: flapping and fluttering past the fountain and croquet lawn, on towards the nearby River Weaver. For guests, there is a gentle 20-minute stroll around the perimeter of the estate’s 38 acres.
Though arriving guests may think the scene is more River Loire than River Weaver. After purchasing the estate in 1867, Baron Von Schroeder, a wealthy and well-travelled banker, decided to add a French flavour to the sandstone and grey slate mansion, commissioning a tower, reminiscent of many a Loire Valley chateau.
In Victorian days, the stables and courtyard, for preparing carriages, were at the heart of the estate. Today, less frenetically, those buildings have been converted into a spa that draws guests from afar: seven treatment rooms, hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room and indoor swimming pool. A haven of wellness, me-time and pampering after the grim deprivations of lockdowns.
Modern feel in classic settings
Hand-Picked Hotels have recently refurbished the feature rooms in the original mansion, bringing them in line with the slice of Georgian life below. Tall bay windows give a sense of looking across the estate, like a member of landed aristocracy. Thick, luxurious drapes and dark-toned sombre 19th century oil portraits – why did the Victorians never smile? – create a sense of serious decorum.
In the wood-panelled dining room, black-and-white photographs celebrate the civic pride architecture of Nantwich and other neighbouring towns. Also, within a short drive there are the extensive grounds and house of the National Trust’s Tatton Park. Railway buffs will enjoy train history at Crewe and – on a more macabre note – Nantwich offers a visit to an underground nuclear shelter.
In this rich rural landscape, a Modern British Menu in the AA 2 Rosette Restaurant is very fitting. As is the Apple Crumble gin – imagine a discrete cinnamon note – provided in the bar, courtesy of local distiller Three Wrens. Other gins are available. As are plenty of beers and wines and spirits …
A starter of a smooth veloute of locally sourced peas, given a creative flourish with whipped mascarpone and the intensity of chorizo, epitomises the think local but think creatively – spirit of the menu. Inevitably in a region where sheep were important for both meat and wool, there is a main course of Malpas Whitchurch lamb cooked in two contrasting styles: a succulent loin and a ragout of shoulder, colourfully served with cauliflower and red leaves.
Of course, the original mansion, was never going to be large enough. Taking on the classical themes of the original Georgian house, spacious rooms in the new wing feature mirrors topped with Grecian-style carvings while mini-spotlights highlight the subtle nods to Athenian interior design. A quiet green palette for curtains and soft furnishings picks up the theme of the surrounding Cheshire countryside.
Meeting 21st century expectations of luxury, whilst respecting the spirit of a listed mansion that has celebrated its 200th birthday, is a challenge. But the calmly elegant new feature rooms illustrate that Rookery Hall Hotel and Spa will continue to move harmoniously with the times. As it serenely has for the last two centuries.
The Rookery fact file
Enjoy a four-night getaway for the price of three nights in one of Hand Picked Hotels delux rooms, feature room or suites with their Suite Dreams package.
For more reviews like this visit our Travel channel.Last modified: May 18, 2021