There aren’t many places in the world where you can cap off a day of exploring rural England by vintage Aston Martin, with a visit to a farm to forage for ingredients for your farm-to-table dinner, an afternoon ride at one of the country’s most esteemed private equestrian centers and a lecture given by Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, in a luxurious underground cinema. Then again, there aren’t many places like the just-opened Heckfield Place, an 18th-century estate–turned–countryside hotel that has been restored and fine-tuned since the early 2000s. The bucolic property, which has been called the U.K.’s most-delayed hotel project ever, has opened its 400 acres, a pastoral haven guaranteed to make even the most stubborn city slickers appreciate a slower way of life—and proven that the best things in life are worth waiting for.
Located one hour outside of London, in the county of Hampshire, and just 45 minutes from Heathrow, Heckfield Place owes much of its magic to its affable owners, Gerald Chan, a Boston-based businessman with no background in hospitality but an undeniable knack for creating special places, and his family. Their first venture into the industry, Heckfield Place is a true passion project, and the time it took to develop it is in large part due to the Chan family’s ambitious vision to create a self-sustaining property that feels more like a home than a hotel. The team they brought on to run it, including some top talent from the Aman hotel group, interior designer Ben Thompson (who helped Ilse Crawford design Stockholm’s gorgeous Ett Hem hotel) and culinary director Skye Gyngell (behind London’s acclaimed Spring restaurant), have created an unparalleled five-star experience.
A deeply unique place, Heckfield Place has 45 rooms, each of which has its own character and charm. From the cozy Friends Rooms (which offer an affordable way to experience this paradise at around $450 per night) to the Signature Suites and the Long Room, the top suite ($13,000 per night for one bedroom) which has a living room, kitchen, two fireplaces and two terraces, each room is supremely comfortable and intimate. Decamping from one’s accommodations might seem hard here, but Heckfield also has a number of gorgeous living spaces ideal for reading, enjoying afternoon tea or marveling at the works from the Chan family’s spectacular private art collection that line the walls. Beyond the main buildings, Heckfield Place is situated on 400 acres, which includes a river and two lakes (fly-fishing is available), a farm that uses biodynamic practices and has pigs, sheep and cows, walled gardens and centuries-old trees that were planted here by pioneering horticulturalist William Wildsmith.
An integral part of Heckfield Place is its culinary program. Overseen by Skye Gyngell, the airy Marle and cozy, brick-walled Hearth incorporate fruits and vegetables grown at the on-property farm into signature dishes. Breakfast starts with cinnamon-cardamom buns and lemon raspberry polenta muffins, lunch might include tagliatelle with rabbit, swiss chard and dried chili and dinner is best enjoyed with dishes straight out of the open fire at Hearth. Farm-to-table is a way of life here, and guests are encouraged to visit the farm and pick ingredients for their meals.
A major spa with a 50-foot pool is in development and set to open by summer 2019 (there is already a smaller spa with five treatment rooms and personal training, Pilates and yoga studios). And while guests could easily spend their days relaxing and luxuriating in the peaceful English countryside, Heckfield Place espouses cultural experiences as well. The hotel’s Assembly at Heckfield Place is an incredible program that offers a rotation of screenings (in the hotel’s custom 67-seat cinema), speakers and workshops. This includes everything from blockbuster film showings to lectures: the program launched with Amanpour’s talk about the need for “Truthful, not neutral” news and another about the importance of biodynamic farming.
Guests of Heckfield Place would have no idea that the property isn’t completed—it is polished to immaculate perfection—but it is the Chan family’s dream that this sophisticated but seriously unpretentious estate continuously changes and grows. The spa complex is the first hurdle, but word on the street is that there are plans for a glass-blowing center, too. One thing is for certain: this ever-evolving property promises to get better with age.
Contact Indagare for help planning a trip to Heckfield Place in Hampshire, England. Our travel specialists can help you add-on time in London and arrange special experiences.