In 1840, John Tollemache inherited 36,000 acres of land which included the villagers of Peckforton and Beeston in Cheshire, UK. He had dreamt of building a medieval castle at the top of the Peckforton Hills and wasted no time in turning his dreams into a reality. By 1851 his castle was complete. Fast-forward to March 13, 2017 and I was treated like the queen of his castle for a night at Peckforton Castle.
Let’s rewind to the early twentieth century, when the castle was owned by Lord Bentley Tollemache, the last member of the Tollemache family to live in the castle. Some years earlier his father, Wilbraham Tollemache, had installed lighting and central heating in the castle. With the castle’s modern comforts and its scenic location, Lord Bentley’s wife, Lynette, insisted that it be used as a place for wounded soldiers to be cared for during World War I. Lord Bentley and his family remained in the castle until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 when they took up residence in Eastbourne. Throughout the war, the hotel was used as a hostel for 200 physically handicapped children who had been evacuated from London to the Cheshire countryside.
When the war ended in 1945, the castle remained unused until 1969. During the 70s, 80s and 90s, it became a popular filming location for movies and television programs—Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood and Doctor Who, to name a few.
In 1989 the castle was bought by an American, Evelyn Graybill. She renovated the interior and obtained planning permission to convert the castle into a hotel. Today, Peckforton Castle is run by the Naylor family and is a popular venue for wedding receptions (singer Ciara and footballer Jamie Vardy both got married there), with 48 grand bedrooms, a chapel, an atmospheric wine cellar, a stylish restaurant, a spa and an array of outdoor activities on its surrounding 4,000 acres of forest.
I drove through the gate house lodge and up through the forest to enter the castle grounds via an open carriage way. Up close, the exterior of the castle lacked none of the charm and grandeur it emanates in photographs. Inside, the Naylor family have done a fantastic job of blending the castle’s history with modern times—suits of armor are displayed next to the newly refurbished spa and grand tapestries hang from the brick walls next to the cosmopolitan brasserie.
I arrived at the castle with my mother (who was invited to share this wonderful experience with me) two hours earlier than our allotted time so we went straight to the spa while our room was prepared. The lilac-lit spa is a peaceful retreat with two outdoor hot tubs, a steam room, a Caribbean shower experience, a relaxation room and treatment rooms for singles and couples.
The walls of the spa are made up of exposed brick from the castle’s frame, so naturally I expected the spa to have a cold feel to it, but in fact, the relaxation room, made up of blanketed beds, dim lighting and a fire, was one of the coziest I’ve been in.
After half an hour in the sauna, we took our glasses of champagne with us to the outdoor hot tub and had a browse through the spa’s Elemis treatment menu. I opted for the 55 minute Elemis Poultice-Powered Muscle Release massage. This massage is perfect for sore, achy muscles, particularly in the back. Using a uniquely designed Amber and Quartz poultice that combined eucalyptus and juniper, painful knots in my back were eased away. To bring the treatment to a complete close, I was given a cleansing facial and scalp massage.
Back in the relaxation room I listened to my mother talk incessantly about how wonderful her Elemis Tri-Enzyme facial was, until I was finally rescued from her ramblings by the spa manager who brought us a complementary bag of products each.
We spent our evening over-indulging at the castle’s 1851 restaurant. The exquisite restaurant holds three AA rosettes and features classical French and modern British cuisine. For my starter I had the French onion soup with cream cheese, followed by gnocchi and beetroot for the main course and pistachio ice cream with chocolate cake for pudding. The menu featured much of Cheshire’s finest, locally grown food and each course was immaculately presented. Needless to say, we cleared our plates with ease.
One glass of wine later and we were more than ready for bed. The walk from the restaurant to the room was like walking from the great hall to the common rooms in Hogwarts (just on a smaller scale)—suits of armor displayed along the stone steps, candles placed underneath archways and tall banners hanging from walls along the stairwells. Our room was no less charming, with views across the castle grounds, a king-sized oak bed and a luxurious bathroom.
For families staying at Peckforton Castle, there’s a wide range of outdoor activities that can be enjoyed on the surrounding 4,000 acres of land. For those with a keen eye and a good aim there’s rifle shooting and archery. For children there are treasure hunts, mountain bikes and giant garden games. For parents, there is the Land Rover experience—a full fleet of Land Rovers and Range Rovers on ground waiting for some off-road test driving. But if you’re not feeling active, don’t worry, there’s always the spa inside.
About Lorelle Williams
Lorelle Williams is a freelance journalist, visiting and promoting the world’s most luxurious spas and retreats. She is passionate about the integration of holism into conventional medicine and her blog, spa-gazing, is used as a platform to encourage others to take care of their health. Lorelle is based in Liverpool, England and practices law outside of journalism. Visit her blog, Spa Gazing, and follow her on Instagram.
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