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UK hotel review: The Inspector calls at Hambleton Hall in Rutland, where prices are ‘absurd’


Impeccable service but browning flowers on the dinner table, breakfast fruit ‘dispiritingly covered in clingfilm’ and ‘absurd prices’… the Inspector shouldn’t be a fan of Hambleton Hall in Rutland

  • Hambleton Hall was in-built 1881 by keen foxhunting bon viveur Walter Marshall  
  • Now? A ‘formal hotel with fussy food, pelmets and carpets all over the place’ 
  • The Inspector pays £510 for dinner, bed and breakfast  
  • Remember, the Inspector pays his way… and tells it prefer it is…

Walter Marshall, the mad-keen foxhunting bon viveur who built Hambleton Hall in 1881, had as his motto: Fay ce que voudras — ‘do as you please’.

And his sundial on the terrace is inscribed with the words Nunc Hora Bibendi, ‘Now’s the time for a drink’.

Hambleton Hall’s owner, Tim Hart, whose sons Sam and Eddie run the favored Barrafina Spanish restaurant chain, makes much of this within the hotel directory — and yet the atmosphere in his hotel is strictly regimented.

Hambleton Hall has an environment, says the Inspector, that’s ‘strictly regimented’

‘Please dress smartly in your individual way,’ is one instruction. ‘Please order your breakfast the night before,’ is one other. 

And, on arrival, the receptionist reminds us that we’re all the way down to have drinks at 7.30pm and can be sitting down for dinner at 8pm. ‘And so do not be late,’ she may need added.

Hambleton Hall, occupying a wonderful position overlooking Rutland Water, is a reminder that the Colefax and Fowler sort of country house hotel, which burst on the scene within the Nineteen Eighties, remains to be with us.

Formal, impeccable service, fussy food, pelmets, carpets all over the place and sky-high prices. We’re paying £510 for dinner, bed and breakfast, and despite what the Good Hotel Guide says about all rooms having views of ‘garden or lake’, ours looks out over the kitchen yard along side the constructing.

The Inspector says Hambleton Hall occupies a glorious position overlooking Rutland Water, pictured

The Inspector says Hambleton Hall occupies a wonderful position overlooking Rutland Water, pictured


Hambleton Hall, Oakham, Rutland, LE15 8TH.

Doubles are priced from £375. For more information call 01572 756991, or visit hambletonhall.com.


Nevertheless it’s pretty in a flouncy type of way, with floral headboard, curtains and blinds, high ceiling, neutral carpet. The big bathroom is so brightly lit that it startles even throughout the day.

Now we have pre-dinner drinks within the grand drawing room, where we’re presented with menus and 4 tiny canapes, before being ushered into the dining room, where it’s eerily quiet. We must avoid a row here, unless we would like the entire room to listen to it.

One surprise is the white carnations on the tables — which have turned brown. The food is a throwback to the Nineteen Eighties, too, when Brussels sprouts on the menu meant one teeny weeny Brussels sprout leaf on the plate. It is too fancy, far too minimalist — and absurdly priced.

Because breakfast has been ordered the night before, your fruit compote — or whatever — is waiting for you on the table, covered in clingfilm. This may be helpful for the staff, but there’s something dispiriting about it for guests.

A breath of fresh air beckons as we pack up and prepare to depart — in every sense of the phrase.


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