Review: The Brocket Arms

We hit the jackpot with the Brocket Arms.

As part of our series about life in small villages, we decided to head for the east of England and spend time at Ayot St Lawrence in rural Hertfordshire.

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Ayot St Lawrence had it all: history, solitude, community and stunning scenery – yet still within day trip distance from London.

Although off the regular tourist trail, the village was picture-postcard beautiful, surrounded by rural estates, walking trails and horse studs.

As well as the village surrounds, there were long, meandering gravel lanes, lined on all sides by greenery and tangled hedges.

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While in the village, we also decided to review the Brocket Arms, a local pub with its own impressive history. 

Supposedly built in the 14th Century, the timber-framed pub is said to have been the ‘monastic quarters’ for the Norman church until the Reformation. It is also supposed to have been a stop-off point for pilgrims travelling to nearby St Albans Abbey.

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And here’s our frank review of the Brocket Arms:

Q: Was the booking process simple and problem free?

A: Yes. We used a few comparision websites to find the best price, then booked online with one of them. The process was straight-forward and easy.

Q: Did the Brocket Arms communicate after the booking?

A: Yes, the hotel checked by email that everything was okay several weeks before our visit. This was appreciated. Friendly hotel staff also helped us arrange our travel from Heathrow airport. The Brocket Arms also has an active social media presence.

Q: Does the Brocket Arms have street appeal? 

A: It sure does!. The hotel is a stunning old building that sits perfectly in its olde England surrounds. It is surrounded by tree-lined laneways and is in a beautiful village setting.  

I realise it’s cliched, but time seems genuinely to have stood still at this wonderful old inn. 

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Q: How did check-in go?

A: It was astonishing. The friendly, welcoming hospitality at The Brocket Arms, quite frankly, was like nothing we have encountered anywhere.

And it started the minute we arrived. We were earlier than expected, but staff took our luggage from us and ushered us inside for a complimentary cup of coffee while our room was finalised. The formal check-in took place smoothly and efficiently when it suited us.

Q: How was accessibility, particularly for senior travellers.

A: For such an old building, accessibility was especially good. There were no real steps from the car park to the front door and, once inside, the few steps between the bars were clearly marked and relatively gentle.

Our accommodation was in a separate building across the courtyard – and it was particularly accessible, with level floors, ample room and easy access to the bathroom.

Our bags were able to be wheeled on the carpet with ease. This was important to us, as a wheel on our Travelon bag had somehow come adrift at Heathrow airport.

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The bars and restaurant at the Brocket Arms feature delightful beam ceilings, but we found no problems with headroom.

Q: Was the bedroom big enough?

A: There was plenty of space in the room, which featured a large, Queen-sized bed and a modern ensuite bathroom, plenty of storage space and sufficient room for bedside tables.

There was also complimentary high speed wifi, that worked perfectly in our room; and tea and coffee-making facilities.

Q: Was the bed comfortable?

A: Extremely. The room was quiet, there wasn’t much passing traffic and we slept soundly.

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Q: Were other facilities adequate?

A: Although we didn’t us it, there was a modern, flat-screen TV.

Q: Did the room have enough charging points?

A: The Brocket Arms room easily catered for our seven electronic devices. There were plenty of charging points, including some on either side of the bed, ideal for using mobile phones as alarm clocks.

Q: Was the bathroom to the expected standard?

A: There was a good-sized en-suite bathroom with overhead shower. The bathroom featured fluffy towels and luxury toiletries.

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Q: Did you get breakfast?

A: Breakfast was included in the room rate. The breakfast room was comfy; the food was superb (loved the full English) and, once again, the staff made us feel like part of the family.

Q: Were there any problems with the hotel?

A: No. The Brocket Arms is a remarkable village hotel that takes you back to a past age; allows you to feel part of a village community; and also provides the utmost in luxury, technology and outstanding service – including ease of accessibility. 

The customer service provided by the staff during our stay was extraordinary. 

Nothing was too much trouble; everything was done with a smile; they went out of their way to make us feel part of the local community; were only too pleased to help with information about Ayot St Lawrence – and even invited us to a surprise birthday party for the owner.  This was a wonderful occasion that drew a big crowd of local residents.

We will long remember sitting and chatting with locals residents late into an enjoyable evening

Duration of stay: Three nights

Location: The Brocket Arms is located at Ayot St Lawrence in rural Hertfordshire.  It is about 25 miles from central London and can be reached via the M1 and A1 motorways.  It can also be reached by rail from Welwyn Garden City, Harpenden and St Albans stations.

Our Age-friendly rating:

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9/10 From our experience, The Brocket Arms caters well for all ages.  The adjacent accommodation area was extremely accessible, with simple room layout and straight-forward entry.There were a few steps inside the bar area, but they didn’t worry us – and were gentle considering the age of the premises

Overall 

Whether you a making a day trip from London or looking for a quaint setting in an historic English village, the Brocket Arms is outstanding.  We couldn’t recommend it more highly.

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Review: The Rubens at the Palace, London

We had our first taste of a Red Carnation Hotel during our most recent visit to London.

In such a grand city, competition is particularly strong at the top end of the market.

And that’s exactly where Red Carnation Hotels sit!

lodge-2438655__340.jpgIts collection of 17 family-run luxurious hotels are situated across the United Kingdom, South Africa, Switzerland, Ireland and the United States of America.

Each hotel has become a landmark, with a reputation for exceptional location, high quality service, fine dining and sumptuous surroundings.

There are six Red Carnation Hotels in London – and we booked into one of the best known, The Rubens at the Palace, in Westminster.

This majestic four-star hotel is located in Buckingham Palace Road, almost opposite (you guessed it) The Buckingham Palace.

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It was a fleeting one-night stay on our return from spending time in a charming village deep in rural Hertfordshire.

We knew the story of Red Carnation Hotels, an iconic brand that emerged from South Africa in the 1970’s and carved a name for itself as a leading provider of boutique, quality hotels world-wide.

So, we were delighted to be able to experience the brand – even if it was briefly – at The Rubens at the Palace.

And here’s our opinion:

Q: Was the booking process simple and problem free?

A: Yes. We used a few comparision websites to find the best price, then booked online directly with the hotel. The process was straight-forward and easy.

Q: Did The Rubens at the Palace communicate after the booking?

A: Yes, the hotel checked by email that everything was okay several weeks before our visit. This was appreciated. The hotel also has an active social media presence.

Q: Does The Rubens at the Palace have street appeal?

A: Certainly. The hotel is a grand building in a stately area. The hotel frontage is impressive, with an understated look of quality. It’s also easy to find, as we were on foot from nearby Victoria station.

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The hotel also features a striking ‘Living Wall’.

Standing at 350 square metres and with a total of 10,000 herbaceous plants, the wall is designed to provide waves of blossoming plants throughout the year; help keep the hotel cooler in Summer and warmer in Winter; and attract wildlife.

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Q: How did check-in go?

A: Briskly and smoothly. Both door staff and those on reception were friendly, helpful and highly professional in their appearance and manner. The process went smoothly indeed.

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Q: How was accessibility, particularly for senior travellers.

A: There were only three small steps from the footpath to the front doors – and the lifts were located close to the check-in counter.

The lifts had adequate space, the corridors were wide enough and our bags were able to be wheeled on the carpet with ease. This was important to us, as a wheel on our Travelon bag had somehow come adrift at Heathrow airport.

Although there were two steps in our room, there was also a hand rail should you need it.

Q: Was the room big enough?

A: There was plenty of space in the room, which featured a king-sized bed and a luxurious bathroom, plenty of wardrobes, and sufficient room alongside the bed for a writing desk – which was put to good use.

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There was also complimentary high speed wifi, tea and coffee-making facilities, plush bathrobes and slippers, indiviidually controlled air conditioning and bottled mineral water.

Q: Was the bed comfortable?

A: Extremely. The room was quiet and we slept soundly.

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Q: Were other facilities adequate?

A: Although we didn’t use them, there was a big flat-screen TV with cable channels and movies on demand, an iron and ironing board, and a laptop safe.

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Q: Did the room have adequate charging points?

A: The Rubens at the Palace room easily catered for our seven electronic devices. There were plenty of charging points, including two on either side of the bed, ideal for using mobile phones as alarm clocks.

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Q: Was the bathroom to the expected standard?

A: There was a large en-suite bathroom with either a bath tub with overhead shower or a walk in shower. The bathroom featured fluffy towels, robes and luxury toiletries.

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Q: Did you get breakfast?

A: Breakfast was included in the room rate. The breakfast room was luxurious and the food to die for.

Q: Were there any problems with the hotel?

A: No. The Rubens at the Palace is a remarkable hotel that recalls the grandeur of a past age while also providing the utmost in luxury, technology and outstanding service

Duration of stay: One night

Location: The Rubens at the Palace is located in Buckingham Palace Road, central London, opposite the Royal Mews.

Our Age-friendly rating:

8/10. From our experience, The Rubens at the Palace caters well for all ages.  We used the lifts for our luggage; found the lay-out simple; the halls wide-enough; and the room entry straight-forward. There were a few steps inside our room door, but they didn’t worry us.

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