As London-dwellers with no need for a car, I get a little thrill when we decide to rent one of those four-wheeled contraptions and embark on a road trip! Regardless of whether it’s a long or short journey, I love that feeling of jumping in the car and hitting the road. A certain someone gets behind the wheel, which leaves me armed with the navigating… this has led to many wrong-turns along the way and while this causes me to flap in panic, he assures me that it’s all part of the fun. And such fun it always is… especially when we speed further away from the London skyline and into the lush green English countryside.
A recent roadie took us to Woburn, a rather posh and pretty village in Bedfordshire. We were lured there by a visit to the renown Paris House Restaurant, but decided to make a weekend of it when we discovered that there was a grand estate to explore, and much relaxing that could be done with fresh air and rolling fields as our surroundings. When looking for a place to rest our heads, I knew we had to stay at The Woburn Hotel, a charming property right in the heart of the village!
Checking Into Slipperfield Cottage
Our home for the night was the gorgeous Slipperfield Cottage, one of seven cottages converted from what was originally stables on the estate. This one is named after an agricultural and sporting estate on the Scottish Borders owned by the Russell family. The cottages have kept the original exterior brickwork and the 300 year old wooden beams, but inside each has been transformed into comfortable suites with unique touches. We opened the door to a spacious lounge area equipped with a sofa I literally sank into, a desk for a certain someone to work from, and even a small dining area from where we enjoyed a cuppa!
Upstairs, our bedroom was again, very roomy but made to feel even more so with the high ceilings and exposed beams. As a nod to Slipperfield’s Scottish ties, the bedroom was furnished with rich red and tartan elements throughout; I thought this all added to the atmosphere of a proper countryside escape. The only downside of our cottage was the noise… I didn’t mind the slight creaking of the floors which I actually expect and slightly look forward to in these historical conversions, but the outside noise can be a little too obvious on a busy night in town. That said, I still managed to catch enough winks when I collapsed into the soft, enveloping bed!
Dining at Olivier’s Restaurant
Frequently lauded as one of the best restaurants in Bedfordshire, it goes without saying that our visit had to include dinner at The Woburn Hotel’s onsite restaurant, Olivier’s. Named after Executive Chef Olivier Bertho, the restaurant’s menu focuses on classic cooking with French influences, which is no doubt a nod to his time spent in France, cultivating his culinary skills. Our highlights from the meal were the mains of roasted duck breast served with a fricassee of chestnut, smokey bacon and curly kale, and the loin of venison with swede mash, snow peas and fondant potato. Though my duck dish was a touch too salty for my liking, we had absolutely no complaints about the perfect execution of both the duck and venison.
Other dishes such as the ‘Wobbly Bottom’ goat’s cheese pithivier surrounded by a vibrant ring of black olive and basil salsa, and pan-fried scallops and king prawns showed a lot of promise, but one needed a better balance between the pastry and the filling, and the other could have done with a bit more time caramelising in the pan. A certain someone however was mightily impressed by his twice baked banana and custard soufflé which delivered on both flavour and finesse, and I succumbed to a chocolate coma partway through my chocolate bomb with creme de marron! While not a completely faultless meal, the food at Olivier’s Restaurant still impressed – hearty, full of flavour, and extremely satisfying.
Starting the Day with Breakfast
With an early start and a full-on morning ahead, I knew that I needed to ditch my usual habit of skipping breakfast and set myself up with a proper meal. A big pot of English Breakfast tea was brought to our table and we were able to help ourselves to the breakfast buffet. All the usual good stuff was there, including a range of cereals, fruit and yoghurt, but there was also the option of cooked delights such as sausages, beans, eggs, and my favourite hash browns.
Visiting the Village & Woburn Abbey
Woburn is quite a draw for tourists due to its pretty village and attractions such as the Woburn Abbey and Gardens, as well as the Safari Park and golf course. We gave the latter two a miss, but did spend some time wandering through the quaint cobbled streets for a spot of window shopping, stop for a few glasses of wine at a local pub, and visit Woburn Abbey. If you’ve got the time, I’d recommend walking to the Abbey from The Woburn Hotel as it’s quite scenic and peaceful, and you might even see some of the majestic local deer enroute.
The Abbey is still home to the current Duke and Duchess of Bedfordshire, but visitors are able to nosey around 22 of the rooms to take in the history and grandeur of the house and the furnishings. While you’re free to move through the house at your own pace, I liked how there were guides in every room ready to answer any questions, and armed with additional information about certain pieces of art or furniture. I was particularly impressed by the collection of Venice views by Canaletto which adorned almost every inch of the impressive dining room!
So Make A Move…
Woburn is a short one hour drive from London which makes it the perfect location for a quick weekend escape to the countryside. The village is extraordinarily pretty and the area is full of things to do… if you can manage to pull yourself away from your comfortable room at The Woburn Hotel, that is!
- The Woburn Hotel, 1 George St, Woburn, Milton Keynes MK17 9PX; Slipperfield Cottage is priced from £200/night but rooms range from approximately £160/night for a classic room to £240/night for a suite.
- Olivier’s Restaurant serves both lunch and dinner; a three course dinner for two with wine and service will set you back around £120.
- Woburn Abbey is open daily in April – October, between 11am – 5pm; entry to the Abbey, Gardens and Deer Park is £17 for adults and £8.50 for children.
- Paris House is a must for lunch or dinner; read all about my masterclass and Chef’s Table lunch experience here.
Do you like to escape London for the English countryside? Have you been to Woburn?
We paid a media rate to stay at The Woburn Hotel and dine at Olivier’s Restaurant, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone.
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