We were invited by Warner Hotels to try out it’s newest hotel, Heythrop Park. Why? Because this could be the closest thing to a cruise ON LAND! In this Heythrop Park Hotel Review we discuss everything that’s included in a stay at Heythrop Park and if it really is a good alternative to a cruise holiday.
Heythrop Park Hotel
This Grade II listed, 18th Century country house is located in the Costwolds, near Oxford. It’s set in 440 acres of grounds and after a £100 million refurbishment, Warner now offers adult-only breaks.
Our first impressions of Heythrop Park were good, it’s clear that Warner Hotels has invested a lot of time and money into making the hotel and its grounds feel grand and in keeping with its heritage.
The long drive takes you to the main mansion house and it definitely delivers the wow factor when you catch a first glimpse of it.
Checking in to the hotel for the weekend was relatively straightforward and took no more than 15 minutes.
We were able to park right outside the hotel entrance, which made it especially easy to unload our bags and find our room.
There is a nearby car park, which has been installed with several electric vehicle charging points.
Our Room at Hethrop Park
We’d been allocated a Superior Room in one of the wings of the Manor House and we were impressed by the amount of space that this room provided.
We particularly liked the addition of a sofa area at the end of the bed, which gave us an alternative place to relax. We appreciated this touch because in hotels and cruise cabins you only often have the bed to lounge on.
The room came with the following features:
- En-suite bathroom with shower
- Tea and coffee making facilities (with real milk)
- Small safe
- Iron and ironing board
- Temple Spa toiletries, replenished daily
- USB and standard plug sockets
- Fluffy robes
Storage was ample for a short break with plenty of wardrobe space and drawers.
Heythrop Park Food and Dining
Heythrop Park offers guests the choice of three included restaurants. Stays include breakfast and dinner as standard but it’s worth noting that booking dining times in advance is recommended.
Before our stay, we logged into our My Warner Stay account, where we could choose our dining times and restaurants for breakfast and dinner. This definitely reminded us of our recent cruise on P&O Arvia.
Having to decide in advance when and where you want to dine does take the spontaneity out of your holiday but it seems to be a growing trend within cruising too.
To ensure we could try everything at least once, we booked breakfast and dinner in each of the three restaurants:
- Market Kitchen
- Travelling Duke Pub and Kitchen
The Market Kitchen restaurant is the most casual dining venue at Heythrop Park and offers a choice of menu items and a buffet.
This was not the same as a cruise ship buffet! It was better in our opinion.
The food was nicely presented and the salad bar at dinner offered an incredibly good choice.
The other positive thing about this buffet was that there were no queues! We are not huge fans of cruise ship buffets because we hate how busy they can be. The Market Kitchen’s balance of ordering from the menu and buffet seemed to alleviate this problem.
Breakfast offers cooked and continental options between 8.00am and 10.30am.
Dinner is available from 6.00pm to 8.30pm.
We dined here on our first evening and the theme was Asian cuisine. On another evening we noticed that the menu offered Indian cuisine but a carvery option was always available.
Here’s what we enjoyed for dinner in the Market Kitchen.
We were very satisfied with our choices in the Market Kitchen and the chocolate, rum and raisin cheesecake was an unexpected delight at the end of the meal.
One thing we would say is that the Market Kitchen is the largest restaurant at Heythrop Park and means that there was a bit of a queue to be seated. Thankfully it was no more than 10 minutes.
Service did seem to be a bit chaotic at times and our drinks did take a while but this is probably down to the popularity of the restaurant.
Travelling Duke Pub and Kitchen
On our first full day at Heythrop Park we dined for breakfast and dinner at the Travelling Duke Pub and Kitchen. This is located in a newer extension of the hotel.
This venue has a much calmer feel than the Market Kitchen and the staff had plenty of time to explain the menu and take our order.
It has a bar area and doors that lead out to a terrace, which is particularly appealing on a warm day. We did notice live music playing on the terrace on a couple of afternoons, which was a nice touch.
Breakfast at the Travelling Duke Pub and Kitchen is served from 8.00am.
Here’s what we enjoyed to eat at the Travelling Duke for breakfast.
For dinner, we were not too hungry so opted for just the main course.
The menu doesn’t change in this restaurant so you may only decide to dine here once during your stay at Heythrop Park. Of the three restaurants, it was probably our least favourite.
Like many cruise ship restaurants, the tables did seem to be fairly close to each other in this venue. This meant that light conversation with the table next to you is almost inevitable but luckily, it was a couple we’d met earlier in the day on one of the activities.
Brasserie32 was by far our favourite restaurant at Heythrop Park. If we’d realised sooner, we would have happily dined here twice.
This is the only restaurant situated in the Manor House. It’s the smallest of the three but beautifully decorated in-keeping with the house and offers views of the back lawn.
This restaurant had a calm and peaceful atmosphere.
Breakfast service (8.00am to 11.00am) was leisurely but we were in no hurry that day. It was quite nice to sit back and let someone else take the strain.
The breakfast here is the equivalent of the Main Dining Room on a cruise. There was a good choice of cooked options and variations from the menu were no problem.
Our dinner in Brasserie32 was our favourite of the whole stay at Heythrop Park. There was also a noticeable difference in the level of service between breakfast and dinner. This experience was the closest thing to cruise ship dining.
The staff were friendly and attentive and there were no long waits between courses. We particularly appreciated the staff offering their recommendations from the menu.
The menu at Brasserie32 does not change daily but we could have happily dined here twice and found different things to try.
This is the perfect treat to indulge in during your stay at Heythrop Park. Afternoon Tea can be enjoyed for an additional £17.50 per person and is available in Brasserie32.
We took the opportunity to have Afternoon Tea during our visit and it was made even more special with a table by one of the windows.
For the service and spread, we thought it was well priced.
Things to do at Heythrop Park
There are a number of activities that are included in a stay at Heythrop Park and this reminded us very much of a cruise ship.
You can do as much or as little as you wish, so you can really tailor it to your activity level.
Some of the activities should be booked in advance of your stay, so make sure you check what needs to be booked on My Warner Stay.
The following activities are available at no additional cost during your stay:
- Laser clay shooting
- Laser pistols
- Rifle shooting
- Guided walks
- Nordic walking
- Functional fitness classes
- Aqua aerobics
- Dance classes
- Trivia and quizzes
- Tea tasting
- Snooker boules
We opted to try laser clay shooting and archery. Both were fun, organised sessions.
The Activities Team did an excellent job of organising the activities and made sure that everything worked like clockwork.
The only thing that didn’t seem to work that well were the laser clay guns. Your success rate definitely came down to which gun you were given! Everyone saw the funny side of it and enjoyed the session nevertheless.
Cocktail Making Masterclass
As we are big fans of enjoying a cocktail or two on our cruise holidays, we opted to book the cocktail making masterclass that was held in the Travelling Duke Pub and Kitchen one afternoon.
We thought it would be a bit of fun making cocktails and we might find some new recipes.
Unfortunately, this did not live up to our expectations and therefore we would highly recommend saving the £17.50 per person and spending it on a couple of cocktails at one of the bars instead.
Speaking to guests, the Gin Tasting Class is far better value for money so if you enjoy this type of activity, the gin tasting sounds like the better option.
Spa Facilities at Heythrop Park
Access to the indoor swimming pool and spa facilities is included in your stay. This is a huge bonus as on most cruise lines, this is an additional charge.
We were advised to book a session in advance but in reality, you can use the facilities as often as you like without a reservation. Towels are provided when you check in at the spa reception and the changing rooms are equipped with lockers and hairdryers.
We were impressed with the size of the pool (20m), which allowed for a proper swim.
Within the pool area are chairs and comfortable loungers to relax on. There’s a sauna, steam room and just outside are two hot tubs that seem to be very popular with guests.
It was a perfect opportunity to stop and relax.
Treatments such as massages and facials can be booked for an additional cost but we more more than content to just unwind in the steam room for a little while.
You could also treat yourself to a spa package of treatments (see menu – prices start from £65).
Warner Hotels are know for their ‘dinner and a show’ but at Heythrop Park there are two dedicated entertainment spaces away from the restaurants. These venues were extremely good and definitely gave us cruise ship vibes.
The Theatre has gentle tiered seating and we loved the drinks tables between seats.
Like a cruise, there are a couple of performances each night so you can choose an early or late time, depending on your dinner plans.
During our stay we visited the Theatre to watch Ibiza in Symphony, a 16-piece orchestra performing the some of the best known Ibiza classics. This group was incredible and well worth going to see.
By the end of the performance, there were people up dancing to the music and really enjoying the live music.
During our stay, we spoke to other guests who had specifically booked their stay at Heythrop Park to watch Ibiza in Symphony. We now understand why!
Throughout the year there is a selection of entertainment to suit most tastes – take a look at the entertainment on offer at Warner Hotels and see what takes your fancy.
The Late Lounge opens until late for music and dancing. During the day it also hosts some activities such as dance classes as it has a dance floor.
You can come here for a drink at the dedicated bar, enjoy the entertainment and have a dance until the early hours. It certainly reminded us of a lounge on a cruise ship.
Bars at Heythrop Park
There are three main bars offering beers, cider, wines, spirits and cocktails:
- Brassey Bar
- Travelling Duke Pub and Kitchen
- Late Lounge
Table service is available in the Travelling Duke and the Orangery.
Behind many of the world’s railways, Thomas Brassey bought Heythrop Park in 1870 for a grand redesign. The Brassey Bar is named in his honour and is a classy spot to enjoy pre-show drinks.
There are big screens showing sports during the day and evening so there’s never a chance of missing your favourite team whilst you’re away.
This bar offers a good selection of cocktails and we did enjoy a few of them here during our stay.
This bar never felt crowded and so it was perfect for a quiet drink at the bar or at one of the cosy tables.
Travelling Duke Pub and Kitchen
During the day, the Travelling Duke Pub and Kitchen is an ideal place to get a coffee or beverage to enjoy inside or out on the terrace.
There’s a wide selection of gins and wines found here with around seven beers on draught. You can find the full drinks menu here.
To give you an idea of drinks prices:
- Pint of beer £5.50 – £5.95
- Pint of cider £5.40 – 5.75
- Gordon’s Gin £4.95
- Baileys £5.50
- Chardonnay £7.95
- Malbec £8.50
- Prosecco £5.95
- Cocktails £9.50
- Soft drinks £3.75
You can also get liqueur coffees from the Travelling Duke. I tried an Italian coffee with Disaronno.
Late Lounge Bar
The Late Lounge Bar has seating in the bar area and a comfy sofa outside the entrance. This is the perfect spot to enjoy a quiet drink when the other bars have closed.
Things to do near Heythrop Park
You may simply want to park the car at the hotel and enjoy a peaceful break without setting foot out of the grounds but if you fancy exploring the local area, we can recommend the few places to visit nearby.
This 18th century country house is the only non-royal building to be given the name ‘palace’. The land was originally gifted to the Duke of Malborough by Queen Anne.
Blenheim Palace was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, who spent time there during his childhood and proposed to his wife in the grounds. He is buried in St Martin’s Churchyard in Bladon, very close to Blenheim Palace.
We found our visit to Blenheim Palace very interesting and despite the weather being a bit miserable on the day, we spent a good amount of time exploring the house, exhibits and some of the grounds.
Tickets to Blenheim Palace must be booked in advance. It’s worth knowing that Warner Hotels offers a discount on tickets booked at the reception desk at Heythrop Park.
A slightly longer drive (40 minutes) from Heythrop Park is the city of Oxford. Like most cities, you can find a great selection of cafes, restaurants and shops.
We would recommend a visit to the The Ashmolean, a museum of art and archaeology, founded in 1683. It has world famous collections ranging from Egyptian mummies to contemporary art and admission is free of charge.
We would also suggest visiting at least one of Oxford University’s colleges during your time in Oxford. In particular:
- Exeter College on Turl Street £3 entry – This college was founded in 1314 and offers a special view of the iconic Bodleian Library
- Magdalen College on High Street £9.50 entry – This college was founded in 1458 and is known for its Grand Quad (cloister) and landmark bell tower
Diddly Squat Farm Shop
If you are a fan of Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon Prime, you can visit Diddly Squat Farm Shop, which is only a 14-minute drive from Heythrop Park.
Be prepared for a big queue for the shop itself but it’s definitely worth visiting if you want to pick up some ‘bee juice’, Jeremy Clarkson’s special candles and merchandise.
Overall thoughts of Heythrop Park
Taking a short break at Heythrop Park is an ideal option for anyone who wants a hassle-free holiday. With so much included in the price of a stay, there’s no needs to worry about paying for lots of ‘extras’.
The food, activities, entertainment and spa facilities are all included so once you arrive you can just spend time enjoying yourself.
There’s a bit of organising required in advance of your stay to book dining and some of the activities but once that’s done, you’re all set.
Much like a cruise ship, Heythrop Park has everything you need on-site so you could quite easily spend your time at the hotel without needing to go anywhere. However, there are a few places of interest nearby that are worth visiting, such as Blenheim Palace.
We feel that this type of would particularly suit people who enjoy going on cruise holidays as there are quite a few similarities. Booking a break at a Warner Hotel would be perfect to do during the school holidays because it’s adult-only. Cruises are notoriously busy and more expensive during school holidays so this is a good alternative.
Things we would highly recommend at Heythrop Park:
- Dining in Brasserie32 at least once
- Making the most of the spa facilities
- Watching the entertainment in the Theatre
- Joining in some of the activities
- Spending a little extra for Afternoon Tea
- Taking a walk of the grounds
- Enjoying a few cocktails on the terrace
Things you could miss out at Heythrop Park:
- Dinner at the Travelling Duke
- Cocktail making class (try gin tasting instead)
Overall, we really enjoyed the opportunity to stay at Heythrop Park and would definitely consider booking another short break at a Warner Hotel in the future.