Become a country gentleman in the UK.
By Ned Randle
“Come, Watson, come!” he cried. “The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!”
Texans don’t get many chances to wear tweeds. But you may want to don some when you decide to head to bucolic West Sussex for a break from London’s buzzing urbanity. Ridden the London Eye? Tipped the musicians in Convent Garden? Noshed your way like a local through Borough Market? Gazed at the mummies in the British Museum? Can’t stand the thought of pushing through another crowd in Knightsbridge?
No problem. The Corinthia Hotel has your back. They understand that city slickers sometimes hanker for the pasturelands when they travel across the pond. To wit, this palatial, city-sited hotel on the Thames offers a da ylong, rural round trip (or, if you prefer, a helicopter flight) that whisks you to the hinterlands for hours of sporting and doting in the s tyle of a British lord.
An inspiration of macho man Garry Hollihead, the Corinthia’s executive chef, and a champion of British-sourced game and artisan foods, the huntergatherer experience places foraging aficionados, shooting and hunting buffs, fly-fishing fiends and weekend-in-the-country-obsessed romantics smack dab in the woods.
But don’t worry, you won’t get lost. You’ll be somewhere on the sprawling 700-acre estate of Petworth House, home to Lord and Lady Egremont, and one of the treasures of the British National Trust. At your side and at your service will be strapping groundskeeper David Whitby and his knicker-wearing and plaid-woolen-capped team of stalkers and ghillies. Chef Hollihead, too, will preside.
Just an hour and a half drive in a chauffeured Range Rover from London or about 20 minutes by copter “wings,” the storied estate boasts all the ingredients needed to film an episode of Downton Abbey. Parcels of woodlands, wildflower-filled meadows (in season), rich chalk grassland and wetland, crystalline lakes and a rushing river comprise the terrain. The manor house, impossibly colossal, fancy but refined, sits amid verdant gardens and miles of emerald, tree-studded expanse like a fairy queen’s white-frosted wedding cake.
Stewards, groomsmen, valets abound—or are those simply recreational hikers taking advantage of the public trails that wind through the estate? Never mind, the fantasy continues with a picture-perfect village— you know the one—that has a pub or three, antique stores, old-time apothecaries, bakeries and candy stores. You will have awakened to views of Big Ben, but now you land among greenery near a rugged stalker’s hut.
In the distance, you note the lord’s mansion. Countryclad gentlemen urge you indoors, where you meet Chef Hollihead and marvel at the breakfast spread he has laid out on the rough-hewn table. Yes, you’ll try it all: steaming cups of tea, bangers, buns filled with eggs and smoked salmon and such, house-made charcurterie platters, local cheese and overflowing bowls of fresh fruit. As you munch, you’ll sit by the fire and plan your day.
Exactly what you do will depend on the season, but throughout most of the year, you can opt to practice shooting and stalking, hunt for live game, stalk deer or fly-fish. A package appropriately named Feathers starts you off with a simulated practice, then a live-game drive in search of pheasants across the landscape. What you shoot will be trussed and pack aged, so you can take it back to Corinthia’s bigger kitchen to be cooked that evening for your dinner. Should you choose the Powder option, you’ll tarry at the practice range for a spell then conduct a simulated s talk that tests your accuracy, spotting and ID.
After lunch, served by your stalker/manservant groomsmen, you’ll be scored—those with high enough ratings may take part in an actual deer stalk—just like the British huntsmen of yore. More tranquil days can be spent with your dedicated gillie, casting into limpid waters, having afternoon tea in the gazebo by the lake and picnicking on the riverbank, the sound of the flowing water as your serenade.
Whatever you decide, you’ll be sustained by a hampered lunch, delivered by horse-drawn carriage and enjoy a tea ceremony abundant with tarts, elegant sandwiches, macaroons and cakes. When and if you need a break from the outdoors (or bring a partner along who is not a nature enthusiast), antique shopping in the village and a visit to peruse the art collection and finery of the manor house await. They do vaunt the UK’s most prodigious Turner collection.
Most days, you’ll be granted an audience with the lord and lady themselves, maybe even share a glass of Champagne with them, so start practicing your bows and curtsies in advance. When it’s over at dusk (that’s the stroke of midnight in the country), you’ll return to your commodious room in the Corinthia, well aware of its contrast with the country. You’ll leave your deer-stalker hat and leather gherkins behind, slip on your Ferragamo shoes and head to the hotel’s trendy, infinitely urbane Bassoon Bar to toast the day.