Norton Park, Sutton Scotney, near Winchester

Norton Park

Finding a hotel that ticks all the boxes is not always easy, so when Maggie Woods and her partner chose Winchester for a day trip and needed the perfect overnight stay, they were delighted to find everything they needed at QHotel’s Norton Park...

FIRST IMPRESSIONS DEFINITELY COUNT. Taking the winding drive towards Norton Park we were reassured by the peaceful parkland setting, the large and accessible car park and, on entering the foyer, the genuine welcoming smile of the smart, professional and efficient receptionist.

We were immediately asked if there was anything we needed and were offered help to take our luggage to our impressive room in the modern wing of the hotel, being one of the spacious and classic QStar rooms with such extras as special toiletries, a hospitality tray well-stocked with good quality tea and coffee, cake and biscuits, and an extra-comfy mattress topper.

From the moment we
arrived we realised
g was
too much trouble
for the pleasant staff
at Norton Park...”
A luxury bathroom beckoned after a long drive down from Kent in heavy traffic — a good test for the new Suzuki 'crossover' we were driving that week, the SX4 S-Cross. So, after a hot shower using the toiletries provided, we wrapped ourselves in the thick fluffy towels to rest on the generously-sized and decidedly comfy bed for a few hours before we needed to dress for an early dinner. Bliss.

At the Scene Restaurant attention to detail is every bit as important as it is in the bedrooms and the chefs provide a well-chosen, contemporary menu using locally-sourced produce where possible. Attentive waiters ensured we were able to quickly order our meal, with expert timing between each course.

I chose an unusual, delicious, melt-in-the-mouth goat's cheese panna cotta (with beetroot, pecan and waldorf salad) to begin, which was such a good experience that I savoured every mouthful. My partner chose a tasty vegetable soup that was fresh and warming, and joined me in selecting the perfectly-cooked, tender char grilled chicken breast (with spiced tomato fondue and rocket salad) as our main meal, accompanied by a smooth and full Californian Merlot — Mountain Bear.

To complete the meal, pudding was a gorgeous hazelnut chocolate pot with pistachio crumbs and the lightest of shortbreads (for me) while my partner chose apple and hedgerow berry tart with a crumble top. No complaints here and our excellent meal left us totally satisfied.

The hotel is set in beautifully landscaped gardens with a lake upon which a pair of swans glided past to be admired. The modern main part of the hotel hides the 16th Century manor, where there are further rooms — and romantics can arrange to dine there.

With state-of-the art facilities for business meetings, seminars, conferences or annual dinners in the main hotel, the manor or a 17th Century Tythe Barn, Norton Park also has a wonderful spa where you can unwind in preparation for exploring the area the following day or experience calming treatments after a long day out.

Norton ParkAt breakfast the following morning, after a good night's sleep, we felt relaxed and energised, starting the day with scrambled egg and mushrooms, fruit juice, Earl Grey tea and jam and toast.

The choice is endless: a long list of breakfast cereals, full English breakfast or a combination of items from the hot buffet, jam, marmalade and irresistible, delicious light Danish pastries fresh-baked every morning.

After a brisk walk through the tranquil parkland past the manor house to the lake, we set out to explore the immediate area close to the hotel.

Atmospheric Stonehenge is a half-hour drive away and the nearby ancient capital of Winchester, once the seat of Anglo-Saxon and Norman power, less than twenty minutes by car. The city is well worth a visit — especially to experience the majestic cathedral, that has seen fifteen centuries of history from its roots in the 7th Century.

Among the many prominent people who are buried here are King Cnut, ruler of England and Denmark in the 11th Century, and his wife Queen Emma and William the Conqueror's son William Rufus. Beside the grave of author Jane Austen is an illustrated exhibition of her life, work and death in Hampshire.

In vibrant colours that are still vivid today, an illustrated 12th Century Bible is on display; the largest and arguably the finest of the surviving Bibles of that period and you should not miss the fascinating stained glass tour. Some of the cathedral's superb stained glass is several centuries old and the tour costs £10, including tea and cake.

Norton Park Hotel is well placed for a number of leisure activities, details of which can be found just outside the restaurant. The coastal towns of Southampton and Portsmouth — with an historic dockyard housing the Victory and the Mary Rose Museum — are around thirty minutes and one hour away respectively.

From the moment we arrived we realised that nothing was too much trouble for the pleasant staff at Norton Park. Not surprisingly, QHotels has earned many awards including the top three accolades in the annual Venue Verdict Awards for "consistently high service standards".

Norton Park Hotel is perfect, whether you are looking for a weekend getaway, a romantic break or a longer stay with or without the family; business meetings, or to chill out and revitalise yourself in the comprehensive and modern Spa.

Thoroughly de-stressed, happy, well-fed and feeling as special as the hotel staff successfully strive to achieve, we drove away. Consoling ourselves, we'll be back.

"Nothing was too much trouble for the pleasant staff at Norton Park… excellent meal… we'll be back!" — Maggie Woods

Norton Park Hotel, Sutton Scotney, near Winchester, SO21 3NB (01962 763 000) —

Stonehenge, near Amesbury, Wiltshire, SP4 7DE —

Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 9LS —

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard —

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