Short story long: It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen spent much of her life in Hampshire.
She wrote Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma and Persuasion while being inspired by the ‘rolling hills’ that make up the county.
Fast forward 200 years after her death and the novelist’s legacy lives on. Her books, many of which have been made into films still sell millions all over the world - and the author’s face will even appear on the new polymer tenner that’s being released in September.
Jane might not recognise the Hampshire of today - for a start there’s a huge great motorway that runs through the middle of it - but it’s still one of the most visited counties in the South East.
The Hampshire Court Hotel is located near to Basingstoke (but don’t let that put you off) where our Jane was born. It’s easy to find once you’ve negotiated the endless roundabouts that could possibly be the undoing of your relationship and/or your sanity.
Although only minutes away from the dreaded M3, it doesn’t feel like that. Enough thought has been put into the landscaping so it isn’t as though you’re spending the night on a motorway.
Travelling with kids can be tiresome and our three year old isn’t proving to be an intrepid traveller thus far so we were a little weary when we arrived. Luckily check in was easy enough as we were the only people in the lobby meant we could start to relax a tad.
The hotel welcomes young visitors and they even have their own check in. The little one was slightly bemused, although she was pleased to receive an activity pack and wrist band which entitled her to free squash in the bar and restaurant.
Our room was a proper trek from reception. I’m glad that I’m an expert in travelling light and our bags weren’t huge. Even so by the time we reached our room one arm was longer than the other and I could have done with a little lie down, Mrs Bennet style but alas that wasn't to be.
Most of the bedrooms overlook the courtyard which on sunny days must be a perfect sun trap - and an ideal place to eat, drink and be merry.
I was pretty pleased that it wasn’t boiling hot. In fact it was a typical English summer’s day being grey and drizzly. If the sun was out there would have been far too many people enjoying themselves late into the night - while we tried to get some shut eye. Not that I’m the jealous type of course. As it was, the outside area was deserted.
Like all the hotel rooms I’ve ever stayed in, ours was boiling upon arrival. Luckily there was a super efficient air conditioning unit which we kept on all night. When we did turn it off after the usual too hot/too cold argument the room became so warm that I’m sure I started to hallucinate.
There’s not a lot of choice with regards to restaurants in the local area - unless you fancy a meal deal from the nearby Tesco so we dined in the hotel bar. It’s pretty relaxed and Sky sports was on in the background so all was well in our world.
The menu is pretty standard and includes ribs, chicken Katsu curry and scampi and chips. The kid’s menu offers two courses for £8 or three for a tenner. The three of us ate for £50 which isn’t too shabby for a main course and a couple of pints.
The hotel has a relaxed feel to it and is very family friendly. As well as the kid’s check in, there is a play room with toys and books situated next to the bar area.
However, it’s certainly not so kid-centric that you need a child with you to fit in. They’ve got the balance just right and try to cater for all.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to exercise while you’re away you won’t be disappointed. There are tennis courts, two swimming pools, a gym and fitness studios. Phew. I can’t comment on the calibre of the equipment as I didn’t so much as step inside any of the wonderful looking facilities. However, I can confirm there were people pumping iron while they’re supposed to be on holiday.
There’s also a spa that offers sublime-sounding treatments. There were lots of groups of towel-clad women around the place, so it’s clearly a chill-out destination for many. Sadly not for me.
I can’t promise your very own Mr Darcy in a wet shirt but it’s comfortable enough for a decent night’s sleep and we’d visit again.
Champagne tastes: If you fancy treating yourself to a suite then add an additional 50 quid on top of the highest room fee. For your money you’ll get a larger room, with separate lounge area, a hospitality tray and fluffy robes.
Shandy pockets: Standard rooms from £91
Review by Natasha Harding