I knew Box Hill from the past. Growing up, as a teen when my head was full of poems by John Keats and stories by Jane Austen, I'd drive past the Burford Bridge quite often.
So when I discovered recently the hotel's literary connections my mouth fell to the floor.
Keats completed Endymion here, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote parts of the Arabian Nights at this hotel, while Richard Sheridan, William Wordsworth and Jane Austen are also connected to the place.
What I also found out to my enormous delight was an outdoor pool in the most beautiful setting, great British food and really lovely service.
We had come to the Burford Bridge Hotel at Box Hill in Surrey and were here to discover Mercure's summer offer of a stay and picnic.
Primed in advance that there was a pool I'd brought my bikini with fingers crossed I'd have weather for outdoor swimming. That had to wait as we had arrived late and we were a little hungry. We ordered at the bar where the former sommelier of a Mayfair Michelin starred restaurant suggested wine for us to try.
We ordered a sandwich of ham hock, swiss cheese and gherkin and a hay-smoked lamb shoulder shepherd’s pie with honey roasted root vegetables. It all tasted incredibly delicious and much exceeded my expectations.
Outside a flash of bright blue dazzled in the distance and I couldn't wait to go swimming the next day. We headed along corridors hung with eighteenth century pictures and I began to wonder if I should just move in.
Our room reached we opened the glass door at the other end to reveal a secluded garden surrounded by trees that mirrored the canvas landscape above the bed.
The next morning we headed to the Emlyn restaurant for breakfast, which was again superb. The fruit was plentiful and tasty, the freshly brewed coffee hot and strong and the cooked breakfast equally impressive with locally sourced sausages and bacon. I'd literally recommend booking on the basis of the breakfast alone.
Breakfast completed and it was a challenge not to run at the pool and jump in, clothes and all. Luckily for me, I didn't. Instead I arrived at the pool like a normal person, signed in and asked the temperature of the pool. "Today it is 28 degrees" the helpful lady told me. Oh glory be, thought I and sank without shivering into the water.
Up and down I swam taking in the canopy of green that runs up Box Hill without interruption. I was a lone swimmer in this peaceful place and I beamed with delight. An older lady and gentleman arrived at the pool and I smiled delightedly. The lady smiled back in total agreement that really this is the way to enjoy a swim.
Flip flopping back with sodden hair and chlorine smelling skin, we soon vacated our room.
At reception our picnic was waiting for us in a mock picnic hamper replete with plastic glasses and cutlery and plates. It was better than I had expected. All prepared by the same kitchen that had served us the tasty bar food the night before, the amazing breakfast in the morning and now savoury and sweet treats and a bottle of Prosecco.
It turns out I'm not the first one to admire the fine food produced by this kitchen. Run by Nick Sinclair, the Burford Bridge kitchen specialises in making food using locally sourced produce. As a starter for ten, I'd definitely check out the restaurant, as it really is worth a visit. Click here to go to the restaurant website, EmlynRestaurant.co.uk.
Mercure Box Hill Burford Bridge Hotel, Box Hill, Surrey RH5 6BX
With thanks to Mercure for the complimentary stay and picnic.
Mercure are currently offering a package at 80 of their hotels with discounts off the cost of a night's stay plus a picnic with prosecco for two. To qualify you need to book before the end of August and book to stay before the end of September 2016. Conditions apply, click here to find out more, Mercure.com.
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