Great Brampton House – an extraordinary place to have a relaxing time
AS our car crunched up the gravel drive towards the handsome regency country pile, it seemed we were in for a stay at a luxurious country house.
The sheep grazing on the lawn added to the peaceful bucolic feel, until we noticed the sheep weren’t actually moving. They were plastic, as was the dog keeping watch over them – oh and as was the one with two heads.
Clearly this is not just a house, a very big house in the country; and it was clearly not going to be just any old weekend in the country either.
The brainchild of Martin Miller, well-known as the name behind the famous Miller’s Antiques Price Guides, 'Miller’s Hideaway at Great Brampton House' is branded as a luxurious retreat from the pressures of modern life surrounded by art, antiques and in the most convivial of settings.
And that it is. Nestling just over the Welsh border in Herefordshire and set in its own private gardens and grounds, Great Brampton House has undergone a £1m refurbishment, and is an extraordinary place to have a relaxing time.
Our friendly host Sueanne greeted us, and later showed us around.
As a renowned antique collector, Martin Miller has furnished every inch of the house with pieces, objets d'art and exotic trophies. A stroll down any corridor would always be slowed by pauses to stare at a case of petrified puffer fish, African tribal masks, or a bust of Gladstone, disgracefully adorned with a masquerade mask.
Sueanne tells me they have a capacity for 50 guests but are careful to retain an intimate atmosphere. Guests mingle for an aperitif or often dine together.
But what sets the place aside is not just the profusion of antiques that line the walls, but also the art that adorns odd corners of this fantastical house and its grounds.
One of the most noticeable of these is the flying saucer parked on the lawn between the house and its lake. An entire exterior wall of the otherwise conventional regency house is painted with a mural.
They also include the fibreglass sheep – although Sueanne wasn't sure if these were actual artworks or not. No matter. They gave an extra air of slight surreal art installation.
Martin Miller, himself a published poet, writer and artist, uses the wealth he has won from his antique business to nurture new talent, and you can see much of that nurturing here. The old stable in the grounds has been turned into a studio where young artists can stay for free for the price of some art. The flying saucer is one product of this deal and a newer work was an unconventional-looking house being built in the branches of a tree in the grounds.
The basement boasts a small cinema and a computer games room. For those looking for something less sedentary, there is table tennis, table football and a gym. Down here there is also a well-stocked cellar - which presumably was what the basement was designed for originally.
Out on the lawn guests can play croquet, or there are courts for tennis and badminton. Treatments, such as massages, manicures and pedicures can be also be had to further soothe away workaday cares.
As we arrived, we were ushered into the fabulous Wedgewood Room, a high-ceilinged drawing room, whose glazed doors opened out onto pristine lawns. The room is decorated in the style made famous by the said porcelain maker in muted green, with plaster details picked out in white. Within minutes we were enjoying afternoon tea on the terrace on a sublime, sunny autumn day and we'd already started to relax.
The nearest village is Madley, a mile and a half away, which has a pub and a shop, but as we were having our evening meal here, we didn't feel the need to stray too far. Wandering the house is a diversion all by itself. Having taken in some of the antique-festooned rooms, you can while away an afternoon playing billiards, take advantage of the basement’s many delights, or simply read in your grand and spacious room. Because whichever one you choose, it will be both of these.
Whether you choose the Grand Master suite, suite or a deluxe house room, you will be living the life opulent (for a weekend at least) among your gold-brocaded curtains and regency furniture, with the occasional day bed thrown in.
All the rooms have either en-suite or private bath or shower rooms and and all have wifi and television.
The evening meal was a relaxed, informal affair, with guests mingling for an aperitif in the Wedgewood room. A popular choice of pre-dinner drink was a G&T with Martin Miller's own gin. Said to be born of "love, obsession and madness", his gin is reputed to be the product of a discussion of how good a gin could be made if there were no “practical, fiscal or geographical limitations” on its creation. So, Miller's gin is the award-winning result. It is distilled in the Black Country and bottled with Icelandic glacial water, and the verdict from all our fellow-diners was that it was pretty damned good.
The walls of the main dining room are graced by modern works which were the perfect foil for our meal, inspiring conversation as we enjoyed our amuse bouche of carrot and coriander soup, very fine cottage pie (me) and delicious chicken stuffed with mushrooms (my wife). The Wedgewood room boasted a very well-stocked free bar, featuring said Miller's gin, but also some very good wines. This was also a great attraction for many of our fellow guests.
We took advantage of, but didn't over-indulge with the free bar, and so were up bright-ish and early to enjoy the hearty breakfast cooked up for us by Nikki and served by son Daniel.
We finished our weekend with a stroll around the grounds, taking in the lake, where the ducks squabbled and further along where a UFO sat with a 1950s oven inside. An everyday view at an extraordinary place.
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