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A Mini-Moon with the Alexander Hotel Collection

Author: Elliott Wakefield

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The first time I heard the word ‘staycation’ I shuddered. It felt misplaced to me in the UK travel market, and something borne of the apart-hotel genre. It didn’t seem at first glance to fit the boutique hotel sector, and to me felt as though we were trying to force on Cinderella’s slipper.

But my goodness, how wrong was I? It turned out that the staycation was here for a long-stay (sorry), and the hospitality industry has worked hard at creating experiences and moments of magic, usually reserved for Maldivian beaches, to keep guests interested and wanting more.

Now more than ever amid the Coronavirus pandemic, this applies to the wedding market. The ‘mini-moon’, much like a ‘staycation’ has always conjured up for me short breaks to the continent, not to the home counties (etc.); although now it’s time to rethink all of that.

I should say that truly my heart breaks for couples who should be jetting off on their long-haul honeymoons. Hopefully, people will find their situation to be paused rather than cancelled, and their finances protected. All is not lost though, and with the hoped-for reopening of hotels in the UK from July 4th now might be the perfect time to plan a mini-moon closer to home.

As a hotelier and an event planner, I like to think I know a thing or two about how to craft a perfect getaway. Really, it all comes down to the planning and creating a journey of experiences, each one more magical than the last. Your mini-moon can and should be as memorable as your honeymoon, and this is where it’s key to find the right hotel with the right concierge support.

You can start right here, on For Better, For Worse to search our curated list of beautiful UK destinations, and we’d be delighted to introduce you to your favourites. One such favourite, is the Alexander Hotel Collection. A group of five country house hotels all in the home counties and in easy reach of London, the properties are all funked-up stately manors with acres of glorious gardens that Jane Austen would have been proud of. You can pitch up at any of the properties for a few nights and craft with their concierge teams a very special stay, or even hop between them.

Although both their flagship hotel Alexander House and their first hotel Rowhill Grange have beautiful Utopia spas, it’s their Windsor outpost, Great Fosters that catches my eye for an unforgettable mini-moon. Steeped in Tudor history (Elizabeth I’s personal seal adorns the front of the property, and Anne Boleyn’s crest graces the original plasterwork ceiling in the drawing room that bears her name), Great Fosters scores 10/10 for grandeur. Once inside the hotel, the owners of the Collection have sensitively restored the wonderfully historic house, contrasting original fireplaces and hidden doors with punchy gem-coloured velvets and contemporary furnishings. It’s a seriously stylish affair.

Great Fosters

In the main house, you’ll find their ‘Historic Named Suites’ and each has a tale to tell. From the Jacques-Garcia-esque ‘Italian Room’ to the Tapestry suite, there’s a style to suit every taste. Our pick is the grand Queen Anne Suite, with a walnut four-poster bed, roll-top bath, garden views and feature fireplaces. Utterly dreamy! Once the stage is set, it’s time to map out the experiences, and there’s plenty to choose from.

The Queen Anne Suite at Great Fosters

Start small (but charming of course) and build up to your grand finale. Here’s how I’d spend a mini-moon at Great Fosters…

Day 1

Check into the Queen Anne Suite. Surprise your new Mr or Mrs Smith with a bottle of champagne on ice and a gateau prepared by the Michelin-starred kitchens of the Estate. When after all, is it not time for cake?

Take a tour of the grounds and for the moment of magic, book in with their groovy-gardener Russell (named so for his dreadlocks) for a behind-the-scenes tour of the kitchen gardens, piggery, Parterres and more.

Historic gardens at Great Fosters

Slip into something for supper and head down to the cocktail bar. Head Barman Casper is a delight and will whizz you up a personal cocktail especially for you both – and you’ll get the recipe too so you can recreate your mini-moon drink at home for the years to come. Head over to the Estate Grill, their 2-AA rosette restaurant complete with a vaulted ceiling, fireplace and changing gallery of artwork, for a delicious supper before retiring for the night.

The Estate Grill

Day 2

I hope you’ve packed your swimwear because we’re off to the pool. Great Fosters has a beautiful heated outdoor pool, with art-deco styling, sun loungers and waiter service. What could be more heavenly? Sip on a glass of Nyetimber and enjoy their poolside sushi lunch. Who needs a long-haul when you have the royal riviera right here?

The outdoor pool

If you are so inclined, book in for a private beekeeping lesson and you’ll be treated to a jar of Great Fosters honey. For more learning, the hotel offers walking tours of the house and grounds with their resident historian, and you’ll soon be soaking up the rich Tudor history and the tales of romance and intrigue that Great Fosters is famous for.

Next up indulge in a Utopia Spa massage or two in the Treatment Rooms at Great Fosters. Try the treatment for two for maximum romance.

It’s martinis back in your suite whilst you get ready for a night in Windsor. The concierge team will help you pick the perfect restaurant and will take care of all your bookings and transport too.

Book the special turndown service and you’ll find a candlelit bath waiting for your return, with a nightcap and more treats.

Day 3

You can’t visit Great Fosters and not see the Great Windsor Park. Let the team book you in for special tour and after your VIP treatment head back to the hotel for their legendary afternoon tea. Turn up the romance a notch and experience afternoon tea in one of their exclusive Secret Garden dining spots, which the team can dress with flowers and candles and personalised table stationery for the extra wow factor.

Afternoon Tea in the Anne Boleyn drawing room

For your final dinner, it’s time for a very special experience in their Michelin-starred restaurant, Tony Parkin at The Tudor Room. Take your time getting dressed up for the occasion, with drinks and nibbles served to your suite before heading down for your experience. Seating only 10 tables an evening, The Tudor Room is a special, intimate dining experience and Tony and his team will personally serve you your exquisite meal. There’ll be some surprises in store plus the opportunity to tour the kitchen and chat to Tony too.

The Tudor Room
Michelin-starred cuisine

Packed full of details and special experiences, it’s the perfect recipe for an amazing mini-moon, and until September 30th 2020, you’ll save £100 a night too when staying for more than 1 night.

For more information to book a mini-moon or a wedding tour, click here.


Written by

Elliott Wakefield

Elliott Wakefield is a successful hotelier, event designer and marketing guru. Having worked in the luxury hospitality sector for over a decade holding a string of distinguished roles, from General Manager at Cowley Manor to Marketing Director at the Alexander Hotel Collection, Elliott is well placed to advise and support businesses from a strategic and ideation perspective. He also finds…

Learn more about Elliott Wakefield