There’s never been a better time than this summer to get lost in the history and beauty of the great British Isles – and Hampton Court in Richmond upon Thames offers both in spadefuls. Couple it with a touch of luxury in The Kings Arms Hotel and we found one of our favourite staycations of the year…
Where is The Kings Arms?
Just upstream of central London, The Kings Arms is in the borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. Nestled in a leafy suburb bustling with life (yet without as many crowds as the big smoke nearby), The Kings Arms sits right in the lap of Richmond’s crown jewel which is Hampton Court Palace - famously once the home of King Henry VIII and his many wives.
In fact, The Kings Arms is so close to the grounds of royalty, you can see the palace’s world famous maze from the hotel window and can’t help but imagine catching sight of the likes of Anne Boleyn or Catherine Parr taking a stroll round the grounds as you head down to breakfast.
But the palace isn’t the only nearby attraction. Just opposite the hotel door stands the gates of Bushy Park, a 1,000-acre royal park, famed for its beautiful waterways, charming gardens and roaming herds of red and fallow deer.
Meanwhile, just a short drive or a long, leisurely stroll takes you to Richmond Park, known as one of the top sites in the UK for admiring ancient trees and rare species, from wildflowers to birds.
Where will I sleep?
The Kings Arms has 14 boutique rooms, each with its own unique shape, size and design from the fun, modern Hampton Suite that’s great for families to the Luxury room that offers something a little bit special for a weekend break with your loved ones.
Our room was fresh, light and airy with a gorgeous view into Bushy Park, complete with glimpses of its iconic Diana fountain.
It brought together touches of period charm befitting its historic location with lots of modern-day luxury and I was especially impressed by how many little details had been thought of.
From the heavenly Jenny Betts toiletries in the bathroom to the Dyson fan that kept us effortlessly cool on a hot night, the complimentary coffee machine pods to the fine cotton bedding I never wanted to leave, there wasn’t a single detail left to chance and all that made for a real treat of a stay.
What is there to do at The Kings Arms?
The hotel is situated in a prime position to go exploring, whatever your interests.
Hampton Court Palace itself of course offers a packed day of activities from strolling round the elegant gardens to pacing the floors once hallowed by kings and queens.
Beyond the palace gates, though, the Thames runs right through the heart of the local borough and offers endless leafy walks and stunning viewpoints, which might include charming lakeside properties, hot-faced rowers and all manner of bird and wildlife.
If you’re willing to get in the car or pull some good shoes on, Richmond Park, Kew Gardens, Ham House and even Wimbledon Common are all in easy reach.
What is there to eat?
From almost the moment we arrived to the second we left The Kings Arms we were full to the brim with amazing food.
Aptly named The Six – not to be confused with the West End show of the same name – The King’s Arms’ restaurant is overseen by Michelin Star Chef Mark Kempston who brings together the finest, freshest local ingredients to create unexpected takes on traditional dishes.
For our evening meal, I started with handmade goat’s cheese agnolotti with violet artichokes and basil which was effortlessly fresh, light and packed with seasonal summer flavour. My partner meanwhile had the oxtail and gruyere cheese scotch egg with pancetta marmalade which, having been forced to try a bit of his (begrudgingly of course), I can confirm it was every bit as indulgent as it sounds.
For mains, I went for aged welsh lamb rump with spiced lamb breast pastia, cashew dukkha, carrots, garlic buttermilk and coriander. The hearty lamb, matched with the spicy dukkha, was a unique yet remarkably mouth-watering combination. My partner, on the other hand, dug into pork ribeye which came with scrumpy mustard sauce, girolles, soused cabbage and – the piece de resistance – a ham hock and Emmental croque (who knew putting a cheese and ham toastie in a main meal was such a good idea!)
Finally, for pudding we agreed to both have the cherry and pistachio cheesecake – tangy, nutty and vanished from our plates in a matter of seconds.
It’s no wonder then, that after all that, we were still quite full when we arrived at the breakfast table the next morning. However, a sneaky glance at other people’s breakfast soon told us that we probably could actually squeeze in a full English after all. From the delicately garlicky mushrooms to the fluffy poached eggs, every bit was so perfect we subsequently had to plan a very long walk along the Thames to try and burn off the very full – yet incredibly satisfied - feeling in our bellies.
How much does it cost?
One night in a standard room starts at £120
Luxury means something different to everyone but to me it really is all to do with the little details and in that sense, The Kings Arms really did offer pure luxury – yet at what were really affordable prices. The meal was exceptional, yet no more than we’d pay for an average dinner out for a special occasion.
Meanwhile, in the hotel room, nothing had been left to chance so that it felt like a real home-from-home yet with the special touches that meant it felt like a real escape.
Finally, every member of staff we met really paid attention to all the little details, making sure everything was looked after, explaining the food and the wine and really taking time to really chat and get to know us.
Having visited Hampton Court as a child, I previously thought there was no particular reason I’d come back to this particular corner of London. But having discovered the beautiful scenery, the endless hidden gems nearby and a hotel even grumpy King Henry VIII would have struggled to complain about, I know I’ll be back again soon.