What a grand, imposing tree-lined entrance greets you at Hallmark Flitwick Manor! A slow drive up the avenue to the house (there are signs either side asking you to watch out for squirrels crossing) allows you to take in the picturesque surroundings of the lake and the grounds.
We visited on a freezing cold November day, when there were no leaves left on the trees, and the landscape looked bare, but magnificent none-the-less.
A former Manor house set in the heart of Bedfordshire, this fine Georgian building dates back to the late 17th Century and exudes an air of grandeur, but with no pretensions. There is no ‘official’ reception area – just a welcoming desk in the front hall with a charming log fire, where we were warmly greeted by the hotel’s manager. We had booked the Bletchley Park offer, which includes one night’s accommodation, breakfast, a three-course dinner in the restaurant with a bottle of wine, and two tickets to Bletchley Park.
Arriving on Saturday morning, we checked in our bags then drove through a few lovely villages – including the stunning Woburn Park grounds – to get to Bletchley in just under 25 minutes.
If you’ve seen this year’s blockbuster film, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, you’ll know that Bletchley Park is a name synonymous with WW2 codebreaking, The most famous of the cipher systems to be broken at Bletchley Park was of course the Enigma.
Bletchley Park has a fascinating, proud heritage and there is much to see and take in. The Mansion (the former house) was once host to the offices of the top-ranking officials at Bletchley and the huts where the ranks worked, with their seemingly innocuous names (Hut 1, Hut 6, etc) were the scenes of incredible stories, code-cracking and breakthroughs. Just entering the gates you feel transported back to the 1940s as they Park Trustees have tried to keep it looking much as it did back then.
This heritage site has plenty to see and do and you can’t help but feel in awe of the code-breakers, who are said to have helped shorten the war by two years, thereby saving many, many lives.
Run by the charity Bletchley Park Trust, the aim is to preserve the site for the nation and transform the site into a world-class heritage and education centre. You can see the block where Hollerith punch-card machines carried out their analysis of encrypted message systems to assist the code-breakers. Other huts have been restored and opened up to visitors and the landscape has been returned to its 1940s appearance.
There are displays and exhibitions and plenty of events for adults and children alike, all with the aim of educating us on the vital role Bletchley played in the war.
We took a guided tour (included in your ticket price) although there are complimentary multimedia guides with headphones where you can choose the level of information you want to hear about. Our guide was fantastic – an incredible storehouse of facts, figures and inside stories, he really made the Park come alive and the whole experience so much more rewarding. As we stood outside the huts listening to him, we heard the unmistakeable noise of a Spitfire overhead, then a little later, the nostalgic hoot of a steam train! Although just noises generated by the Park, it made our visit very authentic!
If you have little ones in tow, there is a children’s play area and plenty to see, touch,listen as well as codes to crack.
Bletchley Park is well worth a visit, and your admission price entitles you to an Annual Season Ticket, which is valid for as many visits as you would like during the twelve-month period from the time of your first visit. There’s also a café, coffee shop, tea room, gift shop, children’s play area on site.
- Tickets: £16.75 adults, £10 children, £14.75 concessions
- Bletchley Park Trust Ltd,
- Tel: 01908 640404
- Visit: www.bletchleypark.org.uk
- Open Nov 1-Feb 28, 9.30am-4pm (last admission 3pm)
- Mar 1-Oct 31, 9.30am-5pm (last admission 4pm)
- Full disabled access throughout the site for visitors who require wheelchair assistance. A number of wheelchairs are available for visitors to use. No dogs.
Bletchley Park images copyright Shaun Armstrong/Mubsta.com
A pleasant drive back to Flitwick, we were looking forward to that roaring fire as we were so very cold!
Hallmark Flitwick Manor has 18 bedrooms that range from four-poster suites to family rooms, all individually decorated and each named after prominent characters in the house’s history.
Our room was a small double, tastefully decorated with huge, thick drapes to keep the cold out, and oh so cosy on a winter’s day! It had all the things you would expect – tea and coffee-making facilities, iron and board, hairdryer, complimentary bottled water and biscuits, Wi.-Fi and toiletries in the bathroom – but it also had immense character with its lovely sloping ceiling and slightly uneven floor! The bed was super-comfy and particularly welcome after a day on your feet! A nice touch was the dressing gowns and slippers in the ensuite bathroom (something I never pack when I go away for a weekend!).
Looking forward to dinner, the restaurant (open to non-residents as well as residents) is in a huge bay-fronted room (The Brooks Room), with high ceilings, another roaring fire, period paintings, picture rails and wall-mounted lights that look like chandeliers and views over the grounds. The restaurant staff were polite, courteous and friendly, and the food was absolutely delicious. The restaurant has two AA rosettes so I expected a lot and wasn’t disappointed.
We ordered roasted tomato soup and ham hock terrine for starters, slow roasted belly pork with sticky jus, carrot puree and glazed pig cheek, and fillet steak with chips and roasted shallots, then for pud, chocolate torte, and ice cream with apple tart.
After the excellent food we took our drinks into what used to be a Library and relaxed there on huge, comfy sofas in front of an open fire – you can never have too many open fires in winter!
Next morning there was a sharp frost and the view from the hotel was so pretty; everything was covered with a fine white layer and, to top it all off, about 10am (so not too early!) the church next door rang its bells for the morning service, adding to the atmosphere. After a delicious cooked English breakfast (a lighter, continental version is also available) in The Brooks Room, where we could admire the frosty view from the bay window as it was now light, we took a quick stroll outside before packing up and heading home.
This really is a delightful package. The hotel, food and staff are brilliant and Bletchley Park is brilliant too. Don’t let the cold weather put you off either – this time of year has its own attraction and there are plenty of open fires in the hotel to keep you warm!
- Hallmark Flitwick Manor Hotel
Tel: 01525 712242
- www.hallmarkhotels.co.uk/hotels/flitwick Bletchley park package costs £190 for a standard double, £210 for a superior room, prices based on 2 persons sharing, one night's stay at the hotel including tickets to Bletchley Park.