Home Travel destinations Tylney Hall: great building but not a great stay

Tylney Hall: great building but not a great stay

by Sarah Bridge
Tylney Hall hotel

I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in some lovely country house hotels recently – sadly, Tylney Hall was not one of them.

[Note: this review of Tylney Hall was first published in 2014 and so some of the details might now be out of date]

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To clarify: as a building, the house is really impressive, a massive 300-year old pile in 66-acres of Hampshire countryside. The ceilings are high, the rooms are oak-panelled and hung with portraits, and as a structure goes, it is everything you could ask for if you want to stay somewhere that really looked the epitome of a country estate.

tylney hall hotel review

It looks really impressive from far away…

Unfortunately, the experience of staying in Tylney Hall was somewhat different. Its website claims, rather ungrammatically, that: ‘Hampshire hotels simply don’t come any grander or offer such heights of luxury anywhere in the UK.’

This doesn’t actually make much sense, which is fitting as a lot about Tylney Hall didn’t make much sense. I had arrived really looking forward to a lovely overnight stay with my mother and left feeling as if Fawlty Towers was alive and well and had just relocated 200 miles east.

Our visit to Tylney Hall didn’t get off to the best of starts. Having been told to check in at 3pm, my mum arrived at 3.15 and was firmly told by the lady at reception that check-in was in fact at 3.30pm. She was pointed to the direction of the lounge and told to sit there and wait, which wasn’t the greatest of welcomes.

tylney hall hotel review

Tynley’s rather forbidding entrance hall – not the warmest of welcomes either

When I queried this later, I was told that rooms might be ready by 3pm but could not be guaranteed till 3.30pm. Now I don’t think 3pm is a particularly early time to check in to a hotel, particularly when check-out is at 11am. And when we had been told, via email, that check-in was at 3pm.

When we were finally allowed into the room allocated to us, one of the garden rooms away from the main hotel building, my first reaction was of embarrassment that I had dragged my mum to stay in such an awful place. I felt like apologising for inflicting it on her. The room stank – it was dark, it was musty, the bed was badly made and the whole thing was extremely depressing.

To try and air the room I opened one window and attempted to open another. It was stuck fast and when I pushed it, the bottom half of the frame came away – it was split and rotten.

Not only was the bed badly made, there was only one of them. We’d specifically asked for a twin. This was a problem easily fixed, you might have thought, apart from the fact that the hotel employee who had shown me to my room was adamant that the bed actually was a twin. We had a lengthy discussion about this in the gloom of the musty room.

‘I’m sorry, but that’s a double bed,’ I said for the tenth time as we stood at the foot of the problem bed. ‘It’s just one bed, for a start.’

‘No, it’s a twin!’ the guy insisted. He took the duvet off and felt along the bed sheet to show the join. Rather than being an actual double bed, the ‘double’ was made up of two single beds pushed together.

‘See! Two beds. It’s a twin!’ he repeated. ‘Our twin beds are very close together,’ he added, as if that helped.

‘They’re not close together, they’re actually attached,’ I said, beginning to wonder if it was me or him who had gone completely mad. ‘It might be two separate beds, but it’s made up as a double,’ I pointed out. ‘There’s one double duvet, one double sheet, it’s a double. As I’m sharing a room with my mother, I had asked for a twin.’

He phoned reception who said yes, the room was a twin. Although it wasn’t.

It had seemed we had reached some kind of stalemate.

We asked for another room. The next one, still in the garden, had the benefit of a nice patio outside but was still incredibly musty-smelling. Has Tylney Hall not heard of airing rooms? As a final attempt to find a room – I would have driven home otherwise rather than stay in those garden rooms, which is a first for me – we trooped back to reception to ask for a room inside the main building.

tylney hall hotel review

The 300-year old building certainly looks the part of a classic country house

Thankfully at this point the very capable and helpful deputy manager Ewen appeared. He admitted he was ‘baffled’ as to why we had been given the garden rooms – they were due for refurbishment and the windows were all being replaced.

Looking for hotels in Hampshire?

Master Builders House hotel: history in the New Forest
A night in a Chewton Glen treehouse: luxury from spa to treetop
Lainston House hotel Winchester: a delightful autumn stay
Exploring Hampshire and a stay at The Old Vine Winchester
Cosy pub stay at Bel & The Dragon Odiham, Hampshire
The Montagu Arms, Beaulieu: a New Forest feast

A room overlooking the main courtyard was found. Result. Number 17 didn’t smell, it was bright and clean and airy, and best of all, it had twin beds. Actual, separately-made up, twin beds.

tylney hall hotel review

Our third and final room was a vast improvement – light, airy and with a view of the courtyard below. And actual twin beds!

It didn’t have a fridge or mini-bar which would have been nice for cooling drink in the heatwave, but one quickly arrived. It had a broken leg and so the porter propped it up rather precariously on a chest of drawers. We were missing a set of towels – there was just one for the room – but more arrived after a quick call to reception. Our stay could start.

tylney hall hotel review

Our broken fridge, on top of a chest of drawers

We were offered a couple of glasses of champagne by way of apology for the room mix-up and we sat drinking them by the outdoor pool – a lovely, slightly heated 14.6-metre pool surrounded with grass and where a few families were already catching the late afternoon rays. Things were definitely looking up.

They started to look down again when waiting for our cocktails on the terrace before dinner a few hours later. The distant view was spectacular – a massive long vista through the 66-acre grounds – but the near view was less so – there was a used astray on our table with cigarette butts in which I moved to the next table but which still hadn’t been cleared away 40 minutes later.

tylney hall hotel review

The outdoor pool was extremely pleasant in the afternoon sun

A plate with four very dubious-looking canapes – congealed, as if they had been sitting out for some time – was plonked down on our table. Only my mother was brave enough to try and she quickly regretted it, pronouncing them ‘disgusting.’

More than 20 minutes after we had been given cocktail menus to choose from no drinks were forthcoming, so I ventured into the library bar to find three waiters standing there. I asked one of them if we could have two gin and tonics. Of course, no problem, was the response from one.

tylney hall hotel review

Our canapes. Not a culinary highlight.

I then walked back out through the lounge to our table, only to turn around and rather eerily find the same waiter standing right behind me. He smiled: ‘You wished to order some drinks?’

I was rather taken aback. ‘Didn’t I just do that?’

He smiled again. ‘Yes, but we can only take your order from your table.’ he proclaimed. This seemed completely daft.

He stood there and we looked at each other. ‘So what would you like?’ he asked.

‘Well…’ I wondered if this was a trick question, or if he just has a very short, short-term memory. ‘Just exactly what I asked for, from you, ten seconds ago, in the other room,’ I said. It was starting to feel rather Fawlty Towers-esque.

One of our napkins had a bright red smear on it which looked like lipstick or possibly blood. ‘I do hope not!’ said another waiter cheerfully as we pointed it out to him.

The western side of the building was still in the sun so I walked round to see if we could sit there – around 20 dirty glasses were on the tables, with no-one clearing them away. In fact, there seemed to be a lot of staff around, but no-one actually doing the basic things, such as clearing tables, serving drinks and generally giving the level of service which people would expect from a four-star hotel and where bedroosm cost hundreds of pounds a night.

The prices were pretty hefty too – a champagne cocktail cost £16.95, a G&T £9.30 and even a humble latte was £4.50.

Having ordered – I had finally decided on the lamb, only to be told it wasn’t available – we decided to venture into the dining room. We had got halfway across the lounge before a waiter accosted us. We told him that we were going through.

‘Or you could stay on the terrace?’ he said.

‘No, we’re going through now thanks.’

‘OK,’ he said. He paused. ‘So when would you like to go through?’ Considering we were actually up and walking, it was just yet another surreal conversation, Tylney Hall-style.

As we walked into the dining room, the first thing we saw, stuck on a shelf just behind the pianist, were around fifty smoked salmon starters, piled up on their plates.

Now we were in the middle of a heatwave, the room was really warm, and yet there was no attempt to keep the fish chilled.

tylney hall hotel review

Our non-appetising appetisers

When 15 minutes later, we were presented with these unappetising appetisers, we found that, unsurprisingly, we weren’t really that hungry.

The meal itself was just about OK – scallops and crab to start, steak and Dover Sole as main. The medium rib-eye steak was really tasty and the best dish of the dinner: by the time my dover sole had arrived from the kitchen, a long corridor-length away, and then very slowly been deboned as two other waiters stood by just watching, as if at some special ceremony, it has gone rather cold.

tylney hall hotel review

The scallops starter was perfectly nice

tylney hall hotel review

…and the crab was passable.

tylney hall hotel review

Dover sole at £40 a pop. Plus some overcooked vegetables.

But the most painful aspect of the meal was the endless faffing about by the waiters – at least nine different people dealt with our table, so there was a constant procession of people ambling up and asking us if everything was alright, at least three times per course.

Others would just float up to the table and greet us for no particular reason and stand there watching us. There was no sense of efficiency or urgency about delivering hot food to the tables: the vegetables with our main course were overcooked and tasteless, but the worst thing was sitting there while a waitress slowly and painfully stood by our table pointlessly transferring the mushy brocolli and carrots from a stainless steel bowl to a ceramic one.

We were offered another appetizer to replace the pianist-shelf salmon and so with much ceremony some tiny fish forks arrived and were placed on the table, only to be taken away 20 minutes later. No sign was ever seen of the mystery dish or even a hint of what it might have been.

tylney hall hotel review

The indoor pool for when British summers revert to type

When we went back outside to have a creme brulee – £8.50 – and coffee, no fewer than three separate waiters came up in turn to inform us that our coffees were on their way, but without actually bringing the coffee. We finally had to ask a fourth to find it. With all this manpower it should have been a haven of efficiency with immaculate house-keeping, but piled up in the lounge just by a group of guests having a post-dinner drink were around ten dirty plates and dishes with cups and saucers piled on top – none of the staff wafting around either saw them or didn’t think to do anything about them.

Compared to other country house hotels such as Chewton Glen or Ockenden Manor, the house-keeping was a real let down. At 10am the following morning the pool had already run out of towels and there was litter, discarded tissues, lying by unoccupied sunbeds which were still there an hour later even after I had pointed it out to staff.

Breakfast was fine but again with weird touches – my poached eggs arrived with one slice of toast underneath, and one balanced on top, as if in some odd-looking sandwich. The salt and pepper cellars needed a good wipe and the menu had coffee stains on it and should have been thrown away.

On the positive side, the grounds are really impressive – there is a lot of space in which you can just wander, such as down to the lake or even have a picnic in the garden, and the pool is a delight to sit back on a summer’s evening.

But the interior decorating such as the carpet looks really tired, and there needs to be a huge rethink with regards to the cleanliness of the place and how the food is served. Basically lot of energy needs to be put back into the staff so dirty plates and ashtrays aren’t just left unattended.

tylney hall hotel review

Another fabulous view of Tylney Hall. With a massive improvement in service and house-keeping, the stay could be as good as the surrounds

Some of the staff were on the ball: the deputy manager Ewen Thomas and marketing manager Lorna Mann, who showed me around the next morning and couldn’t apologise enough for the various house-keeping issues, both seemed very capable and efficient – but many of the rest of them need retraining, re-energising and managing much better. Tynley is owned by Elite Hotels and I’d be very interested in seeing how the rest of the of the estate – Luton Hoo, Ashdown Park and The Grand Hotel Eastbourne – compares [editor’s note – they were much better! See end of review for links]

Back at Tylney, a gentleman we chatted to in the morning said that he was never coming back again – he said it was far too expensive for level of service, and that the whole place needed a severe overhaul.

However it has to be said that the reviews on TripAdviser are in the main very positive, so it would seem that there are many who have stayed there and really enjoyed the experience. For me however, Tylney Hall might look very impressive on the outside, but it was sadly a very different story on the inside.

Hotel information and to book Tylney Hall

Tylney Hall, Rotherwick, Hook, Hampshire, England, RG27 9AZ
01256 764881 and www.tylneyhall.co.uk

Check availability and book Tylney Hall by clicking here

Compare the latest prices and read more reviews of Tylney Hall on Tripadvisor by clicking here

Tylney Hall is a member of the Elite Hotels group. Other members are Ashdown Park and The Grand, Eastbourne, both of which I thought were miles better – see if you agree by checking out my reviews!

Looking for hotels in Hampshire?

Master Builders House hotel: history in the New Forest
A night in a Chewton Glen treehouse: luxury from spa to treetop
Lainston House hotel Winchester: a delightful autumn stay
Exploring Hampshire and a stay at The Old Vine Winchester
Cosy pub stay at Bel & The Dragon Odiham, Hampshire
The Montagu Arms, Beaulieu: a New Forest feast

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