ends & odd

Horses and Hotels

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“The only hotel in the UK with its own polo fields.” Having worked in professions that required me both to read and to write many press releases, I have come to appreciate phrases that make me say, “I have never seen quite that combination of words before.” Such is the case with Coworth Park in Ascot, England. I’ve been fortunate enough to do a fair amount of traveling and experience accommodations at a variety of quality levels, but this is the only one that made me understand the drive to build an empire.

To begin, I should note that, no matter how many times I visit Britain, I still tend to see it through the filter of film/TV. My subconscious wants to classify all of the United Kingdom as either:
Downton Abbey
Trainspotting

Of course, most of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the rest belong in neither category, any more than all of America can be reduced to either Breaking Bad or The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Yet I have had experiences that fit the Trainspotting mode, notably when friends and I drove into Glasgow, Scotland on a Saturday night and encountered a volume of public urination so overwhelming it nearly crossed over from disturbing to wow.

Now, thanks to Coworth Park, I have an experience that fits in the Masterpiece Theater category.

Ascot is located in the countryside roughly 45 minutes from London, but feels like it might as well be across the ocean from the capital’s traffic and chaos. It is best known for the Ascot Racecourse, which in turn is best known for the Royal Ascot, a 300-year-old race attended annually by the queen and other members of the royal family.

And if you can’t get your fill of horses at the Racecourse, you can head to Coworth Park, with its 240 acres of parkland and polo fields. The main building of the hotel is a mansion dating back to 1776 (yes, the Coworth is as old as our nation). I was going to include some of my photos here, but having checked the site I actually prefer letting them present themselves… particularly since, in what I can only attribute to the innate modesty of the English, they inexplicably lead off with their two least interesting pictures, before showing the hotel itself, the champagne afternoon tea, the endless tree-lined country road, and so on.

I spent only a night and two excellent meals at Coworth Park courtesy of VisitBritain, but it’s hard to put a price on the feeling that comes from sitting down in the drawing room and gazing out over the immaculate greenery as far as the eye can see. (That said, since we are in a world that still runs on money and accordingly requires pricing, the Coworth usually starts at $485 a night.) I am also grateful to Coworth Park for, by the act of showing me a life way beyond my regular means, helping me realize that there is a life way way beyond them as well.

Coworth Park is, unsurprisingly, a 5-star hotel. (Again, they boast over 200 years of history and have their own frickin’ polo fields.) That said, they aren’t 5-stars in the eyes of all. I wound up stumbling upon a guide to elite hotels by Forbes and discovered that Coworth Park was not a 5-star hotel… nor was it a 4-star hotel either. (They did praise Coworth for being a property where guests “can learn to play polo”: to this day, the only two establishments I’ve stayed at to make this offer remain the Coworth and a very classy Motel 6 by Newark Airport.)

To recap, if you stumble into some money and desire to behave like the versions of British people we so enjoy on PBS, I very much recommend Coworth Park, particularly if you come from a line of Irish Jews as I do and consequently for most of England’s history would have been about as welcome as the plague. (Thanks again to John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Benjamin Disraeli for showing we have something to offer the empire.)

And I am deeply jealous of travel writers for Forbes.

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2 Responses to “Horses and Hotels”

  1. Downtown Abbey and Trainspotting! So true. I haven’t spent enough time in the UK to escape those mental prefabs myself.

  2. I think for me it all may go back to MY FAIR LADY, where everyone is either attending fancy costume balls or living in the gutter with apparently nothing in between

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