With over 12,000 acres of nature walks, health and wellbeing treatment rooms, sustainable farming, new wellness experiences, and divine mouth-watering home-grown food, a stay at the Goodwood Hotel has more delights besides its renowned vintage cars, planes and world-famous festivals.
Three months ago, say the words ‘Goodwood’, and I would immediately reminisce to previous years of the Revival, dressing up in my best ’60s style, sipping Champagne, and dancing with friends between the Spitfires and Mustangs. “Give me Goodwood on a summer’s day, and you can forget the rest of the world”, as described in the words of British racing driver, Roy Salvadori.
There’s absolutely no doubt that events such as the Goodwood Revival and the Festival of Speed, enjoyed by over 150,000 visitors each year (during pre-COVID times), have propelled Goodwood into the worldwide spotlight, under the well-deserved accolade as ‘England’s greatest sporting estate’.
More recently, however, I have seen Goodwood in another light, entirely away from the big crowds and spotlight, more simply, as a beautiful escape away from the modern world. A place you can leave your worries behind and recharge with woodland walks between ancient oaks, ponder over beautiful paintings, and enjoy home-grown organic food. Life flows at a different pace at Goodwood.
Goodwood has been home to the same family for over 300 years. Each generation has influenced the character and appearance of Goodwood, with much of the estate staying true to its original form.
There is perhaps nowhere on the estate more true of this than at Goodwood House, surrounded in the beautiful landscape of the Beech Forest, between its majestic cedars with its unique copper domed turrets and grand columned portico, which are as beautiful to behold as the paintings inside.
The Front Hall of the house, built in 1800, serves as the backdrop for three paintings by George Stubbs of various sporting scenes on the estate, including his famous ‘Racehorses Exercising at Goodwood’, which hangs over one of two marble chimneypieces in the Regency entrance.
There’s also the beautiful Anthony Van Dyck portrait of King Charles I and his family in the Ballroom, a fabulous reminder of its fascinating past. This magnificent room is where our wonderful 48 hours at Goodwood began – with a delightful selection of cakes, pastries, and delicious finger sandwiches. (Afternoon tea is served in the Ballroom between 1pm and 4.30pm each day, with bookings made in advance). There is an option to book a house tour or combine it with a luxury cream tea, and both options are very reasonably priced.
It was our first taste of the award-winning produce from Goodwood’s home farm – and the perfect introduction to feeling at home at Goodwood.
Often I find afternoon teas too sweet and sugary to enjoy, but not in this case. Each attractive, artistic tantalising tier was entirely delicious and comforting. I was surprised at how light and palatable it all was, from the Goodwood ham and mustard sandwiches, Goodwood House scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam (jam first, of course!) to the coconut and mango pannacottas. It was our first taste of the award-winning produce from Goodwood’s home farm – and the perfect introduction to feeling at home at Goodwood.
I savoured the final sips of my Darjeeling tea (from the foothills of the Himalayas) along with the last raspberry macaron (they serve a Macaron of the Month, which changes with the season) before being greeted by our lovely guide, ready to take us on a private tour of the house.
Goodwood House is owned by the Duke and Duchess of Richmond, Charles GordonLennox and Janet Astor, daughter of the third Viscount Astor. They married in 1991, and live in the West Wing of the house with their four children. Between set times, they allow visitors on guided tours to admire the grand State Apartments. It is a wonderful jaunt of one magnificent room after another; the south wing comprises the Ballroom, Card Room, Yellow Drawing Room, Red Hall, Egyptian Dining Room and Music Room. The outdoor colonnade, with an external view of the old house at one end and a glistening pond with a perfect view of one of their famous Cedar of Lebanon trees, then leads you to the back of the North Wing, Long Hall and Tapestry Drawing Room.
Once checked into the hotel, our fluffy dressing gowns and slippers reminded us that some wellness time was ours for the taking – following a challenging year dealing with the pandemic, being able to take a dip, to sit in a sauna and to feel the tension melt away with the relaxing bubbles of the Jacuzzi, is a luxury not to be missed.
Feeling fully relaxed, we spruced ourselves up for dinner and made our way to the hotel restaurant: Farmer, Butcher, Chef. In true Goodwood style, the restaurant is beautifully designed – memorabilia of its former hunting days and 300 years of farming line the walls and decorate the furnishings, in a style so countryside chic and luxuriously à la mode, it enters a league of its own.
Goodwood has designer Cindy Leveson to thank for this pizzazz – her distinctive style and talent has sprinkled Goodwood magic throughout the hotel interior, from the cosy snug and rallying bar to the impactful decor in the restaurant. The detail is incredible, from the huge glass lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling and Christopher Howe chairs made out of Goodwood flags, to the pretty butterflies and old keys beautifully displayed in picture frames along the walls. Even our table was glass-topped, partitioned into several compartments of interesting old motoring and clock mechanics.
The relevance of this remarkable history is understood and appreciated with each mouthful of delicious food, made from the finest home-grown ingredients and cooked to perfection. Dishes such as Spiced Rump South Down Lamb and Fillet of Newhaven Cod, enjoyed with a glass of (local vineyards) Gusbourne’s or Tinwood’s English Sparkling wine, makes it impossible not to order well. If you can’t decide, the chef will create a sharing board showcasing his various cuts and techniques, using all three of their delicious meats.
I can thoroughly recommend the old-fashioned cheesecake for dessert, served with Goodwood’s home farm cream and local strawberries.
The following morning we had a private golf lesson with golf professional Chris McDonnell at the Park course (one of Goodwood’s two 18-hole golf courses on the estate), just a short walk from the hotel.
Available as one of the Goodwood Academy experiences, the golf lessons are held with nationally acclaimed pros who offer their expertise to players of any level, from beginner to expert. Chris was an excellent teacher, and there was a fantastic feeling of accomplishment, even after just a few successful swings.
We decided to enjoy lunch al fresco on the terrace at The Kennels, their exclusive members’ clubhouse, also open to hotel guests, with views across the other of their 18-hole golf courses on the estate – The Downs, designed by five-time Open champion James Braid in 1914.
There was no departing without a visit to their home farm dairy, followed by a visit to the farm shop for some of their beautiful deep-red Sussex organic beef to take home for a special Sunday roast.
The Farm Manager has helped to build up an impressive customer list of exclusive restaurants and private members’ clubs, and together with the Executive Chef and Master
Butcher, has developed Goodwood’s impressive ‘farm to fork’ sustainable food philosophy. I am also told about a series of new health and wellbeing experiences launching at Goodwood, to include a fiveday restorative retreat to help guests rebalance, revitalise and recharge.
As we pull out of the driveway and begin to head home, an impressive convoy of classic two-seater motors, in regal blues, beautiful beiges, vibrant reds, and glorious greens, zips past, with glimpses of their equally stylish, seriously dapper drivers. It’s a reminder that Goodwood is more than a hotel, more than a racecourse, and more than a countryside sporting estate. Goodwood is quintessentially English, a destination for members, and, under the first-class management of an exceptional family and magnificent team, also for everyone else to enjoy.
Next time you visit, don’t feel you need to make it on race day – because every day is a good day to visit Goodwood.
Three-course dinner at Farmer, Butcher, Chef, overnight stay and breakfast at The Goodwood Bar & Grill, from £250 for two
Did you know? Fun Facts
Goodwood’s trees have proved to be an invaluable asset to the estate at times. Once an estimated 33,000 Beech trees were sold to cover Death Duties. Some of the oldest trees at Goodwood are the famous Cedars of Lebanon, planted in 1761, at the request of the third Duke of Richmond – of the original 1000 planted, only a few of these trees remain.
The rules written for a cricket match in 1727 between the 2nd Duke of Richmond and Mr Brodrick are the oldest written set of rules in the world. You can see them on display in the Goodwood Archive.
Goodwood staff were involved in a huge woodland creation project in December 2019 – the largest of its type in the South of England. The ongoing scheme will eventually see 40 hectares of new plantations in 12 locations, with over 78,000 trees arriving on the estate. They have also planted an extra 600 metres of hedgerow at Goodwood, and rewilded several sections of the 11,000 acres to support the local flora and fauna.
The artist Duke
The Duke of Richmond, Charles Gordon-Lennox, led a very successful career as a high production still life and special effects photographer in London and continues his passion today (as Charles March). You can see some of his beautiful landscape photography around the estate. Since then, he has experimented with digital photography to produce highly evocative, impressionistic and abstract works that push the boundaries traditionally associated with photography.
Goodwood House looks like three sides of an octagon, and it was once believed the plan was intended to build the complete figure, but this has never been proved. It is not known what the intentions were when this somewhat picturesque shape was devised, but the layout certainly works perfectly for a private family home combined with grand public apartments and far-reaching views over the park.
Goodwood Home Farm is one of the largest lowland organic farms in the UK and has been fully organic since 1996.
Words | Jessica Way