Set at the gateway to the Dedham Vale, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, bon vivants hungry for an epicure-enticing, stylish sanctuary offering scenic championship golf and nature-harmonised spa experiences can gorge on Suffolk’s Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf and Spa.
The seemingly boundless English countryside here on the Suffolk-Essex border is as pretty as a picture. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the astonishing beauty of the Dedham Vale provided the inspiration for renowned English artist John Constable’s famous landscape paintings.
In the verdant heart of ‘Constable Country,’ this top golf resort features 2 championship-quality 18-hole golf courses and what must be one of the finest golf club terraces in the UK; it’s laid-back elevenses, order a hot bacon roll or a full-bodied glass of wine and soak up the picturesque views of the over-water finishing holes. Uniquely, they are both par 3s. The result: an immediate sense of deep relaxation.
Host to prestigious international championships, the Gainsborough golf course, named after local-born artist Thomas Gainsborough, has two quite different nines – the front nine rambles over the rolling Suffolk countryside whilst the back nine is laid out on flatter terrain. Forgiving fairways help to build up credit for shots likely to be lost on the signature hole, the par 4/5 10th. Beware, the Socratic golfer lingers here too long – it is difficult to trust the yardage, especially when a watery golf ball graveyard beckons.
The Constable course is the firm favourite with Stoke by Nayland Golf Club members. Hillier than the Gainsborough, it features more water hazards, there are not many flat lies, and the majority of greens are unsighted. The uphill-downdale course rewards with a captivating panorama from the hilltop 3rd tee, with Nayland Church on the skyline.
For the practice-makes-perfect inclined, there is no time like the present – grab a few clubs and saunter to the 22-bay driving range, adjacent to the Lee Westwood Golf School. Or answer the cry of your inner golf fashionista in the pro shop and Pippin gift shop. Build up an appetite in the high-tech Peake Fitness, or go for a dip in the 18-metre indoor pool with its Tuscany-landscape frescoed walls. Slather coloured muds over your partner or friends in the Arabian rhassoul mud therapy chamber, or soap up with a traditional Turkish massage in the hammam treatment suite. The choice is yours. Come evening, savour mouth-watering Two-AA-Rosette-awarded cuisine in the fine dining Lakes Restaurant, or flop into an armchair beside the open applewood fireplace with your favourite tipple in the stylish lounge bar.
Pack wellies or super-sensible walking shoes to explore miles of footpaths through the beatific Dedham Vale; sea legs to investigate the River Stour in a rowing or electric boat; and download the National Trust app to discover a wealth of things to do in ‘Constable Country.’ Follow in the footsteps of Constable himself with a visit to Flatford, a charming hamlet in the Dedham Vale. There’s a Constable exhibition, a contemporary artists’ gallery and a riverside tearoom.
Art aficionados should venture 7 miles across country to visit Gainsborough’s House, the museum and art gallery at the birthplace of Thomas Gainsborough, in Sudbury. Colchester, Britain’s oldest recorded town, is a must for history buffs featuring the largest Norman keep in Europe, Colchester Castle. The county town of Suffolk, Ipswich, has a wealth of award-winning museums and art galleries, including Christchurch Mansion, displaying the biggest collection of paintings by Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable outside of London.
Room-wise, style-seekers with a yen for a cocoon laced with luxury should opt for one of the well-appointed golf deluxe rooms – with enough space to swing two marmalade cats (one from each hand) and those signature views over the golf course; plus, indulgent flourishes such as handmade chocolates, robes and slippers; and (we’ve got it covered) plenty of mod-cons – high-speed Wi-Fi, satellite TV and laptop safes.
Melding into their woodland surroundings, the iroko-clad luxury eco lodges with their open-plan interiors in soothing natural tones of khaki-cool and wrap-around balconies are floor-to-ceiling sirens offering mesmerizing views that will have you forking out for an easel and palette before your senses return from their countryside jaunt.
VIP and celebrity guests in the hotel’s hall of fame include David Beckham, Michael Portillo and Delia Smith. As far as golf breaks in the UK go, it’s clear that Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf and Spa has earned its place at the top of the leaderboard.
Start with a stunning golf, spa and foodie resort. Add a slice of luxuriant countryside and a swirl of confident sophistication. The end result? A note-perfect, Suffolk show-stealer.
Golf tips from the golf pro at Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf and Spa:
- Concentrate on your short game – 50% of the game is played from 50 yards and in
- Keep physically fit – it helps your game in terms of ball striking and concentration
- Plot your way around the golf course – basically, golf is like a game of chess
Linda Jackson is a golf and travel writer. Former associate editor of Great Golf Magazine, her work has been published in over 40 different titles, including The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal.