Overlooking Cheltenham Racecourse and set within 90 acres of private land, Ellenborough Park is the quintessential country house hotel. Few hotels make a better first impression than Ellenborough Park. The striking manor house, which dates back to the 1400s, rises into view as you turn into the estate off the main road and snake your way through the vast grounds of colourful gardens and pristine lawns, conjuring up images of classic period dramas such as Downton Abbey. This sense is somewhat offset by the expensive modern vehicles filling the drop-off car park outside the main entrance (I've never seen so many new Range Rovers in one place except for a Jaguar Land Rover dealership), which indicate the affluence of many of the guests and signal that you are at one of the most upmarket hotels in the Cotswolds. The early Tudor style manor house is festooned with towers, turrets, and arches, and surrounded by sprawling grassy National Trust land. It has had several different incarnations over its long history, having served as the home to the Earl of Ellenborough, a girls’ school, and the Hotel De La Bere, before being bought in 2008 and converted into the current luxury hotel. Although expanded over the years, the original part of the hotel dates back to 1465. In the dining room, the original wood panelling remains the focal point, while The Great Hall harks back to Tudor times with a vast fireplace, ornate cornices and oil paintings of former visitors adorning the walls. Those currently in charge of design should be commended for not attempting to overly modernise the place. This traditional feel continues inside the bedrooms where the decor embraces florals and stripes, upholstered furnishings and beds with frilled valances. But that old world charm doesn't come at the expense of modern comforts, with sumptuous beds and amenities such as flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, and mini-bars on hand. There are 61 rooms in the property and they are spread out over the estate but all within easy walking distance to the main house. They range from small doubles up to mega-suites with many named after famous racehorses. We stayed in one of the suites, which featured a comfortable sofa, velvet armchairs, a king-sized bed, a single bed for our toddler, and two huge wardrobes. The equally large bathroom was particularly impressive, with a marble floor, spacious bathtub, walk-in shower and double sink. Indeed, the hotel has all the facilities you’d want for a country getaway: an outdoor heated swimming pool, gym, spa with a steam room, sauna, hot tub and lengthy treatment menu, and even a giant chess set outside. If walking appeals, you can get straight onto the Cotswold hills from the hotel and there's even a boots room where you can help yourself to Dubarry outerwear. There are three different dining options at Ellenborough Park. The Horse Box is the pub-grub stop with fish and chips, burgers and pies on the menu and it’s likely you will be joined not just by hotel guests but by visitors spending the day in the Cotswolds too. Afternoon tea in The Great Hall is a lavish affair with the full works: champagne, finger sandwiches, fluffy scones and fresh cakes. We were treated to dinner in The Restaurant, which is the fine-dining option. With that aforementioned original wood panelling and The Great Hall in view, dining in The Restaurant feels a grand occasion, and the discreet attentiveness of the staff heightens that sense. We started with a whole baked camembert with bread and chutney to share between the three of us (£18). For main, I had the 80z sirloin steak with chips, vine tomatoes and peppercorn sauce (£32), my other half chose the cod and chips with peas and tartar sauce (£18), and our three-year-old son opted for the pasta with tomato sauce and parmesan (part of a three courses for £16 deal). For dessert, he had the ice cream selection, while we shared a chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream (£8). We expected the food to be superb but it was even better. I can honestly say the steak was the best I've ever had, while my fiancee said the same of her cod and chips. Our son wolfed down his pasta and said "delicious", which is high praise from him. To drink, we shared a bottle of Cotes De Provence rosé (prices vary) which was excellent, and he had an apple juice. Breakfast was equally impressive. Served in The Restaurant, there was a wide choice of cereals, pastries, fruit and cooked fare, and after filling up we headed to the heated outdoor pool for a morning swim before a leisurely walk through the sprawling fields and past a scenic pond towards the racecourse – it was certainly a memorable way to start the day. 'Memorable' is a good way to describe Ellenborough Park. With such a perfect mix of history, beauty and luxury, the hotel lingers in your memory long after you've left, and you can't wait to go back. If you're looking for somewhere special for a weekend break, I thoroughly recommend Ellenborough Park. 5 out 5. Rooms at Ellenborough Park start from £179 with bed and breakfast, inclusive of VAT. For more information visit ellenboroughpark.com