- Function Rooms: 26
- Max Meeting: 0
- Max Dinner: 0
- Max Reception: 0
- Outdoor Capacity: 80
- Bedrooms: 99
1200 Hours After an hour’s drive from London, through some pretty Hertfordshire countryside, we crunch up the winding gravel drive and head for reception to check in. The hall’s imposing façade makes for an impressive arrival. It has been on the site since 1322, so there’s plenty of history to uncover. We check out the ornate high-ceilinged lounges and have a peek at the expansive grounds before tucking in to a hearty buffet lunch. The Down Hall brownies went down particularly well.
The grounds are so inviting we decide to move the team meeting outside after lunch. Sure, the alfresco boardroom lacked the standard-issue flipchart and hotel stationary, but with 110 acres to enjoy, we wanted to make hay while the sun shone. If we’d trusted the British weather, we could have pre-ordered picnics for the gardens, but we’re more than happy with a generous selection of tea and homemade biscuits. Our editorial summit is definitely improved by the fresh air, but if the weather had turned, it would only have been a short dash to shelter in one of Down Hall’s smart meeting rooms.
Time to play. There is a range of indoor activities at Down Hall, including a pool and snooker table, but since we’re getting into the alfresco mood, we decide to branch out. Giant Jenga and Connect Four provide the perfect warm-up, before moving on to the real action on the quad-biking course. Event specialist MotivAction (tel: 01438 861494) provides the thrills, and thanks to a thorough briefing, we avoid the spills as we race around the grassy track. V&E’s deputy editor Anna Longmore unleashes her inner speed demon and chief sub Henrietta Clancy shows her command of the saddle. There is a muddier track on site, which races through woodland, but it’s reserved for more advanced bikers. Maybe next time…
Following a freshen-up after our outdoor pursuits, we reconvene in the cocktail lounge to dissect the day’s action over a Down Hall cosmo. Our next stop is The Grill Room, the hotel’s casual all-day restaurant, where we relax with a glass of Albariño and tuck into scallops, lamb, steak and chips and guinea fowl. After a selection of excellent desserts, it’s always best to head for softer furnishings, so tea is taken back in the lounge. It’s been an eventful day, so it’s lights out at 11pm for a good night’s sleep. After all, it’s back to the real world right after breakfast.
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, summer 2010