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UK: Six Hotels invoking the Bilbao Effect

Updated: May 27, 2020

There has long been a link between accommodation and art, but now, hotels are becoming fine art spaces to rival galleries. Here are some spectacular artworks housed in hotels across the UK.

Image courtesy of the National Trust and Cliveden House
Image courtesy of the National Trust and Cliveden House

Cliveden House – Berkshire

Set in 376 acres of gardens, Cliveden House is owned by the National Trust and operated as a private, luxury, five-star hotel. For more than 300 years, Cliveden was home to dukes, earls, viscounts and for a while, a prince. A glittering hub of society, Cliveden hosted exclusive parties and political gatherings for generations (and there were a few scandalous moments along the way). Along with a rather special locale, guests today are in the enviable position of enjoying some remarkable artwork displayed throughout the property. Along with an important collection of 19th-century sculpture in the grounds, there are more than a dozen spectacular paintings and photographs in the Great Hall alone. One of the most famous is a portrait of Nancy Astor. This was painted in 1908 by John Singer Sargant.

Crown and Castle – Suffolk

A few steps from the 12th century castle keep in the peaceful village of Orford, the Crown and Castle is a highly-rated restaurant with 21 rooms. The original inn was, rumour has it, built into the walls of the 12th-century Orford Castle, but is now separated from it by a narrow lane. Expect oak beams, stylish décor and a traditional bar with an open fire. There’s also a large terrace for outdoor eating and drinking within sight of Henry ll’s 12th-Century castle. Alongside the cosy ambience and spectacular outlook, the walls are adorned with interesting artworks – such as the portrait of Lucrezia overlooking diners, perhaps envious of the fine fare. There has been a hostelry on the site of The Crown and Castle for eight centuries, but I suspect Lucrezia has not been there for quite that long.

The Jockey Club Rooms – Newmarket

If you're looking for a unique experience, booking a stay at The Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket, the home of British horse racing, is a must. For over 250 years, The Jockey Club Rooms has provided accommodation for members of the aristocracy and some of the wealthiest and most influential men and women in history. With corridors travelled by historical legends, reception rooms enjoyed by Royalty and dining rooms overlooked by equine masterpieces, the opportunity to wander the passages of this iconic venue should definitely be taken. You will see work by the likes of Sir Alfred Munnings and George Stubbs, as well as a collection of memorabilia honouring the Sport of Kings. And if you're going to be in Newmarket, it goes without saying that a day at the races should be on the cards, too.

Linthwaite House – Cumbria

Linthwaite House is a contemporary country house hotel in the heart of the Lake District, set in 14 acres of established gardens and well-maintained private woodland grounds. As well as unrivalled views of Windermere, Linthwaite House has an amazing art collection, with paintings, pottery, and small sculptures inside the house and a number of sculptures in the gardens. Sit by South African artist Angus Taylor is just one example. Made of bronze, steel and Belfast granite, the artwork appears like a guardian between sleeping and wakefulness. Also watch for the Striding Tigetr by Dylan Lewis, prowling along the edge of the embankment. Along with the art, pre-lockdown Simon Rogan opened a restaurant at the hotel, offering a feast for the taste buds, as well as a feast for the eyes.

Monkey Island Estate – Berkshire

Monkey Island Estate lies on a small, picturesque island in the middle of the River Thames in the historic – and Michelin-star-studded – village of Bray (you can read more about it in my post here). The sliver of land has been the haunt of monarchs, aristocrats and artists, along with writers, famous performers and Berkshire locals for over 800 years. Along with its relaxed luxury vibe, the refurbished centuries-old retreat features a rather unique artwork. The ceiling of the Pavilion's ground-floor Monkey Room, completed in 1738, is slathered in singerie: depictions of monkeys punting, fishing and hunting, by French specialist, Andie de Clermont. Nearby, The Temple's interior is decorated with shells, mermaids, dolphins and Neptune in high relief plasterwork, the work of Thomas Roberts of Oxford.

Twr y Felin – St Davids, Wales

Once upon a time, Twr y Felin was a windmill. It's come a long way, now recognised as Wales’ first contemporary art hotel, located in Britain’s smallest city, St Davids. Featuring contemporary design throughout, the hotel is home to 21 bedrooms and, along with its sister hotels, Roch Castle and Penrhiw Hotel, over 100 original artworks, including the work of 21 Welsh, British and International artists. Twelve of these artists were commissioned to evoke the Pembrokeshire landscape in a new way. The artists interpreted this individually, leading to some arresting artworks. Some chose to be literal, some to be abstract, but together, they produced a body of work that is full of contrast, colour, design and scale.

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