SUMPTUOUS is not a word that I use on a regular basis. It doesn’t come up much in conversation, and should only be used for special occasions.

And if we’re talking special occasions, Tylney Hall, in Hook, near Basingstoke, sums up everything you are looking for.

Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs have got nothing on this spectacular country pile, set in the sprawling North Hampshire countryside.

So trust me, sumptuous IS definitely the word you will be searching for when you check in.

My wife and I were in Hampshire to check out the re-invention of Basingstoke as a destination to ‘Relax & Recharge’.

Yes, I must admit, that when I think about luxury weekend breaks, Basingstoke was not the first name that sprang to mind.

But now I am convinced.

It’s perfect for Oxfordshire travellers, as it’s little more than an hour away, down the A34. After all, who wants to spend most of their break in the car?

Now, the good people at Destination Basingstoke have put together a package of offers to attract people to the area, with special hotel deals and a host of activities, such as gliding, clay pigeon shooting and plain old walking on the Downs.

We took our trainee Dog for the Disabled, Pete (don’t blame me – the charity named him, not us) along, so we planned lots of walking.

Our trip was split between two hotels. We arrived on Friday night at the four-star Hampshire Court Hotel, on the outskirts of Basingstoke.

It’s a stylish, functional hotel, that obviously caters for a lot of business travellers, but has excellent facilities and lovely rooms.

After a dip in one of the two pools, we enjoyed an excellent dinner at the restaurant – my guineau fowl, as they say, was particularly tasty.

There are also spa treatments on offer, and quite an impressive indoor and outdoor tennis complex if you’re feeling energetic. So bring a racket.

Prices through the R&R scheme start at £89 per night.

After a whopping, buffet-style full English breakfast, we set off for hotel number two – Tylney Hall.

However, we first took advantage of the location at Hook to explore the countryside and give Pete a good old-fashioned ‘work-out’.

Beautiful scenery, a pub on the way with a real fire, and historical sites such as Odiham Castle – the remains of one of King John’s castles – made this a memorable walk, and the dog was happily worn out.

Driving into Tylney Hall was genuinely jaw-dropping, and the beauty of the location was matched only by the quality of the service.

We stayed in one of the two-storey lodges dotted around the edge of the Victorian mansion, and felt like we were in the lap of luxury, with spa bath and all mod cons. Even Pete got his own bed and goodie bag.

Drinks in the hotel lounge followed by a delicious dinner in the Oak Room restaurant (I recommend the pheasant with Savoy cabbage) – with a pianist tickling the ivories as we ate – was another memorable experience. It was ‘Old School’ style, with no jeans or trainers allowed and quite right too.

You know, a break like this really does give you an insight into how the other half live and I for one could definitely get used to it.

The list of facilities is as long as your arm – spa, swimming pools, saunas, treatment room, snooker room – as well as a golf course.

But sadly, after another fantastic breakfast, it was time for us to check out.

With prices starting from £285 per night, it doesn’t come cheap, but I doubt that you’ll find any disappointed customers.

On the way back home, we dropped into Basingstoke’s Festival Place shopping centre. All the big names are there, and the town centre seemed to be undergoing a bit of a facelift (if shopping’s your thing, then I guess you’ll love it).

So yes, I’ve done what it said on the tin - I returned relaxed and recharged.

* Tylney Hall, Rotherwick, Hook, Hampshire, RG27 9AZ 01256 764881 * Hampshire Court Hotel Great Binfields Road, Chineham, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG24 8FY 01256 319700 * To take advantage of the hotel deals and special offers for the Basingstoke area included in the Relax & Recharge promotion, go to or call 01256 461167