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Muddy stays: The Great House, Sonning

Fancy spending the night with George Clooney? OK, so he won't actually be in the same room, but he's within flashing distance of The Great House in Sonning – a fun, funky, riverside hotel.

THE GREAT HOUSE SONNING EXTERIOR RIVER VIEW

THE LOCATION?

Take a moment and drink it in. The Great House in Sonning is nestled on the banks of the River Thames with a large lawn that leads down to the water. Boats pootle past with comforting regularity and weeping willows wafting in the breeze. Sounds idyllic, right? That’s because it is.

Sonning river thames

It’s the perfect country escape and only an hour’s drive from London, 30 mins on the train, and 5 miles from Reading and Henley. No one want to be spending hours stuck the M4. But it’s not just the location that makes Sonning special, it’s also home to Hollywood hottie George Clooney. Of course, it’s easy to see why he chose this village as base camp one and his home is within flashing distance of the hotel.

THE LOWDOWN

The Great House Lounge

The Great House is a large boutique hotel – 49 rooms, including larger suites and a two-bed apartment – perched on the banks of the River Thames, next to Sonning Bridge which is a blessing and a curse. The location is stellar but the single traffic bridge causes frequent traffic jams. Use the time for property porn. The houses here are showing a serious amount of ankle. It’s hard not to gawp.

Once you’ve finally parked up, it’s all about kicking back and going slow. The hotel is an intoxicating mix of old and new, with funky retro styling. Most of the ground floor is taken over by Coppa Club, a laid-back restaurant where you can settle in for drinks, a bite to eat or work in between riverside walks, messing about on the river or perhaps a mindful yoga class.

THE VIBE

THE GREAT HOUSE SONNING large bedroom

It’s bold and beautiful, as you would expect from a buzzy boutique hotel. The decor is comfortably cool and provides a home from home vibe (or rather how I want my home to look, if it wasn’t for this pesky kids). I love the use of colour. It make a pleasant change from the pared back, bland interiors of some hotels. It’s also the antithesis of stuffy, so nothing to frighten families who hawkishly watch their kids or adults who don’t want to stand on ceremony.

The furnishings have modish touches – retro telephone, mini Roberts radio, a selection of vintage books, huge telly, fridge, sweeties, orange accents and exposed brick to break up the blue walls. It is right up my street. I was staying in a Deluxe River Double, with views down to the river. In my room (Room 7) the fridge, coffee making facilities and shower room are by the entrance and the huge bed is up a few steps, giving it the feel of a suite. The only downside was its proximity to the road. But it’s still a heavenly spot for a 14-hour zzz fest or, *ahem, more energetic activities.

The Great House Bathroom

Full marks for the swanky bathroom – great shower and the now all-to familiar greige metro tiles. Rooms with roll top baths are available, so if you want one, make sure you request it when booking. All the rooms have a decent hair dryer (one with more power than an battery operated hand fan) and if you’ve forgotten anything (in my case, the phone charger) call down to reception and they’ll grab what you need form the Plan B Box. This box of tricks can supply you with anything from missing toiletries, colouring books for the kids and much more. Genius. All the rooms share the same DNA. Not cookie cutter copies but its not far off.

SCOFF & QUAFF

No 24hr room service but they do offer breakfast in bed. I’m not sure it gets more decadent than stuffing your face in your PJs. If you fancy a tad more formality, head downstairs to Coppa where there’s a sexy banquette to slide your tush onto. Coppa Club. It Is a laidback loafing kinda place – velvet and leather squidgy sofas, statement lighting, warm wooden furniture and vintage books dotted everywhere. The outside space has been transformed with dining igloos, heated terrace and deck chairs during the summer months.

THE GREAT HOUSE SONNING 7

Coppa is a big pull locally – a casual dining experience that caters for all ages and tastes. I’ve eaten here a lot with the family, largely because the menu has something on it for even the fussiest eater. Plus the lovely garden keeps the nippers happy (when the sun shines). Try the crispy squid with hot pepper mayo, I tucked into a king prawn green curry which was delicious needed more sauce, in my opinion.

Breakfast is optional – but I urge you to book in and then walk it off along the pretty towpath. The menu was extensive and included every fashionistas favourite, avocado and egg on toast, plus pastries and a full english but the buckwheat pancakes with coconut yoghurt and free berries was delicious and the right side of indulgent.

KID-FRIENDLY?

Definitely. The staff were all lovely, chatty, helpful and there’s a family suite with the cutest beds. It’s worth them appreciating the love of a good hotel room from an early age, don’t you think?  The hotel can also provide a box of toys and cots and Z beds are available in larger rooms for ankle biters under the age of 10. Dogs are also welcome in both The Great House and Coppa Club. Book one of  the five dog-friendly room and your happy hound will be provided with a comfy dog bed, treats and bowls.

OUT AND ABOUT

THE GREAT HOUSE PADDLE BOARDING

What do you fancy? Lots of things to do. Gorgeous walks, obvs, paddle boarding can be arranged at the hotel and they can help with boat hire too. Hop over the bridge to The Mill at Sonning for dinner and show. Venture further afield for Legoland Windsor, Go Ape, horse riding or perhaps the historic Stonor Park or Berkshire’s largest vineyard Stanlake Wine Estate are more your speed. If you do go for tranquil riverside stroll, have a nose at some of the village’s big houses – including the mansion owned by former Sonning resident Uri Geller. There’s even a tribute to Geller in the form of a bent girder ‘Bent by the power of the mind’ by the Ehrlrich Brothers inspired by Uri Geller’. Hmmmm, that’s right.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Family stopovers, large group stays (including worky ones – there are flexible meeting room spaces), weddings, parties and romantics in the mood for lurrrrve.
Not for: Anyone looking for grandeur. No sweeping drive, gilded cornicing or fine dining options. Or for those who plan to stay in bed like John Lennon and Yoko Ono. No room service.
The damage: Doubles from £115 (Monday to Saturday; from £72.25 on Sundays). Full breakfast, £20. The rooms are great value, considering the quality. Free Wi-Fi.

The Great House, Thames St, Sonning, Reading RG4 6UT. Tel: 0118 969 2277.

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