January 19, 2024

In Conversation with Julia Hands | Hand Picked Hotels Founder & Chairman

All comments attributed to Julia Hands.

What’s been your favourite memory at Hand Picked Hotels to date?

Since founding Hand Picked Hotels, it’s been an incredible pleasure to work with so many talented colleagues and people who have all played a key role in expanding the collection throughout the last twenty plus years.  Our privately-owned collection started as 16 hotels and today we have 21 luxury country houses and coastal retreats across the UK and the Channel Islands. 

Each of our hotels has a fascinating story to tell and its own unique personality, such as having royal owners and playing host to famous (and infamous!) guests, making them the most characterful and charming venues. When seeking the properties to hand-pick for the collection, we wanted to choose buildings which could be preserved and enjoyed by many people and generations to come. Without the venues themselves and their unique history, there would be no Hand Picked Hotels. 

Your favourite hotel for year-round relaxation?

It is impossible for me to choose a favourite.  However, Rhinefield House, hidden deep within the New Forest National Park, is a fantastic destination for relaxation at any time of the year. Known locally as the ‘Jewel in the Forest’, Rhinefield is steeped in natural beauty, with surrounding woodlands and protected parkland. Its unique blend of Tudor and Gothic architecture makes you feel as though you have stepped into another world. 

Rhinefield House offers year round relaxation thanks to its intimate health suite with treatment rooms, indoor splash pool and heat experiences including a sauna, steam room and spa pool. When the weather is nice, the hotel also offers an enchanting open air pool which is surrounded by the tranquil forest and multiple terraces to eat, drink and while away the time. For those more indoor, quiet moments, the Lounge Bar offers stunning views over the ornamental ponds and manicured gardens. You simply feel a world away from the everyday when sat admiring the grounds and wildlife. 

Which hotel would you choose for dinner with your best friend?

For dinner with a close friend, Rookery Hall in Cheshire is a great contender. The Restaurant has a host of charming period features, including rich wood panelling, decorative lattice work and large bay windows which offer stunning views of the grounds and countryside beyond. There is also a modern lounge with a rather lovely cocktail list and expansive terraces giving way to mile upon mile of rolling countryside, ideal for alfresco dining.  With its delightful combination of contemporary British dishes and heritage surroundings, a dinner here is truly unique. 

Favourite place to read a good book and have a glass of wine?

The Tudor Great Hall at Fawsley Hall is the crowning experience of any visit to the hotel and is the perfect place to relax with a good book and glass of wine in hand. There’s nowhere like it and it’s the ‘wow’ every visitor comes to see.  The hotel itself is tucked away in Northamptonshire’s picturesque countryside and the Great Hall, with its high ceilings and full-length windows, is the very heart of the hotel. Especially on a crisp autumnal or winter day, with the sunlight pouring in and the fire roaring in the historic stone fireplace, there is the most incredible atmosphere. 

You have some stunning locations. Which hotel has the best sunset?

All of our hotels are in awe-inspiring locations across the UK and Channel Islands, but as sunsets go, L’Horizon in Jersey delivers some of the very best.  L’Horizon’s terrace boasts an unrivaledview over the golden sands and clear waters of St Brelade’s Bay whilst facing the perfect direction to witness those beautiful pink and orange sunsets. You can’t beat it. 

Taking time to relax is important. Where would be your hotel of choice to have a long, hot bath and listen to your favourite podcast?

Taking time to relax and recharge is incredibly important. Not only the act itself, but the place we relax in needs to represent calm, peace and tranquillity. For this reason, Bailbrook House, our Grade II listed country house in Bath, would be one of my top choices. The bathrooms in the historic main house are the perfect place to indulge in a moment of true relaxation, with roll top baths and timeless features, I could pour myself a bubble bath and listen to my favourite podcast here for hours and truly switch off from the outside world. 

And of course, we have to ask, which is your favourite Noble Isle fragrance?

I have truly enjoyed partnering with Noble Isle and going on the journey with Katy to explore the wonderful, luxurious fragrances. Whilst it is hard to pick just one fragrance, the one which I feel best reflects my own, and the Hand Picked ethos, is The Greenhouse scent. 

As a lover of our gorgeous British countryside, The Greenhouse with its warm, botanical fragrance reminds me of an English garden at the height of summer. When I smell the scent, I’m instantly transported to happy, sunny and relaxing days and there is no other fragrance which can evoke such happy memories for me. I hope it will also evoke happy and magical memories for our guests and remind them of their stay with us for many years to come. 

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