If you're a history buff, the United Kingdom is the kind of playground in which you love to play. There are tons of old churches, like the Temple Church in Central London, which was established in the 12th century; scores of old castles, like Bodiam Castle in Sussex, which was built in 1385; and oodles of ancient sites, like the Roman baths in Bath, which date back to first century.
And, of course, there are scads of historic hotels, too -- like University Arms, Cambridge, which has just joined the Autograph Collection, its collection of independently owned boutique hotels, Marriott International announced this week.
Located in the center of Cambridge, where it overlooks Parker's Piece -- a 25-acre commons in the heart of town -- University Arms is newly transformed thanks to an £80 million renovation led by architect John Simpson and interior designer Martin Brudnizki, who have replaced the hotel's 1960s and 1970s extensions with a brand-new yet classically-designed building that perfectly complements the neighboring architecture. The hotel offers 192 guest rooms -- each of which has been redesigned -- as well as a destination bar and restaurant, a library, underground valet parking and a fitness center.
The hotel's new rooms feature a "playful" design, according to Marriott, which says accommodations feature bespoke furniture, statement chandelier lighting, a private library curated by beloved London bookshop Heywood Hill, and a color scheme consisting of Cambridge blue, yellow and red.
The hotel's library, meanwhile, pays homage to Cambridge's academic and literary history. Also curated by Heywood Hill, it features bookshelf walls, traditional timber paneling, an original wood-burning fireplace, solid-wood parquet flooring, tassel-trimmed lamps, and seating in the form of both deep sofas and cozy armchairs.
The bar has marble-patterned wallpaper that's reminiscent of antique book covers while the restaurant, Parker's Tavern, harks back to the communal dining halls found in the dormitories of the University of Cambridge, with a mix of canteen-style seating and traditional free-standing chairs.
For meetings, there's a 10,000-square-foot ballroom for groups of up to 200 people standing.
Four More Historic British Hotels
University Arms is spectacular — but it's not singular, as the United Kingdom is replete with historic properties that welcome meeting groups. Here are four more worth considering for your next event across the pond:
• Seaham Hall: Located on a cliff top in County Durham, England, Seaham Hall occupies 37 acres of landscaped English gardens. What is now a five-star spa hotel began as a private Georgian mansion that was built in 1791 by Ralph and Judith Milbanke. The famous English poet Lord Byron first visited the house in 1814 and married Annabella Milbanke there in 1815. In the decades since, the estate has been home to a military hospital, a secret bottling and distribution center for Scotch whiskey during American Prohibition, and a sanatorium. It commenced its current chapter in 2012, offering 20 suites and a penthouse, a spacious spa and gym, a heated indoor pool, two outdoor hot tubs, and meeting spaces for groups of up to 120.
• Swinton Park: Part of Swinton Estate, a 20,000-acre estate in North Yorkshire, Swinton Park is an English castle that dates back to the 17th century. Now a luxury hotel, it's the ideal venue at which to experience what life might have been like as the lord or lady of a traditional English manor. The hotel, which has been owned by the same family since the 1880s, has 32 suites and bedrooms -- all decorated with antiques and family portraits -- as well as a private cottage for small groups of up to eight people. There's also a modern country club and spa; a cooking school; Swinton Bivouac, which offers "glamping" in tree lodges and meadow yurts; a bar and fine-dining restaurant; and private event spaces for groups of up to 100.
• Claridge's: Located in London's affluent Mayfair neighborhood, Claridge's opened in 1812 and has been operating under its current moniker since 1856. A favorite of celebrities and royals, it has hosted the likes of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Bing Crosby, Spencer Tracy, Diane von Furstenberg, Aristotle and Jackie Onassis, and Kate Moss -- not to mention Winston Churchill, who lived at the hotel following his famous election defeat. Today, Claridge's offers 203 guest rooms, a fine-dining restaurant, a health club and spa, and over 11,000 square feet of meeting space.
• Cliveden House: Located on a 376-acre estate in Berkshire, outside London, Cliveden House was built in 1666 by George Villiers, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, as a gift to his mistress. Since then, it has been home to numerous aristocrats -- including an earl, three countesses, two dukes and a Prince of Wales -- and, most famously, key events of the Profumo Affair, a notorious political scandal that rocked Britain in the 1960s. A hotel since 1985, it's where Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, stayed the night before her recent nuptials to Prince Harry. The property offers 48 individually designed guest rooms -- each of which is adorned with period furnishings -- as well as a three-bedroom cottage for groups of up to six people, two restaurants, a new spa that opened in 2017 and meeting spaces for groups of up to 250. The property also is available for buyouts. Groups can even host events aboard a boat on the River Thames.