The English language has been inundated with a host of poetic, evocative foreign words of late and some truly are delightful. Besides being an audible treat, the words are able to express, resonate and conjure up visions and emotions all at once. One of my favourites is the Japanese komorebi — the sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees. At present, what still eludes me is the single perfect word with which to describe the glorious feeling that washes over me the minute I check into a really nice hotel.
It is oh-so easy to love luxury hotels and “when the going gets tough, the tough check into a resort” has always been my personal mantra. For years, my fail-safe bet has been Pangkor Laut Resort — set on a private tropical island in the Straits of Malacca just a three-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur, which is also the flagship property of YTL Hotels, the hospitality arm of conglomerate YTL Corp Bhd. The Majestic Malacca, housed in the former mansion of a 1920s towkay in Malaysia’s most historical city, comes a close second.
Of late, however, the country in which YTL hotels have been popping up most consistently is the UK. Its first major and most historically significant property is The Gainsborough Bath Spa, set in the ancient Roman town of Bath, cementing the group’s presence there since 2015. Last year, YTL opened its second hotel in London, The Academy, to complement Threadneedles in the heart of the City. Up north, it has The Glasshouse, a boutique property in Edinburgh, as well as six beautifully appointed cottages with charming names like Lavender, Dormer and Sundial in the village of Bray, Berkshire, where Heston Blumenthal operates his triumvirate of restaurants — The Fat Duck, The Crown and The Hind’s Head — and the Roux family hold court on the banks of the Thames at The Waterside Inn.
This month sees the soft-opening of Monkey Island Estate. Located near Maidenhead, it is set on seven acres of beautiful, bucolic land in Berkshire with 41 Champalimaud-designed rooms to offer guests a quintessentially English countryside experience — but with lashings of style. The location itself is millennia-old, dating back to 1197 when monks settled in the area, calling it Monks Eyot, a derivative of the old English ait for “island”.
It was only in 1723, after Charles Spencer, the third Duke of Marlborough, bought the land and had two Palladian-style buildings erected that a whiff of stately glamour began to infuse the place. Local lore has it that it was on this very island that H G Wells met Dorothy Parker and where Dame Nellie Melba once partied the night away most indulgently.
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