Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 January 2020

Executive Travel: The Salisbury hotel in the UK offering guests a Dickensian twist

The White Hart hotel once received a letter of recommendation from the Victorian novelist

Exterior of Salisbury's 250 year-old White Hart hotel featuring the balcony from which a new Conservative MP is welcomed with a song. Courtesy of The White Hart hotel.
Exterior of Salisbury's 250 year-old White Hart hotel featuring the balcony from which a new Conservative MP is welcomed with a song. Courtesy of The White Hart hotel.

By a tradition dating back more than a century, the election of a Conservative Member of Parliament in Salisbury, England, is celebrated by the singing of an old song "The Vly Be On The Turmut" on the balcony of the White Hart Hotel.

With a general election in progress when I stayed recently, it was, therefore, not surprising to bump into UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Salisbury MP John Glenn in the nearby marketplace. However, the chances of almost colliding with a British prime minister at anytime, anywhere must be very remote.

The White Hart hotel has been Salisbury’s premium business hotel for more than 250 years. There’s a letter of recommendation from Charles Dickens on the wall outside the main dining room, and a notice with the tarrifs charged for stabling a horse.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks around Salisbury with local Member of Parliament John Glenn, who was re-elected as the town's MP last month. Peter Cooper for The National.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks around Salisbury with local Member of Parliament John Glenn, who was re-elected as the town's MP last month. Peter Cooper for The National.

You can no longer leave a horse in the yard. But there is a private car park worth booking if you need it as the large public car park next door is less secure.

I’ve stayed in the White Hart many times as a business and leisure visitor. There is a certain wow factor to this traditional county hotel with its brass rotating door leading into a sprawling lobby bestrewn with country-style sofas and a spacious bar that serves afternoon tea.

Service is a little hit-and-miss. I was given a key card and then climbed two flights of stairs and negotiated a long corridor only to find that my room actually needed a physical key; on the way back I met another new arrival with the same problem.

That said the staff are cheerful and helpful enough. You are never far away from a lifesaving cup of tea in a place like this. It is also a serious business hotel, not just for itinerant conservative politicians.

The Squires Suite can seat 100 and the St John Suite 60 in theatre format, both with natural light and the air-conditioning that you won’t enjoy in the bedrooms, and the usual presentation technology.

The St Anne Suite has a fixed oval table for up to 18 boardroom style; and the smallest St Nicholas Suite is a boardroom for 12, or meeting room for 20.

On this occasion I took one of the smallest of the 68 bedrooms spread over two floors, a last-minute, Black Friday bargain at £90 (Dh436.9), including taxes.

There was nothing in the mini-bar, a kettle with tea and coffee granules, heavy black-out curtains, a king-sized bed and 42-inch Philips TV. Laundry could be sent from £9 for a standard load and the wardrobe contained an ironing board and iron but no safe.

There is also the option to upgrade to a privilege room for an extra £20. That brought you a daily newspaper, complimentary soft drinks and a Nespresso machine. The 12.9 Mbps Internet connection was all I needed.

Room service was impressively comprehensive for a small hotel. A gourmet streak burger cost £13 and a Thai green curry £15.50. A cafe latte was £3.50 and a Wiltshire cream tea £8.50.

The bar and restaurant downstairs offers similar fare. I thought the full cooked breakfast and buffet something of a bargain for £10 before facing a frosty morning.

In the past, I’ve been upgraded to the top suite that has access to the terrace across the front of the hotel where the traditional song is always delivered on election day. It’s pretty modest by the standards of Gulf hotels and their presidential suites. But you are living history, and might be resting your head where Dickens took a nap.

More recently, the White Hart was host to UK police and security services investigating the Skripal poisoning in 2018 when the cathedral city of Salisbury achieved international fame as never before.

The old maxim "there is no such thing as bad publicity" has boosted visitor numbers this year.

Comfortable, well located, reliable if a bit eccentric, the White Hart is a Georgian hotel of a certain distinction.

The lounge serving afternoon tea at The White Hart hotel in Salisbury. Courtesy of The White Hart hotel.
The lounge serving afternoon tea at The White Hart hotel in Salisbury. Courtesy of The White Hart hotel.

Updated: January 3, 2020 11:30 AM

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