The Bottom Line
- Great location, close to Opera House and Pavilion Gardens
- Friendly and proficient staff
- Comfortable and welcoming public rooms
- Superb breakfast
- Some bathrooms need refurbishing
- Tiny old-fashioned lift, only for the strong and slim
- Address:Old Hall Hotel, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 6BD
- Visit their website
- Tel: +44 (0)1298 22841
- Visit their website
- Price Guide:$$ to $$$, including breakfast. Rates virtually double in July and August
- Offers: Third night free offer as well as dinner, bed&breakfast packages
Guide Review - The Oldest Hotel in Britain? Buxton's Historic Old Hall Hotel
Mary Queen of Scots is much in evidence in the public rooms of this comfortable old hotel. She was, after all, its first guest, detained by the order of Queen Elizabeth I - but a little more about that history later.
The Old Hall, which just to confuse you used to be called New Hall, dates back to 1573 and according to at least one historian, may be England’s oldest hotel. Certainly the staff are well practiced in the arts of hospitality. There’s a genuine warmth and friendliness here, perhaps one of the reasons why so many guests return again and again. Don’t even think of trying to get a room during the Buxton Festival in July. It’s fully booked well in advance.
There’s nothing flashy about the Old Hall Hotel. For all its dramatic history, it’s a good place to relax, with characterful bars and comfortable lounges. There are a few bits of ivory missing from the grand piano in one of the lounges but it’s in tune and guests may tinkle if they can (yes, I did).
In our standard room the bathroom – though spotless - was ready for updating, but the bed was deeply comfortable with good-quality linens. The pleasant pastel decor of the breakfast room makes it a personal favorite for me. This is a place to linger, to make the most of the fresh fruits and cooked dishes on offer.
If you’ve never eaten a Derbyshire Oatcake, eat one here. This flat oat pancake sits perfectly alongside a cooked English breakfast. And since oats lower cholesterol, it’s one breakfast treat which is good in the body as well as on the plate.
So, About that Dramatic History
The Old Hall, known as New Hall when it replaced an earlier inn called Auld Hall, was built by the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury under specific instructions from Queen Elizabeth I. Shrewsbury was the keeper of Mary Queen of Scots while she was under house arrest and she stayed here during the summer. In fact, she was the hall's first guest and one of the guest rooms, Mary's Bower, may include parts of her original apartments.
The Countess, by the way, was none other than Bess of Hardwick, serial widow and builder of Harwick Hall. She suspected the Earl of hanky panky with the Scots Queen but no matter, she outlived him by 20 years and became much enriched by the experience.
While Mary was in residence, visitors to the house included all the political celebrities of the period, the Earl of Leicester, the Earl of Pembroke, the Earl of Suffolk and Lord Burghley among them. Because of the traitorous plotting reputed to go on, it became known as "That house of Royal intrigue".Long before Old Hall's place in Elizabethan intrigue, and well before even Roman times, hospitality was provided here in the form of a shelter for a Celtic hot spring. The hot spring still exists, under the Old Hall.