Here’s a Tudor-inspired hotel on a 40-acre estate, constructed for a prominent Victorian artist, with wonderful rooms, a great restaurant with murder mysteries at dinner, operettas by Gilbert and Sullivan (after all, it was once owned by Sir William Gilbert, of Gilbert and Sullivan renown), and it’s less than 15 miles from central London…
by Donna Manz
I helped solve a murder at Grim’s Dyke Hotel.
All right, maybe it wasn’t a real murder but Grim’s Dyke Hotel is a real place, a Tudor-inspired hotel set on a 40-acre country estate less than 15 miles from London’s center. The hotel’s name refers to huge three-mile long defensive earthwork built in 1BC by a tribe that fought the Romans there.
It was once owned by Sir William Gilbert, of Gilbert and Sullivan renown, and the hotel now hosts murder mysteries, specialty dinners, and, not surprisingly, operettas by Gilbert and Sullivan. It also boasts 46 well-appointed rooms.
The English are known for their gardens and if you’re interested in botanicals, Grim’s Dyke won’t disappoint you. When preparing meals the hotel’s chefs pull herbs and vegetables right from the hotel’s gardens.
Lured to Grim’s Dyke Hotel By Dinner and a Murder Mystery
But I’m not a garden aficionado. I am, however, a snow lover so it wasn’t spring or summer when I made my way to Grim’s Dyke. It was early December and I was lured there by the prospect of becoming an amateur sleuth in one of the hotel’s frequent murder-mystery dinner shows.
Evenings at the hotel were quiet when I was there, except for the night I participated in the mystery dinner play, a musical production with odd stock characters and ingratiating actors clearly hamming it up. All of the dinner guests were congenial and extroverted, which I guess you would have to be to participate in a murder mystery. I won’t tell you how it ended — you’ll have to find that out for yourself.
What I remember most about Grim’s Dyke is not its history or its location, but rather its character, its stately Tudor façade and the nostalgic demeanor of its rooms. There are two wings in Grim’s Dyke but it’s in Gilbert’s house where the turn-of-the-century beauty lies.
The rooms are individually decorated in period style and the windows have old glass panes. My room overlooked a broad expanse of grassy field that gave way to woods, and it was from one of those big windows that I looked out on the gently falling snow each of the three nights I stayed there. It was serene, picturesque and sparkling, and at times I could imagine I was living there a hundred years ago. When I go back, it will be at that same time of year, when snow blankets the ground and red foxes scamper across the field.
Built for a Prominent Victorian Artist in 1872
The house itself was originally built for a prominent Victorian artist in 1872, and bought by Gilbert and his wife 18 years later. After the death of Lady Gilbert, some 25 years after the demise of her famous husband, the estate went through many incarnations, including being used as a sanitarium and a movie set. It even had a secret life during World War II, as did many of these country estates.
It wasn’t easy to get my London-licensed taxi driver to navigate out of Heathrow to Grim’s Dyke country. My Mapquest map, the driver said, was a useless cartoon. Before getting away from Heathrow, I made the first of three calls to the hotel. The office assistant talked my driver through the directions, right up to the last turn into the hotel.
Here’s a piece of advice. Make sure you’ve noted the navigation postcode, HA3 6SE. When all else fails, that works.
Bring a detailed set of directions from the airport or central London, along with a map, for your journey to Grim’s Dyke. And have the hotel’s phone number readily accessible for your driver.
You can also take the tube to / from London. The closest Tube station to Grim’s Dyke is a few miles away from the hotel, and a taxi from the hotel to Harrow & Wealdstone underground will cost about $10 or $11.
Another option is to ask the hotel, when booking your accommodations, to send a “mini” cab to the airport to pick you up. The cabs are not really “mini,” it’s that the drivers are not licensed London drivers and typically do not know their way around the city. Based on a horrible and expensive experience with one “mini” cab, I suggest you instead take your chances with the airport cabbies.
If you go:
Grim’s Dyke Hotel
Middlesex, HA3 6SH
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8385 3100.