Europe Reviews

A midweek retreat to the Crowne Plaza Five Lakes, Colchester

Nothing boosts my mood more than a little getaway. For once, my holiday was a 2-week stint on UK soil, and it was a busy time. I found relief when I checked in for a midweek stay at the 4* Crowne Plaza Five Lakes. I wouldn’t even have known this place existed, had it not been selected as the wedding and reception venue chosen by my friends for their special day. Nevertheless, a quick look online got me excited for my stay and I planned to arrive a couple of days before the wedding, so I could enjoy the tranquillity and isolation before everyone else showed up.

Getting There

The Five Lakes is a resort hotel, set on sprawling grounds and surrounded by their two immaculately maintained golf courses. Although the name says it’s in Colchester, this is not strictly true. Maldon is the closest village, and the town of Colchester is about a 20 minute drive away. The best way in is by car, purely because of it’s remote location. If you’re following a GPS, just make sure it’s been updated, a few people got quite lost en-route! But don’t let that put you off; the silence in the area is part of the charm. If you’re coming by train, then the nearest station is Witham, 25 minutes’ drive from Five Lakes. The nearest airport is London Stansted, about a 40 minute drive away. Ubers in the area were available but took some time to get to us.

Hotel Facilities

As mentioned, The Crowne Plaza Five Lakes is very much a resort hotel, set on 320 acres and with a strong leisure focus. It’s country club facilities are extensive; hotel guests and day visitors can make use of the 2 golf courses and a practise range, as well as 2 squash court, floodlit tennis courts and a UEFA approved football pitch. Add to that a cardio gym and free weights room, leisure room with snooker and table tennis, indoor temperature-controlled pool and scheduled group classes, and I’m sure you’ll agree that the hotel has more than enough available to keep the active traveller busy. If you’re more like me, then you’ll be pleased to know that R&R is also catered for; the in house spa offers a variety of well-priced treatments.

We loved the selection of rooms available. The main hotel building has 114 rooms, including 43 executive rooms and 4 suites. In addition, there is the ‘Village’ which is comprised of 7 blocks, each with 16 rooms. We loved the setup of the Village; a little quieter and more private than the main building, with a seating area and views of the surrounding landscape. The hotel is 22 years old, and is gradually undergoing renovation and modernisation. The executive room we stayed in was finished to a high standard and was very comfortable. The bed was heavenly, and for cleanliness, our room scored 5/5. The bathrooms had a separate bath and shower, which I love. The amenities and toiletries were from Temple Spa; one of my absolute favourites.

Wine & Dine

The Crowne Plaza Five Lakes offers 2 restaurants, one of which can be converted into a private dining room with separate kitchen facilities. Breakfast was included in the room rate and was a chaotic and noisy affair; the hotel was busy despite it being midweek, and was hosting a group of boys as part of a football academy to boot. The selection of food was OK; fresh fruits, cereals, cold cuts, pastries and the staple hot foods for a good old English fry-up. Good enough to set you up for the day but not especially outstanding.

For dinner, it was a completely different story. I chose to eat in the bar, where the staff brought a short but varied menu. During my stay, I enjoyed the chicken tikka masala and the carbonara, both of which were absolutely exceptional. Two bars are also available, one by the golf club, which offers Starbucks coffee and the main one to the side of the lobby. Unfortunately, the one which serves the coffee closes early; between 3 and 4pm and I was disappointed to find that they didn’t have the full selection of Starbucks drinks. The main bar has a fairly limited wine selection, (for example, no Pinot Noir) but is well stocked with spirits and other drinks. The house Prosecco is highly recommended!

Nice to Know

Interestingly, the hotel also has an enormous arena, which is essentially a blank canvas for whatever you need. With a capacity for 2’500 people, as well as separate parking and large entry doors, this has hosted a variety of events including Asian weddings, cheerleading competitions, an annual Carp show, and car shows. In addition to this, there is also a 5 acre activity field, which is available for hire and is often used for teambuilding exercises and outdoor events.

Since we were there for a wedding, we did get to see a couple of the function rooms. They have 18 in total, varying in size and layout. The ones we saw were neat, had nice views over the golf course and access to a large balcony. I don’t want to go into details of the wedding, but I will say that the decorations and the recommended DJ for the evening disco were excellent!

We were also very impressed to learn that the hotel (and many of the staff) work with and get involved in community projects, in particular teaming up with Essex-based charity – Kids Inspire. Their activities have included hosting fund-raising events and collecting donations for holiday hampers. They are always keen to discuss and find new ways of working with others to make a difference to the lives of children who have been through trauma or are otherwise underprivileged. We always like supporting hotels with a social conscience!

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