With this year marking the bicentenary of literary heroine Jane Austen, we decided to take a trip to the stunning North Downs to marvel the beautiful countryside that inspired one of her most famous books. Our reporter Sabi Phagura, stopped over at the very same hotel Jane stayed in – the Mercure Box Hill Burford Bridge Hotel.
Located in the heart of Surrey amidst stupendous landscaped gardens at the foot of Box Hill, this boutique-style hotel has a lengthy history.
It’s long been a secluded haven for writers inspired by nature, including the aforementioned author Jane Austen and John Keats. In fact, the former is said to have penned part of her famed novel ‘Emma’ whilst staying at this very hotel.
So proud is the hotel of this literary connection, one of her infamous quotes can be spotted on the wall of the restaurant. It reads: “They had a very fine day for Box Hill… Nothing was wanting but to be happy when they got there. Seven miles were travelled in expectation and enjoyment and everybody had a burst of admiration on first arriving”.
This year, to celebrate the life and works of Jane Austen, a walking map of Box Hill was developed by the hotel in conjunction with the Dorking History Museum. Eager to visit the area, where character Emma Woodhouse found it an ideal spot for a picnic, my friend Susie and I head out to work up an appetite.
The hour-long route is quite a steep uphill struggle as we found, but regular stops along the way ensured we got our breaths back to admire the beauty we found ourselves surrounded in. It was worth every step through the woods to get to the top. No wonder Box Hill was voted one of the best places in the country to eat outdoors a few years ago.
But rather than indulging in a picnic, our food was being prepared back at the hotel in the Emlyn kitchen. Having been hit by floods, the hotel was closed for two years. But after total refurbishment, the team have been driving the restaurant forward and have forged strong relationships with some of Surrey’s best suppliers.