When John Aspinall acquired Port Lympne in the 1970s, he rescued the impressive mansion from decades of neglect. Flanked by endangered species on all sides, this grand building opened as a hotel and wedding venue in 2014, and offers a remarkable opportunity for guests to enjoy a unique break, where it’s possible to meet some of the rarest animals in the world.

In the Martin Jordan meeting room floor-to-ceiling murals depict scenes of endangered wildlife. Subtly painted to be disguised within foliage, and only visible from certain angles, the face of John Aspinall looms above a tiger defending her young from poachers – a poignant reminder of the plight of some of the world’s most vulnerable species and how they must be protected

In the Martin Jordan meeting room floor-to-ceiling murals depict scenes of endangered wildlife. Subtly painted to be disguised within foliage, and only visible from certain angles, the face of John Aspinall looms above a tiger defending her young from poachers – a poignant reminder of the plight of some of the world’s most vulnerable species and how they must be protected

The dramatic tiled hall and passageway, which runs the length of the ground floor from east to west and is decorated with patterned black and white marble in varying concentric curves beneath a barrel-vaulted ceiling

The dramatic tiled hall and passageway, which runs the length of the ground floor from east to west and is decorated with patterned black and white marble in varying concentric curves beneath a barrel-vaulted ceiling

“I fell under its strange spell. Here was a house, a park and a garden that had ‘died’ suddenly at the outbreak of war in 1939. For thirty-five years the estate had fallen into limbo. We embarked on a 10 year programme to restore the house and gardens...” John Aspinall

“I fell under its strange spell. Here was a house, a park and a garden that had ‘died’ suddenly at the outbreak of war in 1939. For thirty-five years the estate had fallen into limbo. We embarked on a 10 year programme to restore the house and gardens...” John Aspinall

. A grass green carpet adds to the feeling of being outside

A grass green carpet adds to the feeling of being outside

The vibrant Spencer Roberts room is adorned with images of animals in their natural habitats – from birds and reptiles to monkeys and bears. A grass green carpet adds to the feeling of being outside

The vibrant Spencer Roberts room is adorned with images of animals in their natural habitats – from birds and reptiles to monkeys and bears

A pair of soft leather-covered doors opens to reveal the Spencer Roberts room, where many of Port Lympne’s wedding receptions take place

A pair of soft leather-covered doors opens to reveal the Spencer Roberts room, where many of Port Lympne’s wedding receptions take place

The long central corridor has far-reaching views through the glass doors and along a boulevard of trees that leads to the animal enclosures

The long central corridor has far-reaching views through the glass doors and along a boulevard of trees that leads to the animal enclosures

Just to the right of the main entrance, the Rex Whistler room – also known as the ‘Tent Room’ – features walls beautifully painted by Rex Whistler himself. The artist decided to turn the barrel-vaulted room into a blue-and-white striped tent which would seem to have been put up to connect two separate parts of the mansion

Just to the right of the main entrance, the Rex Whistler room – also known as the ‘Tent Room’ – features walls beautifully painted by Rex Whistler himself

The artist decided to turn the barrel-vaulted room into a blue-and-white striped tent which would seem to have been put up to connect two

The artist decided to turn the barrel-vaulted room into a blue-and-white striped tent which would seem to have been put up to connect two separate parts of the mansion

The landing area with pink marble columns

The landing area with pink marble columns

The main staircase is flanked by blue marble columns on the ground floor and pink marble columns above. Originally the mid-way landing would have led out onto the Moorish courtyard so admired by Honor Guinness. Unfortunately time has not been kind to the bachelor quarters and they are closed while plans for their renovation are finalized...

The main staircase is flanked by blue marble columns on the ground floor and pink marble columns above. Originally the mid-way landing would have led out onto the Moorish courtyard so admired by Honor Guinness. Unfortunately time has not been kind to the bachelor quarters and they are closed while plans for their renovation are finalized

One of the blue marble columns

Two of the blue marble columns

Upstairs the bedrooms have been renovated as faithfully as possible

Upstairs the bedrooms have been renovated as faithfully as possible

One still retains its original yellow en suite bathroom

One still retains its original yellow en suite bathroom

Each room has been named after the original architects, famous guests and, of course, Sir Philip Sassoon

Each room has been named after the original architects, famous guests and, of course, Sir Philip Sassoon

The bedrooms benefit from stunning views across the extensive gardens and out towards the sea. The grounds have been restored to virtually their former glory

The grounds have been restored to virtually their former glory

The bedrooms benefit from stunning views across the extensive gardens and out towards the sea.

The bedrooms benefit from stunning views across the extensive gardens and out towards the sea

Philip Tilden created Italian-style terraced gardens, cut out of the former sea cliffs

Philip Tilden created Italian-style terraced gardens, cut out of the former sea cliffs

Philip Tilden created Italian-style terraced gardens, cut out of the former sea cliffs. He also included twin swimming pools, a monumentally classical garden staircase and a grand flight of steps crowned with temples. Sassoon thought highly enough of Tilden’s work inside and out to recommend him to Churchill to work on Chartwell in Kent

He also included twin swimming pools, a monumentally classical garden staircase and a grand flight of steps crowned with temples

. Sassoon thought highly enough of Tilden’s work inside and out to recommend him to Churchill to work on Chartwell in Kent

Sassoon thought highly enough of Tilden’s work inside and out to recommend him to Churchill to work on Chartwell in Kent

The terraced gardens

The terraced gardens

The house commands stunning views

Port Lympne commands stunning views out towards the sea

The water used to quench the considerable thirst of the magnificent gardens comes from natural springs and a unique hydraulic ram system pumps it 300 feet up to a storage reservoir

The water used to quench the considerable thirst of the magnificent gardens comes from natural springs and a unique hydraulic ram system pumps it 300 feet up to a storage reservoir

  • words:
  • pictures: David Merewether
  • styling: Lucy Fleming

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