Ruth Brindle found an ideal London location to raise a glass to Her Majesty’s 90th birthday and this year’s classical musical festival celebrations which are held at the Royal Albert Hall and at Hyde Park.

When you have a timer to make sure your cup of tea is brewed correctly you know you’re in for a right Royal experience. I was at the impressive Grade II listed St Ermin’s Hotel, Westminster just a short walk from Buckingham Palace, to celebrate Her Majesty’s 90th birthday.

In between sipping my ‘Going strong at 90’ Champagne cocktail and drinking tea I politely nibbled on lobster, ham and smoked salmon sandwiches (with no crusts, of course) followed by cakes and scones fit for a Queen.

Being in such a central location felt truly special, let alone convenient for everything Queen-related. It’s just a short walk from Buckingham Palace and other places important to the Queen, including Westminster Abbey and The Houses of Parliament. Nearby is Clarence House, Green Park, Piccadilly, Horse Guards Parade, St James’s Park, Whitehall and the Churchill War Rooms. Catch a train at St James’s Park tube station, located just next door, to go straight to the Tower of London!

I had timed my journey to arrive just in time to join other eager Royal fans to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace at 11.30am. Then it was just a short stroll around the corner to St Ermin’s.

It’s an amazing building, and I found it rather intriguing to stay in an historic spot that holds a rather colourful past with a strong link to everything espionage.

During the 1930s MI6 and SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) officers used the hotel to meet agents. Then from 1938 SIS had its headquarters there and throughout the Second World War St Ermin’s was an important meeting place for spies. One of its most prestigious visitors Winston Churchill formed the Special Operations Executive in 1940, the forerunner of the SAS today, and the organisation took over an entire floor of the hotel. He would often enjoy a glass of Champagne in the Caxton Bar. If only those walls could talk.

Not so patriotic, but equally as fascinating, are the stories that Russian double agent Guy Burgess passed secrets to his Communist contacts at St Ermin’s.

Location, location, location counts for a lot. The hotel also has a Division Bell in the foyer formerly rung to remind MPs to get back to Westminster for vital votes as it’s just an eight-minute brisk walk away from the Houses of Parliament.

But playing a part in its popularity over the years is also no doubt the hotel’s beauty and character. The spectacular lobby has bold, ornate plasterwork and a sweeping staircase designed by Victorian theatre designer J P Briggs, also designer of the Savoy Theatre.

Times and priorities move on, of course, and a trip to the third floor gives a glimpse of some present-day residents – some 300,000 of them – that provide a very modern-day connection to environmental concerns. St Ermin’s hives of Buckfast bees provide honey for the hotel and there’s a stylish bee ‘hotel’ for other species too.

So while it was definitely hard to drag myself away from the hotel itself, I didn’t need transport of any kind to get to the Royal Mews (, £9.50 entry) just a few minutes’ away. A tour to see the Queen’s carriages, cars and horses is a special experience. It’s worth taking the guided tour to hear some insider information on which forms of transport Her Majesty likes and dislikes! The Gold State Coach used for the Coronation provides the fantastic finale.

Fact box The St Ermin’s Hotel ‘Royal Progress’ luxury package (from £800 until August 31, 2016), based on two people sharing, includes two nights in a deluxe suite, full buffet breakfast, ‘RoyalTea’ for two, and tickets to Windsor Castle – including return train tickets from central London to Windsor, 0207 222 7888,