Warwickshire has a rich supply of wonderful hotels- so many of them, in fact, that I’m only going to touch on a few that were so extraordinary I had to show them off. Highlighting a castle hotel is my stock in trade and being able to reside in one while visiting castles makes the whole experience much more profound and memorable. If you would like to promote your favorite why not talk about it with friends and acquaintances? I have always valued others travel experiences as an added dimension to my own adventurous forays and I encourage one and all to add experiences in the comments. By all means, feel free to do so!
– The Castle Lady
After a long day of visiting Kenilworth Castle you’ll find Victorian Castle Laurels a very short distance away, directly opposite the historic estate surrounded by Abbey Fields at 22 Castle Road. Stopping at the hotel prior to your visit in the early morning hours or late in the evening prior to your Kenilworth visit will assure you a chance to enjoy the wonderful breakfasts which are served en suite or in the lovely dining area and giving you a great sendoff to your daytrip excursion. The hotel and restaurant have a four star rating and along with exceptional regular English fare, the chef’s specials will delight you as well.
You’ll find eleven lovely rooms, a homey and friendly atmosphere along with the assurance that your stay is comfortable and enjoyable. Castle Laurels was built in the 1890s in Cotswolds vernacular style and offers traditional accommodations within the hotel along with private bathrooms. Services include a golf course, aforementioned room service including laundry and dry cleaning, shoe shine, meeting and banquet facilities and free internet and Wi-Fi. Onsite parking is available at no charge and special Sunday rates are available.
T- 01926 856179
In the north, near lively Atherstone, the Hipsley Farm Cottages are a wonderful break from city life as they are seated within lush, rolling countryside and the converted buildings are uniquely comfortable and attractive while being able to house up to seven people. It’s a refreshing change of pace and a great alternative to hotel offerings while being fully equipped, like home, and you’ll find everything you need- including laundry facilities. The cottages are convenient to most of the north part of Warwickshire and Birmingham.
T- 01827 872437
A great place to stay a night or two is Lord Leycester Hotel because it is historic and modernized on its interior. It was built mid-16th century on Jury Street in the heart of the town of Warwick. It was remodeled and refurbished inside a little more than a decade ago and is immaculately maintained and the affordability as an historic property is quite rare. This most convenient and atmospheric find is a delightful sanctuary while absorbing history in the town and castle of Warwick!
It started life as the Jury Street House during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and was the private property of the Ward of Barford who was a wealthy merchant. This structure was one of the few Tudor buildings that survived Warwick’s Great Fire in 1694 because it was not a timber structure. As a result it retained quite a bit of the original features even though it was extensively redone during the time that the Georgian frontage of the surrounding buildings were undergoing construction in the 18th century under the ownership of the Lord Archer family, members of the Arden family of Umberslade. Eventually, at the end of that century, it changed from a private residence and became The Three Tons Inn.
A Quaker by the name of John Evans purchased the property for £900 at the turn of the century (1800) and split the inn by halves to become two town houses with the addresses of 17 and 19, respectively, with 19 becoming a girls dorm for the high school. However, it was purchased late in that century by John Allin Smith as a home which passed to his wife, Charlotte, eventually. The sale of this portion to Arthur Henry Tyack, for £1,800 in 1925, brought about the development of the exterior of the hotel as it currently stands, along with #17, becoming Lord Leycester Hotel- his second such property in Warwick. You’ll find much of the hotel is still authentic within the premise of being brought up to current codes from the 1980s when the facilities were converted to ensuite units with meeting rooms added. It is truly a marvel of the current trend toward renovation which keeps the historical integrity of the original buildings.
A short mile away from Stratford-upon-Avon, Menzies Welcombe Hotel, Spa and Golf Course on Warwick Road offers 664 rooms- of those are a total of seventy eight bedroom suites- and takes the game of golf very seriously with an 18-hole championship course which has an international reputation as the most outstanding in the heart of England! Retaining the original Jacobean style from an 1866 recreation, the 157 acres of land where the hotel is seated give guests plenty of room to spread out and enjoy life. They offer corporate golf days, golf clinics and also annual private and corporate memberships. Additional sporting facilities include tennis courts, a clubhouse with a brasserie restaurant and bar.
The luxury spa features an impressive level deck swimming pool with a separate external vitality pool, four thermal experience rooms, a selection of Clarins treatment rooms, a gymnasium and an aerobics studio. The award-winning 2 AA Rosette restaurant offers a seasonal changing menu of English and French dishes with a layout which highlights outstanding views over the beautiful Italian gardens and water features. For private functions and business meetings there are a range of 11 conference rooms which seat 4 to 250 people. There is also the beautifully designed Open Championship Suite within the Clubhouse accommodating parties of up to 100 people. Luxurious timeshare apartments which are now available on a shared ownership basis have become a more recent offering on a limited basis. Prices will range from reasonable to exorbitant.
T- 01789 295252
A former Georgian gentleman’s home in the form of Ardencote Manor Hotel is a bit further west down the road, halfway to Henley-in-Arden from Warwick and is a veritable refuge for the weary traveler. Ardencote is also a world class country club and spa offering so much more than most hotels but definitely the same genre as Welcombe with 4-star accommodation, award winning cuisine and first class leisure facilities including 9 hole golf and a luxury spa which offers treatment packages to its guests. Two restaurants provide formal and informal dining according to your preference and 42 acres of landscaped grounds provide walks and space to take in the beauty of the estate. The affordability of the accommodations is refreshing.
T-01926 843111 email@example.com
Leamington Spa is a beautifully preserved 19th century spa town with wide avenues and quiet parks whose springs were visited by Queen Victoria in 1830 and 1858. She gave the town its Royal stature eight years after her first visit and has been ever since, with a statue of her in front of the town hall to commemorate the occasion. Situated east between Kenilworth and Warwick Castles it is still a marvelous town to visit and is a popular tourist attraction, retirement village and a cultural center and shopping mecca for the wealthy residents. The ever popular Royal Pump Rooms which were opened in 1814 close to the river were popular for cures and inspired many innovations by engineers becoming a spa resort for the wealthy and famous.
In more recent years it was closed down for redevelopment and reopened in 1999 making it a world class resort with art galleries, museum, a library and information center for tourists. Much of the town is historic with Georgian and Victorian homes and certain buildings such as Lansdowne Crescent, which was done in neo-classical style in the 19th century, abound. Night life and theatre, cinema and music festivals are regular features of the town.
Mallory Court is situated only two miles south of Leamington on Harbury Lane surrounded by ten acres of beautifully landscaped gardens. At this time of the year the sun lounge will be opened up on the terrace where guests can enjoy chilled drinks while listening to piano music and walk through the gardens which feature roses, herbaceous borders and ornamental streams. The cuisine served in the restaurant varies from British fare to French delicacies and marvelous desserts. Prices for accommodation and the bill of fare vary from moderately expensive to exorbitant but it’s definitely worth every penny. The interiors are exquisite and ultra comfortable and the peaceful ambience of the entire complex is well worth a weekend stay.
T- 01926 330214 reception
The western border towns west of Stratford-upon-Avon offer up very diversified accommodations and Studley Castle Hotel, Billesley Manor and Ettington Park are among the very best.
On Hardwicke Lane, just outside the town and in the vicinity of the old motte and bailey castle grounds, Studley Castle Hotel is actually an early 19th century revival medieval castle which was built as a large, comfortable country house, later renovated and converted to a Grade II listed grand hotel in the latter part of the 20th century. Seated three miles west of Redditch inside the border of southwest Warwickshire, this Neo-Norman Gothic Revival marvel was originally built 1834-36 by Samuel Beazley for Sir Francis Goodricke who was a baronet. Through inheritance the old manor was bequeathed to the Philip Lyttleton family and passed down through a succession of relatives until Sir Goodricke had the current edifice built. Today it is seated on a huge twenty-eight acre estate and offers elegant dining at the Oakroom Restaurant and Lounge and eleven unique conference rooms along with the advantage of 57 modernized ensuite bedrooms and complimentary Wi-Fi access throughout the complex.
At the beginning of the twentieth century up to the 1960s it was occupied as a college of horticultural training for women. Thereafter a showroom and offices for British Leyland and Rover Cars and eventually renovated as the magnificent hotel it is today. On approach you’ll encounter an ashlar limestone U-plan façade with a central tower which shows off molded stone string courses and cornices along with slate roofs with parapets and four centered arches with Gothic sashes and casement windows. The central tower, which can be seen from quite a distance, gives the impression of an elaborate multangular lantern with round-arched two light framed windows, hood molds and head stops, scalloped capitals and machicolations along the very top. That, along with four-storey octagonal corner turrets on the ends of the projecting wings give the visitor a very dramatic first impression of Studley Castle which is unforgettable. Inside and out, the Gothic features will keep you entranced with the prodigious attention to detail by the Victorian craftsmen.
Upon entering you should pay attention to the double-leaf doors and the accompanying panels and inside you’ll find- among many other surprises- a painted, round-arched Neo-Norman chimney-piece with a carved chevron on the mantel, paneled ceilings, and two marble Gothic fireplaces, one black and one white with four-centered arches- the white with piers and niches. The Octagonal room shows off the garden front which, when viewed on the garden side from the outside, has a decidedly Tudor style appearance. Inside it has a plaster rib vault and more rib vaulting is to be found at the entrance hall and drawing room. Arcaded walls and doors prevail throughout. Romanesque style grotesques can be seen along with classical statues and the first floor gallery is supported on four centered arches dripping with heavy pendants and angels along with a Gothic balustrade.
From the garden front you’ll see the red brick wing addition along the left which looks a bit out of character to the front exterior but the Tudor gables of this addition looks rather charming if not seamless. This was built some time during the early to mid-20th century period and sports a tiled roof, three stories and hipped dormer windows along a ten-light range along with brick buttresses. All of the details make for a very dramatic and beautiful mélange which is apt considering that the architect was a theatrical designer as well.
T- 01527 853111 www.studleycastle.com
As a neighbor to Stratford-upon-Avon, Billesley Manor and Ettington Hall are great places to stay while visiting the area, the latter being five miles to the southeast and neighbor to Kineton Castle and Farnborough Hall with an exceptionally fabulous history and architecture all its own. Each are diverse in architecture and longevity of history but share a prestigious amount of amenities and high standards for accommodation and offerings during your stay.
Three miles outside of Stratford-upon-Avon near Alcester, Billesley Manor, a 16th century Tudor Manor House is set in eleven acres of beautiful privately-owned parkland with a unique topiary garden and sun terrace. Accommodations include 61 beautifully decorated four-poster bedrooms, all ensuite and many have stunning views of the gardens below. Private dining is available to families and corporate events and the Stuart restaurant serves cuisine of high standard having been awarded 2 AA Rosettes. Cedar Barns is a complex located on the premises which offers conference facilities incorporating state-of-the-art equipment. Full activity amenities include a stunning pool room , tennis courts, six-hole pitch and putt course. Croquet lawn and clay pigeon shooting, archery and quad biking are also offered to guests on a request basis. Room prices are reasonable for singles and suites are delightfully affordable!
T- 01789 279955 for bookings
Ettington Hall foundations date back nearly 1,000 years before the Norman conquest and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Located just outside Alderminster, which is northwest of Banbury Cross, this sprawling Neo-Gothic mansion occupies forty acres of opulent parkland and is surrounded by terraced gardens and well-tended lawns. Being the house of the 1960’s version of “The Haunting of Hill House” which starred Julie Harris and Claire Bloom it has a peculiar attraction to me. Perhaps I am an incurable romantic, at heart! The mansion was originally built in Tudor style but with later improvements and alterations the exterior took on a Palladian form. By the mid-19th century a Welsh architect was hired by the owner to transform the mansion’s medieval origins to romanticized Gothic which incorporated French, Italian and English influences. If a person thinks of Ruskin when they view the polychromatic scheme of varied stonework it’s with good reason. The wall veil consists of yellow limestone from nearby Gloucestershire, ironstone from Edge Hill, blue lias from Wilmcote and white lias quarried locally among two other types of Cotswold stone.
Upon arrival you’ll see the porte-cochère which fronts the Gothic screen. Three gables rise against the sky flanked by a square tower and a round tower and wings on either side seem to stretch out at angles. A corner tower almost appears to face the lovely garden front- or does it beckon ?- and faces another beautiful tower embellished with monarchs and gargoyles. The interior, even by comparison, is much richer with a marvelous 19th century oak neo-Elizabethan fireplace greeting the front entrance, designed with the Shirley coat-of-arms along with figures representing Faith, Hope and Charity and incorporates two secret panels! You’ll also see the family motto “Loyal je Suis” carved on the window sash which incorporates the shamrock- the Irish side of the family no less! Large portions of the interior are gothic with the exception of some Rococo plasterwork, wood paneling, vaulted ceilings and individually furnished rooms.
As the primary architect, John Prichard partnered with John Pollard Seddon and both were influenced by Pugin and Ruskin with Prichard having once been Pugin’s principle assistant. However, the sculptural decorations you will see throughout this edifice harken to Ruskin’s influence and are the designs of J. H. Armstead carved by Edward Clark. The designs were chosen by Evelyn Philip Shirley, descendant of the 1st Earl Ferrers, who wanted to document his family’s history through this ancient art. You can view the carvings, which run along the top portion of the first storey, on the exterior, like a stone frieze and begin with the Saxon thane Sewallis founding the church at Ettington (which is still on the premises) and finish with the committal of Sir Robert Shirley to the Tower of London by Oliver Cromwell. One panel shows Sir Thomas Shirley crusading in the Holy Land, where the head of a vanquished Saracen is brought to him by his page; another depicts Sir Ralph Shirley bidding farewell to his wife and child as he leaves with Henry V for France. In addition to the fourteen panels are the Shirley family shields and crest, busts of monarchs on corbels and full-length statues in carved niches. The work has been compared to Oxford Museum as a Bridgewater treatise referring to the carvings as architectural Stemmata Shirleiana.
E.P. Shirley, who was the local MP, also drew literary attention because of his antiquarian eccentricities by being described in Benjamin Disraeli’s novel Lothair as the fictional character Mr. Ardenne. He “was a refined gentlemen who loved the arts…had an ancient pedigree…being the hereditary owner of a real deer park… with a pretty wife… who loved their annual luncheon in her Tudor Halls and illustrated by their researches the deeds and dwellings of her husband’s ancient race.” Evelyn Shirley’s ancestral home became a pinnacle to the Gothic revival as a result of the innovation put into the design and was later referred to by Building News that it “would have been impossible in the age to which its style is referable.” The ultimate appeal of the overall appearance is bringing about a style generally attributed to perpendicular classical without perfectly straight lines, even gables or equal proportions leaving every element to rely on balance rather than symmetry. Clearly, Ettington Hall was (and is) an artistic masterpiece.
This mansion is seated atop verdant countryside overlooking the river in Stour Valley and might be the most historic luxury hotel in England. At one time, it was also considered the most haunted which seems to add to the attraction rather than a deterrent, especially since the beginning of the 21st century. I blame all this on the Blair Witch Project- quel désastre ! Miraculously, this masterpiece of the 19th century survived a rather tempestuous 20th century. It had been a hospital for a period of time, then a school and a disco before suffering a devastating fire in 1980. I was sad when I read the news because I always wanted to visit Ettington Hall to see if it really had the brooding atmosphere which the Hill House movie had brought out so well a little more than a decade before. Luckily, it has been beautifully restored.
As a luxury hotel the exquisite antiques and fine original paintings bring out the best of this architectural extravaganza along with the best in fine British hospitality and courteous attention. Ettington holds the distinction of being the only 4 red star hotel in Warwickshire and has come into the current century with a new indoor swimming pool, sauna and steam room and full spa treatments available for guests and visitors alike. The grounds offer walking tours where everyone can wander at their leisure to take in the elegantly idyllic views with historical buildings to visit. The interiors throughout are equally elegant with fresh flowers from the gardens filling no less than forty-eight bedrooms available for guests of the hotel. A dining area, the Oak Room restaurant, offers an elegant 18th century Rococo ceiling and carved family crests from the 19th century along with the best of English and French cuisine and an extensive fine wine list. The Long Gallery and a 14th century chapel is offered for events and conferences and the restored 13th century Church of St. Nicholas on the premises is still used for wedding ceremonies.
As a Handpicked Hotel property, Ettington and many other Handpicked venues are offering special packages for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee throughout June. Be sure to ask about the Heritage Celebration packages and if you book by the 6th of June a free bottle of Champagne will be included on select dates.
On the south side of the Avon River and a short walk from Stratford-upon-Avon’s town center, Alveston Manor is seated right at Clopton Bridge for your convenience. The icing on the cake is that the hotel is maintained to a high level which creates a real sanctuary right in the middle of the action in Stratford-upon-Avon! Alveston is historic right down to its wood-framing, leaded windows, gabled roof tops and Tudor chimneys but is not rustic at all. All bedrooms are ensuite, fitted well and several adjoined to the modern Warwick and Charlecote Wings. Special suites and feature rooms are located in the original manor house. A cocktail bar and excellent restaurant on the premises offer inside and alfresco dining and a charming and tastefully elegant dcor will make you want to return time after time.
This hotel is equipped for every type of occasion whether it’s just a short leisure break, romantic weekend for you and your honey, business accommodations, weddings or product launch events. The meeting and function rooms are well equipped and can be brought to order with a phone call. The facilities include a luxurious spa and plenty of attractive garden walks to just spread out and relax your own way. The prices are reasonable for this 4-star beauty, as well.
Also, not ten miles east of Stratford-upon-Avon, Walton Hall, near Wellsbourne is another four-star architectural beauty with lots of amenities, first class accommodations, free and ample parking, bar and 2 AA Rosette restaurant on 65 acres of countryside. Walton has 56 fully equipped rooms, many of which overlook the lake and gardens. Gym facilities are available along with indoor swimming pool and spa beauty treatments. Luxury is very affordable at Walton of which room rates start at 65 per person per night! Ample event and conference facilities are available and they are equipped to handle a full day of wedding functions.
As an historic mansion it dates back to the 16th century, at which time the Mordaunt family built the hall as their ancestral home. Their closest neighbor is Charlecote Park which makes this a great stay after taking the tour. In more recent years, a full restoration going into million of pounds re-established the mansion to its former glory with many amenities added but traditional features were retained including the crystal chandeliers, many antiques and original fireplaces. For a day trip to the area it is an historic oasis.
A Landmark Trust alternative possibility is The Bath House which is situated southeast of Stratford. Being quite literally what it’s called, this small architectural gem was designed by Sanderson Miller who was a a friend of Sir Charles Mordaunt. Referred to by a guest of the converted cottage as ‘the poshest bedsit in Warwickshire’ The Bath House was actually built as a medical spa of the 18th century because the benefits of cold baths were considered to be multitude. As a result, the décor and fixtures on the interior were pleasing to the eye for a restful, relaxing atmosphere during the cures. One might wake up after a good night sleep and think they’ve awakened in some otherworldly paradise.
The exterior rough masonry is in direct contrast with the beautifully detailed interior taking on a subterranean appearance with beautiful swags made of seashells which were gathered by the Mordaunt daughters and put together by a Mrs Delany who was renowned for her flower pictures. These were skillfully restored and reproduced by Diana Reynell when the entire building was being restored. Even the dome roof appears to be dripping icicles in the upper room and makes the small cottage a delight to rest and relax in after touring or just for a getaway holiday. Seated near the Forest of Arden, the deep woodland atmosphere gives it a private charm all its own.
T- 01628 825925
Quote for the day:
Hold up thy head, vile Scot, or thou art like never to hold it up again!
The spirits of valiant Shirley, Stafford and Blunt are in my arms.
-Henry, Prince of Wales in Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” First Part