Review by Ceri Wheeldon
I was very lucky to be invited to the official launch of Warner Leisure’s newest hotel – Studley Castle Hotel located very near to Stratford on Avon. Studley Castle is Warner’s 14th property, and the first to added to their collection for 20 years. It was worth the wait! It has taken 3 yeas and £50 million to develop the property. The castle , built in 1836 as a ‘folly’ it was transformed into 1903 as an agricultural college for women (when it was purchased by Lady Warwick) , and later it became a training camp for the Women’s Land Army during the First World War. A building with a strong female history! The Castle has had various uses since, but had fallen into a state of disrepair. It has been renovated and restored to its former glory , with additional wings added to create outstanding accommodation – and a spa.
From the moment you arrive there is a sense of being pampered. As you pull in at the end of the tree lined drive you are greeted by a host who welcomes you and directs you to the porter, who takes your luggage to your room while you park your car. As I was there on a ‘special’ weekend, I was greeted with a welcome glass of prosecco as I entered the luxurious lobby – where they captured a contemporary feel whilst paying homage to the building’s history perfectly.
Accommodation at Studley Castle Hotel
The Warner breaks are all about spending quality child free time. I tool a female friend with me. We were shown to our room – really well appointed and tastefully decorated with a balcony overlooking the countryside, tea and coffee making facilities – and a decent hairdryer! Oversized bathrobes were provided. Our room was in the part of the hotel – I did get a peek of one of the castle rooms – with its bath in the turret .
The décor of Studley Castle Hotel is a mix of the dramatic and whimsical. There is something interesting around every corner. A lot of the décor is based on Alice in Wonderland – look out for the White Rabbit lamp and the chequerboard table if you visit – not to mention the Unicorn heads !
There are 28 acres of grounds to explore – either on foot or one of the Pashley bikes available to borrow.
Dining at Studley Castle Hotel
Dinner in the Evesham restaurant (which doubles as the entertainment venue) was excellent. Orders are taken for starters which are brought to the table, while main courses are selected from the buffet style Market Kitchen- cooked freshly when ordered.
I chose sea bass which was perfectly cooked. You are spoilt for choice when it comes to desserts!!
Dinner, and breakfast are included in the price when you stay. Drinks are not, but the wine was very reasonably priced. After dinner you have the option of staying for the live entertainment, retreating to the bar, or going to the on-site cinema. On our first evening we decided to go the cinema, it was cosy, intimate with very plush seating. There is waitress service for wine. Three films a day are shown (we watched Bohemian Rhapsody.
Things to do at Studley Castle Hotel
There is so much to do at Studley Castle, you don’t actually need to leave the venue, but it is a great location to explore the local area. Warner have been keen to engage and support local businesses. We went on a tour of a local gin distillery -aptly names the Shakespeare Distillery. There was a really interesting and informative talk about the history of gin (where we learnt the origin of phrases such as ‘blind drunk’ and ‘dutch courage’) and learnt from the head distiller about how he had developed the gins – and of course we had a tasting! I was surprised at how small the actual stills were. We had the basic tour, but the distillery also offered a ‘gin school’, where you can create your own gin.
I thought that would be a great idea to combine with a weekend away at Studely Castle with a group of girlfriends. Studley also has one private dining room which sits up to twelve which would be great for special occasions – I’m trying to think of one!!
One of the things I love about Warner breaks is the opportunity to try different activities. My friend and I decided to join the rifle shooting session. I had already tried archery, croquet, golf, line dancing and Nordic walking on a previous Warner’s break (at Littlecote ), so this was something totally new for me. I had a lot of enthusiasm but very little talent- the excellent instruction did little to improve my aim -although my friend did quite well! Perhaps I would have done better had I participated in the rifle shooting before as opposed to after the gin tasting !
As this was the official opening, we were treated to early evening cocktails on the terrace together with a gymnastic display – very colourful and entertaining!
There was live entertainment after dinner – on this particular evening DJ Jo Whiley introduced the acts- there was a mix of talent and it was a very enjoyable evening – lots of dancing !
Studley offers lots of opportunity for relaxation. The spa offers a quiet zone with pool and jacuzzi. There are four treatment rooms offering facials and massage using Temple Spa products. I had a fabulous facial on the last morning before heading for home. As there are only four treatments rooms, I would recommend booking ahead of your arrival – they get busy!
One of the things that I believe sets Warner breaks apart from others is its customer service. They invest in their people. They are the top leisure company in the Times list of best companies to work for. All the staff were so positive, friendly and helpful. Not an easy task to staff a brand new hotel from scratch and have everyone work together seamlessly – but the sense of teamwork and job satisfaction was evident ( I can never quite leave the headunter in me behind!).
Places to visit when staying at Studley Castle Hotel
At the hotel itself there are a host of activities including yoga, laser clay pigeon shooting, croquet, boules, putting, bike riding, rifle shooting.
Places to visit nearby include Stratford on Avon, Warwick Castle and Henley in Arden (in fact we stopped in Henley in Arden en route) . There are organised tours to the Shakespeare Distillery and local brewery, and they offer a coach service to Stratford and Warwick Castle to avoid the need to drive and battle with the parking! (check the days this is available before you go)
The hotel itself is easily accessible by train. Most guests live less than an hour away – why spend a chunk of your weekend way travelling?
Studley Castle Hotel is an impressive addition to the Warner venues. They have more new locations planned. I cant wait to see the next one! I think they are a great destination for couples, friends and mums and daughters wanting some quality time away.