I can’t think of a better way to spend a few days in January than relaxing on a spa break. The cold miserable weather and infamous post-Christmas blues is not conducive to continuing great spirit, so what better way to banish the doldrums than curling up in front of a roaring fire with a good book at one of Britain’s many stately home mansions–come–spa hotels while being pampered to the hilt and feasting on afternoon tea and the such like.
The Welcombe Hotel and Spa in Warwickshire offers this and much more, so off Mum and I went for some relaxing ‘me’ time on a girlie spa break. Nestled in 157 acres of rolling countryside to the north of Stratford, the Welcombe Hotel is a Jacobean beauty on a grand scale boasting an award winning restaurant, spa and golf course.
Designed 150 years ago by Henry Clutton, the architect responsible for Battle Abbey and Lille Cathedral, this Grade II listed mansion offers a traditional country house experience in beautiful oak-panelled rooms with magnificent open log fires and towering ceilings adorned with elegant chandeliers.
An intriguing feature of The Welcombe and one you wouldn’t know about just looking at the building is that it was built as a calendar house. The property has 7 entrances, one for each day of the week; 52 chimneys, one for each week of the year; 12 fireplaces, one for each month of the year and 365 windows, one for each day of the year. It is believed that this feature instils luck and prosperity into everyone who stays at the house and now you know about it, I can guarantee you’ll be trying to count them all! (I tried with the chimneys!)
Approaching the hotel from the north as we did, you are treated to brief glimpses of the building beyond the golf course which reaches down to the roadside, but nothing prepares you for the stunning building that appears as you drive up the long driveway.
Daylight hours are obviously limited in January, but if you arrive before darkness falls, check in to your room, then go for a wander round the grounds and admire the formal terraced Italian gardens which feature superb views back towards the house. They are delightful and at this time of year you’ll probably have them all to yourself. You’ll have to imagine how lovely it would be to enjoy your drinks and afternoon tea out on the terrace on a warm sunny day; either that or book a return trip in June (not beyond the realms…)
You may well want to use the leisure and spa facilities however before they close for the day, or like me, take one look at the comfortable bed and surrender to a late afternoon nap, much needed on my part on this occasion!
Our two night stay included a 3 course dinner on one night, so we opted to have this on the second night. On our evening of arrival, we had considered going in to Stratford for food, but decided to order something off the lounge bar menu instead, which offered simple options from sandwiches and paninis to risotto, fish & chips and burgers. I opted for a bacon, brie and cranberry panini which was divine and came served with chunky chips and a side salad which was excellently wrapped up in a long slither of cucumber. Brilliant presentation and all very tasty!
The rest of the evening was spent reading in front of the huge roaring fire, nice and toasty, followed by an early night. This was after all (unlike most of my trips) a relaxing chill-out 3 days rather than a ‘rush, push, try and do as much as possible’ trip!
I did actually manage to look further than the bed on my return to our room. It was comfortably furnished with an armchair as well as an office chair, which my mum took up residence in while not in bed. I’m always happy to sit propped up on my bed in hotel rooms, usually as there isn’t a suitably comfortable alternative, but in this case – the chair sufficed!
There was a large SMART HD TV screen which we used for ‘Pointless’ of course (I love that show) and a great supply of teas, coffee, biscuits, etc, though the kettle was a little on the small side so it required refilling to do two decent sized drinks. Bottled water, both still and sparkling were supplied which was great to see and a complimentary newspaper had been left on the table for us.
The bathroom boasted lovely citrus toiletries and the shower was fantastic – a powerful rain shower, so I was in heaven, with no shortage of hot water.
The information pack was concise and filled you in on everything you could possibly need to know to complete your stay, including the room service menu (which was pretty similar to the lounge bar menu) and spa brochure.
A nice little extra touch was a master light switch. As there were many different types of lighting in the room, from several overhead lights, wall lights and reading lamps, the master switch is an excellent idea if you’re energy conscious like me. You don’t have to go round switching off individual light sources especially when you’ve concocted the perfect combination; instead hit the master switch on leaving and restore on returning. What a great idea! Far better than the key card in a slot concept which when you remove kills the power to everything in the room. This way, you can still leave your phone on charge whilst out the room.
After a lovely comfortable night’s sleep with no alarm to wake you up (bliss), breakfast was in high order. Served in the restaurant, we were given one of the coveted window tables so we could dine with a view and a superb one at that.
This was our first sight of the terraced gardens and landscape beyond and with the morning mist, looked rather ethereal.
Breakfast was a buffet style, both cold and hot options, though if you wanted eggs done in a different manner to fried, you could order those too. There was a generous range of cold foods, from fresh fruit, yogurts, cereal, to croissants, pain au chocolates and artisan breads with meats, cheeses and various accompaniments.
Then there was the hot buffet with the usual items: sausage, bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomato, black pudding and baked beans. Toast was ordered and brought out when you wanted it so it didn’t go cold. There was certainly something there to satisfy everyone.
As breakfast progressed the sun started to burn off the mist, so afterwards the first thing we did was go for a walk round the grounds. If you’re as lucky as we were, the frosty ground glinted in the sunlight and the sky gradually turned blue creating a landscape so beautiful and peaceful, you will not want to leave it.
The Welcombe even has its own waterfalls at the base of the formal gardens which tumble down into a pond. From the elevated path which ascends the side of the stream and falls, we looked out across the white-tinged landscape of the golf course. We saw an elusive fox dart across the fairway and not long after that, four deer dashed across, pausing at various moments to look our way. It’s as if they knew we were watching!
Our spa day was however beckoning and the feet getting a tad chilly, so we made our way back inside, gathered up the swimming costumes and flip-flops and made our way to the spa which is housed in a separate building. Don’t worry though, it’s not far to walk between doors.
A warm welcome greeted us on arrival at the spa and after filling in the usual contact and medical related forms, we were ready for our treatments which we had booked in first. You can read all about our spa experience here.
It was an incredibly relaxing day with massages, facials and pedicures and nothing was too much trouble for the staff. I loved lazing by the pool afterwards, indulging in a spot of cream tea and when finally leaving the spa, I was so relaxed the first thing that happened on arrival back at our room was… yes you guessed it… I fell asleep! Good job Mum was on the ball and woke me in time for dinner!
The Trevelyan Restaurant was softly lit for dinner and after being shown to our seats, I was incredibly excited by the dish of butter on the table. Now you may well ask: is this girl for real? Excited….by butter…? But it wasn’t just any old butter dish – there were three varieties and not one of them was plain normal butter. Instead there was almond, basil pesto and sundried tomato, and the breads that arrived not long after were equally as interesting and delicious: plain white (should you not be adventurous), rye, onion and cranberry and rosemary. I can’t say as I’ve ever mixed the last 2 combinations in bread, so I was all over that and when seconds came round, I couldn’t resist more of the same. That was some superb bread!
The starter options ranged from soup or duck liver parfait to pigeon or scallops with crispy quails egg and black pudding crumb. I chose the pigeon which I’ve only ever had once before and it came served with a potato salad, a green pea shoot and rocket salad and garnished with mixed berries and vegetable crisps. It was a right concoction of flavours but all worked well together and I could have happily eaten it again as it was that tasty!
The main course options included rib-eye steak, (though this came with a hefty supplement) chicken, rack of lamb, monkfish and wild mushroom and green bean gnocchi. However tempted I was by the gnocchi, I decided to go for the monkfish which was wrapped in a slither of parma ham and served on a bed of creamed leeks in shellfish bisque. Surprisingly, it was not served with some form of potato like all other main course options, so I ordered a side of the dauphinoise potato that came with the chicken to accompany it. This was well worth doing as it certainly needed some form of additional vegetable.
For desserts we ordered the lemon posset and the millionaire’s shortbread with the intention of sharing. The lemon posset came with mini meringues (very cute), homemade shortbread and a drizzle of berry coulis. The posset itself was incredibly creamy and after consuming about a third each we decided it was getting on the sickly side, so could not finish it. It was completely delightful however! The shortbread was accompanied by raspberry sorbet and a large dollop of gooey salted caramel. It was not what I was expecting from millionaire’s shortbread and instead resembled a rich dark chocolate torte, which was frankly downright epic; but even as a hardcore chocolate fanatic I could not complete it as it was just…too…rich! But wow, two simply stunning desserts. I wish I could have tried the vanilla cheesecake too which was the other dessert on the menu, as no doubt it would have exceeded expectations as the others had!
The lounge was the perfect place to relax after our evening meal once again complete with a cup of tea, and the ideal way to end such a relaxing day and indeed a nice relaxing trip away!
Check out is at 11am on the day of departure and you are free to continue using the leisure facilities afterwards. However, if you are new to the area and have not yet sampled the delights of Stratford, I can certainly recommend a day spent in the historic home town of William Shakespeare. Pick up a leaflet from reception which details the Welcombe’s history and how it is linked to Shakespeare himself. You can leave your car at The Welcombe and there is a 1.5 mile walking trail down into the centre of Stratford, just ask reception to point you in the direction of the footpath. They will be more than obliged to help and offer suggestions of places to see and visit locally. Keep a look out for my future blog post on Stratford.
Here’s some more photos from The Welcombe’s beautiful Italian Gardens – I couldn’t stop taking some snaps.
I cannot recommend this hotel enough for a relaxing mini-break, especially in the depths of winter. The atmosphere is tranquil, warm and cosy, and the staff incredibly friendly. I got into conversations with many of them over my stay and nothing is considered too much trouble. I think I may well have to book in again this summer!
Contact for further information:
The Welcombe Spa, Hallmark Hotel The Welcombe, Warwick Road, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 0NR
Click here to see more on The Welcombe’s website
I confess I’d never done an official walking tour, having shunned them in favour…