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Hallmark Welcombe Hotel and Spa – Stratford upon Avon:
The stunning Welcombe Hotel is a former country mansion house near Stratford upon Avon, built in a grand Neo-Jacobean style for Manchester businessman Mark Philips who commissioned the building from designed by architect Henry Clutton. Completed in 1869, Philips died just four years later, leaving the estate to his brother Robert.
Designed in the style of a Calendar House, the original building had 7 entrances (for days of the week), 12 fireplaces (months of the year), 52 chimneys (weeks) and 365 windows. I didn’t try counting but I can confirm that there are a lot of windows! The concept of the Calendar House was an Elizabethan one – the first example is said to be Knole House in Kent. And, legend says that those who stay in a Calendar House will enjoy luck and prosperity. I wonder if one night counts?
The Cambridge historian, George Macaulay Trevelyan, was born at Welcombe House in 1876 and later described it:
It was one of those enormous country mansions with which the wealthy Victorian bourgeoisie loved to burden their newly purchased estates. Welcombe house was, indeed, only a few years older than I was, though it was long ere I grasped that disillusioning fact.
In fact, the house remained in private ownership for less than a hundred years. Sir George Otto Trevelyan who had married Robert’s daughter Caroline, died in 1928 and the house was then bought by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway who altered and extended the buildings and opened The Welcombe Hotel in 1931.
Menzies Hotels Group bought the hotel in the 1990s. I first visited The Welcombe Hotel in 1992 for an MBA ball. While there was already a golf course in place, there was no spa that I remember. In 2012 the Group went into administration and the hotel is now operated by Hallmark Hotels. Of course, I was curious to return and see how the hotel operates today.
It’s a fascinating place. With a few exceptions, it has the feeling of a grand country home. My room, one of the bridal suites on the second floor, had stunning views out over the landscaped gardens.
Even without the views, it was a magnificent place to spend a night with what must have been a 20 foot ornate stuccoed ceiling with gold leaf highlights, a beautiful chandelier and a massive four-poster bed.
The bathroom had a standalone shower and freestanding bath with his and her sinks.
The bay window boasted a dining table large enough for a substantial ‘morning after the wedding’ breakfast and there was a comfy sofa to sink into. Period paintings and some quirky Victoriana all added to the charm of ‘Suzanna’s Room’. A coffee machine and kettle together with biscuits, chocolate truffles and complimentary bottled water made me feel right at home. Slippers, robes and fluffy white towels together with a full range of Guild + Pepper Toiletries from Gilchrist and Soames were perfect when I got back from the Spa.
Situated in a building to one side of the main hotel, the Welcombe spa and health club comprises a well-appointed gym, swimming pool with jacuzzi, outdoor hydrotherapy pool and a suite of treatment rooms (crystal steam room, sauna and two relaxation room).
And, there’s a full set of therapy rooms where you can indulge in anything from a body massage through to a babor facial (my option). I have to confess I got a little addicted to the outdoor hydrotherapy pool which, sadly, is on a 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off rotation, I guess to stop hapless enthusiasts like me from turning into a wrinkled prune. The health club is well used by local members, but spacious enough not to have felt too busy when I was using it.
The Welcombe Hotel offers in-room dining, a bar and lounge snack menu and a restaurant. While the restaurant felt better suited to a wedding or similar event to me, the food served was really very good.
We both picked the Welcombe cured salmon to start, which came with a light dressing and a garnish of capers, shallots and micro herbs.
It was exactly the right amount for me and worked very nicely with a glass of Pecorino wine. There was a good range of options on the menu, including one vegan starter.
My main of coq au vin was beautifully presented with pureed potato and a red wine reduction. The ‘deconstructed’ dish had a rosette of bacon a whole mushroom and a garnish of baby chives, making for a lovely winter’s dish.
Herb crusted loin of cod with smoked tomato, chilli, olive and white bean ragout was pronounced delicious by my companion who enjoyed the delicate black olive powder and the rich tomato ragout.
My dessert of caramelised apple tart tatin with clotted cream ice cream was a classic, nicely presented and portioned perfectly.
There were no complaints either about the blackberry and star anise creme brulée with fingers of sable biscuits which was beautifully presented and came with a light crisp caramel topping.
Back to my room to curl up in bed, I was pleased to find that the curtains were drawn with an evening turndown service. I slept beautifully well and woke the next morning for breakfast at the Welcombe Hotel. A buffet selection – hot and cold, with a couple of à la carte options set me up nicely for a swim and hydrotherapy session in the spa before my facial.
The Welcombe Hotel would make a great place for a wedding. I loved the stunning gardens with water feature and sweeping lawns. Indoors, if the English weather happened to be inclement, there are large spaces that would work for photography or simply for mingling.
For a short break in winter, the Welcombe Hotel has massive open fires filling the hotel with the soft smell of burning wood, comfy sofas and a cosy well-stocked bar. There’s a championship 18 hole golf course to complement the spa facilities too.
So, whether you are visiting Stratford upon Avon to see some Shakespeare performed by the RSC, you are looking to explore the historic landmarks like Mary Arden’s Farm or you simply want a short break in the stunning countryside around Stratford, do consider treating yourself to a stay at The Welcombe.
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Disclosure: I was a guest of The Welcombe Hotel and Spa. All content is editorially given.