Travel review: Brush up your Shakespeare at Billesley Manor Hotel
Knock knock, who’s there? William Shakespeare...
This is what I typed in Google, for an in-joke or perhaps a good intro. And what did this Google search come up with? William Shakespeare only came up with the whole knock, knock joke thing. Well, unless anyone knows a good one from before 1606, Act 2, Scene 3, Macbeth.
So I’m sure you’ve guessed it, my wife Emma and I enjoyed a weekend away in the medieval market town of Stratford-Upon-Avon.
As you walk through the town, you can’t help thinking what life would have been like in Tudor times, with the timber-framed style houses and shops just about everywhere you look.
There are high street shops, M&S, New Look etc but lots of independent shops too. As we walked along Henley Street, there were plenty of gift shops, a traditional sweet shop, Beatrix Potter shop and The Nutcracker Christmas shop, open all year round.
The standout building on this street is Shakespeare’s birthplace, where he also grew up. You can visit here, along with many of the other buildings connected to the great man around the town. Discover Shakespeare’s influences through the centuries, from his father’s workshop for his glove-making business, to examples of his work being brought to life with costume actors.
Now obviously known best as the birthplace of one of the greatest writers and dramatists to have lived, it’s not just the Shakespeare attractions that makes this town. Well OK, he is featured in a big way here, from a mural within the sign of the bank, to even naming a beer after him, his face and work are everywhere, but the history here is on every street corner. It’s no wonder why tourists from all over the world visit here, with buildings dating back to the 15th century.
After a few hours exploring the shops, we went for an afternoon drink in the oldest pub in Stratford-upon-Avon, The Garrick Inn. Serving beer since 1594. And of course, had to have a pint of The Garrick’s Shakesbeer. It’s history, right?
Just imagine how many pints have been pulled, how many conversations had, or how many people have been bard (sorry, I couldn’t resist) in over 400 years.
We walked along the river Avon and around the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. If the weather is kind, boat trips are available along the river.
So, on to our stay for the night, we headed to Billesley Manor Hotel & Spa. Only a 10 minute drive from the hustle and bustle of the town centre. this magnificent 16th Century Elizabethan Manor House is steeped with history and it continues our theme of the day where everything has a story to tell. An impressive drive up to the house, all set in 11 acres of manicured Warwickshire gardens.
We were told that this very building was frequented by Shakespeare himself and is where he wrote his 20th play, As You Like It. Historians also believe that he even married Anne Hathaway in the All Saints Church within the grounds of the hotel.
Soon in our room and the history doesn’t stop. The room is titled The Shakespeare Room but also was the former owner Sir Robert Lee’s bedroom early 17th century. This could be the reason the whole room is covered in oak, walnut and pear wooden panelling, very rare and expensive back then, as he is known to have been very wealthy. The room today still boasts the original huge fireplace, and this again has a story attached as there is a small slit in the oak-panel, concealing a hidden space used to store valuables during the English Civil War.
The four-poster bed looks very in keeping and the large room is filled with enough seating to host a party with sofa, chairs, chaise longue and window seating. Period stone window frames, framing the beautiful views of the gardens with a large fountain and helipad.
It was time to head down to dinner. Our room was situated just off the landing with views down to one of the restaurants, here there was a lovely rest area, again all sorts of period seating with historical paintings throughout. The restaurant offers a range of dining experiences including private dining and afternoon teas.
They source local produce where they can and we had a lovely evening of food and drink. I went for the scallops bacon & cauliflower puree to start, sirloin steak with triple cooked chips and then lime cheesecake, whereas Emma went for spiced duck terrine served with hoisin, lamb rib with the creamy potato and creme brulée to finish, all paired with well-matched wines.
The next day we explored the hotel before breakfast and staff talked us through their future big plans for the hotel and the work that has been done so far is just the first stages of their £4.5m remodelling of the hotel. Currently, Billesley Manor features 71 elegantly furnished bedrooms, located in either the original manor house or the neighbouring Cedar Barns. All rooms feature flat screen televisions, free high-speed Wi-Fi, 24 hours room service, hair dryers, and trouser presses. Along with the newly refurbished bedrooms are the wedding and function rooms. Licensed for civil ceremonies, you can host both your ceremony and reception here.
To finish our relaxing stay we had booked in for a treatment in the hotel’s Health club & Spa. Facilities include a modern gym, yoga hut, sauna, steam room, indoor swimming pool, and outside tennis courts, along with an extensive range of spa treatments. A back and shoulder massage for me, and a body scrub for Emma, left us feeling very relaxed.
So a lovely weekend break, we’ve had a lot of history to explore, some good food and wine, and all wrapped up with the perfect unwind, preparing us for a week back in the office.
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