Kirsty Nelms headed off for a weekend at the impressive-looking Studley Castle in Warwickshire but how did the experience match up?
It can be hard to find a UK holiday experience which rivals entertainment-driven hotels abroad but LIVING thinks we have found that with Studley Castle in Warwickshire.
The folly castle is a 19th-century, Grade ll-listed building which has been sympathetically restored in a £50million project to transform it into the first Warner Leisure Hotel to open in 20 years.
LIVING was lucky enough to attend WarnerFest, the official opening event hosted by DJ and TV presenter Jo Whiley over the weekend of June 22, and we had a very relaxing stay.
We pulled up on the driveway and marvelled at the view, trying to spot which parts of the building were new and which bits had been part of the three-year £26million castle restoration. They’ve done a fantastic job in retaining archaic features like gargoyles and modernising other aspects of the building like a contemporary new hotel wing and beautiful spa located in the original stables block.
The property was originally designed by the famous London theatre architect Samuel Beazley and had previously been used as an agricultural college for women and a base for the Women’s Land Army during both World Wars.
Studley Castle offers a truly ‘faffless’ experience
Warner Leisure Hotels Managing Director, Simon Thompson, told LIVING: “We’ve tried to keep as many of the original features as possible, while giving it a modern twist. When we bought the property the stables bit was almost falling down, but we’ve managed to keep these buildings and ensure everything blends well and is sympathetic to the original look and feel of the place.
“We want to create a feeling of discovery and we actively encourage guests to explore. We also vary the entertainment and some guests tend to book based on who will be performing during their stay. We ensure things run as smoothly as possible and offer a truly ‘faffless’ experience.”
We checked into our clean, modern double room on the Friday evening and continued to be wowed by the view from our balcony, which looked onto rolling countryside with the soft sounds of sheep milling around. The room was nicely decorated, with a large flat screen TV where you could access activity information and entertainment, and a generously-sized bathroom with a shower.
Unfortunately, during our stay the heated towel rail in the bathroom was turned up full and we couldn’t turn it off. We had to keep activating the air conditioning to get the room cool enough to sleep. This temperature control issue was repeated in the rifle shooting room, where the radiator was on high and all the windows were open, and in the á la carte restaurant, which was so cold that even my husband was shivering!
A mixed dining experience
On the first night of our stay we ate in the main restaurant, where guests could enjoy dining to the accompaniment of live musical entertainment from a stage in the main hall. The dining experience here was fantastic and worked well because you selected your starter from a menu, then the main course and dessert were a buffet. The buffet was varied enough to cater for all palates and the food was very tasty – especially the ice cream, which was some of the nicest we’ve ever had.
We dined at the Arden á la carte restaurant the following evening. The two restaurants are divided by a corridor which reminded me of a Paris street in the evening and the relaxing area next to the á la carte featured a piano with a pianist, who was excellent. Our starters of smoked salmon and a variant of a Scotch egg were nice, but unfortunately the mains were a little disappointing.
My partner chose to have a rare steak that seemed a lot bloodier than you would typically expect, and it appeared to have been unusually cooked in butter, and was served with a butter sauce smothered over it, which was too much and gave it a less than appealing texture. I opted for ‘Shepherd’s pie’ – a deconstructed version – with pulled lamb under a layer of creamy potato in a dish and a very small serving of vegetables on the side. For dessert, we both ordered peach cobbler, which was essentially pineapple upside down cake with peach but tasted nice all the same. It’s worth mentioning that while at some Warner Leisure hotels you have to pay extra to use the á la carte restaurant, it is actually included in the cost of a stay here.
However, this one disappointing meal and the slight temperature issues were the only negatives about our stay at Studley Castle. On the Saturday morning I enjoyed a fantastic power breakfast facial, which included a divine face and neck massage; I was left feeling totally relaxed.
An extensive list of activities to explore at Studley Castle
My husband and I also enjoyed laser clay rifle shooting, which was a lot of fun and allowed you to get to know some of the other guests. Our instructor was friendly and explained things clearly. In fact, all of the staff were friendly and approachable, well trained and polite during the whole of our stay.
All activities are included in the cost of a stay at Studley Castle, which is amazing considering most resorts charge you separately for each activity. Options included bike rides, archery, laser clay, a cinema with three showings a day, table tennis, croquet, golf, gin tasting and more are due to be added.
As if that wasn’t enough, the evening entertainment consists of performances from the likes of Kim Wilde, Jason Manford, Jo Caulfield, Pixie Lott and Rebecca Ferguson. These acts, along with the range of activities and contemporary styling of this hotel signal a new era for the Warner Leisure brand, appealing to current loyal customers as well as a younger audience looking for a fun, relaxing break without the kids!
For more information click here https://www.warnerleisurehotels.co.uk/hotels/studley-castle-hotel.
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