Studley Castle is not one built in the 11th century, exuding Norman history with arrow heads embedded in the age-old stone. Built in the 19th century, this castle is actually a 'folly'.
But this adults-only hotel set in the beautiful Warwickshire countryside is in no way sheer folly to visit, as I can testify to having one of the most relaxing and enjoyable weekend breaks ever.
Warner Leisure, which owns 13 other hotels throughout the country, have spent £50 million and three years on transforming this 1834 building in Studley, near Stratford-upon-Avon, into an amazing flagship venue fusing historic and contemporary facilities in which quality and attention to detail is evident from the onset.
A magnificent tree-fringed driveway leads to the majestic facade of the Grade II*-listed building, where a smiling porter took our bags to our room while we found a space in the capacious free car park.
Crunching our way across the gravel we were immediately checked in and directed to our room, situated in the new hotel which has been sympathetically joined to and blended in with the castle.
Most of the hotel's bedrooms are located within this new wing, but there are rooms available in the castle itself, all of them bespoke and differing from one another, furnishings and textile-wise (unlike many contemporary hotels) with some ingeniously taking advantage of the octagonal turrets with roll-top baths or dressing rooms.
Our room was modern and luxurious, with extra touches of detail that made all the difference. These included plug sockets with USB ports, a sensor-activated bathroom soft night light, and even a heated mirror, a shaving-sized square of which refusing to steam up after a shower.
Usual large flatscreen TV with tea/coffee making facilities are included and there is the option of a balcony/patio. If I had one minor criticism about the room it was that the wardrobe opened outwards and, with the bathroom wall behind you, there was little room to open the doors.
Dining is an incredible experience at Studley Castle. The Evesham Restaurant is a theatrical venue in which every table has an excellent view of a full-width stage on which acoustic live music is performed while you eat. Post meal the stage is taken over by visiting acts and bands, more of which later.
In the Evesham, waiters take your starter order and bring this along with bread and drinks to your table. Diners are then invited up to enjoy a wide variety of salads, mains and puddings from The Market Kitchen. Many dishes are self serve but also chefs are on hand to dish up a selection of carvery meats and other dishes. An ice cream carousel has to be seen to be believed!
Alternatively diners can visit the Arden Cafe, which is open through the day for sandwiches, pastries and coffee before reinventing itself in the evening for an a la carte experience bar none.
A full no-expense-spared breakfast with every morning fare imaginable is taken in the Evesham, the only change being the panoramic views of the rural surroundings projected onto a full-length screen at the back of the stage. A welcome and gentle introduction to the day after, perhaps, last night's cocktail and fun-fuelled evening!
Entertainment features heavily at Studley Castle with big bands,acts, vocalists and comedians performing on the large Evesham stage in the evenings. On our weekend BBC presenter Jo Whiley introduced up-and-coming acts before playing a DJ set herself at the end of the evening.
Other top-name acts from July to August include singers Matt Cardle, Kim Wilde, Mica Paris, Shayne Ward, Gabrielle and Alexandra Burke, with comedian Jo Caulfield set to bring a few laughs.
Visitors to the castle can also avail themselves of the free gym and swimming/sauna facilities or, for an extra cost, book a massage or beauty treatment at The Stables Spa. Also included in the price is a chance to try your hand at archery, rifle shooting or the fun laser clay pigeon shooting, a modified gun and metal strip-embedded clays bringing a modern and fun twist to the sport.
Studley Castle has also teamed up with various local partners, with trips to a local beer brewery and a gin distillery to name but two on the agenda.
And being in Shakespeare country, there are so many historical and fun things to do. Visit https://city-sightseeing.com/en/100/stratford-upon-avon where you can enjoy a bus tour or visit the Bard’s family homes.
There is also a free cinema with luxuriant bucket seats and popcorn aplenty for the various showings throughout the day of both recently released films and cinematic classics, or why not take advantage of the castle’s bicycles to take in the fresh air and beautiful rural surroundings.
It is the latter which I think is the crowning glory of Studley Castle - the setting. Drink in hand, it's almost dreamlike to take a breather from the amazing Evesham entertainment, walk through the Arden Cafe and out onto the back veranda where a peaceful idyll and amazing vista awaits, the odd baa from the multitude of sheep in the neighbouring emerald fields adding to the tranquility.
Two night breaks start from £179 per person and three-night breaks from £259 per person. For more information and to book a break at Studley Castle, visit: https://www.warnerleisurehotels.co.uk/hotels/studley-castle-hotel
The brainchild of Francis Lyttleton Holyoake, High Sheriff of Warwickshire, Studley Castle, was built in 1834. He had a £120,000 budget (an eye-watering £14.5m today) and enlisted Samuel Beazley, a renowned architect who specialised in theatres, to lavish the place with Gothic Revival architecture and features.
For the next 70 years, Studley Castle served as a happy family home.
At the beginning of the 20th century it became an agricultural women’s college and then a training camp for the Women’s Land Army during the two World Wars.
In 2006, the building was converted to a country hotel. When it closed in 2016, Warner bought it and began an ambitious renovation and development programme to restore it to its former splendour.
Studley Castle offers 209 rooms, four different room types, two restaurants, a cinema, bars and lounges, a spa, a range of outdoor pursuits to enjoy (laser clay, cycling, archery), and one of the largest live performance venues on the UK hotel scene.