For the bank holiday weekend, Dan and I decided to take a spur of the moment trip to beautiful Warwickshire – to the home of one of the greatest writers of all time; William Shakespeare.
However, the trip ended up being very less Shakespearean than imagined.
We stayed at the Walton Hotel. Seven miles out from Stratford, set in glorious countryside and 65 acres of its own green land with a very long driveway leading up to it. It, however, was not what we were expecting.
We thought it was a big grand – old country mansion – hotel. Not realising when we booked it that there were two parts to this place.
There was the hotel and then there was the hall. We stayed in the hotel – not the hall.
The hall was the big grand -old country mansion – part; we were in the even bigger council flat estate looking part… Let’s put it this way, if we’d have known, we’d have booked to stay in the hall. The standard of the hotel side was all very much cheap and not really that cheerful.
We drove down the beautiful tree lined driveway with fields and glorious scenery all around us; but ended up wondering if we’d taken a wrong turning somewhere as we approached the block of flats. We had not, and this was to be our home for the next couple of nights.
I’m not going to bang on about that as it didn’t spoil the rest of our trip and there was nothing we could do about it anyway – at least we weren’t sleeping in a barn.
As Dan had still had to work during the day, we didn’t arrive at the hotel until about 8:20pm, and with a table booked in the restaurant for 8:30pm; we had little time to get ourselves checked in and ready. By the time we sat down for our three course meal (for which, our hopes were way too high) we were so tired and disappointed that frankly, we didn’t feel inspired to do the whole photo thing – so I have nothing to offer here. Sorry.
But I do have a photo later on of the afternoon tea we had…which will show you the kind of quality of the food that was being to presented to us. Stay tuned for that one!
The three course meal consisted of:
- Starters – Dan had the Leek and potato soup with added haddock…it made no sense to us either, he didn’t like it. And I had the chicken liver pate with marmalade. Meh.
- Mains – Dan had beer battered cod and chips, which by all accounts he enjoyed. I had sea bass with roasted veg, which when it came out I was not impressed – but (my god!) it was a great dish! I’ve put a downer on their food a lot already but this one dish was absolutely superb – I take my hat off to the chef.
- Desserts – Dan had the lemon tart which I’m sure he liked – you can’t really go wrong with a lemon tart. And I had the pineapple soufflé with coconut sorbet. The coconut sorbet was definitely just ice cream with desiccated coconut added to it and the soufflé simply tasted like a fluffy omelette. Not quite what I was hoping for, especially as I am definitely more of a sweet toothed gal than savoury.
With our food done, after what felt like five hours sat in the restaurant, we went to bed hopeful for our first day of exploring.
Waking early we got ready for the day and made our way back to the restaurant for a buffet breakfast – and were greeted with this view:
Even after eating really late the night before, we managed to stuff our tums with eggs, bacon, sausages, beans and pastries setting us up for the morning. I say morning as (as previously mentioned) we had afternoon tea to look forward to! So we nicely rounded our bellies – enough to see us through with our explorations.
We began with a wander around the glorious grounds of Walton Hotel, taking in what we could of the 65 acres. As crappy as the council flat bits look – the rest of the place is stunning. Two weddings happened whilst we were there – a great choice of the Hall for photos.
Then we took a trip into Stratford Upon Avon itself to soak up some Shakespearean culture!
We were hoping to catch the RSC in action whilst in the vicinity, but with only Henry IV Part 1 or 2 to choose from, we figured you can’t see one without the other. Maybe next time.
We parked up in the town centre and set about following the signs to the various places that meant something to Shakespeare. I may have also spotted an all-year-round Christmas shop along the way, that called me into it…
This shop was literally right in front of Shakespeare’s birth place, meaning all we had to do once we were out of the shop, was walk forward.
To go inside his house you have to enter through the museum. At over £15 each for a look, we decided we weren’t actually that bothered about seeing inside and headed to the gift shop instead.
Turns out, through the back of the gift shop you get a sneak peek at Shakespeare’s garden and free entertainment to boot! So we did get to see some Shakespearean action after all.
Next we thought we’d see what we could find on our way to Shakespeare’s place of rest.
After our jaunt down the river, which as relaxing as it was, did get a bit boring after about 20 minutes. We decided to go for a tour without a guide but would recommend an audio tour – we had no idea what we were looking at really.
Anyway, after our jaunt down the river, we continued our way to Shakespeare’s place of rest.
We made it! We had made our way to the chapel where Shakespeare was laid to rest…but weren’t allowed in as there was a wedding on. Hmpf. Still, we had a walk around the outside before we headed back for our afternoon tea.
So. Back at the hotel it was time for afternoon tea..!
Still, it filled a hole. The rest of the day we spent lazing around the hotel, swimming and napping. We had planned to go back into Stratford for a Thai dinner that night, but weren’t up to it in the end so just grabbed a pizza at the hotel bar; which was actually pretty good.
The next day saw us take a trip to the quaint little Warwick Castle…
We obviously had no idea of Warwick Castle’s size or popularity. We thought we’d be there about 1-2 hours and would spend the rest of the day wandering around Warwick itself before heading back home. We should have realised when we had to queue to even get into the car park, that this was no normal castle ruins.
After a 20 minute walk to the front gate (seriously – there are signs up to say that’s how long the walk is) and being ferried along with the rest of the crowd, we then had to queue for an hour!
Yes we had thought about just going back to the car and leaving again as obviously there must have been some kind of event happening that had made it such a popular choice for families that day, but to leave you have to have a token that you get from the front gate anyway. So if we were queuing for a token, we may as well queue to get in to the bloody castle.
This ain’t no ruin.
It’s a theme park.
There was jousting, bird of prey shows, oh and a Horrible Histories event! No wonder there were crowds.
It’s a great day out for families with younger kids, I’ll say that. But we don’t have kids – so being surrounded by hundreds of the blighters all screaming for attention – when we naively thought we’d be practically the only ones there – was quite testing.
And that was our trip to Warwickshire.
There is some absolutely beautiful countryside around the area and we would love to explore more of it, rather than seeing the local attractions again.
Give me some walking boots and fields to trundle through and I’m a happy lady.
Roll on our annual Lake District getaway! Can’t wait.