There’s something mysterious, perhaps even a little spooky about Ettington Park Hotel, near Stratford-upon-Avon. From the outside it’s a cross between a French chateau with high pitched slate roofs and a Gothic mansion with arched windows and black ravens swooping and squawking around the turrets. It doesn’t surprise me at all to learn that the hotel was the setting for the 1960s ghost film, ‘The Haunting’.
But walk through the tiled conservatory area and into the entrance and you’re in a very warm and welcoming lobby, where the friendly concierge invites us to take a seat at the desk to be checked in. He helps us with our small weekend bags and shows us up the stairs with decorative glazed lantern above, along a few corridors and shows us round our bedroom, chatting with us all the while. We’re here through Secret Escapes who have late booking offers on luxury hotels like Ettington Park, that are ideal for couples like us wanting somewhere special to celebrate our wedding anniversary.
We find a large, square bedroom (mind the step as you walk down) with a triangular bathroom carved out of one corner. The comfortable bed has an imposing mahogany headboard with twisted columns, with matching antique style furniture and a spacious mirrored fitted wardrobe. Inside there’s enough hanging space for a few week’s worth of clothes (if you travel light like me) as well as all the usual conveniences of a 4 star hotel; a safe, iron, ironing board, hairdryer and kettle to make coffee and tea in the alcove.
I hope you enjoy the video below of Ettington Park Hotel
The decor is reminiscent of a smart gentleman’s club – traditional but with luxurious touches in the brown, rust and gold colour scheme, leaf patterned curtains and striped silky throw. We really appreciate the thoughtful details that all make for a comfortable stay; the bedside lights with useful angled reading lights, the easy chairs with a magazines on the table to leaf through and the flat screen TV, well positioned to watch while tucked up in bed. There’s a pretty original Victorian fireplace with pine cones, and a decorative plate on the mantelpiece.
Just as I’m setting up my tripod to capture the room on video, the housekeeper bursts in, not realising that we’ve arrived, to bring us a bottle of local apple juice and some choc chip cookies as a welcome gift. As she departs we laugh about it and wonder whether she thought I was setting up to film some naughtiness – we are celebrating our wedding anniversary after all. The bathroom is classic white marble with plenty of space – a large bath with shower above and a huge Edwardian style sink with a mirror covering the wall. There are even tiny blue floor level lights in the bathroom in case you need to find your way in the night.
The only fault we can find is that the room is on the warm side and only one of the sash windows will open. Unfortunately my dearly beloved sleeps best in a stiff breeze, and we find the room a little stuffy, but in the morning we notice a temperature controls that we perhaps should have played with.
Having settled into our bedroom, we go downstairs to leaf through the weekend papers the Great Drawing room, with green velvet sofas and leather wing chairs. The large room has an ornate ceiling with gilt carvings and enormous gilded chandeliers, a couple of pretty, romantic paintings on the walls and a grand piano in the corner. On the tables are some tall lilies tied with ribbon, perhaps set out for the wedding reception that’s taking place in the hotel this weekend. If this is the place for coffee and conversation, the cosy bar next door is the place for clinking a glass of warming whisky with leather chesterfields, a brown marble fireplace and a grandfather clock.
We wander outside onto the terrace with pretty pots of petunias and a view over the parkland surrounding the hotel. Nearby there’s an old church tower, with the ruins of the church and a few old gravestones under the yew trees. It turns out to be the old parish church of Ettington that was partly demolished at the end of the 18th century when the estate was enclosed and the village moved to it’s present site a few miles away. Before it was made into a luxury hotel in the 1980s, the Ettington Park estate had been in the Shirley family for centuries and was even mentioned in the Domesday book. Shakespeare could well have walked through these grounds, as he was a friend of the family who lived here in the 16th century and purchased his home, The Great House in New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon from them.
We make our way back through the formal garden at the side of the hotel, where medieval statues of kings and queens look down on the formal gravelled gardens. The lavender flowers are dry and aromatic, waiting to made into scented lavender bags and the box hedges contain fuchsias and a few pink roses still in bloom. On the 2nd floor we catch a glimpse of a wedding cake at the window and the waft of laughter from wedding guests, while a few gather in the summerhouse with wine glasses to make a toast.
From here we can admire the creamy stone exterior, designed in the Pugin style with decorative carved friezes and patterned stonework. The statues in the niches give the place an ecclesiastical look and there’s a family chapel with stained glass windows. As we go back inside we peek into the library, full of guests enjoying afternoon tea and the dining room laid out ready for dinner with white cloths and green leather chairs in a marquetry panelled room with heraldic shield motifs. That’s where we come for breakfast the next day with the ideal combination of self-service breakfast buffet and service for the cooked breakfast of your choice, at a table near the window where we can see the garden. We can’t leave without having a quick swim in the small indoor pool that we spotted from our bedroom, and nearly get washed away in the foam and powerful jets of the jacuzzi.
I take a little time to read the history of the hotel that the concierge has kindly brought me and discover that the spooky impression of the building isn’t entirely imaginary and that the house has something of a reputation for ghosts. There’s the ghost of Mary the servant girl who frequents the staircase, the governess dressed in grey who walks the corridors and the flying books in the library, as well as a mysterious toad that was discovered alive in a cavity that had been walled up for a century. Apparently the hotel’s a regular stop for the ghost tours. I’d love to have a ghost story or two to tell, but I’m afraid I can’t report anything but a very pleasant and relaxed weekend in a lovely setting with excellent service. Ah well, perhaps we should come back at Halloween!
Many thanks to Secret Escapes who hosted my stay at Ettington Park Hotel. Secret Escapes is a members-only website that’s free to join and offers last minute deals at four and five-star luxury and boutique hotels with very special prices. Secret Escapes works with a hand-picked selection of hotels offering luxury breaks, ranging from UK country house retreats to city breaks and beach resorts.
Ettington Park Hotel, Alderminster, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37 8BU
We stayed in a Classic Room in the main house which would typically cost £190-230 bed and breakfast for a Saturday night stay – but do check out Secret Escapes for last minute deals on Ettington Park and other luxury hotels.
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This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com