Health & History At Billesley Manor Hotel & Spa

Reviewed by The Wellness Traveller

Warwickshire, UK

The Victoria Garden

Where art thou? Bellesley Manor Hotel & Spa, where these words permeate from the wooden panels, the meandering hallways and the indulgent health spa. This was once Shakespeare’s hideaway retreat back in 1599 when he put quill to scroll to compose his 20th play, As You Like It. Here he found solace and tranquillity to power his imagination, nestling in its rural setting in the heart of Warwickshire

Billesley Manor was originally located next to the village of the same name but, alas, in the middle of the fourteenth century the Black Death annihilated the whole village. Today, the area has a much healthier outlook. The addition of a health spa has turned Billesely Manor into a wellness retreat which has partnered with the skincare brand ESPA. Promoting an holistic philosophy and approach to wellness there is a range of treatments and therapies offered to restore and de-stress, complementing its tranquil surroundings of 11 acres of lawns and gardens. From massages to tailored facials by knowledgeable and proficient therapists, options from its menu include, a Salt & Oil Scrub, an Inner Calm Massage or choose an indulgent day package such as the Afternoon Tea Day Spa. There is also a small, well-equipped gym, an indoor pool to swim away the calories as well as a sauna and steam room. Outside is a tennis court and hidden areas for private meditation and yoga sessions. 

Out of the spa, history seems to ooze from the walls and etched throughout the architecture of the Manor. Chinese rugs and French furniture in the entrance reflect its past international links. Open stone fireplaces dotted around are still in use where wood kindles and ebbs away adding a warm glow to the public rooms filled with stories of old. And unlocking tales, steel locks with dolphin decoration are said to have been made by German or Flemish armourers working at the Tower of London. 

The Great Hall which now poses as a bar and lounge features original 16th century oak panelling ornamented with coats of arms and a carved chimney place with elegant pilasters. Carpeted, cosy and comfortable. There are contemporary twists to this character place such as the As You Like It lounge, a place to read, or pretend to, as you smile up at the ceiling where books and pages have been hung as a tribute to William’s comedy work.

On the first floor is the Shakespeare room, where William Shakespeare is believed to have stayed as a frequent visitor to make use of the extensive library resources.  This huge suite is tucked away in the old part of the manor off the Minstrels’ Gallery. It has an imposing four-poster bed taking centre stage and a handsome chimney piece. Look carefully and you may spot a hiding-place behind the over mantel Ask for Room 4 for a peek. 

Offering 71 guest rooms, accommodation styles are varied from rooms and suites in the 16th century Manor which are linked by creaky stairs and a maze of corridors while the Coach Barn is separate and adjacent to the house. All the rooms have had a contemporary makeover with rain showers over bath tubs, attractively styled and very restful with quality amenities.

The Stuart Restaurant doesn’t disappoint in its creative fine dining menu. One of the selected choices for the first course was the Shakespeare Gin Cured Mackerel, small but perfectly formed, embellished with horseradish yoghurt apple chilli and chicory. As a main, was Poached Halibut laced with leeks, mussels and beurre blanc with garlic and rosemary chips. And for desert there was a White Chocolate Mousse with pistachio and raspberries. Each beautifully presented.

Tranquillity and peace thrive in a setting featured by a mesmerising central fountain reflected in a pool of water encircled by lawns. A Victorian topiary adds character where the hedges incorporate doors and windows to the walled garden while expansive private grounds enjoy the views of the manor house framed by ancient trees, seating areas and colourful floral displays. But a stroll doesn’t stop here.  On the edge of the estate grounds, hidden amongst the trees, stands the 11th century Church of All Saints where it is rumoured Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway. Packed full of intrigue, the Church has a gallery that would have originally hosted a rustic orchestra similar to those mentioned by Thomas Hardy in his Wessex novels. Later this served as pews for the servants from the Manor with the one boxed off pew reserved for the butler. Today, it can be used for blessings by special licence!

Billesley Manor Hotel & Spa is conveniently located for exploring neighbouring Stratford upon Avon, renowned for its theatre, Alcester with its wobbly buildings which line the medieval street and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage & Garden.  But it is hard to stray away from the warm welcome of the friendly staff at Billesley Manor, set in its own pocket of countryside with sheep the only intruders on its landscape. 

Where art thou? Famous words paved to a place indelibly linked to a time in history.  Billesley Manor Hotel & Spa is cloaked in contemporary comforts embraced in a cocoon of calm and relaxation. It preserves its rich history and encapsulates the true character of hospitality.  

The hotel is a member of Bespoke Hotels. Formed in 2000, Bespoke Hotels represents over 120 properties worldwide and the UK’s largest independent hotel group, ranging from specialist golf, spa and city centre hotels and resorts.

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