“ Billesley / Alcester / Warwickshire / B49 6NF / Tel 0870 780 8139. „
My husband and I stayed at Billesley Manor for one night on my birthday. The location is fabulous with lambs in the field close by. Hotel is magnificent on the approach to it. Reception/booking in took us not time at all. All staff were friendly, professional and could not do enough for us. Our room overlooked the Topiary Garden which is superb to wake up to. The room was clean and luxurious. Our evening meal was superb and the staff were very attentive. We had drinks in the bar afterwards. The bed was huge and very comfy. The buffet breakfast was very tasty and plenty of it - full english, cereals, croissants etc so it catered for all nationalities. A wonderful, classy, old hotel.
I had beauty treatments in the spa. Their reception was fully staffed. Therapist was Hettie who made me feel at ease. The spa room was clean, low lighting and played relaxing music. I usually find it hard to relax but not this time. I did not use the pool but my husband did and loved it. I had a cappuccino while he swam. I would recommend Billesley Manor to anyone who wanted to get away, be pampered and relax.
We had booked a night at the Billesley Manor Hotel for a celebratory dinner. Our plan was to spend a relaxing afternoon at the spa before the meal in the hotel restaurant.
On arrival we asked at the reception where we could get a coffee and a bite to eat. The receptionist though polite, was unable to advise us and suggested room service. This was not what we had in mind and we decided to go elsewhere for refreshment.
We were given a key card that failed to work and we were obliged to trek back up to the main hotel building to get a replacement.
The room was something of a disappointment. We had upgraded to a premier room, expecting something above average and luxury. In fact it was very average in a modern annexe and as such I would have expected a reduction in price for this style of hotel.
* There was no socket close to a mirror in which to connect the hairdryer
* The robe and slippers which were included in the price had to be requested
* The robes when requested, were delivered damp
* When we requested dry robes only one was replaced and it took a further complaint to get the second robe replaced.
* The room itself was so poorly lit that we had to ask for another lamp as there was no central light. The window was deeply recessed and natural light was very limited on a dull November day. We wasted almost an hour awaiting when a very polite and friendly gentleman eventually delivered a standard lamp.
In the event neither of us fancied the walk in the rain to the Hotel Spa as we hadn't packed any outer clothing as we thought we would be spending the afternoon indoors. We resolved instead to look forward to our evening at the restaurant........
On arrival at the restaurant we were shown to a table in a regimented row of couples seated at tables so close together that, had they not been cleverly angled a clash of elbows would have been inevitable. This arrangement seemed very odd as the tables similarly lined up on the other side of the room were totally empty.
Nevertheless we took our seats and tried very hard not to listen to the whispered conversations of the other diners, The other couples looked as uncomfortable as we felt by being in such close proximity in an environment so quiet and stilted. There was some barely audible background music at some point early in the evening, but this had fizzled out before the main course and eventually restarted during desert.
My husband ordered a bottle of Shiraz from the waiter only to be informed that the listed wine was out of stock. Not unduly disappointed my husband asked what other Shiraz was available and was told that there was no Shiraz at all! We settled for a bottle of Merlot that was far less interesting than its price suggested.
The starters were acceptable though unremarkable but the main course was disappointing.
Steak, chips and béarnaise sauce were served with no accompanying vegetables and again was not of a standard expected at a four star hotel.
The deserts were in ridiculously small portions, being served in a glass, something of the size in which you might burn a tea light. My husband's desert was accompanied by a portion of ice cream that was full of ice crystals.
All in all, a meal sorely overpriced in an environment devoid of atmosphere.
Breakfast next morning was dire. There were serving dishes of fruit that were waiting to be replenished but after trying to attract the attention of staff I gave up and settled for muesli. This was little more than the dust that settles at the bottom of the pack and turned to something resembling ready break the minute milk was added. A lukewarm pot of tea and cold stale toast was delivered to the table by a polite waitress. At the hot buffet there were no beans left and my husband was served with an undercooked egg , a runny yolk is one thing but the white, should I think, be set.
On checking out shortly afterwards I was not surprised to find that we were not alone in our disappointment in the hotel, as there were two other guests who had complaints.
I wrote a letter of complaint and eventually had the cost of the evening meal refunded but our evening was at best ruined and our time wasted.
I found the hotel using lastminute.com, and paid £64.00 for the night, which I thought was very reasonable.
The hotel was easy to find, well it was for me I had Sat Nav.
I parked my car, and headed for reception, which seemed to be a fairly long walk from the car park.
Check in was not so smooth, I arrived at the hotel around 4.30pm, and said my name, there was no registration card, and I had to then proceed to explain to how I had booked it etc, which I think is completely unnessary, working as a hotel receptionist myself for a leading hotel, I couldn't believe the check in, there then seemed to be a bit of a struggle from the receptionist behind the desk when showing me to her room, I'm sure she just wanted to get back to her desk and play solitaire on her computer. I also felt that she was a bit offish with me when I informed her that my boyfriend would be joining me later on, and could she point him in the right direction when he got there.
The room itself was very nice, the bathroom had modern fixtures, and the room itself seemed fairly clean, the bed was very low which I myself was not a huge fan of. And also it was an open wardrobe which I did not like, I don't like looking at clothes and luggage when I'm away.
Once my boyfriend had arrived, we decided to order room service, the menu seemed ok, but also very basic. Once the order was placed, about 10 minutes later I was telephoned to say that part of the order was unavailable, which seemed an extremely long time to find this out, do the departments of the hotel not communicate?
The food arrived, and it was ok, not great, and fairly pricey really.
My boyfriend got a call, and had to rush off urgently, leaving me, I had to check out early the next day as I had a long drive back and had to get to work.
My wake up call which I'd asked for upon check in was a knock on the door, which being by myself scared me. I then went to check out, where the night porter was behind the desk, and paid the remaining balance on my bill, I felt that the night-porter gave me a filthy and cheap look as I was leaving early.
Then on leaving the hotel, I had forgotten the code for the gate, and then had to telephone the hotel to get this again, which the night porter then gave me, but seemed very offish with me that I had disturbed him yet again.
I left a customer comment form about the room service standard, and a couple of weeks later recieved a fairly standard letter from a manager at the hotel.
I don't think I'd stay here again when on business in the area, and would look for a hotel closer to Stratford centre.
For Valentines day my partner whisked me away for a dirty sorry romantic few days away. He was a pain in the backside if I am to be honest as he wouldnt tell me where we were going.
Despite him dropping several hints including references to Shakespeare, which went totally whoosh over my head, I didnt guess until the day before we were going. The Shakespeare reference was obvious to me when he explained that he came from Stratford and the hotel we were to frequent was near there.
Anyway, Im waffling and youre probably wondering if Im ever going to get to my point and tell you where we stayed and what it was like, so Ill get on with it. Hurrah, I hear you cry. OK we went to Billesley Manor in Alcester, near Stratford Upon Avon.
A bit about the chain
Billesley is part of the Paramount group of hotels and bears the mark of one of their signature hotels.
Paramount have 20 hotels across the UK and they are all 4 star rated. They were established in 1994 and are now owned by Dawnay Shores Hotels Plc.
List of Hotels in the chain
Paramount Basingstoke Country Hotel Hampshire
Paramount Imperial Hotel Torquay
Paramount Old Ship Hotel Brighton
Paramount Cheltenham Park Hotel
Paramount Daventry Hotel
Paramount Hickley Island Hotel Leicestershire
Paramount Oxford Hotel
Paramount Walton Hall & Hotel Warwickshire
Paramount Imperial Hotel Blackpool
Paramount majestic Hotel Harrogate
Paramount Palace Hotel Buxton
Paramount Redworth Hall Hotel County Durham
Paramount Carlton Hotel Edinburgh
Paramount Marine Hotel Troon
Paramount Stirling Highland Hotel Stirling
There are 4 that are their Signature Hotels which offer additional facilities and are of a higher quality than the others. These are
Shrigley Hall Hotel Cheshire
The Lygon Arms Broadway
Billesley Manor Near Stratford Upon Avon
Combe Grove Manor Bath
Visit the website at www.paramount-hotels.co.uk for further information.
This is a converted Elizabethan house and has 11 acres of grounds. It is certainly impressive when you turn into the long winding drive and then up to the hotel past outbuildings that are guest bedrooms, through double gates and up to the main house itself.
The hotel is 4 star rated and boasts
Indoor Swimming Pool
As with all hotels they offer different room types. We had a Premium Double Room but others that are on offer are
Signature Double, Single or Twin
Deluxe Double, Single or Twin
Premium Double or Twin
All rooms have the usual things but in the Premium rooms you get an upgraded bathroom, walk in wardrobes and dressing area, mineral water, bathrobes and slippers and a CD Player.
The room we had been allocated was set back from the main house in what looks to originally have been one of the outbuildings or maybe staff quarters. There were about 4 rooms and ours was the only one on the top floor where there were conferencing facilities directly opposite our room.
We walked in and up a few steps into the main room. The bathroom was to the left with the bed to the right and the dressing area was around the back of the bed. The bed was huge and very comfortable. The view we had from the room was of the other outbuildings, which again house other guest bedrooms.
The room we had was light and airy with a cream carpet and cream walls. Good use of lighting has been used to ensure that the bedroom doesnt feel overlit. The bathroom had natural tiles on the floor and walls with the shower being over the bath. It was clean and the bathtub was massive.
The main reception area is just inside the entrance to your right and to the left is a small lounge with a large roaring fire which makes you feel really welcome and does look rather grand. Through the doorway you turn left into the main part of the hotel to find the bar, another lounge and the 2 dining rooms. The feel of the hotel is very Elizabethan with dark wood being used, large open real fires and use of original features throughout. The furniture is all dark wood and there are little alcoves in corridors fitted with plush, padded seating to take a break and put your feet up. The gym and pool area are at the back of the hotel.
So what was it like?
The hotel was lovely, the staff were really friendly and helpful. The pool area was thoughtfully kitted out with nice & comfortable loungers, one of which was like a very large sofa.
The Sauna and Steam Room were located down the bottom end of the pool and both were very clean and working. We took full advantage of both. A constant supply of fresh water is available too in the pool area so youre never short of a drink.
You do have to book into the gym/pool reception before you go in and get given a wrist band with a locker key on it and towels. As the pool etc is located at the back of the main house then we had a bit of a walk to get there as our room was located in the outbuildings which are either side of the main drive before you get to the house. This was a bit of a pain as other guests who were in the main house only had to pull on bathrobes to cover their swim attire whilst getting there.
We ate out at a local pub the first night but my other half had booked us a romantic meal for the second night, Valentines Day. During the day we had taken the 10 minute drive to Stratford town centre and parked near a Holiday Inn at a cost of about £2 for 4 hours. It was a little out of the main drag however, it was only a short walk away.
The centre is quite a good shopping centre with Debenhams, Marks and Spencer, WH Smiths, BHS etc all having shops here. I introduced my beloved to Lush I knew there was one there as I could smell it before I saw it and we both had bath bombs for the evening.
You can take a bus tour around the city for around £7 and also take a boat trip on the Avon (didnt look at prices as it was way too cold for a boat trip). We walked along the main high street to where Shakespeare died. The house no longer stands but the foundations are still there opposite a church. The village is very picturesque and the Marks and Spencers shop is obviously housed in a listed building it has such a grand fascade to the front of the building!
Back at our hotel we used the pool facilities again, had a sauna and back to our room to soak in our lovely bath bombs from Lush. I had a Jasmine one which has glittery bits in it and boy did they get everywhere.
You need to dress for dinner as it is smart/ casual with no jeans, shorts or trainers allowed. You need to arrive early if you have booked a table and the Maitre d will come over with the menu and then come back for you to place your order for Starters and Mains along with wine selection. The menu on our stay was not extensive with there being 6 of each course but the wine list was very good with prices starting at £15 for a bottle of house white.
You are then shown to your table where it has been set up with the wine you have ordered and mineral water.
I had a Goats cheese and red onion tart to start. This was lovely with the pastry being crunchy, onion providing a slight sweetness to the sourness of the cheese. I then had the Chicken breast stuffed with cheese and ham the presentation of which made it a shame to cut into the food. The chicken was perfectly cooked being white throughout and juicy. The cheese and ham complimented perfectly with a slightly sour sauce being drizzled over the top. Buttered, steamed vegetables completed the excellent main course.
For dessert I had a vanilla sorbet with mini chocolate chip muffins and cream. This was lovely, with the sweetness of the sorbet being complimented with the chocolate chips which had melted into the still slightly warm muffins.
The service was excellent with the Maitre d and other service staff serving you quickly without you feeling as though you were on a conveyor belt.
Stratford Upon Avon town centre is just a short drive away with the RSC showing various plays & according to their website on the 28th & 29th April annual Shakespeare Birthday celebrations will be taking place. You can also visit Anne Hathaways cottage or Mary Ardens House, along with taking a peak at the Shakespeare Countryside Museum.
Warwick castle & St Nicholas Park are only short drives away too and if you fancy driving a bit further a field then Cadbury World is not that far away being situated in Bourneville in Birmingham.
About a 5 minute drive away is a very nice country pub called The Stag. We ate there on the first night expecting the menu to be traditional country pub food like steak and ale pie and stuff but what a treat we were in for.
The service was great, the food was excellent with local fresh produce being used. I had chicken in a red wine sauce with big fat chips and it was lovely. Certainly of a quality to be served in some of the nicest restaurants I have visited and it wasn't hugely expensive either being about £26 for dinner, dessert and drinks for 2.
So what did I think to it all then?
Overall, it made a great romantic get away. The hotel has the potential to be absolutely fantastic however, there were a few things which really disappointed me such as
Bathrobes if you are any bigger than a large or size 18 then you will never fit into one of them and they are not fluffy but a chewing gum grey and stiff towelling.
Cleanliness when we first got into our room (which we had to wait a while for as it was still being cleaned way past our check in time!) it smelled strongly of cigarettes (we had booked a non smoking room). I found the culprit under the bed a recently discarded cigarette end so the staff must have been smoking on the job. Also we came back from Stratford at 2pm and our room hadnt been serviced for the day.
Carpet fitters when we arrived they were having new carpet laid in that particular section of the hotel. It was OK but the fitters didnt warn us theyd put glue on the stairs and I got stuck to the stairs. They woke us up at 7am each morning we were there.
The shower was a bit hit and miss with regards to hot and cold water. I didnt have the heart to brave it and had baths but my partner braved the scalding and freezing temperatures.
One of the spotlights in the bathroom kept flickering when we turned on the shower maybe it was a disco shower?!
It may sound like Im nit-picking and maybe I am but just these couple of things really did disappoint me, especially the discarded cigarette end as I have recently given up smoking. When you take into account that the rooms there are not cheap and for the 2 days it cost something in the region of £450 then I would have expected more. Also the hotel would really benefit from installing a Jacuzzi as I felt that this was one thing that was missing in the pool area and would have complimented the other facilities perfectly.
I enjoyed my stay and the sentiment behind it but would I go back? Not sure theyd have to really tempt me I think. Especially as since then Ive stayed at the Beech Hill in Windermere and found that to be fabulous for less money.
The website does not publish their hotel room rates but they do have some Easter weekend special offers on where you can book a room for as little at £59 per room per night which includes breakfast. Or you can try the Sunday option which allows you to stay on a Sunday evening with a late check out the following day starting at £69.
To contact the hotel www.paramount-hotels.co.uk/hotels/central-england/billesleymanor or ring the reservation line on 0870 168 8833.
Billesley Manor Hotel can be found minutes from the M40, just outside Stratford-upon- Avon where you can engross yourself in the literature and life of Shakespeare and plunge yourself into the land of historic England. A beautiful country retreat with modern bedrooms and a fine dining restaurant, Billesley Manor Hotel captivates the very essence of Central England.