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The Manor House in Castle Combe is a quintessentially English, luxury castle hotel next to what is undoubtedly Wiltshire’s, and the Cotswold’s, loveliest village. The Manor dates all the way back to the 14th century but the present building and the general ambience lie firmly in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
The hotel has extremely high levels of service and comfort, and an elegant sophisticated ambience throughout. It also has superb facilities including a Michelin starred restaurant; The Bybrook, a full 18 hole championship golf course, tennis courts, a croquet lawn and some gorgeously well manicured Classic, Gothic & Italianate gardens
There are 48 indulgent bedrooms & suites, to sleep up to three, in both the main manor house and in the Mews Cottages which lie along the lane between the main building and the village.
Some rooms are relatively modern but most display lots of old Victorian character; think wooden beams, lead framed windows and some wonderful old antiques and classic art pieces.
They have some very plush bathrooms here, with some roll top, claw foot baths, ambient lighting and a pleasing amount of space. TVs. DVD players (They have a DVD library at the hotel) & iPod docks are also present but subtly so, and don’t interfere too much with the Victorian, aristocratic, atmosphere.
FACILITIES & THINGS TO DO:
Around the hotel there are cosy lounge areas, with comfortable seating and open fires, where you can enjoy some casual dining and some rather indulgent, traditional afternoon teas.
There is old fashioned sophistication to be found at the Full Glass Bar too, with an excellent choice of cocktails, wines and gins, and of course at the Michelin Starred restaurant, the Bybrook, lead by chef Robert Potter, which offers a range of seasonal dishes crafted from local ingredients (some of which are actually grown in their own organic kitchen garden), and all expertly paired with fine wines by the resident sommelier.
They offer taster menus as well as a la carte, and a famous Sunday lunch, three course, menu. The dining room displays an old fashioned sense of elegance and civility but not with an overtly stuffy atmosphere, and the service here, just as the food, is consistently impeccable.
The Italianate gardens at the Manor House are a particular highlight and very much compliment the Victorian atmosphere. They have acres of lawns, including a croquet lawn, with flower beds, a river, the Bybrook; from where the restaurant gets its name, and dotted around there are various seating places and classical statues.
The estate grounds are vast, 365 acres in fact, with much parkland and wild woodland with over 100 different species of plants; wild flowers, trees and grasses.
Golf lovers will appreciate the putting green at Manor House but of course much more so, the Peter Alliss designed, 18 hole championship golf course. There is a gym at the clubhouse too and for any strains a day’s training or golfing might produce a range of massage services are available at ‘The Potting Shed’ in the hotel gardens as well as various health and beauty treatments. The Potting Shed is open in summer only, in winter the same treatments can be enjoyed in your room.
The location of Manor House is undoubtedly an extra attraction; the 15th century era village of Castle Combe is considered the Cotswold’s, and indeed one of England’s, most lovely. A small walk down the lane and you are in the village centre. It is very small it must be said but this adds to the quaintness of the place.
Such quaintness though means it sees a good number of day trippers, especially at weekends, which can distract somewhat from the Olde English atmosphere. But, if you’re staying at Manor House, you have the benefit of being able to experience it in the early morning or evening when you will generally find it beautifully sleepy and quaint.
Wiltshire, and the Cotswolds, are famed for their lovely rural landscapes and pretty villages and a meandering drive around the country roads is a lovely way to spend a day. Manor House is also less than a half an hour from the Roman city of Bath, which, for those who haven’t visited, is one of England’s most famously beautiful cities.
The larger city of Bristol too, which has its own airport, is around a half an hour away, which, though not as beautiful as Bath, still has some lovely old quarters and a lovely setting by the River Severn.
Oxford can be reached in just over an hour while the journey to London should take two to two and a half via the M4 motorway (passing Stonehenge along the way), depending of course on traffic. Manor House is more convenient to Heathrow International Airport though, both being to the west of London, and can be reached in about an hour and a half.
There is a concierge service at the hotel and airport transfers can be arranged, as well as the full whole host of other general concierge services.
The original manor house built in the 14th century on the site of an abandoned Norman Castle and passed through the hands of much nobility throughout the following centuries, including the 17th century politician Sir Robert Long, 1st Baronet of Westminster, Sir John Oldcastle, the man Shakespeare based the character Sir John Falstaff on in Henry IV, and for much of the 19th century, the English geologist and political economist George Poulett Scrope.
Along the way the manor house was renovated and updated to suit the times, with much of what we see today coming from the 19th century, with Mr. Scrope being responsible for much of it, including the creation of the estate gardens.
In 1947 Manor House became a country club but for just a year and a half before being sold to the hotelier Bobbie Allen, who took it to the next step and opened it as an exclusive hotel.
It developed a reputation as a place to unwind for London’s elite, a reputation it still has today, and saw some glamourous and influential figures through its doors over the decades, including Margaret Thatcher who had an extended stay to write her memoirs there in the early nineties.
The property has also been of note as a film set, with films like Robin Hood, Dr Dolittle and, more recently in 2010, War Horse being filmed there.
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- Castle Combe