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Published on Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Warner Leisure unveils its new flagship property

Linsey McNeill visited Warner Leisure Hotel's latest adult-only addition, Studley Castle in Warwickshire, which has just undergone a £50 million renovation.

First impression: As you roll down the long, tree-lined drive, you can't fail to be impressed by the jaw-dropping grandeur of Studley Castle, a magnificent Grade II listed building set in 28-acres of bucolic countryside. Stepping inside the small, unicorn festooned lobby, is like entering a fairy tale.

The reception leads into the plush wood-panelled Oak Room where morning and afternoon tea are served. Here, the fantasy-theme continues. The decor is reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, with tea cups jauntily lining the rear wall, and pink flamingos adorning the menus.

As I made my way along the corridors of the new wing, which houses the majority of the bedrooms, I spotted other quirky features on the walls, such as a bull's head sporting a bowler hat, a string of pearls draped around a deer's neck, and a couple of alabaster monkeys.

The rooms: Most of the 209 bedrooms are in the new wing, added as part of the renovations to connect the castle to the splendid glass-roofed spa (more of which later). Called the Studley Rooms, these are fresh and modern and many have a terrace or balcony. Mine, number 130 on the first floor, had a large balcony overlooking the dining terrace below and a farmer's field, filled with sheep and lambs. It was a lovely sight to wake to in the morning.

The room had all the mod cons you'd expect from a luxury hotel, including king size beds, a flat-screen TV, USB power points, a hair dryer and a tray with complimentary tea, coffee, hot chocolate and biscuits.

My bathroom room was large, with a spacious walk-in shower and heated towel rail, and goodies from Temple Spa.

For guests planning on an early morning dip, the most convenient rooms are those located in the same building as the spa, while the six rooms in the Lodge are slightly more secluded.

There are also a few rooms in the original castle, including tastefully decorated suites with roll-top baths tucked in the turrets.

Dining: Studley has two restaurants, the large self-service Evesham Restaurant (left), open for breakfast and dinner, which also has an entertainment space for after dinner performances, and the a la carte Arden Cafe Bar & Restaurant, open for lunch and dinner, both of which are in the new wing. There are also lounges serving snacks and afternoon tea, including the Oak Room in the castle itself, and the spacious Evesham Bar serves drinks throughout the day, occasionally hosting events, such as afternoon gin-tasting sessions at its elegant horse shoe-shaped bar.

We tried the Evesham Restaurant for breakfast and dinner and the Arden for lunch and dinner, with varying degrees of satisfaction.

In the Evesham, the starters are brought to your table before you choose your main course and dessert from the buffet. My dainty meat pie starter was tasty, but my husband's fried squid was bland, spoilt by thick, chewy batter. For the mains, we both chose pan-fried sea bass filets, which were delicious, but it was a shame the vegetables were over-cooked.

Dinner the following evening in the Arden was better. My vegetable soup starter was spicy and packed a punch and my rib-eye steak was deliciously juicy; the chunky chips were cooked to perfection. I was gutted I didn't leave enough room for the Black Forest Knickerbocker Glory.

For breakfast there was lots of choice at the Evesham buffet, but the flavours were a bit disappointing. My scrambled egg was stiff, the mushrooms tasted like they were from a tin, and tomatoes were watery and bitter.

Lunch at the Arden was another success though, my grilled vegetables and humus on potato bread was very good, as was my husband's salad - although he ordered fig and goat's cheese and got turkey and bacon instead! A plus was that the Arden opens on to the sunny terrace, so you can eat with lovely views of the fields.

Facilities: Housed in a former stable block and connected to the hotel via the new wing, the glass-roofed spa is stupendous. In addition to a decent-sized swimming pool, with glass windows overlooking the manicured laws, there is a whirlpool, sauna, steam room and several treatment rooms offering a full menu of treatments, including body massages, facials and manicures.

I had a Temple Spa 'power breakfast' facial, in an airy room big enough for two guests, which was deeply relaxing.

The spa also has a chill-out area, with swinging seats and comfy loungers, plus a gym and a space for exercises classes including yoga. The changing rooms were spotlessly clean and lovely and warm.

Other facilities include a rifle range, laser clay shooting, a croquet lawn and bikes for hire. There is also a lovely small cinema with large, plush seats and daily screenings. We watched Bohemian Rhapsody.

Entertainment: As with other Warner Leisure Hotels, Studley provides a host of live evening entertainment from big bands to comedians to theatre, with the Evesham Restaurant the main entertainment venue for live shows and music. The line-up for the rest of the year includes Oasis, U2 and The Killers tribute acts during a three-day break from July 19, Kim Wilde on July 26, and singer-song writer Gabrielle on August 23.

During the day, Studley also runs tours to the locally brewery, Purity, and to the local Cotsworlds gin distillery, as well as arranging transport to nearby Stratford-upon-Avon twice a week.

Accessibility: There is ramp access to the hotel and many of the rooms are on the ground floor. There are lifts to the first and second floors and some of the bedrooms and bathrooms have extra wide entrances. Guests with disabilities are advised to contact Warner or the hotel directly to discuss their needs.

Highs: The castle has been beautifully and sensitively resorted, the modern wing blends perfectly with the historic property and I loved the quirky additions, although I felt the fantasy vibe should have been extended to the bedrooms. The spa is bliss and afternoon tea in the Oak Room would be a real treat. The setting is also a big plus, with lots of good walks available on the doorstep and historic Stratford nearby.

Lows: Personally I didn't like the Evesham Restaurant and its cruise ship-vibe; the lights were too bright, even after they'd been dimmed for the evening entertainment, and you'd need the room to be packed to create enough atmosphere, but if it is, it could work. The food seemed like a throw-back to the 70s, but that's just my personal taste, I didn't hear any other complaints from guests.

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