Historic property, superb grounds - plus Stratford-on-Avon

Hallmark Welcombe Hotel bar
James Rampton reports on a stay at the Hallmark Welcombe Hotel
My wife and I were fortunate enough to be able not only to inspect the MICE facilities at this member of the Hallmark Hotels Collection, but also to enjoy its hospitality at first hand. We found that whatever the reason for a visit, whether to host a conference or an incentive weekend, there is always a very warm welcome at the Hallmark Welcombe Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon.

This is a venue where everything combines to assist organisers in putting on a successful event.

The Hallmark Welcombe Hotel has excellent conference facilities. Sitting in the middle of 157 acres of landscaped grounds, it has eleven meeting rooms, which can be adapted to suit any purpose. The hotel can also host conferences for up to 250 delegates.

A well-regarded 18-hole, par-70 golf course, a delightful swimming pool and a full-size football pitch are all on site. There is also an attractive spa, which, as a nice extra touch, you are allowed to use even after you have checked out.

The particularly friendly staff are also on hand to organise other activities around the estate, including clay-pigeon shooting, off-road motoring and archery. These are all available as components in a teambuilding or corporate entertainment programme.

The Hallmark Welcombe Hotel is also a favourite venue for weddings. To reinforce the point, you are greeted at the front entrance by a tailor's dummy wearing a splendiferous wedding dress and offering a hardback book with glorious photos of previous events .

Nestling in the gorgeous Warwickshire countryside, the 4-star property is very close to what the tourist road signs call ‘Shakespeare's Stratford’. This town, which attracts visitors from the far reaches of the globe, is just 25 minutes’ walk from the hotel across beautiful countryside. Built in the neo-Jacobean style during the 19thC, the hotel is a Grade II listed building, which follows the rare pattern of a so-called ‘calendar house’. It has 365 windows, 52 chimneys, 12 fireplaces and seven entrances.

The property has the basic nature of a traditional English country house. For instance, the huge baronial wooden staircase is flanked by massive oil paintings of austere noblemen staring down at the modern generation in apparent disapproval.

The grounds are equally impressive. We took a half-hour walk up to the Obelisk on the top of a nearby hill. A mighty monument, in the style of Cleopatra's Needle, it was constructed in 1876 by Robert Needham Philips to honour his brother, the English Liberal Party MP, Mark Philips. (I hope my brother makes the effort to build me such a splendid monument when I go!)

The Hallmark Welcombe Hotel also has an intriguing history. Queen Elizabeth II visited in 1985 and US President Theodore Roosevelt stayed there in 1910, hosted by the then owner, the eminent Cambridge historian George Macaulay Trevelyan.

Roosevelt slept in one of the Hallmark Welcombe Hotel's 78 ensuite bedrooms. He may even have stayed in Room 133, the bridal suite, which is certainly grand enough for a US President!

We were lucky enough to spend the night there - and it was, of course, a real treat. Situated on the corridor where the original owners lived, the room is blessed with wonderful high ceilings and beautiful period furniture, which echoes the wood panelling throughout the hotel. The room also boasts exceptional views over the grounds and the golf course.

We ate dinner in the very pleasant Trevelyan Restaurant. This has enormous windows and enviable views of the formal gardens, which were resplendent with pink roses and lavender.

The menu includes such imaginative dishes as Welcombe smoked salmon, cured on-site with gin and juniper, vanilla-spiced ham hock and pistachio terrine with apple crisp, and blackberry and star anise brûlée with sable fingers.

The hotel notepaper bears the logo: ‘Welcome home.’ The Hallmark Welcombe Hotel is rather grander than my home, but everyone will find it a wonderful place to stay.

For further details and quotes, call (+44) (0)330 028 3422 Visit: www.hallmarkhotels.co.uk

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