Words by Jade Braham
In the 12th century, the Abbey of Cumbe was established, becoming Warwickshire’s largest and most influential monastery. Since then, Coombe Abbey has featured in many of our nation’s critical moments, being surrendered to King Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries; home to King James I’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth, as well as a key player in the Gunpowder Plot; and the scene of an attempted kidnapping of the very same princess.
Now a hotel, to say that it takes full advantage of this heritage is an understatement. Its lavish features offer a taste of luxury infused with a sense of monastic sublimity. The hotel has preserved its original pulpit and restored the confessional booths, and its dreamy corridors and four-poster bedrooms are accompanied by historical artefacts and Victorian bathtubs. The Gothic Revival architecture overlooks a more modern era, with 500 acres of Capability Brown formal gardens and parkland. Staying here is a quintessentially English experience.
Just under two hours from London and nine miles from Stratford-upon-Avon, Coombe Abbey is the ideal country retreat. There’s no house or developed area within immediate sight of the hotel, and its position on the B4027 greets you with two grandiose pillars sporting ornamental carvings.
A sweeping driveway, bordered by avenues of trees, escorts you to the stone bridge over a moat, while a courtyard with a circular fountain pool is the final embellishment of the hotel’s commanding entrance. Unsurprisingly, the abbey is a popular venue for weddings and the ideal setting for a celebratory reception, a birthday, engagement, or Christmas party. Also, the luxury hotel has 11 meeting and conference rooms for those looking to impress.
There are 119 bedrooms, both within the original abbey and in the Park Priory. These rooms are categorised as crown, feature, and grand feature bedchambers. Each room is wonderfully spacious, with plush furnishings, including plump armchairs or settees, rich fabric patterns, and voluminous curtains that give a unique blend of cosiness and stateliness. All have 24-hour in-room dining service and exquisite views of the serene lake or parkland.
While each room has a unique style and character, the grand feature bedchambers seem plucked straight from a fairy-tale, some of which – for example, the Lucy room – features a two-floor layout and spiral staircase.
However, the Lindley suite is truly something special. Its gold and teal décor imparts a soothing atmosphere, but it offers an unusual sleeping arrangement. Set upon a raised platform, the double canopy bed is only accessible by ascending a series of steps. There’s also a roll-top Victorian bath that’s not only within the bedroom itself, but, once again, positioned on a raised platform with a folding vanity screen. The adjoining lounge is an intimate space to unwind before or after super.
Coombe Abbey’s Garden Room Restaurant, Garden Bar, West Terrace and outdoor bar area offer a variety of dining experiences. No matter where you choose to feast, a delectable presentation awaits you, as traditional British dishes have been given a creative flair. The quality selection of champagnes, proseccos, and wines will likewise inspire a constant pull at your purse strings.
The Garden Room Restaurant is a floor-to-ceiling glass conservatory with elegant chandelier decorations. It serves locally sourced and freshly prepared afternoon tea and, with a white iron gazebo towering in the corner and large white and pastel-coloured flower bouquets hanging on the walls, the experience will never have felt so sophisticated.
Those who are vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free need not miss out, as there’s plenty for you to choose from. Consider indulging in the fresh scones with strawberry jam or the mandarin and passion fruit jelly. Finger sandwiches are a classic choice, filled with hummus, spinach, and grilled peppers, while the elderflower preserve and macrons bring a bit of European sophistication. For a more traditional experience, the Abbot’s Afternoon Tea includes pots of loose-leaf tea with your cakes, while the Sparkling and Gin Afternoon Tea complements the classics with a gin and tonic or a glass of bubbly – perfect for a celebratory occasion.
For a similarly novel experience, Coombe Abbey has the award-winning medieval banquet on Fridays and Saturdays. Those who attend enter the year 1539 with ‘bawdy ballads’, wine, music and many historical scene changes. There are also murder mystery evenings, which begin with dinner and the awful news that a crime has been committed. Between courses, scenes are performed and after dessert, the audience is required to guess the murderer’s identity.
There’s plenty of entertainment during daylight as well. The parkland has an 80-acre lake, which is a part of the Site of Special Scientific Interest area. Stroll along the Heron’s Way walk, and you’ll discover the pike, bream, and tench fish, as well as ducks and regal swans. Anglers can also come to the Coombe Pool Fishery and try their luck.
The Redwood Grove and The Spinney Trail goes through the formal gardens, while the Capability Brown Trail goes through the old deer park. The historic woodland also offers excellent opportunities to spot birds.
It’s likewise fairly simple to access long-distance walking routes, such as the Sowe Valley footpath. For experienced walkers, the Brinklow Circuit starts in the historic village of Brinklow, it passes over rolling farm fields, the cone-shaped mound of Brinklow Castle and into Coombe Abbey Park. Draycote Water, a reservoir and 24-acre country park, is another excellent location for fishing and birdwatching, but cyclists and those interested in sailing will also find a paradise here.
However, as exciting as these are, the most thrilling spot of Coombe Abbey Park is the Go Ape section. Here, you’ll experience the high life – both figuratively and literally – with a high rope, a Tarzan swing, and a 200-metre dual zip wire to test your courage and agility.
There’s also plenty to explore nearby if you have a car, for example, Warwick Castle and Coventry Cathedral. Further history awaits at the Coventry Transport Museum and St Mary’s Guildhall, while charming scenes abound at Ryton Pools Country Park and countless shops line Fargo Village.
In a nutshell
It’s easy to worship Coombe Abbey for its marvellous countryside setting, excellent service, superb attention to detail, and regal aesthetic. Its extensive grounds offer leisure and relaxation, but an action-packed getaway is also achievable. It’s a hotel that gives you the best of both worlds and makes you feel like you’re returning to your own private estate.
Rates start from £99 for the crown bedrooms based on two people sharing a room.
Getting there: You can travel to Coventry City Centre by rail and then take a 20-minute bus journey to Coombe Abbey. For those driving, take the B4027.
Address: Coombe Abbey Hotel, Brinklow Road, Binley, Warwickshire, CV3 2AB
Phone: +44 (0) 2476 450 450