Anyone who has visited the Cotswolds before will be familiar with its natural beauty – and as home to some of the most historic towns and villages in all of England, it draws in scores of tourists and visitors throughout the year. The 16th century market town of Stratford-Upon-Avon – steeped in rich history and offering a slice of bygone England – is a highlight of this picturesque region, and with its quaint cobbled streets and beautiful Elizabethan buildings, a visit here is like taking a step back into the past.
Famed for being the birthplace of iconic playwright William Shakespeare – possibly the most iconic English language writer to date – visitors from around the world make the pilgrimage here every year to attend the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre, where his plays are performed on the scenic banks of the River Avon. Known for his sonnets and plays, including ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Hamlet’, his ties to the town are undoubtedly one of its major draws – but with its endless selection of charming pubs and restaurants, a vibrant riverside scene and proximity to the neighbouring town of Warwick and the city of Leamington Spa, there is plenty more to love about it beyond.
Having visited the town previously – and having already fallen in love with it – we were delighted to be invited to spend a weekend at the beautiful Hotel Indigo – a newly refurbished hotel located right at the heart of this charming town.
Located opposite the famous Bard’s last home in the town and just a stone’s throw from the picturesque canal and Shakespeare’s former home, Hotel Indigo couldn’t be better positioned for a weekend of exploring the Stratford-Upon-Avon. Beautifully capturing the Tudor architecture and style of the historic buildings that dot the streets here and date back 400 years, it’s a cosy hideaway in the heart of this quaint and charming market town and having recently been refurbished to bring the building’s interiors up to date, it features 93 contemporary rooms inspired by the history of the local neighbourhood, as well as a chic and sophisticated cocktail bar and a popular meat-centred restaurant – The Woodsman – that has fast become one of the most sought-after dining spots in the town.
The hotel’s beautiful Grade One listed façade dates back to the 16th century, when the building was originally a public house. More recently, it was extended to include a newer wing, from the 1960s – which now houses some of its more modern guest rooms.
The town’s rich history and heritage is evident throughout, with an expertly curated selection of murals and 3D artefacts contrasting with contemporary artwork to give this spectacular hotel a unique feel that sets it apart from the competition.
From here, you can peruse antique stores and art galleries, pop into one of the many historic local pubs for a glass of wine, and immerse yourself in times gone by by wandering picturesque streets that look almost as if they have come straight out of a fairy-tale.
Featuring 93 stylish and modern guest rooms that make for an intriguing juxtaposition against the historic feel of the hotel’s exterior, bedrooms are stylish and contemporary but with a traditional twist. In the new wing, rooms are sophisticated and elegant, decorated in hues of muted blue and yellow for a relaxed and laid-back feel that is perfect for relaxing in during a much-needed weekend away.
Drawing on inspiration from the hotel’s more recent 20th century past but with a nod to the 16th century tradition of the building, each room pays homage to the town’s heritage. Expect comfortable Hypnos beds dressed with luxurious Egyptian cotton linen (for the best night’s sleep we’d had in quite some while), antique furniture and classic English materials such as wool and raw wood used throughout.
The spacious bathroom was a highlight, with intricately designed statement tiling lining the shower wall and a lavish, spa-like feel throughout. The selection of delectable-smelling high-end toiletries available to choose from, in uplifting scents such as grapefruit, bergamot and other botanical combinations, were just what we needed to awaken the senses and start the day off full of energy to explore the pretty town of Stratford-Upon-Avon. On the other hand, the 40” flat screen TV and high-speed Wi-Fi meant coming back at the end of a long day to relax was always a pleasure, too.
Elsewhere in the hotel, guests can luxuriate in one of the Tudor rooms, where the tradition of this 16th century building has been retained and views of Shakespeare’s New Place – his residential home in later life – complete the experience. Meanwhile, the Georgian Townhouse is inspired by Shakespeare’s Theatre, with rooms cosy yet luxurious.
Food and drink
Breakfast at Hotel Indigo is an a la carte affair, with a broad selection of pescatarian, vegetarian and vegan options to choose from that caters effortlessly to most dietary requirements. I was instantly won over by the courgette and feta fritters from the first morning, while my husband was impressed by the generous portion of smoked salmon and scrambled egg he received on his bagel. Served alongside a small buffet selection of cheeses, fruits and pastries, there was more than enough on offer to fuel us for the day, and with polite and friendly service and plenty of tea and coffee on tap, we enjoyed taking our time over a long and leisurely breakfast whilst planning our itinerary for the day ahead.
Dinner at The Woodsman, however, was the highlight of our stay, and despite its mouth-watering menu being primarily geared towards meat eaters, our pescatarian diet was expertly catered to. Led by executive chef Mike Robinson, who is known for his passion for British produce and sustainable wild food, food is cooked in a large, wood-fired oven or on a sizzling charcoal grill, where diners can watch on as chefs prepare them a feast of the finest British deer, wild boar, beef and Hebridean lamb – all locally sourced, seasonable, and by all accounts, delicious. All carcasses come into the restaurant whole, and are aged on-site in the restaurant’s butchery, with a focus on reducing waste that means every part of it is used.
The restaurant also offered a fabulous selection of choices to suit our dietary requirements, with fresh fish sourced from leading Cornish fisheries and served alongside the tastiest Evesham vegetables, and wild herbs from the kitchen garden.
To start, we opted for the grilled asparagus with Dorset crab, Cacklebean egg and sea vegetables, and the heirloom tomato salad served with cured mackerel, fresh ricotta and ‘yesterday’s focaccia’. The asparagus was as succulent as you’d expect, with just the right amount of bite, while the crab was sweet, tangy and as fresh as it comes. The saltiness of the cured mackerel was perfectly offset by the creaminess of the ricotta and the freshness of the tomatoes – two excellent recommendations that we very much enjoyed.
For mains, we were offered an off-menu feast of a whole cooked plaice served with new potatoes – a light yet tasty dish that would never go amiss. The delicate flavour and silky texture of the fish was just perfect – and we even had room for the dessert afterwards.
To round things off, I opted for The Woodsman’s take on jelly and ice cream – comprising a soft and smooth, creamy pistachio mousse served with fresh strawberries and a warm madeleine. As someone who often struggles to eat dessert after a large meal, this was just perfect – light, refreshing and a mouth-watering combination of flavours. As a life-long cheese enthusiast, husband decided against something sweet and instead opted for the selection of British cheeses – which went down a treat served with walnut and raisin bread and a tangy, homemade green tomato chutney.
The restaurant offers a great selection of wines and champagnes to accompany dinner, and the staff are always on hand to make recommendations. The cocktail menu out in the cosy bar area is also not to be missed pre or post-dinner – our favourites were the ‘Rose Collins’, made from gin, homemade apricot and berry syrup, lemon, soda and orange bitters, and the ‘Elderwood Fizz’, comprising foraged elderflower, lemon and soda over Elderwood gin.
In a nutshell
A beautiful hotel that fuses 16th century history with contemporary charm, Hotel Indigo is perfectly located for a magical weekend of immersing yourself in this charming market town and soaking up its rich heritage and history. Offering comfortable rooms, excellent cocktails and mouth-watering cuisine, it offers all you could need for a comfortable stay, and is our top pick for a romantic weekend away in Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Rooms start from £193.68 per night, and are bookable via the hotel’s website.