Hotel Review: The Arden, Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire
When it comes to British history, Stratford Upon Avon is the ultimate destination for taking a trip back to the past, and if you’re in need of a comfortable place to rest your weary head after a day of cultural exploration, then Eden Hotel Collection‘s The Arden could prove just the job.
Located in the heart of this beautiful historic town, amongst a plethora of stunning tudor-style buildings that date all the way back to the 1400s, The Arden offers up a generous serving of elegance and sophistication that is ready and waiting to welcome the tired traveller with open arms and a good glass of champagne, to boot.
Just a stone’s throw from the picturesque canal and River Avon, and a mere skip across the street to the famed Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre, there is no denying that it’s in a prime location for optimum sightseeing with all the convenience and comfort one could hope for.
Arriving late on one Friday evening in January after a comfortable first class journey from Plymouth with CrossCountry Trains, hurrying in from the cold was like stepping into a warm embrace. This is one hotel that exudes warmth in all the right ways, with cosy-looking lounges and roaring fires greeting you from the outset and visibly inviting from the hallway.
Regretably, we bypassed them at first, making our way to reception to deal with the necessary task of checking into our room. Heading down the hallway and through the beautiful Waterside Brasserie, we were directed up a small flight of stairs which led us to a spacious and contemporary lobby area that was tastefully accented with dashes of yellow, including a large, geometric-print rug that was the centerpiece of the room.
We were greeted enthusiastically by the receptionist, who immediately arose to show us to what would be our base for the night – a beautiful feature room named ‘Holly’, which is in-keeping with the tree theme that is referenced throughout the accommodation area. Along the maze-like corridors, lined with simplistic tree-print wallpaper, names like Yew, Fig, Maple adorn the rows of doors, making for a slightly more interesting stroll than is standard when heading to your room.
The ‘Holly’ room is made up of a large bedroom and living area along with two separate bathrooms – one which is home to a huge, free-standing bath and a walk-in shower big enough for several people, and the other housing a lone toilet and sink. Both draw on a minimalist theme, with large mirrors above the rectangular white sinks, and are well-stocked with toiletries including luxury Espa shower gel and shampoo, cotton buds and flannels, nail care kits and shower caps.
The bed is an enormous king-size, and thanks to the hotel’s evening turn-down service, is ready and waiting to be climbed into for a good night’s sleep. Weary from our long train journey, it’s all we can do not to dive straight into it and turn in for the night – but never ones to turn our backs on the lure of a champagne bar, we are eager to head back downstairs for a nightcap and to explore the rest of the hotel.
After thirstily sipping the bottles of mineral water left out for us, we abandon our luggage and head back downstairs, making our way to the champagne bar, which is located at the back of the Waterside Brasserie. It’s late, so the restaurant, which boasts two AA rosettes thanks to its impeccable cuisine, is all-but empty, with just the last few diners enjoying the remaining bites of their delicious-looking desserts. Slightly aggrieved that we have arrived too late for dinner, we settle on a drink and a snack, but it seems that we’re not alone in fancying a glass of something cold, as the entire area is occupied. Thankfully, a waiter directs us into the lounge next door, and we are delighted to find ourselves in the inviting space that we passed on our way in. Beaten to the Chesterfield-style sofas in front of the fire, we settle at a table and order some drinks – a Bellini for me, and a large glass of Merlot for him.
We spend a relaxed half an hour sipping our drinks and warming up, glad of the peaceful atmosphere the lounge has to offer. It’s not long, however, before the combination of wine and roaring fire leave us feeling a little overheated, so we decide to take the opportunity to investigate the exclusive Club Bar, located back upstairs and just behind the reception area. As it is unmanned that evening, we wait around for a few moments to catch our waiter’s attention, and are eventually able to order another round of drinks and a cheeseboard from the snack menu, which we are assured will be brought up to us if we would like to go on ahead.
The Club Bar is described by the hotel as an ‘elite chill-out zone’, and a modern take on the traditional gentlemen’s club. Adorned with photographs and paintings of famed performances from the Royal Shakespeare Company archives, it draws firmly on the town’s cultural history for inspiration – there is even a bust of Shakespeare himself sitting atop the ornate gilded bar. The result is an evocative space that makes The Arden a real part of the Stratford-upon-Avon experience – it could so easily have been another cookie-cutter hotel, but like others in the Eden Hotel Collection, it has a real emphasis on character and individuality, and promises to enhance the overall stay of anyone who happens to be passing through.
Like the lounge downstairs, the Club Bar is filled with opulent-looking furniture, and this time, it’s rich shades of yellow that take the spotlight. Our cheeseboard arrives promptly, with a selection of hard and soft cheeses, which come accompanied by crunchy celery sticks, seedless grapes, salted crackers and a pair of spiced fruit chutneys that are the perfect combination of sweet and tart. It’s enough to fill a small hole between two, but being the cheese lovers that we are, we both agreed that a slightly larger portion wouldn’t have gone amiss!
We enjoy our second round of drinks at a leisurely pace, revelling in the emptiness of the bar – it could have easily been a private area reserved just for us. But then it is time to turn in for the night, and we eagerly head back to the Holly room to enjoy the comforts that await us.
The bed is wide and comfortable, with plenty of medium-soft pillows on which to rest our weary heads, and the individual bedside tables are sensibly equipped with tall, modern lamps – no need to argue about who has to get up again to go and turn off the lights! A peaceful and comfortable setting in which to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
I arise early the next morning, keen to enjoy the comforts of the hotel before the busy day ahead, and eagerly run myself a hot bath. I have secretly been longing to jump into it since we first arrived, and with my partner still sleeping, now is the perfect chance for a spot of uninterrupted R&R. Popping the kettle on and selecting an English breakfast tea from the variety of blends on offer, I grab my bath towel and robe and leave them on the heated towel rail to warm, before enjoying a blissful half an hour soaking in the tub to the beautiful sound of birdsong outside. The perfect way to start the day refreshed and ready for anything.
After getting out and dressing for the day, a flaw is revealed when preparing to put on my makeup. The desk in the living area looks to be the perfect spot in which to set to work, with a large mirror in front of it and a chair to sit down on, but it quickly becomes apparent that it’s the darkest spot in the room. A quick glance at the ceiling reveals that the room is lit with spotlights – and fatally, the desk is positioned in an area that does not benefit. It’s not ideal, but nor is it the end of the world, and thankfully the large mirrors in the bathroom are on hand to stand in.
Ready before my partner has so much as thought about getting into the shower, I settle on the two-seater sofa and choose a magazine to flick through from a selection I spot on the polished wood coffee table. There is a flat-screen TV mounted on the wall, but I prefer the peaceful turn the morning has taken, and quietly enjoy a second cup of tea while I read.
Finally, we head down for breakfast, which is served in the brasserie, and it certainly does not disappoint. As well as a continental buffet offering an assortment of croissants and pastries, fruit, yoghurts, cheeses and breads, there is an a la carte menu for those who favour a cooked breakfast, and firmly in that camp ourselves, we delight over the choices on offer. From the classic Full English to a vegetarian breakfast, most guests are well catered-for, and the sun streams in through the windows as we deliberate, brightening up the room and its rich purple and tan-themed decor. I go for the Eggs Royale, while my partner opts to have a spinach omelette. Tea and coffee is brought to us at our table, along with a mimosa for me – because if you can’t when you’re away from home, then when can you?
The food is quick to arrive, and my eggs are poached to perfection – the whites well-cooked, and the yolks firm enough to maintain their shape but runny once cut into with a knife and fork. It’s a breakfast I often have the tendency to go for when we’re travelling, and usually it is more or less the same – but my partner will vouch for my declaration that, on this occasion, there was something rather special about the dish.
The breakfast marks the end of our stay, and our final task is to head back to our room and bring our luggage to check out. The staff kindly allow us to leave our bags in a storage room so that we are free to enjoy our day, and after some confusion with the bill, we are on our way.
In a nutshell:
A perfectly located spot from which to explore the local area, The Arden offers a warm welcome and a stress-free stay, with comfort and culture always at the top of the agenda for anyone who has the pleasure of coming to visit. Mixing modern surroundings with historical influences, it’s a warm, cosy and utterly relaxing place to rest a weary head – and the ultimate option for those who like a bit of luxury with their leisure.
Address: Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6BA / 01789 298682
Melanie traveled to Warwickshire in January 2016 via CrossCountry Trains. You can read her review of their first class facilities here.