Studley Castle, Warwickshire – Review

Studley Castle, Warwickshire – Review

By Clare Jenkins, August 2023

It was when the band launched into ‘Baby Love’ and two men (one wearing a tee-shirt asking How Many Motorbikes Does a Man Need?) ran down to the dance floor and started prancing round their wives’ handbags that I realised I’d fallen in love with Warner Hotels. Specifically this one at Studley Castle in Warwickshire.

Initially the thought of communal activities like line dancing and cha-cha, quizzes and gin-tasting made me want to shout ‘Stop! In The Name of Love’! But as tables of 60-something women started mouthing the words to other Supremes songs and couples glided onto the floor to hold each other close for The Moody Blues’ ‘Nights in White Satin’, one secret of Warner’s success became clear.

For a few days, guests can forget the outside world and all its demands and relax in a ‘kids-free’ (a Warner’s phrase) world of morning yoga, swims and spa treatments, table tennis, cycling and chess. Or they can watch a film (Death on the Nile, Downton Abbey: The Movie) from their padded seat in the Picture Lounge. Or nestle into a big armchair in one of the lounges to read a book. Or, as we did, use the stay as an excellent base from which to explore the surrounding Heart of England countryside.

We’d planned to visit Warwick, Leamington Spa and Kenilworth while on our three-night break. But after a morning in pretty Henley-in-Arden, the cocooning atmosphere of the castle (actually a Victorian country house with a discreet 21st Century extension attached) soon lulled us into a more gentle pace.

Studley Castle, Warwickshire – Review entrance

Entrance to Studley Castle


The Gothic-looking Grade II* listed building was built in the 1830s for a former High Sheriff of Warwickshire. Taken over by Studley College in 1903 and turned into ‘a horticultural establishment for ladies’, it later became a conference and training centre before being bought by Warner Leisure Hotels in 2016. After a £50m makeover, it opened three years later.

The approach is impressive: up a long drive through extensive grounds before the castle appears, with its central tower and dome, turreted wings on either side of the arched entrance. Most of the 216 rooms are in the newer Studley Wing, many with balconies overlooking the gardens and terraces. Thirty rooms are in the main building itself, including our spacious first-floor Castle Suite.

The light green and yellow decoration incorporates tree-dappled wallpapers and leaf-pattered curtains, cleverly bringing the outdoors indoors. Equally tastefully furnished with two comfortable armchairs, a sofa and a king-size bed, there are two TVs, a fridge, and a separate lobby for the wardrobe. The his-and-her bathroom incorporates a shower with Temple Spa toiletries (including Peace Be Still body lotion), while an alcove houses a Victorian-style bath.

Studley Castle, Warwickshire – Review bedroom

Typical room at Studley Castle

“Eccentric touches”

Dinner was in Brasserie 32, a convivial a la carte restaurant with views over the terrace and sounds of the lively bar behind. An extensive menu includes loch-reared trout, roasted pork belly, beef and two vegetarian options – suet pudding and sweet potato and vegetable wellington. Sadly, the wellington was all gone, so my husband and I shared a richly satisfying suet pud of mushrooms, chestnuts, courgettes, peas and garlic potatoes, and a refreshing heirloom tomato salad. Had we had space for dessert, there was Queen of Puddings, caramelised cheesecake, or Bramley apple and caramel galette.

Afterwards, we met a couple of grandmothers from Surrey doing The Telegraph crossword in the flamingo-themed Garden Room. “It’s like Centre Parcs,” said one, “with meals and everything provided – but no children! You don’t have to watch the entertainment, you can just sit and read. And we like being outdoors so there are walks to do and putting and pétanque. But you can just use it as a short break somewhere different.”

“And it’s an interesting house with lovely grounds,” added her friend. “It’s quirky.”

It is indeed. As well as flamingos, the hotel has other eccentric touches: a station clock hung upside down on a ceiling; a gilt headless-hare lampstand; monkey wall-lights; a stuffed peacock; a gold crown on a side table…

Studley Castle, Warwickshire – Review bar

The bar and restaurant section

“Choose your entertainment”

“It’s the Alice in Wonderland theme,” explained Guest Experience Manager Lewis Bailey-Hatton. “You’ll find chequer boards around the rooms, the Queen of Hearts on the walls, rabbit motifs…

“The atmosphere we’re trying to foster here is of a hideaway, where people can do laser pistol shooting or croquet or aquarobics. But they’re never forced on people. Our core demographic is under-70s and we want to grow the next generation of Warner guests. People who can enjoy time away without children.”

Like a cruise ship without the seasickness?

“Exactly – a cruise ship on land.”

The next day – after an excellent breakfast in the part-self-service, part-chef Market Kitchen restaurant – we visited Studley Parish Church, along the 26-mile Arden Way. By coincidence, churchwarden Phil Pattison was himself a Warner Hotels fan.

“My wife and I go to their hotels to relax,” he told us. “You don’t have to go out but there’s a lot of exercise laid on, so you don’t have to sit around all day unless you want to. You can find something different to do every day, choose your entertainment and your food… You’re very well looked after. And it’s very clever at creating its own world.”

studley castle review alcester

Houses in Alcester
image: Stephen McClarence

“Independent shops”

From the church, we drove to Alcester, recognisably still the same delightful little market town described in The King’s England guide 75 years ago as “charming whichever way we come to it, and it grows more beautiful the longer we stay”.

Once a centre of needle-making, its long main street is lined with picturesque, flower-strewn 17th and 18th Century cottages and houses (among them The Old Brewery, The Old Bakehouse and The Old Malt House – if it’s old, it’s here). Black-and-white half-timbering is at a premium, along with dormers, bow windows and overhanging first floors.

In the middle of the former coaching inns, independent shops and cafes is the parish church of St Nicholas with its fine monuments, including Sheffield-born Sir Francis Chantrey’s white-marble memorial to the First Marquis of Hertford, reclining thoughtfully, one finger resting in the book he’s reading. Far more recent is the collection of 20th Century tapestries depicting the life of the town, from Cub Scouts to Volleyball Club to Magistrates, operatic, dancing, singing and acting groups, pubs and political groups.

Studley Castle, Warwickshire – Review spa

Spa area


Alcester dates back to Roman times and, before leaving, we visited the delightfully informative Roman Museum housed in the town library. It’s a little treasure trove of coins bearing images of Roman emperors, brooches designed like fish or made from tiny rods of coloured glass, part of a dragon-headed silver bracelet, and a floor tile with a Roman dog’s pawprint in it.

Back at the hotel, I had my own Roman experience: a totally relaxing ‘Drift Away’ back massage reminiscent of the ones Julia and Antonia have in I, Claudius. The spa, in the old riding stables, offers a range of therapies as well as soothing colours, candles and unobtrusive music, and is stylishly screened from the indoor swimming pool and jacuzzi.

Dinner that night was back in the Market Kitchen (now transformed into a dinner-dance restaurant), with dishes encompassing daily specials (A Taste of India, A Taste of Asia – delicious Burmese-style butternut squash curry) and roasts, highly imaginative salads, puddings, cheese boards…

As with everything at Studley Castle, you can be as sociable or as private as you wish, and the engaging young staff know how to talk – and listen – to people of all ages. “We tell them to talk to guests as they’d talk to their parents and grandparents”, said Lewis.

studley castle review Coughton Court

Coughton Court
image: Stephen McClarence

“Immaculately maintained”

The next day, we drove to Coughton Court, just four miles away. Now owned by the National Trust, it remains home to the Catholic Throckmorton family, whose ancestors were involved in attempts to assassinate Elizabeth I and executed for their part in the 1605 Gunpowder Plot.

A striking redbrick, half-timbered Tudor building, it looks and feels well- lived-in, with its dark wood panelling, plush red walls, expensively threadbare carpets and brown-leather-bound books. Treasures include a double priest’s hiding hole, the chemise Mary Queen of Scots is said to have worn for her execution, and a large 16th Century framed fabric painting showing the lineage of 40 knights dating from the reign of William the Conqueror, plus monarchs from Saxon times to Elizabeth 1. Sadly, the top two floors will be closed for the next two years for urgent roof repairs, though other rooms will remain open.

There are two churches in the grounds, but the greatest glory is the garden or, rather, collection of gardens – walled, rose, knot, vegetable… all immaculately maintained and very relaxing to wander around.

Studley Castle, Warwickshire – Review afternoon tea

Afternoon tea at Studley Castle


Back at the hotel, we took elegant afternoon tea in the high-ceilinged, birds-of-paradise-wallpapered Oak Room. Dainty sandwiches, cakes and scones, strawberries and cream served on a three-tiered cake stand and eaten off proper china.

Later that evening, the hotel’s resident band, New Dynamics, launched into Motown’s greatest hits alongside singers Hannah, in a blue lame fishtail dress, and Ella in slinky black satin. A table of eight women in stylish tops started swaying and singing along to ‘Dancing in the Street’. Another group teetered down onto the dance floor in their silver slingbacks. An elderly woman turned to her husband mouthing the words to ‘I Hear a Symphony’. And that’s when I was smitten. To quote The Supremes again: there’s no stopping us now.

Studley Castle, Studley, Warwickshire B80 7AJ, tel: 0330-1359579. Three-night half-board breaks start at £335pp.
Coughton Court, Alcester, Warwickshire B49 5JA, tel:01789-400777.
Alcester Roman Museum, The Library, Globe House, Priory Rd, Alcester B49 5DZ. Free entry. For opening hours, see:


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