Visiting historic country houses and fabulous gardens is a growing national pastime especially in these troubling Covid staycation times.
And living in a green and pleasant land steeped in a rich and colourful history we in Britain are particularly fortunate.
For every county in the British Isles has so much to offer and Warwickshire with its jewell in the crown of Stratford upon Avon, Vale of Evesham and the picturesque Cotswold villages just over the border in neighbouring Gloucestershire must be among the most blessed.
Visiting an historic country house is one thing but actually being able to stay in one as a base for one’s homes and gardens tour is entirely another.
Historic Karma Salford Hall, dating back to medieval times with many wonderful internal features from the Tudor period, has picturesque Bidford-on-Avon on its doorstep, is only twenty- minutes from Stratford and has the National Trust’s magnificent Coughton Court only seven miles away.
The hotel was recently acquired by the worldwide Karma Group and there are already plans in hand for an indoor swimming pool and apartments complex.
Karma Group is the inspiration of British born John Spence, one of the world’s most respected innovators and free thinkers in the fields of travel architecture and the environment.
His mission has been to create an holistic connected community of five star destinations linking like-minded individuals on every continent.
We spent our first day in Stratford and hopped on a red open top bus for a tour, not only around the famous sights including Shakespeare’s house and birthplace but also out into the surrounding countryside to his mother Mary Arden’s Farm and, of course, to Anne Hathaway’s cottage.
From the bus starting point we walked across the road and boarded an electric launch in the Bancroft Gardens for a thirty- minute cruise on the River Avon down- stream to Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried, and then upstream as far as open country.
Then it was time for a spot of lunch under a shady umbrella at a riverside hotel before commencing a leisurely stroll around the town.
A short walk took us back to our car and twenty minutes later we stopped at pretty Bidford- on- Avon only a few minutes further drive from the Karma.
After breakfast the following morning an even shorter drive brought us to the National Trust’s famous Coughton Court and Gardens, the ancestral home of the Throckmorton family since before Tudor times.
It was in 1584 that Sir Francis Throckmorton was executed for instigating a plot to remove Queen Elizabeth I from the throne and replace her with Mary Queen of Scots.
The house has many fascinating family heirlooms, including the simple chemise said to have been worn by Mary prior to her own execution.
While a tour of the house, which is still the family home, is fascinating, garden lovers have a real treat in store because the court is surrounded by extensive grounds together with a fabulous walled garden and a lovely riverside walk.
Staying with the historic homes and gardens theme, we travelled a little further afield to visit stunning Sudeley Castle, close to the picturesque Cotswold Village of Winchcombe, which, like Coughton Court, is still a family home.
Sudeley is the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within its grounds, namely Katherine Parr, the last surviving wife of King Henry VIII who lived and died in the castle.
Today Sudeley Castle and its lovely grounds is the home of Elizabeth, Lady Ashcombe and her family who are all committed to the continuing preservation of the historic building and its wonderful treasures and to the restoration and regeneration of its gardens.
While the popular Cotswold village of Broadway is within easy reach of Karma Salford Hall so are the National Trust’s Snowshill and Hidcote Manors together with the privately owned Kiftsgate Court with its stunning views out over the Cotswold escarpment.
Famed for its roses, Kiftsgate, which is literally just down the lane from Hidcote, is the creation of three generations of women gardeners and is also well worth a visit.
Nigel Heath, Mature Times travel writer.
Nigel Heath was a guest of Karma Salford Hall Hotel.