Sleepover: A bed for the night in Shropshire
Combermere Abbey Cottages
Sunday 22 December 2002
Where is it?
Where is it?
Just outside the old market town of Whitchurch, on the Shropshire-Cheshire border.
What's it like?
Get on your (green) wellies and your (Barbour) coat: these cottages are set in the vast grounds of an 11th-century abbey with its own lake. The Jacobean stable block, which is arranged around a cobbled courtyard, has been renovated to provide 11 cosy dwellings for holidaymaking parties of four to eight people.
What's its USP?
One of a rare but growing breed of self-catering establishments that offer a high degree of comfort in beautiful surroundings.
Combermere's helpful and efficient staff operate out of a small office by the car park, where you can pick up lots of information about the area, buy tasty local goodies, hire videos and even book a massage in your cottage.
Self-catering with flair. We stayed in Wellington, which sleeps five, a handsome cottage decorated in muted tones with fabrics from Ralph Lauren's Wellington collection supplying splashes of colour in bold tartans and floral prints. The sitting room felt cosy thanks to the open fire, which was laid and ready to light. And a window seat strewn with plump cushions offered a comfy vantage point for surveying the surrounding parkland and abbey beyond. The master bedroom is a good size, with an attractive iron four-poster and en-suite shower and loo. The other bedrooms are smaller and share a tiny bathroom. There is an offer throughout January of four nights for the price of three, starting from £325 per cottage.
Food and drink?
Combermere offers a menu of frozen homemade meals and hampers of local produce. We found the portions small – you'll have to order two per person to get a decent serving – and disappointing taste-wise. To compound this, good restaurants are few and far between in the area, although you could try Peppers (01270 629100) and the newly opened Curshaws at The Cat (01270 623020), both in Nantwich, a 10-minute drive away. But as this is supposed to be self-catering, you should put on your pinny. There's a Tesco three miles down the road at Whitchurch for essentials, but it's the small shops that shine around here. Carnivores should pay a visit to H Clewlow's award-winning butchers, again in Nantwich, to stock up on sausages for Sunday breakfast. And there's an excellent fishmonger just inside the town's covered market on Saturdays. Rodney Densem, just off the square, has a vast collection of fine wines and spirits, a basket of which you will find offered for sale in your cottage.
Families – the close proximity of the cottages makes it a good choice for get-togethers. On a slightly different note, one of the larger cottages was hosting a hen weekend when we stayed. It can't have been a raucous affair, because we didn't hear a peep.
Things to do?
Go for a yomp in the grounds. There are well-marked walks through the estate and woods, which pass by a children's play house and picnic areas with lake views. Or take a more sedate walk around the Rose Garden, the Pleasure Garden or the fruit maze. For the more active there are tennis courts, croquet and bicycles for hire, and you can swim in the lake at your own risk. Further afield, Shrewsbury, Ludlow and Ironbridge Gorge are within easy reach to the south. Chester is to the north and Wales is a short drive west. Head east and you can shop for china in the Potteries' factory shops. Or just curl up by the fire with a good book. (It rains a lot round here.)
Combermere Abbey Cottages, Whitchurch, Shropshire SY13 4AJ (01948 662876; www.combermereabbey.co.uk).
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