Former site of Civil War now sought-after oasis of harmony

Former site of Civil War now sought-after oasis of harmony

The Castle at Edgehill,gin school, Pinnock Distillery, review

HISTORY is integral to the story of the tiny village of Edgehill in Warwickshire, the scene of the bloodiest battle in The English Civil War.

Today, the din of muskets and cannons are, thankfully, confined to those history books and the battlefields instead offer idyllic views from one of the most impressive vantage points in the country, The Castle pub.

Perched on the summit overlooking the infamous battlefields, The Castle at Edgehill is also renowned for its exceptional hospitality. With award-winning food, four-star accommodation and now, a brand new gin school, it was time to see for myself what was putting Edgehill back on the map four centuries later.

The Castle at Edgehill,gin school, Pinnock Distillery, review
The Cromwell Suite

Accommodation

There is an abundance of character and opulence on display in each of the Castle’s five uniquely decorated boutique rooms.

My friends and I were able to congregate for a proper girlie catch up in the grandeur of The Cromwell Suite, offering a huge space in which to spread out, set across the entire first floor, with connecting lounge and double bedroom, plus en suite.

Perfect for small groups, this is their biggest room which can more than comfortably sleep up to four people by turning down the bed settee.

The Castle at Edgehill,gin school, Pinnock Distillery, review
The Cromwell Suite double bedroom

Two of our party stayed one floor up in the tower’s Prince Rupert room, highlights of which are the four-poster bed (a better choice for romantic weekends!) and its breathtakingly stunning vista. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve woken up to a view like this one.

Both offered comfort and luxury in equal measure – and were well equipped with SMART TVs and a useful mini fridge. The quirky décor in Cromwell proved a fun talking point.

It would be remiss not to mention the tight spiral staircase guests have to negotiate to reach their quarters however, unless staying in the ground-floor Verney room.

The Castle at Edgehill,gin school, Pinnock Distillery, review
The Prince Rupert room

But it’s important to remember, most of the accommodation is within a tower. Access is something which should be carefully considered by the less able-bodied when selecting their room choice here. Fear not though as help is at hand from friendly staff so you won’t be left to hoist your bags aloft up unaided. Two of our group had some mobility issues and managed okay.

For those willing to put in the work, I refer you back to the picture-perfect views from Prince Rupert’s windows. Aspects like that don’t come from ground level! (And not bad for your daily step count either!)

The Castle at Edgehill,gin school, Pinnock Distillery, review
Dining with a view!

Restaurant

The team in the Castle kitchen pride themselves on going that extra mile when it comes to culinary creativity and excellence – a fact born out by their many awards and strong local reputation for supreme pub fare.

The chef’s pledge to produce a full seasonal menu using ingredients sourced within a 30-mile radius showcases some of the best local suppliers – and if the impressive plates of food served to us are anything to go by, long may that continue!

The post-gin school treat became probably, the most memorable chapter of our stay at The Castle. We devoured our Starters of Seared Scallops (with Houmous, Black Pudding Bon Bon); Asparagus (& Crispy Hen’s Egg & Hollandaise Sauce); Chef’ Soup (with Artisan Bread) and Goats Cheese (with Mango Curd, Toasted Brioche & English Micro Herb Salad) followed by, in my case, simply the most exquisite Blade of Beef (& Creamy Mash & Braised Red Cabbage), literally melting in on the tongue.

The Castle at Edgehill,gin school, Pinnock Distillery, review
My Asparagus and Crispy Hen’s Egg starter
Blade of Beef

In fact, all of the mains – including 6oz Beef Fillet (Parmesan Gnocchi & Spring Greens) and Asparagus, Pea & Mint Risotto and Crayfish, Crab and Lobster Bisque Linguine all won very high praise all around the table for Head Chef Pawel Neumann and his kitchen crew.

We’d been determined to leave room for desserts (if the rest was anything to go by we didn’t want to miss out!), and the Vanilla Panna Cotta (with Warm Raspberry Compote); Vegan Chocolate Brownie (& Vanilla Ice Cream) and Sticky Toffee Pudding (with Vanilla Ice Cream) left us feeling full to the brim – but justified in our decision.

My friend’s British Cheeseboard selection came complete with more ample ingredients than many I’ve seen in my time. (My husband is a cheese lover so I’ve seen a few!)

For those lucky enough to be staying the night, there’s also a small, but delicious, breakfast menu to refuel you for the next day of exploring ahead.

The only aspect which in any way enhanced our dining experience brings us back to the views. I never tired of enjoying these.

Gin School

One of the main reasons for our stay was so, like many, we could take full advantage of The Castle’s fabulous new gin school, situated in the highest point of the tower. (Yes, I’m going to bang on about those views again!)

I defy anyone to show me somewhere else in the country where you can distil your own gin recipe whilst looking out across five (yes five!) counties. The Castle tower, also known as the ‘Radway’ or ‘Round tower’, was intended to replicate Guy’s tower at nearby Warwick Castle and, after sitting derelict for 40 years, it is now home to Pinnock Distillery founded by Dan Beckett.

The Castle at Edgehill, Pinnock Gin, review

I suppose you could say Dan is proud to have realised the ‘height’ of his ambitions a few months ago by also opening the gin school in this truly unique (an oft overused word but NOT in this case) premises.

It marks a collaboration for Dan and Castle owner Mark Higgs- and, from what I’ve experienced, it’s a partnership of pure genius. The Ultimate Gin Experience package that we enjoyed includes gin school, dinner, overnight stay and breakfast. After all, who wants to be the designated driver for this one? Especially when I tell you what the gin school entails. . .

The Castle at Edgehill, Pinnock Gin, review

Dan comes across as extremely passionate, knowledgeable and affable in his approach to his classes. After explaining the provenance of his products and their historical connections to The Castle (no spoiler alerts here!), we are guided through his three gins, enjoying samples along the way. Well, it would be rude not to!

The Castle at Edgehill, Pinnock Gin, review

Then, after a short toilet and snack break (nibbles are also laid on) Dan offered helpful advice on flavour infusions and, before we knew it, it was time to pair up and create our own unique gins armed with our recipe of botanicals and a small copper still. Plus there was plenty more gin flowing to help inspire us along the way. (Do watch those spiral stairs on your way back down from the top of the tower though!)

Three hours goes by in a flash but it’s with a sense of pride that, with a 70cl bottle of our gin concoctions in hand (plus a few extra purchases) we wend our way back downstairs to prepare for dinner. (By this time we were definitely ready to line our stomachs!) What a hugely satisfying way to spend a Friday (or Saturday) afternoon with friends.

Shorter one-hour Gin Tasting sessions are also available at a lower price point.

Summary

All in all, our Castle experience could not be faulted, with comfort, character and attentive service from General Manager Dariusz Remiz and his team throughout.

While not a rambler myself, this is also the perfect base from which to explore miles of beautiful walks – and some of the rooms are also dog friendly.

It would be only too easy to let the views do all the talking here, but The Castle has found a way to make establish its position as a must-visit destination pub in its own right.

The Castle may sit in a former site of conflict – but there’s nothing you’ll find here anymore that’s remotely disagreeable!

Visit: https://castleatedgehill.co.uk/ and https://castleatedgehill.co.uk/gin-school

Visit Pinnock Distillery at: Pinnock Gin | Pinnock Distillery | Kineton, Warwickshire

The Castle at Edgehill, Pinnock Gin, review
Historic battlefield is now a view to die for from the bedroom windows!

Background

The Battle of Edge Hill was fought on Sunday, 23rd October 1642 and was the first major battle in the English Civil War between the Royalist forces of King Charles I and the Parliamentarian Army commanded by the Earl of Essex.

The King’s army had to descend from the edge of the escarpment if they wished to engage the Parliamentarians in battle, because the escarpment was far too steep for Essex to consider an attack against the Royalist army while it was on the edge. At the time of the battle, there were far fewer trees. The battle was inconclusive, with both sides claiming victory. It would take several more years and many more battles before the Parliamentarians won the war.

The Castle first became a pub in 1822, when it was sold by Sanderson Miller and acquired by the Hook Norton Brewery in 1922, with Mark Higgs, the current tenant, taking over the lease in 2013.

Now, the venue is one of five in the Midlands under the ownership of The Free Spirit Pub Company founded by Mark Higgs.

The others are: The Bell at Ladbroke https://bellinnatladbroke.co.uk/

The Seven Stars at Marsh Baldon https://sevenstarsatmarshbaldon.co.uk/

The Sun Inn, Hook Norton https://thesuninn-hooknorton.co.uk/

The Red Lion, Hellidon https://redlionathellidon.co.uk/

Thank you for the music Birmingham Hippodrome!

Thank you for the music Birmingham Hippodrome!

The cast of MAMMA MIA! Photo: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

MAMMA Mia – here we go again. . . and again and again as far as I’m concerned!

Full disclosure – this is not my first visit to the world’s most famous fictional Greek taverna, so there were no surprises in store. But it was the first outside of the West End – and there were VERY high standards to maintain!

There’s good reason the smash hit musical marks its 23rd year in the UK, in fact 65 million of them – the number of people who have seen the show in more than 450 cities worldwide.

Mamma Mia, Birmingham Hippodrome, ABBA
James Willoughby Moore (Peppa), Helen Anker (Tanya) and the cast of MAMMA MIA! Photo: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

And for the next two weeks its Birmingham’s turn to delight audiences with producer Judy Craymer’s global phenomenon – a sunny, funny tale of a mother and daughter and three possible dads unfolding on a Greek island idyll.

Craymer’s MAMMA MIA! The Movie, also became the highest grossing live action musical film of all time upon its release in 2008 and MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN, opened in July 2018 and is the most successful live musical movie sequel of all time. How could it possible fail? (Despite Piece Brosnan’s vocal attempts to kill it!)

Helen Anker (Tanya), Sara Poyzer (Donna), Nicky Swift (Rosie) in MAMMA MIA! Photo: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

As a die-hard fan of ABBA’s music, any show that weaves its story around their back catalogue was not going to disappoint. But it’s important to say that this is so much more than a jukebox musical. Lashings of care have gone into the storyline and Mamma Mia stands on its own two feet as musical theatre of the highest calibre.

And, sometimes unusually for live theatre, touring versions away from the glitz of the West End, can lose a bit of their gloss. Not so here. This glitterball of a show shone bright from curtain up to lights down, skipping along, from one huge ABBA hit to the next with boundless energy.

It proves the perfect platform for Jena Pandya and Sara Poyzer, whose powerhouse performances as mother and daughter Sophie and Donna Sheridan are central to this show’s success. But they are more than ably supported by an ensemble of talented co-stars, including great comic performances by Helen Anker and Nicky Swift as Donna’s old friends Tanya and Rosie.

Mariella Mazzilli (Lisa), Jena Pandya (Sophie), Jasmine Shen (Ali) in MAMMA MIA! Photo: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

Fans of ABBA – or even just those affectionately familiar with their songs – will love every toe-tapping minute of this breathtaking rollercoaster ride through some of the iconic band’s MANY hits. It’s unashamedly saccharine and never sets out to be anything other than a feelgood cheese fest – but that’s exactly what last night’s sell-out audience demanded.

If you’re looking for Sondheim, stay away.

Mamma Mia is an effervescent celebration that had each and every one of us on our feet for the rousing finale. (It’s a physical impossibility to stay seated for Dancing Queen!)

Mamma Mia, Birmingham Hippodrome, ABBA
Toby MIles (Sky) and the cast of MAMMA MIA! Photo: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

So grab your lycra and platform boots and embrace your inner sequined soul, for this stunning romp of a show. I’ve paid to go and see it again next week!

Thank you for the Music – again!

It plays at The Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday, May 14th with limited tickets available at: https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/

REVIEW: Kerry Vale Vineyard, Shropshire

REVIEW: Kerry Vale Vineyard, Shropshire

Kerry Vale Vineyard, Shropshire, afternoon tea

A very short drive from Plas Robin Rural Retreats in Powys – our home for three nights – we ventured across county (and country!) to Shopshire’s Kerry Vale Vineyard.

While maybe a little off the beaten track, it is well known among locals – and, as we found, should be a must-do for visitors. It’s well worth a visit, whether for afternoon tea, a light bite or the full vineyard tour experience. Here you can enjoy a guided Vineyard Tour with Wine Tasting, Tour with Cheese and Wine or Tour with Sparkling Afternoon Tea.

But if you want the taste without the tour – they can of course cater for that too. In fact I understand their tastings are incredibly popular.

Kerry Vale Vineyard, Shropshire, afternoon tea

This wonderful family-run business grew on the six-acre site of great archaeological interest and once part of the ancient Roman site of Pentreheyling Fort, a vicus (provincial civilian settlement), is on the edge of a number of Roman marching camps.

As well as its Roman history, two decades of archaeological research show the site was once occupied by Bronze Age funerary monuments, a druid road and a medieval settlement – with Offa’s Dyke just a field away!

But it is now the proud home to 6,000 vines of four varieties of wine – Rondo, Pinot Noir, Phoenix and Solaris, ideally suited for the English climate.

Kerry Vale Vineyard, Shropshire, afternoon tea

As we were celebrating a friend’s ‘special’ birthday, it seemed fitting to partake in their Sparkling Afternoon Teas – and at Kerry Vale our culinary and cultural appetites were left extremely well satisfied. And what a joy it is to enjoy the ‘fruits’ of the grape pickers’ labour overlooking the vineyards themselves – with the added bonus of, well, plenty of cake! (Worth starving yourself for this one!)

We were very attentitively looked after from start to finish as we devoured our fresh and delicious selection of sweet and savoury treats, beautifully presented and accompanied by a flight of wines for our mini tasing experience.

Kerry Vale Vineyard, Shropshire, afternoon tea

My friend and I we were guided through our experience of these locally grown wines with helpfully provided tasting notes to hand. And we both purchased a bottle of or self-declared favourites before leaving.

Don’t worry- for those looking for a lighter bite, there is a tasty lunch menu offering a selection of hot dishes and daily specials all made from the quality locally-sourced ingredients.

 

Kerry Vale Vineyard, Shropshire, afternoon tea

Take time to browse the quaint Cellar door gift shop for some unusual local souvenirs too.

Whether you are enjoying a whistlestop tour of the area or enjoying a short break in the area, Kerry Vale is a must-do. If you can find nominated driver, I particularly recommend the wine tasting.

Find our more about Kerry Vale Vineyard at: https://www.kerryvalevineyard.co.uk/

We visited the vineyard whilst staying in the area at Plas Robin Rural Retreats See review here

Kerry Vale Vineyard, Shropshire, afternoon tea

REVIEW: Definition of the word ‘luxury’ – Plas Robin Rural Retreats

REVIEW: Definition of the word ‘luxury’ – Plas Robin Rural Retreats

Plas Robin, Shepherd's Rest,Wales
Photo courtesy of The Wanderlist

The word ‘luxury’ is overused – as are ‘tranquility’ and ‘unique.’

Yet, as I discovered at Plas Robin’s retreats in the heart of the rural Wales, sometimes justifiable.

A picture, it is said, paints a thousand words and, to be honest, the breathtaking views from these two bespoke holiday homes perched atop the rolling Welsh hillside, do most of the talking!

However, it’s only after staying in the Shepherd’s Rest lodge for three nights that one can truly appreciate the true magic and gentle pace of life it offers.

Plas Robin Rural Retreats, Shepherd's Rest, Wales
Photo courtesy of The Wanderlist

Who For?

Families, couples, friendship groups – and, quite simply, anyone who loves nature or is in need a some much-needed RnR.

Accommodation

This exquisitely designed, bespoke holiday home is equipped with every modern comfort. But it’s the design and attention to detail are what elevates it to the next level of luxury.

Indeed, in their approach to the properties’ design, owners David and Carol have made the most of every inch of the property’s biggest asset – the spectacular vista – full-length bifold glass doors perfectly framing the views from your armchair. We never tired of that!

Plas Robin Rural Retreats, Shepherd's Rest, Wales
Photo courtesy of The Wanderlist

The fine weather enabled us to make good use of the many comfortable outdoor seating areas and watch the country life unfold before us, from kites and buzzards, sheep, chickens and Welsh ponies. (You can even help yourself to some fresh eggs from the hen house in the morning!) And as for that sunset. . .

Indeed, the only visitor during our long weekend was the owners’ friendly dog who invented a new game of fish the stick out of the hot tub for us. Hours of entertainment!

Shepherd’s Rest sleeps four in two bedrooms, one with en suite shower room which, like the bathroom, is exquisitely presented and scrupulously clean. There was even a fluffy robe and slippers for each of us. (It is very easy to just lounge around in an environment that quickly left us feeling unravelled from the stresses of our lives.)

Plas Robin Rural Retreats, Shepherd's Rest, Wales
Photo courtesy of The Wanderlist

The master bedroom’s king size bed is so sumptuous, one doesn’t want to climb out of it! I felt so rested following my stay, I could barely summon the energy to drive home – or maybe that was more about wanting to not go home at all!

The contemporary open-plan kitchen and living area are well thought out in design and equipped with all the gadgetry and cooking utensils even the most enthusiastic chef could ever need.

The SMART TVs in the living area (and both bedrooms) meant we could truly kick back with a girls’ movie night be on the cards.

Thoughtful touches can be found in every corner of this property which has clearly had a great deal of passion and love poured into it – from the jar of bath salts in the bathroom to the ice bucket and hot tub side table for that all-important wine resting place!

All the sundries are laid on, including clingfilm, foil, tea and coffee and sugar. (More often than not we’re caught out by this, right?) Plus there’s locally-sourced milk in the fridge for that all-important cuppa for the weary travellers.

Plas Robin Rural Retreats, Powys, Wales
Photo courtesy of The Wanderlist

A welcome hamper of other local produce, including cake, eggs and chocolate, also got our stay off to an seamless start.

And, whilst not bemoaning the fine weather we were lucky enough to be blessed with, we did miss the opportunity of cosying up in front of the inviting log burner – literally the only thing that could have possibly made this stay even more relaxing. Perfect for the colder months. Certainly not needed however with underfloor heating that kept us toasty throughout.

Although we didn’t make use of the barbecue, I can see why this would be a popular choice here. Sizzling sausages in a sunset like that one would be unbeatable.

Plas Robin Rural Retreats, Powys, Wales
Photo courtesy of The Wanderlist

Facilities

We discovered that the optimum vantage point from which to soak up the scenery was the supremely positioned hot tub, overlooking the acres of fields and valleys below.

Is wi-fi available?

Yes. Good connection considering where you are although Netflix did experience some buffering!

Plas Robin Rural Retreats, Powys, Wales
Photo courtesy of The Wanderlist

How much?

Between £1,400-£2,100 per week. – Not just premium accommodation but premium views. If you can afford it – and you want the best, this is worth the price tag for the full monty!

What’s nearby?

While it wasn’t easy leaving this beautiful property and view behind, we decided it would be a shame not to explore the area.

Within a short four-mile drive of Plas Robin, is the pretty little town of Montgomery. It was a delight to while away a couple of hours in the beautiful timber-framed shops and tearooms while also picking up some local produce.

Kerry Vale Vineyard – See review here

How to book

Book Plas Robin properties through WanderlistUK here

Former Eastenders favourites are now Looking Good Dead

Former Eastenders favourites are now Looking Good Dead

Just hours after picking up an abandoned USB stick on a train, Tom Bryce inadvertently becomes a witness to a vicious murder.

Reporting the crime to the police has disastrous consequences, thrusting this ordinary suburban household into chaos.

When Detective Superintendent Roy Grace becomes involved, he has his own demons to contend with, while he tries to crack the case in time to save the Bryce family’s lives.

Looking Good Dead, Peter James, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Based on the book by the multi-million number 1 best-selling author Peter James, the thrilling Roy Grace series has been transformed into a gripping on stage performance.

There are twists and turns aplenty and chilling scenes, but these are carefully off-set with well-balanced humour throughout to break some of the tension. – You couldn’t hear a pin drop for two hours!

The Bryce family are having problems. Father Tom (Adam Woodyatt) has over-extended his business to the point of bankruptcy. Stress pushes wife Kellie (Laurie Brett) into compulsively drinking, cleaning and spending and teenage son Max (Luke Ward-Wilkinson) plots to emulate his alienated half-brother and escape the family home as soon as possible.

If you’re an avid Eastenders fan, such as I, it can take a few minutes to get past the reunion of the former soap favourites Woodyatt and Brett (a.k.a Ian and Jane Beale) for what are altogether very different roles as the perfect warring middle class couple who get mixed up in a rather murky world. One can’t help but listen out for the ‘duff duffs’ at final curtain! (Only ‘Enders fan will get this.)

Looking Good Dead, Peter James, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

But their on-stage chemistry is one of the strengths of this production which is way darker than Walford could ever get. But the chilling scenes are carefully off-set with well-balanced humour throughout.

All these plus points are – just about – enough to help us come to terms with the gaping holes in the plot. That said, I didn’t see the main twist coming. But then I’m always the last one to know whodunnit in our house. Amateur sleuths with go home satisfied I’m sure.

All in all, definitely gripping immersive theatre worthy of your ticket price.

Looking Good Dead runs at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, until Saturday (12th March.) Tickets are available by phoning the Box Office on 024 7655 3055 (phone lines open 10:30am – 2pm, Mon – Sat), or visiting www.belgrade.co.uk where tickets are even cheaper.