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/

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

Childish entertainment – for all ages! (Review)

Childish entertainment – for all ages! (Review)

Belly laughs are very much in short supply these days. . .so a visit to Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre this week should definitely be on your calendar.

Mischief and mayhem are abound in the form of Groan Ups, a farcical story that follows an unruly classroom of six-year-olds as they journey through teenage life and into adulthood.

Groan Ups, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, review
Matt Cavendish (Simon), Lauren Samuels (Katie), Dharmesh Patel (Spencer), Daniel Abbott (Archie) & Yolanda Ovide (Moon). Photo credit Pamela Raith.

Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields and directed by Kirsty Patrick Ward, Groan Ups is delighting local audiences after premiering in the West End in 2019 and follows sell-out runs of the company’s The Play That Goes Wrong, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery and Peter Pan Goes Wrong.

There is a wealth of hysterical material so easy to relate to for everyone who is a child, has children of their own or used to be a child!! Something for everyone then!

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Groan Ups, review
Yolanda Ovide (Moon) & Lauren Samuels (Katie). Photo credit Pamela Raith.

From playground spats to teenage crushes and dead hamsters (yes multiple!), there’s no let up to the anarchy and angst. But, like all true farces, the frenetic atmosphere builds throughout the show, but it’s not without its poignant scenes and, beneath it all, this is a comedy that asks real questions of us. – Do we choose who we become? Is the story of our lives already written? Do we ever really grow up? This is certainly a fun way to explore the answers.

The show’s co-writer Henry Lewis puts it best: “Groan Ups is about how life becomes more complex, how much (and sometimes how little!) things change over time, and about how events in our youth can change our lives forever. But at its heart, Groan Ups is a joyful comedy, finding its fun in the madness of childhood, the agonies of adolescence and all the ridiculous things we do when we all finally pretend to be adults.”

The small but perfectly formed cast of Groan UpsDaniel Abbott (Archie), Jamie Birkett (Chemise, Miss Murray), Matt Cavendish (Simon), Killian Macardle (Paul, Mr White), Yolanda Ovide (Moon), Dharmesh Patel (Spencer), and Lauren Samuels (Katie), pull off perfectly timed comedy throughout.

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Groan Ups, review
Daniel Abbott (Archie), Dharmesh Patel (Spencer) & Matt Cavendish (Simon). Photo credit Pamela Raith.

And the script’s attention to detail evokes childhood memories we have long buried. But as a mum of teenagers, it’s the middle segment that resonated most of all and I found myself laughing and maniacally nodding throughout! Teens themselves couldn’t fail to also find it funny however. They just may not admit it!

Groan Ups plays at The Belgrade Theatre until Saturday (March 5th). 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.

(Review) If you go down to The Hippodrome today. . .

(Review) If you go down to The Hippodrome today. . .

Goldilocks and The Three Bears, Birmingham Hippodrome, review
The cast of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Picture by Simon Hadley.

Review by Clare Brennan

THERE haven’t been many times in my life when a show has genuinely left me speechless, but Goldilocks and The Three Bears at the Birmingham Hippodrome is so good it’s almost difficult to put into words – oh yes it is. . .

For my family and I the magic started long before the curtain rose.  Being our first night out at the theatre in a very long time, just taking our seats in the auditorium was exciting enough. But our first glimpse of the set – a circus-themed kaleidoscope of colour and light – showed we were in for something rather special.

From the opening number, this show is an absolute delight. It’s two-and-a-half hours of colour, music and pure fun. Yes, it’s a panto, but it’s also so much more than that!

Goldilocks and The Three Bears, Birmingham Hippodrome, review
Andrew Ryan as Dame Betty Barnum in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. 20 September 2021. Picture by Simon Hadley.

There were showgirls, acrobats, circus performers, a magician and daredevil motorcycle stunt riders, who brought the audience to their feet for a standing ovation long before the final curtain.

The fun-filled story follows the adventures of Dame Betty Barnum (Andrew Ryan) and her daughter Goldilocks (Samantha Dorrance) whose circus is under threat from rival circus owner, the Evil Ringmaster (Jason Donovan). Cue a madcap mission to rescue their Big Top from ruin. Will they succeed? – Oh Yes they Will. . .

I cried laughing at Matt Slack, who was without doubt, the star of the show as Ringo The Ringmaster. His comic genius borrowed from some of the all-time greats of light entertainment was sometimes risque, but perfectly positioned for this family audience.

Former Neighbours actor and 80s heartthrob Jason Donovan was deliciously devilish, marking his pantomime debut as Count Ramsey of Erinsborough, and Andrew Ryan’s portrayal as the vibrant yet endearing Dame Betty Barnum was exquisite.

And if it’s tapdancing bears you’re after(!) The Brummie Bears trio of Ewan Goddard, Georgie Anderson and Jessica Daugirda is an irresistible delight. And Samantha Dorrance brings a fresh-faced charm to the iconic title role.

At just a couple of weeks shy of her fifth birthday my youngest daughter was perhaps a little young to enjoy it all, my eldest daughter, aged ten, was in her element – shouting out, singing and gasping in awe. It was wonderful to be able to share the joy of theatre with them both again.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the show’s description as ‘The Greatest Panto on Earth’ is a bold one – but the team behind this exceptional extravaganza have more than justified this billing.

This circus-themed spectacle proves to be a night of magnificent family fun we won’t forget in a hurry – and the perfect antidote to blowing away those post-Christmas – and pandemic – blues.

Goldilocks and The Bears runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Sunday, 30 January. For tickets call 0844 338 5000 or visit here.

London Burger Kitchen: A feast for the senses (review)

London Burger Kitchen: A feast for the senses (review)

LBK, Warwick, burgers, review

LBK, Warwick, burgers, review

Warwick is a town geared up for foodies.

Whatever your culinary preference, it’s accepted that there is the widest possible choice of quality eateries on hand.

Or so I thought. Because it wasn’t until I experienced the new LBK (London Burger Kitchen) in High Street that I realised what the town had actually been missing all along.

In an already overcrowded marketplace, there was still an ‘appetite’ for a quality burger restaurant, so I’m sure this will be a good fit.

First impressions were good – an exciting vibe and bustling atmosphere greeted us. If early signs of popularity were anything to go by, this place would flourish.

Bright and breezy London underground-themed décor added a fun element to the experience – and room has even been made for a pool table at the rear of the former cavernous Ask Italian unit.

LBK, Warwick, burgers, review

But what of the menu? First of all, it’s important to remember that this place does what it says on the tin. It’s a burger restaurant, so if this isn’t your thing – or you’re counting the calories – it’s not the best choice.

But there’s no need for vegetarians in your group to feel left out, with a couple of options available.

If you are a burger – or hot dog – lover, you’re in for a treat with their range of handmade fresh burgers using locally sourced beef. For the traditionalist, the classic Double Cheese, Bacon Double Cheese and Chicken Burgers of course feature. Or there’s the more unconventional Lamb and Mint and Pork and Mac & Cheese Burgers.

I took the opportunity to try something new by ordering the delicious-sounding Pork and Apple Burger, pictured below, which was extremely tasty.

My guests’ Bacon Double Cheese Burgers were polished off with equal gusto.

LBK, Warwick, burgers, review

Our burgers were complemented by our choices of free fries – Cajun Fries, 3 Cheese Fries and Hunters Chicken Fries. There are numerous sauces and other sides to choose from as well. (The gravy alone was enough to get me back!)

Fans of a good milkshake will want to give this place a try too. With nine flavours to choose from (including Nutella, Oreo and Reese Peanut Butter Cup), these are not to be missed.

Talking of not to be missed, you may want to give the Chocolate Lovin’ Spoon Cake (pictured below) a taste test when you’re next passing. One of five desserts on the menu, it came recommended by the manager – and we could see why!

LBK, Warwick, burgers, review

I am confident LBK will quickly become a popular destination for family and friends looking for a great meal out that won’t break the bank.

And, with current special offers on their separate breakfast menu, (currently buy one, get one free) there’s never been a better time to check it out.

Visit: Home – LBK (londonburgerkitchenltd.co.uk), call 01926 770614 or email: warwick@londonburgerkitchenltd.co.uk

LBK, Warwick, burgers, review

About LBK

Joe and Natalie have been in the food and drink sector for over 30 years, as their mother and father on both sides of the family were. Joe and his family started out doing frontal catering to the general public, backstage and VIP catering alike to all major events, such as Glastonbury, Pheonix Reading, V Fest, and T in the park, Silverstone Grand Prix, Donnington Superbikes, the Chelsea Flower Show and many more, building up the company into the largest outdoor catering company in the UK.

He then ventured into the restaurant trade, training at the London Chef Academy and opening various sites in the Midlands. He then met Natalie who had her own catering company specialising in football stadiums, so they combined both companies and decided to sell up before relocating to Dubai and working in part-time consultancy roles for various catering companies.

Joe being the creative brain behind LBK, had spent part of his childhood in the USA working with his father. He always wanted to develop an American dirty burger concept so LBK began its life.

LBK is opening stores in all major cities around the UK, including Coventry in the autumn.

  • I was gifted this experience but all views are honestly held and my own.