Lady Golfer Travel: To the Manor BornJune, 2013
Madeleine Winnett falls for the Manor House Hotel and Golf Club in the Cotswalds
I had been charmed by the Cotswolds before, but driving through the village of Castle Combe – once voted the prettiest village in England – cannot fail to make you fall in love with the place instantly. It is utterly charming!
Castle Combe was the setting for ‘War Horse’ and ‘Dr Doolittle’, but it could be the unspoilt setting of any period drama. Having an honesty box for an array of homemade cakes laid out on a table in the street summed the place up perfectly.
As you sweep into the drive of the hotel, and over the river, you have your first glimpse of the 365-acre grounds and hugely impressive 14th-century Manor House. I uttered the words: “This is definitely my kind of place.” And as I followed the sign from the car park ‘To the Manor’, I was sorely tempted to chalk in the word ‘Born’!
No two rooms are the same at the hotel, but I was delighted with my junior suite overlooking the weir, and its wonderful juxtaposition of new and old. You never forget the sense of history, but the bedroom is light, modern and airy at the same time. Lying back in my walk- through bathroom, watching one of my three tellies, with my thoughtfully provided rubber duck, there was a wonderful feeling of space – from the high-beamed ceiling and no sense of enclosure. Marvellous!
The homemade cup cakes in the room were gorgeous, and in addition to the usual facilities, there was also a Nespresso machine. Little touches abound, which makes the place so special. You can choose your own egg for breakfast, or opt to have a waiter serve your own picnic by the river.
I didn’t sample the Michelin-starred, seven-course dinner, but now wish I had done, if breakfast was anything to go by.
I loved the little extra touches – the homemade jam and marmalade on a slate at each table, and as well as the usual drink choices, jugs of smoothies, such as strawberry and yoghurt, and mango, lime and ginger were on hand. The smoked salmon and scrambled egg on toasted brioche was quite decadent enough for me, but should you feel so inclined, there is also a champagne breakfast option!
Looking out of the mullioned windows over the lawn with the giant chess pieces, it’s almost like a scene from Alice in Wonderland. It’s a very peaceful start to the day, but then the whole experience of being at the Manor oozes peace and tranquility.
The 17th is the most dramatic par 3 I have ever played. You feel as though you are standing on the edge of the world looking down to the green below. By 10am when I checked out to go to the course, log fires were already roaring in the lounges, and I was reluctant to leave.
I did linger briefly at the window seat where Margaret Thatcher wrote her memoirs, and regretted I hadn’t had time to see the Italian gardens. But then, it’s a reason to go back – that, and the chance to try blindfold driving which I had spotted as one of the activities mentioned in the ‘101 things to do while at the Manor’ leaflet!
I really liked the Peter Alliss- designed course, but quickly learned why so many others were using buggies. I have never done ascents and descents like it, even when playing in the Alps! Apart from a couple of holes on the back nine which were on slopes, the rest were on the flat to play them – it was just getting to and from them that was hard work.
That said, it wouldn’t stop me doing it again. Several of the par 3s are very short, only requiring a wedge, and from elevated positions are very inviting. The 8th is also a tantalisingly drivable par 4 from another spectacularly lofted position, and when a couple of the par 5s are reachable as well, it’s definitely my kind of course!
The back nine is certainly harder than the front, although once you know where you are going, it is probably easier. It is tighter and trickier to plot your way round, and the 13th foxed us completely; the fairway appears to go left from the tee, when the hole actually goes to the right!
The 17th is the most dramatic par 3 I have ever played. You feel as though you are standing on the edge of the world looking down to the green below. The satisfying sight of your wedge shot soaring into the stratosphere before it plunges into the depths is only tempered slightly by the fact you know you then have to descend all that way just to putt out, before climbing back out of the valley to the 18th tee.
I can’t wait to play it again, whether with a buggy or after some training on some flights of stairs. Castle Combe, with its village, hotel and golf course, is a very special place.