A PLACE TO STAY – ASTLEY CASTLE
Photos by Rob Tysall, Tysall’s Photography
Ann Evans discovers a unique holiday accommodation in Warwickshire
It truly is a marriage of the ancient and the modern at Astley Castle in North Warwickshire. There’s the majestic and atmospheric ruins that date back to the 13th century, steeped in history that sit hand-in-hand with an award-winning holiday living accommodation set within the ancient sandstone walls.
Nestled in the little village of Astley near Nuneaton, on a site that dates back to Saxon times, Astley Castle was visited by royalty as far back as the 11th century and has been home to three Queens of England over the centuries. Lady Jane Grey, the ‘nine days queen’ spent some of her childhood there; it was also home to the wives of King Henry IV and Henry VII. Henry, Duke of Suffolk attempted to avoid execution for his part in the Wyatt rebellion by hiding for three days inside the hollow trunk of an oak tree close by. In more modern times it is linked with novelist George Eliot and comedian Larry Grayson.
In the mid-20th century it was rescued from ruin by a hotel chain, but after 14 years as a popular hotel, the chain went into receivership and the building left empty and at the mercy of the elements and vandals. In 1978 a fire gutted the building leaving it derelict. In 1998 it was put n the Heritage at Risk (HAR) Register.
However, preservation societies and individuals continually fought to rebuild or save it; and from the early 1990s the architectural charity The Landmark Trust had struggled to find a workable solution to make the building habitable again. Finally, they launched a competition to design a holiday house that could be created within the ruins. Witherford Watson Mann architects were the winners. Their design went on to win the RIBA Stirling Prize for Architecture 2013.
Funding for the project came through grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage and various charitable trusts and individuals. This Grade II Listed Building was removed from the Heritage at Risk Register in 2012 and this amazing holiday accommodation is available for hire.
For groups wanting to book a stay at Astley Castle, the living accommodation is on the first floor and the bedrooms and bathrooms on the ground floor. Ancient and modern brickwork create a beautiful and visible contrast between the old and new. An elegant oak staircase takes you upstairs to a vast open kitchen area with period furnishings. Sleeping eight, each room is tastefully decorated. There are power showers, comfy sofas and underfloor heating. Floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows in the huge upstairs living room and kitchen look out over peaceful Warwickshire countryside and the nearby parish church of St Mary the Virgin.
There are courtyards amongst the ruins, inspirational for those wanting to immerse themselves in history and past times, and within the grounds are ancient walls, a new knot garden and tranquil footpath trails. If you’re lucky, you may even catch sight of the friendly, ghostly lady who has been known to say hello to the staff.
Book a stay at Astley Castle https://www.landmarktrust.org.uk/search-and-book/properties/astley-castle-4806