Muddy does a Bridget ‘mini-break’ – Forest of Arden Hotel
Sometimes, the stress of a holiday or the 10 hours stuck in traffic on the way to Cornwall, really do negate any benefits of a trip away; that’s why I’m the new champion of a cheeky break on your own doorstep (or near as damn it)! And according to Marriott’s Great British Break Report, two fifths of Brits chose to take a break in their own county in 2016 and that number is set to rise, with three in ten of all those questioned admitting they are more likely to holiday in their own backyard now than they were in the past. Well it’s a no brainer really isn’t it? Especially when your county and surrounding areas are just as beautiful with loads to do (ok, ok, we haven’t got the sea, but still, we have amazing sunsets).
I was flying out for a holiday abroad, and easily could have driven to Birmingham airport and left my car. But the weeks before had been pretty stressful and I looked at hotels near the airport and found one that looked so pretty it would kickstart my holiday 24 hours before the actual holiday, giving me a proper mini-break before I’d even hit the plane (AND there was a spa and golf course).
I often stay on-site at airport hotels (The Radisson at Stansted is a particularly lovely one), but on the whole, they’re quite functional and the restaurants tend to have a kinda hotel lobby vibe (not exactly cosy, if you know what I mean). Even driving through the countryside to the Forest of Arden we (Mr Muddy if you hadn’t guessed) could feel the dirt and grime of the busy traffic washing away. And pulling up on the gravel path right next to a lake and proper fresh air, I knew we’d made the right decision!
It really is far from the madding crowd and when we stayed, there were guests milling around but it felt really calm and relaxed. It’s very golf orientated, but don’t let that put you off, it’s not a golf hotel per se, and as a location it’s absolutely great for a staycation as you’re very central and can get to Birmingham and Stratford Upon Avon in minutes. The rooms are corporate (ish) in style, but with a warmer edge and really roomy. It was a twin room, but actually had two Queen sized beds. Ok, maybe it wasn’t the romantic start to the holiday having two beds, but guess who starfished all night : )
The decor is very modern, lots of lemon and lime and sprightly, uplifting colours. It definitely feels like it’s had a recent refurbishment and it was absolutely spotless.
The bedroom came equipped with illy coffee and a copy of the Book of Mormon (the actual book, not the theatrical version – naturally), so we relaxed for an hour or two with some foil based snacks before thinking it would be wise to swim it off!
The pool area has a bit of an art deco vibe. Plenty of beds to relax and read on (which we did), and a big sauna, hot tub and steam room (although this was out of order unfortunately). Towels and bath robes were provided, and there was a radiator in the room, so nothing soggy to repack!
After a lovely hour or so in the spa, it was a quick change then out for dinner (I quickly popped into the lobby loos to check them out; I have a weird interest in hotel public bathrooms, and they were huge with lots of room to reapply)!
We opted for a pre-dinner drink in the bar, which was dimly lit with candles and a roaring fire. It was so cosy that when we were taken to the dining room, I asked if they’d make us a table up for dinner back in the bar (I’d had a spray tan and was sporting bare legs, schoolgirl error in January)! The Oak Bar is a nice chill out zone for pre or post dinner drinks and I actually managed to do an hours work on my laptop while Mr Muddy scrolled through his Twitter (romance is not dead).
The staff were super friendly (even offering to take our photograph) and generally they just wanted to help. The menu looked delicious and we ordered a seafood extravaganza (I couldn’t decide between the scallops and mussels so the waiter brought me both)! It’s London prices, around £9 for a starter, £18 for a main, but it was worth it. Having a meal like this the night before a holiday; no kids to feed or dishwasher to load, was a real treat, and one I’d highly recommend! Drinks were reasonably priced and our excellent restaurant manager, Taj, recommended a really delicious bottle of Picpoul de Pinet for an indulgent (but worth it) £28.50.
We wrapped the night off with a cup of mint tea which I took to the room, and we wound down for our early morning flight knowing we didn’t have to race along the motorway at stupid o’clock in the morning!
I know we were off on hols, but I can’t recommend little mini breaks highly enough. Sometime you don’t realise you need a break as much as you do until you get one (or blow up like a volcano beforehand), but I do know that the odd night away here and there (Ettington Park and Rushton Hall), usually within an hour of home, has really helped us on the relationship front! I’d heartily recommend the The Forest of Arden for a staycation OR for the airport. The airport hotels are fine, but if you’re fortunate enough to have a day free beforehand, why not start your holiday off early and get in that jacuzzi!
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Birmingham flights, secret rendezvous’, wknd breaks and affordable mid week fun. Pretty surroundings with golf galore. For Northamptonshire folks, it’s close enough for painless travel, but far away enough to feel like you’ve had a proper break. Group breaks with friends could get into town for a night out but feel like they’ve had a hit of the countryside too.
Not for: If you want a bijoux/boutique affair, this probably isn’t for you. Although it’s not corporate per se, it does have that feel, which lots of Marriotts do. But then again, that is an appeal for some.
££: Hotel room, access to spa and breakfast starts from a very reasonable £105. Dinner was slightly more decadent but well worth the price to kick off your holiday in style.