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BED AND BARD.

FRIENDS, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears... Stratford-Upon-Avon, birthplace of the great William Shakespeare, is a beautiful and spooky old town that draws people in from around the world for its history. On the edge of this market town, housed in a 19th century coaching inn and set among 157 acres of stunning gardens and greens, is the Menzies Welcombe Hotel, Spa and Golf Club.

Myself and she who shall not be named were booked into the Countess Suite, a sweeping suntrap on the first floor overlooking the Italianate gardens. As one would expect for a Countess, the suite is decorated in soft shades, with sumptuous furniture, its own library, high ornate ceilings, chaises longues and oil paintings.

The bathroom is a canvas in its own right, having a hand painted scene of ruins covering its walls, complete with 3D leopards.

With over 70 en-suite rooms, a selection of apartments and a handful of individually designed suites, there is choice enough for every occasion and pocket. One thing is for sure though: you will feel luxuriated and thrown back in time by the inviting open fires, sweeping staircases and the chesterfields of the lounge and bar areas.

As we arrived late afternoon, my partner and I were left with just enough time to explore our surroundings before a 7.30pm date with the restaurant.

Dining in the evening at Menzies is a smart affair. With several AA Rosettes and a menu of fine British and European cuisine, it is a real treat for the tastebuds.

We were greeted and seated promptly and treated very well by a host of staff.

Prawn, crab and salmon tierre, pressed chicken terrine with grape marmalade, salmon on new potato, spinach and crayfish mash, and sea bass over a leek and mussel tagliatelli were all delivered super fresh, hot and handsome.

Our desserts of passion fruit and raspberry sorbet on a meringue base with fruit coolis, and a trio of white, light and dark chocolate sponge, sorbet and mousse, looked almost too good to eat... almost. We finished the evening sinking into high-backed chairs overlooking the rapidly freezing gardens and enjoying a drop of reasonably priced cognac to a soundtrack of soft classical music. The drive from Wales was already a distant memory.

First-up on Saturday's agenda was the hotel's luxury spa for some pre-booked massage and facial treatments by inhouse beauticians Gemma and Whitney. Soft lighting, soft music and even softer hands made this a very relaxing experience.

To further relax into our day we decided to make use of the spa's pool, thermal rooms, polar storm showers and loungers. There is also a modern, fully equipped gym for use by those feeling the need.

Later in the afternoon we took the short stroll to the on-site championship golf course for a lesson at the hands of PGA affiliated instructor David Cranage.

David took us down to the practice area and showed us through grip, stance and swing in an easy-going, friendly manner conducive to making it fun for beginners such as ourselves.

We decided to fend for ourselves food wise on Saturday night, but first took a short taxi ride into town and embarked on one of the famous ghost tours at The Falstaff Experience on Sheep Street. . B&Hotel, (01789 from I won't spoil the surprises, but things really do go bump in the night here - even TV psychic Derek Acorah has been possessed by evil spirits in this very house. Those of a sensitive, spiritual nature will smell smells and feel prying hands that others do not - you have been warned.

We capped the evening off at the Thai Boathouse restaurant on Swan's Nest Lane down by the River Avon, which was packed to the rafters even on a January evening.

Feeling a little sorry to check out of the hotel and leave behind the lap of luxury we'd had for the last 48 hours, we took one final sojourn into Stratford, walking through frozen fields from the hotel to visit the Stratford Butterfly Farm and its array of vividly coloured animals.

It is home not just to butterflies, but giant koi, spiders, insects, some amazing glow-in-the-dark reptiles and tropical birds.

Welcombe Stratford co.uk), night.

off Again, Sunday morning in January and the place was teeming with excited children and camera wielding parents - testament to Stratford-Upon-Avon's appeal. There's much more to this pretty city than literature.

Green with envy: Menzies Welcombe Hotel is set in 157 acres of stunning gardens fun giant TRAVEL INFORMATION . B&B at Menzies Welcombe Hotel, Spa and Golf Club, Stratford (01789 295252, menzieshotels.co.uk), from pounds 79 per room per night.

Staying guests get pounds 30 off their restaurant bill There's city than

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 27, 2010
Words:804
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