When we discovered Stone Lodge, we realised we’d found the perfect place to ‘escape to the country’. Stone Lodge is the former gatehouse to the magnificent Combermere Abbey estate – a privately owned C12th estate on the Cheshire/Shropshire border, well-known for hosting magnificent weddings. And, when you see the fabulous private walled-gardens and the grounds of the estate, including a lake, you’ll see why it’s popular with bride and grooms, peace-seekers, walkers, and nature-lovers alike.
We enjoyed a three-night break at Stone Lodge, which sleeps four and has a double and a twin room, (each with their own en suite bathrooms); a lounge with a wood-burning stove; a modern kitchen; and a grand dining room. There are fabulous original features and the Gothic architecture and arched doors are something else; so much character in one house.
The house benefits from a private, fully enclosed garden featuring a heritage damson orchard – a great safe place for children and/or dogs. All cottages on the estate are dog-friendly by prior arrangement.
On arrival, we were met by Ashleigh who we’d been emailing about our booking and she recommended some great local gastro pubs, the closest of which was walking distance from the estate – and so that’s where we headed. It was a great recommendation as the Combermere Arms was welcoming and the food was superb. We treated ourselves to a three course dinner with wine (which came to about £80). The hot waffle with caramelised banana, toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream was divine.
We woke to glorious sunshine and, after a luxurious lie-in in the King-sized bed, we spent the day exploring the estate and walled gardens. These are not open to the public but guests are welcome to roam the estate and even to swim in the lake. We didn’t swim, but we enjoyed exploring the lake shore and woodland.
There was a promotional wedding photo shoot taking place in the well-tended walled gardens, which meant we were treated to an insight into how magnificent wedding photos would be at this stunning venue, complete with the use of Sarah Callander Beckett’s Crossley Car (a car produced by the current owner’s great-grandfather, Sir Kenneth Crossley).
We dined in the lodge, making use of the well-equipped kitchen, which had everything we needed before playing Scrabble in front of a roaring fire in the stove.
The next day, we followed Ashleigh’s tip to head to nearby Cholmondeley Castle followed by a late lunch in the Cholmondeley Arms. The 19th Century gothic castle is a private residence but the gardens, which include a lake, the Temple Water Garden, a scented Rose Garden (which was at its peak when we visited in July) and a variety of colourful herbaceous borders, are open to the public.
There are a variety of mature trees, including Cedars of Lebanon, Oak, and Chestnut. We enjoyed two or three hours in the garden and then headed to the pub and what a pub!
The Cholmondeley Arms is a superb, stylish, light and airy gastro-pub which serves not only excellent food (as we soon discovered) but also 200 different types of gin. I only tried the one gin – a Plymouth Sloe Gin – which, according to the Gin Bible (Fourth Edition) is a “rich red colour, which is the result of steeping the finest sloe berries in high strength Plymouth Gin and soft Dartmoor water. The result is an entirely natural product with no added flavourings or colourings. It has a smooth liqueur taste with a beautiful balance between sweet and bitter fruit flavours, and a hint of almonds from the stone of the fruit.” We like to make our own sloe gin and I can testify that this was definitely on the money.
After sipping gin and tucking into delicious gourmet fish finger sandwiches, it was time to head back to the cottage.
On our last morning, after meeting Sarah Callander Beckett and more of the friendly Combermere team and thanking them for our stay, we headed to nearby Dearnford Lake. This free attraction offers wild swimming from 1st April to 31st October for a small fee and there is a camping pod available on site too but, whilst there was one swimmer during our visit, the majority of visitors were dog-walkers like us and so we enjoyed meeting and chatting with some fellow dog-lovers before enjoying a terrific lunch at the café. All in all, the perfect end to a perfect short break!
Combermere Abbey is ideal for couples or for the whole family as there are a range of cottages sleeping from 2 to 10 people. Children can safely explore a safe and natural environment of this private country estate and the grown-ups get a chance to relax. There are woodland walks, wild-swimming in the lake, tennis, quiet evenings and dark skies. Active pursuits such as sky diving, gliding, hot air ballooning, off road driving, horse riding, polo and fishing are available locally.
Combermere Abbey is situated not from Whitchurch and Nantwich, and is a short drive from Shrewsbury and Chester, so it’s a perfect base for days out to Chester Zoo, Go Ape and Cotebrook Shire Horse Farm. There are many gastro pubs, local Farmers’ markets, antiques, bookshops and individual and High Street boutiques, only a short drive away. Serious shoppers can visit Cheshire Oaks outlet village and for those of us looking for more leisurely pursuits, there are country houses and their gardens to visit.
Prices start from £450 for a three-night midweek break, in a cottage to sleep up to 4. Enjoy £100 off stays completed by 31st August by quoting ‘Love My Trips’ when you book.
For bookings contact: Ashleigh Taylor, email@example.com, 01948 660345
Additional touches such as complimentary DVD library, dinner on arrival, wine in the fridge, local foods breakfast hamper, spa treatments, frozen meals and maid service allow guests to do as much or as little as they wish. ‘Crossley’ cottage’s separate TV/media room appeals to families with older children and sleeps up to 10 guests. Whilst ‘Beckett’ and ‘Malbanc’ are also ideal for larger groups. Well-behaved dogs are welcome to join in the holiday fun too.