Everyone seemed to love this new country house hotel – but I’m not sure why

Here’s the thing. I’m a hotel critic, and hotel critics are a damn spoilt bunch, covering all the latest openings. Some places make us swoon, others leave us cold, and that is down to individual taste.

As a critic, I’m able to compare hotels, and in this case several recently expensively refurbished country houses. Perhaps unfairly, I couldn’t help but think of them during my time at Billesley Manor. Though the guests there to whom I chatted were more than happy, they are unlikely to have stayed recently at Callow Hall in Derbyshire, Glenmorangie House in Scotland, or the new Pig in West Sussex, and even if they had, they may not have liked them as much as I did, and preferred them, as I did, to Billesley Manor. In the end, I can only report my opinion, which may not be your opinion.

As I say, Billesley Manor is yet another example of a country house that has been the recipient of massive investment and a new lease of life. In this case, the money has come from India, where academic and cultured businessman Shashank Bhagat heads the BI Group, which spans hotels, publishing, media and education. For him, the long history of the house, its proximity to Stratford-upon-Avon and its associations with Shakespeare were a very strong draw. The Manor, four miles from Stratford, was revamped for £5.6 million during the two lockdowns, reopening last year and immediately attracting staycationers booking multiple nights, whereas in the past a one-night stay was the norm.

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