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Mallory Court
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

by Sarah Shuckburgh

This is a wonderfully comfortable country house hotel, surrounded by peaceful Cotswold countryside, but only minutes from the M40, and close to Warwick Castle, Stow on the Wold and Stratford upon Avon. The main part of the hotel is a Lutyens-style manor house, built in 1914, with mullion windows, inglenook fireplaces and bedrooms of assorted shapes and sizes, some with the original art deco bathroom fittings. In 1995 eight bedrooms were added, linked to the old house by a glass-sided corridor and a gushing water garden. April 2004 will see the opening of another annexe with conference and function rooms and a further 11 bedrooms. I hope the intimate atmosphere of the hotel will survive this latest extension.

Only 24 British hotels are members of the Relais & Chateaux, and Mallory Court was one of the first to impress the French judges with the necessary '5 Cs' - courtesy, charm, character, calm and cuisine. The restaurant, under chef Simon Haigh, has a Michelin star, and our meal in the oak-panelled dining room was superb. Breakfast, brought to our room, included yogurt with fresh berries, and delicious home-made croissants and pains au chocolat.

Everywhere there are personal touches to make one feel pampered. In winter, log fires are lit in every sitting room, and in summer, doors open on to ten acres of gardens (tended by three full-time gardeners) with a paved terrace, formal rose garden, croquet lawn, lily pond, tennis courts, outdoor swimming pool and a working kitchen garden.

Bedrooms - named after local places of interest - are huge and luxurious. Water comes thundering out of bath taps, huge fluffy towels are warmed on blistering towel rails, and the cotton sheets are embroidered, white on white. Jeremy Mort (who with the late Allan Holland bought the derelict Mallory Court in 1976, and ran it as a hotel for 20 years) still lives next door, and continues to decorate the bedrooms and add his personal touches, with flowers, objets d'art and knick-knacks. By the hifi systems in each bedroom, guests find CDs selected from Mr Mort's huge personal collection, and they can also borrow videos to watch in their bedrooms.

First published by Travel Intelligence Ltd

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