Combermere Abbey is one of England’s finest country estates. Set within 1000 acres of ancient woodland with its own mere and evoking a historically rich heritage dating back to the 12th Century, it offers travellers the chance to explore the regions hidden heritage, follow in the footsteps of royalty and sleep in truly unique and unforgettable holiday cottages in the heart of Cheshire.
This is a paid article written in partnership with Combermere Abbey Estates with products or services supplied by them. Full editorial integrity is maintained at all times. The views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.
Imagine an accommodation option that allows you to rest and rejuvenate in the heart of the Cheshire countryside, look after your health and wellbeing by wild swimming in a private lake, taking a bicycle ride down country lanes or simply escape with a good book in a quiet corner of a manicured garden. Imagine being able to get a taste of the regions heritage in your very own uniquely renovated historical cottage and indulge in the romance of how English nobility used to live. Now imagine staying in a cottage that is as much an attraction in its own right as it is just an amazing place to lay your head. This is Combermere Abbey in Cheshire.
After travelling the world for over twenty years, including the length and breadth of the UK, I have slept in some truly unique, one off accommodations, and honestly those are the places I really love staying in, so when I had the chance to stay at Combermere Abbey, a quintessentially English country estate surrounded by stunning countryside, I jumped at the chance.
Situated on a sprawling, bucolic country estate on the border of Cheshire and Shropshire, in between the traditional market towns of Nantwich and Whitchurch, Combermere Abbey is a grade 1 listed building and one of Cheshire’s true historical highlights.
Starting life as a 12th Century Cistercian monastery, it was transformed into the current hall by Sir George Cotton in 1536 after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. Growing in size and stature with extensive renovations over the centuries, including servants bedrooms, extra wings, a clocktower and stables, the now iconic Tudor mansion had an extensive Gothic makeover in the 18th Century and the parkland was expanded to include the beginnings of what is now over a thousand acres of beautifully manicured country gardens and woodland. Modern restorations by the current owners have sympathetically restored much of this heritage and recovered much of the history that was lost after the Cotton family sold the estate due to debt after World War One, and the chance to stay in a country estate with so much history and heritage is not one any traveller with an interest in unique accommodation can pass up.
Even before you settle into your cottage for the night you cant help but be wowed by the grounds as you pull up to the stately home, and this is just part of the reason why Combermere Abbey is a true destination accommodation option, somewhere that is an iconic attraction in its own right.
As you take the long drive up the country estate, surrounded by traditional countryside, massive ancient oak trees and the occasional farm animal in the distance, it is easy to almost forget the stunning distant view of Combermere Abbey itself as you pull up to the spectacular cottages and grounds on your right, and as you do pull into the restored cottages that were once the stables and coach house of the estate, you know you have arrived somewhere really special.
The cottages themselves are all contained in one large building, all surrounding the courtyard but all contain their own private garden area at the back and are planned out in such a way to still allow for a feeling of privacy and seclusion. I never once during my stay felt crowded or overlooked and the peace and quiet is a genuine balm for the soul.
I loved sitting out in this timeless courtyard, the history geek in me imagining the hive of activity that would have once greeted the horses and carriages of royalty and nobility after a long journey.
The stables have been wonderfully and thoughtfully restored and renovated into the cottages that are here today, and you can really see what the building used to be under its modern facade. I loved the little, unique touches such as the iron boot scrapers outside the door and the kitchen divider in my cottage being one of the reclaimed stable dividers.
The grand old stables and courtyard, not to mention the cottage itself which I will get to in a moment, are more than enough wow factor for any travellers stay, but just beyond the private gardens lay one of Combermere Abbeys many true treasures, the themed gardens, and believe me when I say exploring them is one of the true highlights of staying here.
The main carefully manicured and tendered gardens, known as the walled gardens, really are a magical place to get away from it all and hide away with a good book or spend an afternoon on a romantic stroll. The rose garden, almost hidden away from the carefully manicured path, provides a secluded spot for lovers of the national emblem of England, a manicured croquet lawn conjures up images of nobility wiling away a hot summers afternoon and there is even a tennis court for those who have some energy to burn off after all the countryside walks!
Even if you aren’t the biggest horticulturist in the world, you can still sit back and enjoy the scents and colours of the flowers and plants as you stroll through the gardens, just make sure you look up from your book once in a while to appreciate their beauty or say hello to one of the many bees working hard among all the wildflowers.
Another glimpse of the Abbeys history can be found in the restored Edwardian glasshouse, found by making your way through the worlds only fruit tree maze. An actual maze made up of dozens of apple and pear trees and gooseberry bushes, all of which go into making the Abbeys own jams, chutneys and juices. The maze isn’t particularly difficult, you don’t have to worry about going in and never escaping, this isn’t the TriWizard cup after all, but is a fun way to admire the work that goes into maintaining the beautiful fruit trees and an elegant way to spend an afternoon.
Out of all the spectacular gardens here though, it is the lake and pleasure garden that really won me over. Don’t get me wrong the walled gardens are stunning but the pleasure garden is truly spectacular! I genuinely don’t have enough superlatives for it. Trails lead you through picturesque woodland, allowing visitors to explore trees repopulated here from all over the world after previous owners travel adventures through the 19th Century, as well as their very own ‘Lord Combermere’ apple orchard.
Walking through the trees and wildflowers is a genuine pleasure and the fact you pretty much have the place all to yourself is the icing on the cake, but it is where it leads, the stunning private lake, is what really blows your mind in this part of the garden! From the moment you first catch a glimpse of the water through the trees to when you finally see it in all its glory at the waters edge, the lake is a true beauty spot in the Cheshire countryside.
As legend goes, when the monks of Combermere, often rumoured to be let’s just say less than pious and devout, were forced to disband at the reformation, they threw their gold and silver into the lake, either to hide them from the tax collectors or the locals, who they were often at war with! I have no idea if it is true or not, probably not to be fair, but the local legend still adds a lot of flavour to the beauty spot! Maybe I’ll come back with my diving gear one day!
I spent a lot of hours here sitting at one of the benches provided just admiring the view in absolute peace and quiet, a genuinely underrated quality in modern society, but whether you want to bring a good book to escape for the afternoon or enjoy a spot of wild swimming in the bracing, crystal clear water to boost your health, the lake is an absolute jewel in Combermere’s crown.
Speaking as a nurse and someone who takes a keen interest in my own health and wellbeing, wild swimming has an absolute powerhouse of health benefits, from improved circulation, immune response and cardiovasuclar fitness, increased metabolism and improved cholesterol and joint inflammation, muscle repair and recovery and a host of mental health benefits, and swimming in your own private lake at Combermere is definitely a massive benefit to staying here!
It is also a great spot for budding bird watchers too. Combermere is an absolute haven for many wildlife species and there is even a handy bird spotters guide in your cottages welcome pack, so bring a pair of binoculars if you want to indulge in a bit of ornithology, or check out the Bat Conservation Trust for information on the species of bats you can see flitting about after sundown.
And if you think that is enough reason for any traveller to stay here, Combermere Abbey also has an ancient woodland on its grounds, a huge tract of vast woods filled with English Oaks, Chestnuts and Beech, many of which are huge and truly ancient and were highly likely to have already stood in the parkland at the time the park was landscaped in 1795.
This ancient woodland is the home to the Abbey’s famous Bluebell Walk in spring, but if you don’t manage to visit during the flowering time of April to May when the ground is a stunning carpet of blue flowers then the woodland walk is still equally as magnificent, filled with protected flora and fauna and conjuring up images of ancient British myth and legend, where fairies and Brownies are as likely to appear as local foxes, owls and other wildlife. The walk is accessible to all guests and is not particularly difficult. Like all countryside walks decent footwear is needed of course but the trail itself can be enjoyed by most ages and abilities.
So, now you know why you should come to Combermere Abbey, let me tell you what the actual accomodation is like.
Combermere Abbey has 10 luxury, dog friendly, self catering cottages that have been converted from the 19th Century stables, all unique and of different sizes, ranging from sleeping four all the way up to 10, there are more than enough options to suit all needs.
We stayed in the Empress cottage, named after Empress Elizabeth of Austria who described Combermere as one of the most romantic places in Europe, a description that has been faithfully lived up to in what is one of the most charming, elegant and subtly glamorous cottages I have ever stayed in.
The picturesque cottage entrance opens up into the ultimate romantic escape, a high ceiling living room complete with original beams, a wood burning stove and tall windows that flood the room with light. Comfortable, quintessentially cottage furnishings are embellished with original antique features, and you feel perfectly cloistered away from the world whilst sitting reading a book or relaxing with a drink.
The master bedroom is large and simply furnished, with a decorative bed pelmet and a queen sized, comfortable double bed. The Egyptian Cotton sheets adding that extra level of luxurious comfort and in a small but vital detail that many hotels don’t get right, there are plugs to charge your phone right by both sides of the bed!
The second bedroom with two single beds is hidden away on a balcony accessed through a winding staircase from the living room.
You really can imagine being a member of ancient aristocracy when you stay here, having a footman or two at your beck and call and waiting for King Charles II or the Duke of Wellington to show up. Luckily however you don’t have the vapours of ancient electricity to worry about like the Dowager Countess of Grantham, as the cottages have all been renovated to a modern, luxurious standard.
The Empress cottage, like all the cottages at Combermere is a self catering, fully self contained cottage with all the mod cons you could ask for. Toiletries are provided in the bathroom that includes a power shower and a separate bath, as well as towels, which is a nice touch I was not expecting. The kitchen is fully stocked with dishes, cutlery, glasses and everything else you would need for your stay, including basic cleaning essentials. You will obviously need to bring your own food with you, but they do offer a great breakfast hamper at an extra cost which contains preserves and juice with fruit grown right here on the Abbey’s grounds, and the staff are great at making those with food intolerances welcome as well with amazing attention to detail on gluten free options.
Obviously you are pretty much in the middle of nowhere here, with the nearest supermarkets being in the nearby market town of Nantwich, but they do have a small, basic shop on site if you run out of essentials.
There is obviously a basic TV and DVD player too, but who comes to an amazing place like this to watch TV? I did find myself taking advantage of the bookshelf though, I could never resist a Tom Clancy novel, and the outside, private seating area surrounded by a quaint laurel hedge is the perfect place to spend an hour or two cooling down with a book on a summer evening.
Each cottage is different of course and each one has its own unique character, but the quality throughout is absolutely outstanding. This is very much a flashpacking, treat yourself accommodation option, but sometimes the uniqueness of a place demands that you stay for the sheer experience.
The holiday cottages at Combermere Abbey are not budget level, in fact they are well within most travellers mid range pricing levels, but what you get for that and the sheer value of money is outstanding. For a basic 3 night stay you will spend not all that much more than you would at a bog standard budget chain hotel, which at UK prices is amazing value, and for that you get a much higher level of quality, a lot more space and infinitely much more charm than the cookie cutter chain room. What you are really paying for though is not the actual accommodation, which is amazing, or the service, which is flawless, but the unique opportunity to stay in a cottage filled with history and heritage. You are paying for the experience to get away from it all on a historical country estate surrounded by the Cheshire countryside and the unique atmosphere of the iconic Combermere Abbey. This is an experience, not just a bed for the night, and one that is worth every penny.
Combermer Abbey is located in the heart of the Cheshire countryside, roughly twenty minutes away from the traditional market towns of Nantwich and Whitchurch. That means that although you benefit from really getting away from it all, public transport isn’t great. The nearest train station is around 5 miles away in Whitchurch, and you can always get a taxi or an Uber to the estate from there. The best and easiest way to visit is by car.
Although it really is in the middle of open countryside, and you would be genuinely hard pressed to tear yourself away from the solace of the gardens and the lake, for those who do want to get out and discover more of the area some of the UKs best attractions are a very easy drive away. Chester Zoo is barely a half hour away by car, and the magnificent Blist’s Hill Victorian Town and Shrewsbury Prison are around 45 minutes away over the border in Shropshire.
Combermere Abbey also has a range of personal tours led by the current owner of the estate herself, Sarah Callander Beckett, that let you delve deep into the history and heritage of the Abbey as well as the surrounding gardens and estate, but for those who want to explore on their own there are stories etched into every stone and blade of grass if you look carefully.
Combermere Abbey dates back to the 12th Century, and a lot of painstaking work has gone into uncovering and restoring a lot of its history
Everywhere you look you can find bits of that uncovered heritage in the grand historical jigsaw puzzle of an estate, from the ancient power stone, marking the crossing point of two ley lines preserved under glass in the mansion itself to the hammerbeam roof timbers in the great hall that have been dated to 1502 when the former monastic building was incorporated into the design. Some of the earlier alterations of the Great Hall are rumoured to have been to accommodate King William III and his soldiers on the way to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and much later further accommodations were made for the house to be used as a hospital and school during World War 2.
Combermere Abbey is one of those rare accommodation options that I absolutely love coming across when travelling. It is not only a wonderful mid range staycation option, it is a destination and one of a kind experience in and of itself! The iconic building, rich in history and heritage is an absolute must see, the grounds are worth a trip to explore the Cheshire countryside alone, and the self catering holiday cottages, or the bed and breakfast option in the north wing if you really want to push the boat out, is just the icing on the cake that allows you a chance to stay in this beautiful setting.
The Combermere Abbey Holiday Cottages are located on the Combermere Abbey Estate, Nantwich, Cheshire, SY13 4AJ.
Bemused Backpacker always recommends booking directly where it is possible. Ready to book? The Combermere Abbey Website can be found here.
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