Salford Hall Hotel and Warwick Castle

I don’t like birthdays.

My birthdays, that is, I have no problem with anyone else’s. It’s not the aging aspect that I object to, I feel the depressing inevitability of that on a daily basis believe me. I don’t need a day each year to remind me of that particular biological process. It’s the anticipation and celebration of my ‘special’ day that I find vaguely wearing – I know, I’m a barrel of laughs.

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Don’t get me wrong, I have friends and family and they’re all lovely, but I find the best way to cope with my birthday is to get away for a day or two. My wonderful wife Clare knows this, so this year she treated me to a night away at a beautiful hotel and a visit to Warwick Castle, somewhere I’d always wanted to visit – hey, I like castles, all right!

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Our hotel was the Salford Hall Hotel, confusingly nowhere near Salford but situated just south of Birmingham and about thirty minutes away from Warwick.

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The hotel was hundreds of years old and reputedly haunted, but as our room, the Catherine Howard Room no less, was in the converted stable block I doubted we’d be troubled by anything other than a ghostly pony or two. Clare had paid a £10 supplement for a four-poster room, which we thought would be an old wood-panelled bedroom with loads of character. In reality it was a fairly modern hotel room, with a four-posted bed sat in the middle of it. I don’t suppose we can really complain but it wasn’t quite the rustic ambiance we were hoping for.

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The weather was great so we had afternoon tea in the garden, soaking up the sun. Afternoon tea seems very gentile, but after you’ve put away a plate of sandwiches, two scones with thick cream and jam, a plate of cakes, two glasses of bubbly and a pot of tea, you almost need a forklift to get you back on your feet.

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Later on, we ate in the hotel restaurant. The food was very good but the beige décor looked like it hadn’t changed since the hall had been converted into a hotel back in 1989, and I don’t think the background music CD had either, but hey, I grew up in the eighties and quite liked the trip back in time, the food was great and we were having a good time so we weren’t complaining. We finished the evening off in the hotel bar.

The next day we had a hearty breakfast  and set off for Warwick Castle.

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Warwick Castle is a great Castle with lots of fascinating history involving several key figures from English history, such as Richard III, but I won’t go into all that right now. I love the history and the opportunity for a bit of photography, but to be honest I’m less interested in the ‘showbiz’ elements such as various out-of-work actors in period costume pretending to be medieval time-travellers. In fairness, we spoke to a couple who explained that they were contracted as actual peasants and loved the work, so good luck to them. The gangs of school parties running round seemed to love them.

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I can see why places like this have to try and make the day as entertaining as possible, especially when they charge so much for admission (approx. £25 per person) but there’s a fine line they have to balance before they start to diminish the reality with the glitter, rather than enhance it. On the whole I think Warwick Castle has got it right, but they’re very close.

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On the whole a great couple of days – made me forget it was my birthday – which is fine by me.

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Chris

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