This Landmark Trust property isn’t your usual holiday accommodation, and nor does it come cheap. But there’s something magical about it that makes it worth every penny.
Many Landmark Trust properties are flagship buildings of their local area, ranging from refurbished castles to prominent water towers, but Ingestre Pavilion is quite different. Found in an area of Staffordshire containing many former stately homes, the pavilion was originally built as a small picnic folly for the inhabitants of Ingestre Hall.
A view of the hall is now blocked by woodland, but Landmark have remade a beautiful vista leading up to the pavilion, giving it a real ‘wow’ factor. It is a shame that access to the property is now miles away from the hall itself – with the estate long broken-up and divided into smaller assets – through the back of a small farm down a couple of miles of dirt track.
On arrival the impressive grand entrance immediately makes you realise that this isn’t any old folly. The building consists of a two storey front portico, built in 1752, and an octagonal rear section that Landmark have added which, as you would except, is completely in keeping with the period’s style. Information provided states a rear section did originally exist when the property was constructed but was demolished around 1800.
Inside, the layout is focussed around the main octagonal living room that provides a lovely view of the small rear garden. Downstairs one side leads to a fully functional kitchen and large accessible bathroom, and the other to one of the bedrooms. The first floor has two more bedrooms and another bathroom, connected by a wonderful period balcony overlooking the living room. The pavilion is also well furnished throughout, albeit a lot of items feel like they have been around since Landmark refurbished the property in 1990.
The stand-out feature of the Pavilion, architecture aside, is its remoteness. Apart from the odd farm vehicle you are very much on your own in the middle of the forest, with only the odd pheasant call providing any background noise.
While for most this will be a huge benefit, for those wanting to stay connected to the wider world it is not. There’s no TV, radio or hi-fi so it’s worth bringing a portable radio if you want to keep up with the news.
Even phone signal is limited. Orange, O2 and Three all have fluctuating signal indoors but you can get 3G outdoors. There’s just about enough signal to create a hotspot with your smartphone or use a mobile dongle to get laptops online, but connection will be patchy at best.
The Pavilion does provide some traditional activities though, notably a chest of board games and suchlike, in addition to a well-stocked bookcase. Previous inhabitants have also commented that the acoustics are fantastic for playing music, so it might be worth dad dusting off his old guitar (or not).
The highlight, though, is undoubtedly the Guest Logbooks. Charting a diary of the Pavilion’s history, the three volumes make wonderful reading to discover adventures had by others. Even more so, they provide a soap-opera style overview of all of Landmark and the Pavilion’s life, from irate Housekeeper’s messages to celebrity visits.
The logbooks also hold the key to Ingestre Pavilion’s greatest secret: the treasure hunt. Recently lovingly restored (after some toerags had stolen most of the clues) it provides a great deal of fun for everyone trying to decipher the various clues that trail you around the house. It’s worth noting this is best undertaken on the first night as you are likely to stumble across many of the clues during your stay.
For those of an outgoing nature, and you will need to be at some point, there is plenty to do in the surrounding area. Drive back down the farm track and you are only 2 miles from the city of Stafford, containing the usual array of shops, restaurants and a handful of touristy exploits.
Frustratingly, though, walking anywhere directly from the Pavilion is very limited. The land-owners around the area are strict on where they will let you go. Ingestre Hall, for example, is less than a mile away but access is blocked by private forest and a golf course. Similarly, the main bridleway running from the County Showground to Tixall can only be reached by walking half a mile back down the access road, despite being around 300 yards from the back of the Pavilion.
Even where access is allowed, farmers don’t appear quite as pleased to have footpaths and bridleways running through their land as in some parts of the country. Quite often on walks you may encounter blocked or diverted footpaths, mostly where farmland has been partitioned off for private housing. For serious walkers you are far better off jumping in the car and making the trip to the nearby Peak District.
Luckily there’s no shortage of other tourist destinations within reach of the pavilion by car, whether it be a day-trip to Alton Towers for the kids or a gentle stroll and afternoon tea at Shugborough Hall. And if you don’t fancy cooking in the evening (the kitchen is small, but immaculate and well stocked with everything you could need), there are plenty of great pubs in the area. The Hollybush Inn at Salt is a local delight, made clear by the number of recommendations in the logbooks.
Returning to the Pavilion after a day out is a wonderful thing, with its picturesque living space, oil paintings and open fire. As a holiday destination, as with many Landmark Trust properties, it is worth the extra cost for a such a unique experience.
Useful Things To Know Before Arriving:
- Take care driving down the small road to the Pavilion. You’ll pass through a farm with cows roaming freely, footpaths frequented by walkers and hundreds (literally) of pheasants.
- Despite this the farmers that use the road will still fly by the Pavilion in their tractors and Land Rovers, so don’t let children or dogs outside unsupervised.
- A few maps show a short footpath running down the vista and looping back through the trees to the Pavilion. This seemed to be non-existant on our visit, meaning the only place to walk dogs is on the road.
- Landmark Trust don’t provide firewood, so if visiting in the winter make sure to bring some to take advantage of the open fire. The plentiful wood piles in the forest are strictly off limits as they house much important wildlife.
- The boiler runs on Economy 7 meaning it is set to come on in the night, but if there’s more than a couple of you wanting baths/showers you’ll need to stick it on continuous for longer periods.
- Finally, the wonderful housekeeper Wendy is a wealth of information, both about the Pavilion and surrounding area so take advantage of her local knowledge to make the most of your visit.
Places To Visit:
Hollybush Inn, Salt (www.hollybushinn.co.uk)
You will be greeted with fine real ales, and generous portions. They don’t take bookings though, so arrive early or be prepared to wait until a table becomes available.
Alton Towers (www.altontowers.com)
Best visited outside of the school holidays (unless the kids won’t stop nagging you) when the park is far quieter. A good mix of white-knuckle rides and family entertainment. Try to get hold of the many discount tickets available through various promotions (or eBay).
Stafford Nightlife (http://www.stafford-towncentre.co.uk/nightlife.htm)
A hub of student life in term time, Stafford offers a varied night out. The Picture Box (Wetherspoons situated in a wonderful refurbished cinema), The Post House (classy three storey bar/restaurant with rooftop bar) and Couture (vast nightclub) are worth checking out in addition to many more traditional places.
Go Ape / Cannock Chase (www.goape.co.uk/days-out/cannock)
Cannock Chase, a large mixed area of countryside, plays host to a variety of mountain bike trails, walking routes, picnic areas and a superb Go Ape high-ropes course. Not for the faint-hearted, but accessible for most abilities, it is a great challenge for both the experienced and petrified.
Shugborough Estate (www.shugborough.org.uk)
One of the region’s most popular stately homes, a gentle day out for all ages. Not as grand as nearby Chatsworth, but certainly worth a visit.