When I looked at the website for Arden House in Church Stretton I was already excited. Built in 1903, in the style of the Arts and Crafts Movement, it has a commanding aspect over the Shropshire hills and an area I know as Little Switzerland. Arriving there on an August mid-afternoon, I was thrilled with what I saw. A vision in red brick and black and white timber, its lofty situation looks out on a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and even on a grey day there was no denying that beauty.
Myself and husband were welcomed into the house by the proprietor, Ian Price, who runs the business with his wife, Julie. They inhabit the beautifully wood panelled ground floor, and have sympathetically extended the property to create three luxurious self catering apartments. Ian, a keen walker, often works from home so is able to offer his personal experience of the area, as well as an introduction to the house. He was highly organised, with map and walks details, gratefully received, to add to the research I’d done. A folder full of places to explore and suggestions as to where we could eat and drink sat on the table in our suite.
We were staying in the Mackintosh Suite, one of two suites on the first floor. A flight of steps lead to the suites, and as there is no lift the property would not be suited to a disabled person. As this is an area loved by walkers and the valley is steep-sided, that wouldn’t often present a problem. The apartment and entry way were immaculate, beautifully furnished and equipped to a high specification. The spaciousness of the lounge was a surprise, my only quibble that I would not have wanted to hide the beautiful and original stained glass windows behind blinds. I can see their practicality, but would have loved to curl up with cushions in the deep bay of the window to admire those wonderful views.
The whole design is crisp and modern, with lovely towels and linen and a sleek, fully fitted kitchen. A water cooler in the fridge was a nice touch, and tea, coffee and sugar were thoughtfully provided. The attention to detail was faultless, and the conversion has been skilfully done. Ian told me that the business had started out as a bed and breakfast, and I couldn’t help thinking that that might be a desirable option before setting out on a morning’s walking. You could not have a better location for this, right on the entry to Carding Mill Valley. However, the National Trust have a shop and cafe with a large veranda, not far into the valley.
Our suite had a double bedroom, and elegantly tiled bathroom with shower. I believe the adjoining Darwin suite offers twin beds, if desired. Before leaving I was shown the penthouse suite, definitely the piece de resistance. The black and white timbers in an unusually shaped lounge have a dramatic effect. The suite can sleep up to 6, with bunk beds an option for children. Steps lead up to a patio area at the very top of the house. As I looked at the mist gently curling over the hills I felt that I needed little else in life.
Arden House, Trevor Hill, Church Stretton, Shropshire, SY6 6JH. Visit website
Read about Johanna’s visit to Church Stretton.