Someone contacted us and said I should check out Stoneleigh Abbey as their friend had been on a recent visit and loved it.
It's only 4.5 miles from Coventry town centre, but I'm sure I remembered it all being converted in the 90's into posh apartments - and wasn't open to the public..
Anyways, seems I'm wrong. The beautiful riverside grounds, ancient 13th century abbey gatehouse, tudor manor house, huge c. 1730's residential 'extension' and ten or so lavishly decorated rooms on show today are a bit of an unknown gem as they (whoever owns the Estate) don't do much of a job of promoting the place to visitors. It's open Mon-Thurs, and costs £5, but there's free parking and the price includes a (very interesting and well delivered, by a nice albany theatre chap) approx. 60 min guided tour that runs at 11.30am - lot's of nice anecdotes and stories like the one about the Catholic supporting Lord Leigh who owned Stoneleigh in 1640's and gave Charles I shelter after Parliamentarian Coventry had closed its doors - he was imprisoned after Charles' defeat and 'sent to coventry' (under lock and key in St Johns Church) within Coventrys old medieval city walls with many other condemned royalist prisoners, and only released almost a year later after payment of £75,000! Queen Victoria also stayed here in 1855 - and was apparently mightily impressed with the 'Thomas Crapper' flushing loo (Stoneleigh was only the second place to have one installed in Great Britain!).
Not up to the standard of NT properties in terms of signage, visitor shop, information displays or tea-room experience but its an astonishingly beautiful spot with great riverside walks and a lovely ambience - we reckon it's a must-visit before they give it the full tourist treatment and - probably - double the prices :).