The Cotswolds is always a good idea, says Shara
Just two hours from London is the chic country hotel Barnsley House. Formerly part of the Calcot collection (which includes the Calcot&Spa hotel and the Painswick) it has now been bought by high end British furniture brand Tim Oulton. It’s a good match. The main house was built in the 17th century and today, interiors are chic and unfussy – wooden floors and log fires abound.
The setting itself has a wow factor. Set in the heart of the Cotswolds, not far from Cirencester, the gardens are a destination unto themselves. They were created by the former owner and revered garden designer Rosemary Verey, who designed gardens for Prince Charles and Sir Elton John. The Laburnum Walk and the Knot gardens are not to be missed. Organised tours by Head Gardener Jennifer Danbury are available, or you could do as we did and take yourself for a wander around. It’s idyllic – fresh produce for the week is on display in the greenhouse and hens roam around.
We stayed in one of the stable rooms. Spread across two floors, the mezzanine is a super cosy living space, complete with a large beanbag and comfy corner sofa. Sensibly, the sofa is in front of a flat screen which is perfectly placed above the mini bar which contains an excellent selection of snacks. It all makes sense, like the best possible home set up. Downstairs is the bedroom. A super king size bed with luxurious bedding and a bathtub – yes, in the room – dominate the space. There are Ren products in the bathroom and fresh fruit and snacks left in the room.
Do make time for the spa – even the relaxation room is a treat. The outdoor hydrotherapy pool overlooks bucolic farmlands and the water is heated to the perfect temperature. The spa is Elemis and treatment rooms are downstairs in a magical, dimly lit space that feels almost like a hidden stone cave. I tried the Garden Ritual treatment; a mix of hot stones, reflexology and a back massage using oil blended from the gardens. My therapist Jen was calming and experienced, delivering an incredibly relaxing hour-long treatment.
Barnsley House is all about the food. The Potager is where we dine for most meals – with no regrets. The concept is farm to table and the restaurant is focused on minimising waste. Menus are derived according to what has come up trumps in the gardens, so everything is super fresh and delicious. Dinner is sensational – I had the fish and my husband had fillet steak, and the wine list and cocktail/mocktail offerings were fantastic. Breakfast is also served here and has everything you could possibly want. We enjoy ours spread across two courses; pastries and fruit to start followed by eggs and coffee.
What to do
You may also want to check out The Village Pub – the sister property and gastropub with rooms is just across the road. And be sure to find Barnsley House’s cinema, which is hidden in the gardens. Its pink seats are pretty special, secured after the hotel’s former neighbour, one Liz Hurley, ran an event there. You can pick from 600 DVDs and snuggle up with complimentary popcorn for a lovely unexpected perk. Hiking and tennis are nearby for more active pursuits.
So, the verdict on Barnsley House? Kids under 14s aren’t allowed, but for grown ups looking for a chic and peaceful get away, look no further.
For more information about Barnsley House and to book a room, visit the website.
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Charlotte is a London girl through and through. She sweats through spin and puffs through Pilates to justify trying the latest restaurants and devouring copious amounts of sweet potato fries, burrata and bread – preferably on holiday. Her favourite destinations include Italy, the Maldives and anywhere where the sun’s shining and there’s a strong breakfast buffet. She’s obsessed with walking, visiting farmers’ markets and reading. She’s also learning to cook. Wish her (and her husband) luck.