If your idea of a perfect summer’s day is afternoon tea (or a gin and tonic) on a beautiful lawn in the sunshine, The Manor House luxury hotel in the pretty Cotswolds village of Castle Combe, Wiltshire, is the place to be.
There you can immerse yourself in the Sunday papers (or even a game of lawn chess) with nothing to disturb you but the gentle chirp of birdsong, the occasional splash from the herons fishing in the stream running through the grounds and occasionally someone coming to ask if you’d like something more to eat or drink.
A circle of little hills wraps around The Manor House’s 365 acres, making the hotel feel cosy and protected from the outside world. Little seems to have changed here for centuries. The same can be said of the village of Castle Combe itself, a vision in pale Cotswold stone. From the stone bridge over the babbling brook at the bottom of the village to the 14th century market cross at the top, Castle Combe looks as if it has come straight out of a Cotswold calendar or the lid of a box of chocolates.
If it seems familiar, that’s because it is: Castle Combe has been the setting for a host of films and TV series, from Doctor Dolittle and War Horse to Doctor Thorne and most recently the hugely popular Japanese anime series Kiniro Mosaic, also known as Kinmoza.
The grounds of The Manor House itself circle the village like a warm embrace, with its driveway sweeping from its gates at the southerly end of Castle Combe village to the lawns in front of the hotel, past an ornate Italian garden and a row of workers’ cottages (now converted into bedrooms) before emerging at the top of the village. Continue reading A picture-perfect Cotswolds stay at The Manor House, Castle Combe→
Back in January 2015 I wrote a blog post in defence of little yellow photobombing cars, as the car owned by Peter Maddox, 82-year old resident of Bibury village in the Cotswolds, had attracted the ire of tourists come to photograph Arlington Row, supposedly one of the prettiest streets in England. They were complaining that their photographs of said street were being ruined by Mr Maddox’s cheerful little Vauxhall Corsa. Now it seems the car has been sent to that great Vauxhall garage in the sky by a vandal who destroyed Mr Maddox’s car beyond repair, while scrawling ‘move it’ on the bonnet.
Not only is this a horrible thing to do to anyone or their car, it totally misses the point of visiting living, breathing places inhabited by living, breathing people (and their means of transport): one of the attractions of Cotswolds villages such as Bibury is that they are real places, not museums covered in dust or protective barriers. If you want an uninterrupted, sterile, pristine picture of something – buy a postcard. Otherwise be happy that you had the privilege of travelling the world and recording what you see – not an artificial, sanitised version of it.
So in defence (once again) and now in memory of photobombing little yellow cars everywhere, here’s my Fiat spoiling (or enhancing) the view at some of the loveliest hotels in the UK.
If you are looking to start off the New Year with some bracing countryside walks, a hearty pub meal and then a nightcap in front of a roaring fire, then The Old Swan and Minster Mill must surely be high on your list.
Located in the pretty Oxfordshire village of Minster Lovell – and set in 65 acres of Cotswolds countryside – the exterior of the Old Swan alone is so picturesque that it could go straight on a chocolate selection box or feature in a Cotswolds calendar.
Its twin, the Minster Mill which is just across the road, isn’t too far behind in the ‘quintessentially English’ stakes. The surrounds here are stunning and perfect for weddings: the River Windrush runs – as you’d expect – right alongside the Minster Mill (there’s even a fish-friendly Archimedes screw turbine which harnesses the power of the running water) and there is outside seating so that guests can fully enjoy the view in warmer weather.
Of the two, the Old Swan is definitely more of a classic pub inside, with a low roof, flagstones, warming log fires, cosy sofas and classic pub fare served in the restaurant. There are some small but pretty gardens and upstairs there are 15 rooms, some with four-poster beds.
Being named The Sunday Times’ Hotel of the Year, which The Painswick was just a few weeks ago, can be a double-edged sword. On the upside, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing since the news came out, bookings are through the roof and for a seven-month-old hotel, it is an incredible achievement.
The downside to that, is that some guests expect the hotel, tucked into a corner of the charming Cotswolds village of Painswick, to be well, rather grander. The Painswick doesn’t have a multi-million pound spa, acres of stunning gardens or a Michelin-starred restaurant, a private cinema (unlike its sister hotel and near neighbour Barnsley House) or an outdoor swimming pool (like its other Cotswolds relative, Calcot Manor.)
People in search of the ultimate bells-and-whistles hotel experience – dress code for dinner, a turn-down service – might want to search elsewhere. But for those looking for a friendly, cosy break where you feel instantly at home, where staff will offer to pick you up from the local pubs after a country walk and where you can fall asleep on the lounge sofa in front of the fire, The Painswick is perfect. Continue reading Cosy Cotswolds charm at The Painswick, Sunday Times Hotel of the Year→
The man who described Bibury as ‘the most beautiful village in England’ surely never went to Lower Slaughter. I’ve often driven past the road signposted to The Slaughters on my way through the Cotswolds but had never taken the turning.
It was only when I was on my way to the Lords of the Manor hotel in Upper Slaughter that I realised what I’d been missing out on. It might have a slightly alarming name but Lower Slaughter, all lush green fields, yellow Cotswold stone houses and a babbling brook running through it all, was the very essence of a charming village.
The presence of a wedding party – the photographer making the most of the stunning scenery to photograph the happy couple – and children running happily back and forth across the little bridge over the river, combined to make a scene which would have been dismissed as too unreal if it had appeared in a Hollywood film. It was only by a sheer effort of will that I got back in my car and headed on up the hill to my destination.
Lords of the Manor, perched just behind the grand private home Upper Slaughter Manor (which is the first thing you see on your way up the hill) dates back to 1649 and looks as beautiful and traditional as you’d expect from a 17th century Cotswold manor house. Set in eight acres, which means impressive gardens both front and back of the hotel, the hotel is a calm retreat which seems as if it hasn’t changed much over the centuries.