Just when you think you’ve stayed in the best hotels in the Cotswolds, along comes Whatley Manor and tops the lot. From the moment the gates opened to reveal a beautiful cobbled courtyard, the entrance garlanded by wisteria and lavender, through to the spa, private cinema, a Michelin-starred restaurant and superb gardens, Whatley Manor didn’t disappoint in any way.
Our suite, overlooking the lush garden terrace at the back of the hotel, was immaculate and managed to walk the line between modern luxury and classical English charm. There was ample storage space, a very smart bathroom, a good-sized bedroom and a contemporary-design lounge with vast sofa.
Downstairs was surprisingly large and spacious for a hotel with just 23 suites and rooms – there was a large central lounge off which was a light and airy drawing room, another lounge and an adjoining bar.
Most of the rooms led outside, either to a broad terrace, overlooking the gardens and bordered by a trickling water feature, or to a courtyard where there was an abundance of cosy chairs, or to a little ornate walled garden.
For those in need of a longer walk, there were maps at reception showing the way down to the fast-flowing river at the bottom of the gardens, or to the gazebo at the top of the hill with fairy lights and hanging chairs. We didn’t see another person on our stroll, and it was so beautifully quiet and tranquil that we could have been miles from anywhere, rather than just 20 minutes from the M4.
However Whatley Manor isn’t a hotel dependent on the weather: not only is there a 40-seat private cinema for guests to hire – it also does monthly screenings – there is a very impressive spa in what used to be the stables. Much bigger than it seemed on first impression, the spa includes a hydrotherapy pool , four steam and sauna rooms, treatment rooms, salt scrub showers and a lovely outside space where you can sunbathe surrounded by Whatley Manor’s beautiful gardens.
A highlight of our stay at Whatley Manor was the tasting menu at its two Michelin-starred restaurant run by chef Martin Burge. From the perfectly-formed amuse-bouche trio to quail breast, pan-fried scallop, fillet of veal and even black truffle ice-cream with creamed Roquefort cheese, the meal, in the smart and beautifully-lit dining room, didn’t put a foot wrong. A glance around the room proved that all the other diners were equally charmed, including a couple celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary.
Breakfast was in the less formal brasserie restaurant and had everything you’d hope for in a country house hotel – terrific bacon, sausages and black pudding as well as other more inventive options such as crepes with orange honey.
Afterwards as I reluctantly prepared to leave, I was struck by the huge attention to detail shown by the owners Alix and her son, Christian. The hotel isn’t cluttered at all but from little hedgehog bookcases and mouse-doorstops, to massive pot plants under stairwells and an abundance of cosy sofas, you feel as if a lot of love and thought has gone into the hotel.
With rooms starting at £325 a night, Whatley Manor isn’t a budget option but I would say it is worth every penny.
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Whatley Manor Hotel and Spa
Tel: +44 (0) 1666 822 888
Fax: +44 (0) 1666 826 120