Planning a weekend break in the country? Let me suggest Gloucestershire. Easily accessible from London but far enough away to feel like you’re out in sticks, it’s a county of Cotswold stone villages, wax jackets, cheese rolling, horse racing, Prince Charles and cider-swigging students. It’s also home to some of the country’s most luxurious hotels, which we have just so handily put together in a guide for you,:
‘Feasts and The Rest’ that’s what the award winning The Painswick is all about. Set in the rolling Gloucestershire countryside – the home of Laurie Lee, they have sixteen rooms ranging from smaller rooms tucked away in the eaves to the George’s suite which has its own sitting room, log burner and roll-top bath. Rooms are light, white walls are joined by splashes of teal, mustard, olive and soft greys. Spend the day walking in the Cotswolds and then come back to sink into the comfiest of beds and snuggle up with one the sumptuous blankets. Food wise you’ll find the likes of Cotswold lamb rack and breast with brown butter carrot, sprouting broccoli and salsa verde and hand dived Orkney scallops with chorizo, apple and shimeji mushrooms. That’s it, we’re leaving London.
Where: The Painswick, Kemps Lane, Painswick, Stroud GL6 6YB
Set in 163 acres of parkland and home to an 18-hole par 73 golf course, Tewkesbury Park is the ideal spot for any keen golfers or those who are looking to spend a weekend outdoors rambling through the Cotswold countryside, along the banks of the River Severn or striding up the Malvern Hills. If you’re looking for a lazier weekend then head to the spa for a treatment, take a long soak in a free standing tub (make sure you book a suite for this luxury) before curling up with a hot water bottle, a good book and a G&T in the recently refurbished lounge.
Where: Tewkesbury Park, Lincoln Green Lane, Tewkesbury, GL20 7DN
Think of The Cotswolds and you think rolling countryside and postcard-perfect stone-washed houses. Boutique hotel Thyme ticks all the boxes on that front – throw in the 31 stylish bedrooms, purpose-built cookery school, spring water pool, spa and 150-acres of farmland and you have the full package. It’s like a village within in a village. Head across to The Swan over the road for a bite to eat or perch on a bar stool in ‘The Baa’ before retiring to your beamed bedroom or private cottage for an uninterrupted sleep.
Where: Thyme, Southrop Manor Estate, GL7 3NX
Firstly, who wouldn’t want to stay in a castle?! Besides that, Thornbury Castle is set in the middle of acres of landscaped grounds while the hotel itself brings together modern excellence and historic, traditional decor. Think four-poster beds, open fireplaces, a grand hall and a dungeon dining room. Guests can step back in time and learn the basics of falconry or archery and if not there’s always the spa. It’s surely a majestic place to stay, plus it was once the home of Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn during their honeymoon, and that’s pretty cool if you ask us.
Where: Thornbury Castle, Castle Street, Thornbury, BS35 1HH
Calcot & Spa encourages you to find ‘your country side’ whether that’s curling up by a roaring fire with a good book, going for a long walk on the nearby Badminton estate, feasting at their restaurant, The Gumstool, or submerging yourself in the spa, only to appear for champagne. Whatever you’re planning on doing, at the Calcot hotel it’s all about relaxing and doing it luxuriously. Rooms range from the Cosy Room up to the biggest suite, The Tetbury, but all feature Aromatherapy Associates bath products, Nespresso coffee machines, flat screen TVs with Sky Entertainment and all host of other little touches designed to make your stay utterly relaxing. Planning a party? How does a converted 14th century barn set to a backdrop of the Cotswold countryside sound? Pretty darn good.
Where: Calcot & Spa, Tetbury, GL8 8YJ
The Cotswolds is difficult to beat for sheer English beauty. View-wise I’d see your Scottish glen, Peruvian junglescape or Indian Ocean white sandy beach and raise you a perfect Cotswolds village in butter coloured stone surrounded by rolling hills and, at this time of year, a patchwork of reds and golds on the trees. For some glamour and something a little different check into Cowley Park, a traditional stately home formerly owned by the Horlicks family, but inside made-over into a funky modern mash of colour and design. The spa is phenomenal and the restaurant more than half decent. And it’s surrounded by no end of stunning walks, a day at the races (Cheltenham racecourse is within striking distance) or just order a treatment and relax.
Where: Cowley Manor, Cowley, Cheltenham, GL53 9NL
Set in a Georgian townhouse on the edge of Regency town, Cheltenham, No.38, The Park is the ideal base for attending the Cheltenham Literature Festival, the Cheltenham Festival and Gold Cup or if cheese is more your thing, the cheese rolling competition, which is every bit (if not more) adrenalin-fuelled as any horse racing. After a day exploring the surrounding area, or placing bets, head to the multi-award winning Indian restaurant, Prithvi, which serves up Asian dishes using the best British produce and then retire upstairs to one of the 13 bespoke bedroom which features mismatched textures, one-off artefacts, antiques and art work and decadent touches.
Where: 38 Evesham Road, Cheltenham GL52 2AH
Lower Slaughter, despite the name, is one arguably one of the Cotswold’s most idyllic villages. It’s proper chocolate box stuff and it’s here that you’ll find quintessentially English, boutique hotel, The Slaughters Manor House. Both contemporary and charming the 17th century manor house sits in five acres of landscape gardens and is home to 19 bedrooms, a billiards room, croquet lawn, tennis court and one of the Cotswolds’ most acclaimed restaurants. Headed up by chef Nik Chappell, the restaurant serves up a seasonal menu of the best Cotswolds produce including an eight-course tasting menu.
Where: Copsehill Road, Lower Slaughter, Cheltenham GL54 2HP
It’s not often that the garden can upstage the hotel, but it has at Barnsley House and that’s not to do a disservice to the hotel, but is a testament of just how spectacular the gardens are. After all, the house did belong to Rosemary Verey, a renowned garden designer before it was a hotel. Very much a hotel for grownups looking to escape for a weekend, Barnsley House blends contemporary chic with classic country house vibes. Spend the afternoon in the garden spa, borrow bikes and head towards the nearby town of Cirencester or snuggle down and catch a film in their cinema. When it comes to dining, the restaurant makes the most of the garden produce and for a cosy setting for a pint they have their own pub just across from the hotel.
Where: Barnsley House, Barnsley, Cirencester, GL7 5EE
Steeped in history, 15th century country estate, Ellenborough Park, is now a pretty swish 5-star hotel just outside Cheltenham. With 90 acres of countryside to stomp about in, in a pair of Dubarry boots (that you can pick up from the Boot Room) and an Elemis spa, the hotel has everything you need for a polished weekend in the country. Dine at The Restaurant or the more causal Horse Box, which thankfully offers a lot more than any actual horsebox. All rooms feature underfloor heating in the bathrooms, Hypnos mattresses and Nespresso coffee machines but we have our eye on the Suites (ntaurally) which boast roll top baths and four poster beds.
Where: Southam Road, Cheltenham, GL52 3NJ