Steeped in history, with rave reviews, a picture-perfect setting, an A-lister guest book and having recently undergone a multi-million-pound refurbishment, The Lygon Arms needs to be on your mini-break bucket list.
When you think of the Cotswolds you probably think of sandy-coloured chocolate box houses, winding lanes and fields filled with sheep; a slower pace of life. Women in tweed walking Labradors and tractors rumbling by. While that might be an idealised view (having grown up there I can confirm it isn’t all like that), when it comes to Broadway, where The Lygon Arms takes centre stage, it really is just like that. Dinky Cotswold stone houses (which estate agents say make an ideal second home, if you can afford such a luxury) line a wide high street that is surrounded by fields where red deer roam. The local deli is any foodies absolute heaven and even the fish and chip shop looks like it should be in an Enid Blyton book. Spend your weekend moseying down the high street or ask at reception for a map and wellies and get walking. And it’s not that hard to get to from London either. Jump on the train from Paddington, get in a couple of Netflix episodes before you arrive at Evesham, then it’s a quick taxi ride over to Broadway. Leave after lunch and you’ll be taking afternoon tea in The Lygon Arms pretty courtyard.
Not surprisingly in a hotel that has so much history, there are going to be peaks and troughs. And not so long ago it was going through a dip, the owners rather neglected the place and it all felt rather lacklustre. But last year, Luxury Iconic Hotels (Chewton Glen and Cliveden) bought it and became their saviour, giving the hotel a complete overhaul. Anita Rosta Interior Design was called in to to give the bedrooms, and all areas of the hotel, a new lease of life. Drawing on the hotel’s rich 600 year history, and its rural setting, Anita has made the most of the flagstones, the nooks and the crannies, the dark beams, low ceilings and uneven walls and floors. Rather than shying away from dark colours or trying to brighten the space she has used a palette of tans, navy blues, bottle greens and greys complimented by herringbone, crushed velvet and patterned cushions and rugs to create a snug atmosphere that has hygge written all over it. The outdoors is brought inside in the form of chandeliers made from antlers and animal sculptures. It’s an eclectic mix that works. Downstairs is a rabbit warren of sitting rooms filled with the smell of wood smoke and sofas to curl up in with a book. Outside there’s a pretty courtyard and deceptively big garden with plenty of places to sit and soak up the autumn sun.
From what I’ve heard the restaurant was in drastic need of updating and I’m glad we didn’t visit when it had carpeted and heavy linen cloaked the tables. Now, the former ballroom, is nothing short of magnificent. Gone is the linen, instead the tables are topped with marble, the carpet has been pulled up and replaced with wooden panels and two impressive chandeliers fashioned from antlers hang from the ceiling. Tan leather banquettes run the length of the room and portraits adorn the walls.
And it was packed on a Monday night! Without sounding like an awful Londoner, most of my friends who have stayed at home can’t fathom the idea of going out on a Monday, they look at me as if I have a problem – quite possibly yes, but it hadn’t stopped the Cotswold set from going to the Lygon Arms on the first day of the week. The menu is made up of simple British dishes using local ingredients. We started with a loaf of warm bread and the twice-baked cheese soufflé. Strong, rich and bubbling, it is a thing of beauty and the salad that it arrives with is neither an afterthought or just a garnish, but cut through the cheddar. There’s also a Scottish beef tartare with a golden egg yolk and ciabatta crisp which I highly recommend.
Not one to normally order fish I was told that the Newlyn skate wing with capers was not to be missed. The giant wing was covered with shallots, brown shrimp and a buttery parsley sauce, and like the rest of the menu was surprisingly simple, but done well.
Sticky toffee pudding left us divided, rather than clotted cream they had opted for crème fraiche which was a little too tart and whilst my cousin’s sticky toffee pudding was everything you could want, namely sticky, mine was dry.
Meanwhile, breakfast is a veritable feast of pastries, olive bread, cuts of cured meats, cheeses and salmon. If you’re after more, then they have a menu of dishes such as oak smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and lemon wrap; avocado on toast with poached eggs and chilli and a particularly indulgent dish of French toast with salted caramel crème fraiche.
The hotel is home to 86 rooms and suites which range from Cosy Rooms up to Master Suites. We stayed in one of the seven Courtyard Suites that surround the Lygon Arms’ courtyard terrace, that is magically filled with twinkling lights at night. Anita Rosta Interior Design has worked their magic in the rooms too, keeping a sense of history with muted colours, rich fabrics, tweeds and tartans and photos of country pursuits. Our spacious room featured a king-sized bed with an unbelievably comfy mattress, handmade in Devon, and a sofa to sink into at the end of the day with a drink from the free (yes, free!) mini bar. Antique furniture and period features are matched with flat screen TVs, Nespresso coffee machines and white tiled bathrooms with the deepest baths.
For next-level relaxing you need to head to the new spa. As well as their own massage treatments, they have teamed up with British brand OSKIA to offer a range of facials and ila who focus on bringing balance to the mind, body and spirit through treatments such as Deep Tissue Potali, inspired by Ayurvedic healing traditions. We chose to experience the Lygon Arm massage. Ranging from a speedy 25 minutes to an indulgent 90 minutes, the massage can be personalised whether you’re looking to relax, detox, be re-energised or in my case have every knot pummelled out with a deep tissue massage. Afterwards I took a swim in the pool, housed in art-deco styled hall and home to one of the bubbliest and most powerful hot tubs I’ve experienced. You’ll also find a steam room and sauna. Perhaps we were lucky visiting mid-week but the pool was never busy and we didn’t have to share the tub once, which is always a bonus. There’s also a very well-equipped gym, although this time, we preferred to get our exercise by walking to Broadway Tower, the second tallest point in the Cotswolds and where, on a good day, you can see 13 counties. It also has a rather nice café so you can refuel with a cream tea. Calories out, calories in after all.
The Lygon Arms has history by the bucketful, if there was ever a time to say if only the walls could talk, then it would be now. Dating back to the 14th century, the coaching inn, known then as the White Hart Inn, came into its own during the English Civil War in 1649, when it was used as a touching stone by both sides. Quick history lessons for those not in the know: the English Civil War saw King Charles I lead the Royalists against Oliver Cromwell and the Parliamentarians. You can even stay in the impressive King Charles I suite where the king and his supporters would assemble, and where you’ll notice the face of the royal lion is missing, most likely hacked off later by the opposition in a fit of rage when the house was taken by the Parliamentary forces. So as well as the king’s suite, you can also spend a night in the room that Oliver Cromwell stayed in the night before the Battle of Worcester in 1651. They’re not the only ones to have stayed at the hotel, other names include J.M Barrie, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Redgrave, Prince Philip and Evelyn Waugh, who was a close friend of the Lygon family. It’s said that Waugh used the Lygon family as a basis of various characters in his novel, Brideshead Revisited.
The Lygon Arms, High Street, Broadway, Worcestershire, WR12 7DU